HOW NOT TO RUN A NATIONAL PASTIME
Over the years major league baseball has suffered from an all-too-obvious leadership crisis. Part of the problem is Bowie Kuhn, who will probably be best remembered as the commissioner who forced the World Series into evening hours in the northern latitudes in October, a time slot perfect for TV and frostbite and bad only for baseball. Just to make sure he'd be remembered, of course, Kuhn then convincingly played the buffoon by refusing to wear an overcoat at games played under arctic conditions.
In fairness to Kuhn, however, baseball's leadership problem is compounded by a bizarre hierarchical structure in which a number of decisions are handled not by himself but by the league presidents, while those pertaining to labor-management relations are the responsibility of yet another authority figure, Ray Grebey. No wonder one league has designated hitters and the other doesn't. No wonder one has 14 teams and a high strike zone, the other 12 teams and a low one. No wonder the game has suffered a plague of beanball incidents that threaten to reduce it to the level of the National Hockey League. No wonder last year's pointless strike was followed by adoption of the ill-conceived split season. No wonder the owners, Kuhn and Grebey go around blaming everybody but themselves for what they decry as preposterously high player salaries.
The leadership vacuum was underscored last week when the owners met in San Diego to decide 1) whether or not to fire Kuhn and 2) whether or not to undertake a badly needed streamlining of the game's chain of command only to 3) do nothing one way or another on either of the previous questions. We won't bore you with all the breathless maneuverings that led to these typically inconclusive results, except to note that insofar as the resolution of Kuhn's future is concerned, the meeting was like a rain-marred game in which the side that's behind stalls until the contest is called before becoming official. Under procedures that typify the game's Byzantine way of doing business, either league can unilaterally oust Kuhn—and as few as four National League or five American League votes are needed. At least five National League owners were reportedly prepared to vote to do just that last week when pro-Kuhn owners, needing just a simple majority to postpone a decision, succeeded in doing that.
As for why the owners didn't salvage something from the meeting by at least voting to restructure, one of them pleaded, "How can you make decisions about restructuring when you don't know who the commissioner is?" But then, how can anybody vote on who the commissioner should be without knowing what role he's going to perform? One proposal called for creation of a new chief executive for business matters, leaving ceremonial duties to the commissioner, but the question of which of the two officials would be at the top of the organizational chart remained in dispute. Just before the owners dispersed, having somehow agreed, mercifully, to adjourn—the vote on that one was 10-4 in the American League and 11-1 in the National—it was left to the White Sox's Eddie Einhorn to sum up the situation. Lamented Einhorn, "We can't even come to a decision on how to make a decision."
Joe Tex, who died on Aug. 13 at the age of 47 at his home in Navasota, Texas, was a soul singer who recorded a number of hits with evocative titles, such as Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman). Some Houston Oiler fans may also remember Tex as the vocalist who recorded Here Come Number 34 (Do the Earl Campbell). That one, recorded on the Handshake label, included such lines as, "Drag 'em, Earl, drag 'em baby!" and "Give the man some Gatorade, some Gatorade!"
BRING ON ST. JOHN'S!
Not since the glory days of the Seven Blocks of Granite has a football team at Fordham caused such jubilation. The unaccustomed excitement over the Rams occurred Saturday during an Elephant Weekend celebration at the Bronx Zoo, where as part of similar festivities a year ago a 5,400-pound, 11-year-old female performing elephant named Grumpy outmuscled 20 Fordham players in a tug-of-war. For last week's rematch. Grumpy was 200 pounds heavier, a normal weight gain for a maturing pachyderm. What's more, her trainer, Larry Joyner, confided that she'd prepared for the contest by increasing her headstand reps to strengthen her shoulders. This, along with a lot of walking and daily massages and baths, and she was ready.
When Grumpy lumbered onto the field the psychological advantage was immediately hers. Fordham co-captain Art Troilo whispered, "That is one big elephant." But the Rams, clad in their maroon and gold jerseys, had been in the thick of preseason training, and they were also ready. Their starting lineup for the tug-of-war consisted of 15 men with a total weight of 3,000 pounds. Faster than you could say Frankie Frisch, Grumpy, her end of the rope attached to a harness on her back, was dragging a grunting mass of Rams across the line. A cheer went up from the crowd and sea lions barked from a neighboring pool. The elephant obviously had the home-zoo advantage. But for some unexplained reason, a false start was called. The contestants had to begin anew.
Fordham took advantage of the delay to flesh out its ranks with several more players—and an additional ton or so of heft. This time there was a fair start, and a burst of Ram power stopped Grumpy's initial surge. After a brief stand-off, the elephant gave ground. As the Rams heaved and ho-ed, Grumpy retreated and crossed the line, a loser. A groan rose from the partisan crowd. The Fordham contingent whooped it up. On cue from Joyner, Grumpy graciously curtsied to the victors, and Ram Coach O'Neal Tutein presented her with a yellow Fordham cap that didn't quite fit. But somewhere in the mob of Fordham revelers, one player was overheard to say soberly, "Sure we won, but it took 20 of us to push around one girl."