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Owners are immune from ejection for boorish, insulting behavior

If Marge Schott were a general manager instead of an owner, there's little doubt she'd be out of a job by now.

But the owner of the Cincinnati Reds undoubtedly will be allowed to remain as one of the game's decision-makers as long as she wants to provide her pet Saint Bernard with the world's largest doghouse.

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The dog has the run of Riverfront Stadium whenever the Reds are playing, and Schott can run her mouth because they haven't figured out a way to fire an owner. The charges against Schott (that she slurred blacks -- calling them "niggers" -- and Jews and kept a swastika armband at her home) are the latest embarrassment for baseball.

When Al Campanis revealed the feelings of a lot of old-line executives several years ago by suggesting blacks "may lack the necessities" for high-level positions, it took the Los Angeles Dodgers less than 48 hours to dump their longtime general manager. But Campanis was only a hired hand.

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Schott obviously has the nece$$ities to be an owner, so she gets away with full-fledged insults and half-baked apologies. In the process, she calls everybody "honey" because she can't remember names. (Sort of reminds you of a certain football owner who calls his players "Tiger," doesn't it?)

Schott says she doesn't understand what all the fuss is about because she's a minority herself (presumably as a female and as an owner).

The citizens of Cincinnati might be able to dislodge Schott easier than baseball's leadership can. It doesn't figure that many minorities will line up to buy cars from the automobile dealership left to Schott by her late husband.

It makes you wonder if Tony Perez, who had to pass muster by giving his blessing for Schott's dog to cavort on the field during batting practice, really wanted a managing job this badly.

Owners' dilemmas

The owners are having so much trouble trying to figure out how to handle their labor negotiations, they can't even decide when to meet.

Originally, Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig, chairman of the group that has taken over the power of deposed commissioner Fay Vincent, set up a meeting for tomorrow. Either the owners or players have until Dec. 11 to use the reopener clause in the Basic Agreement.

There appears to be mounting opposition to a lockout, which seems a virtual certainty if the owners elect to use the reopener clause. Should they reopen and negotiate without reaching an agreement, they would give the hammer back to the players, who could call a late-season strike.

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Baseball is entering the final season of its mammoth, four-year television contract with CBS and ESPN. With TV revenues expected to drop, there is sentiment to let all negotiations come to a head next year.

With the Colorado and Florida expansion teams ready to begin play and some financially strapped teams dependent on a full share of TV revenue, it would seem to make sense to let the Basic Agreement run to its conclusion at the end of next year. Because it seemingly makes sense, of course, is hardly a guarantee it will happen.

Philadelphia Phillies president Bill Giles said he thought there were at least five teams against reopening and a subsequent lockout and about 10 others that are undecided. With a streak of 59 sellouts, the All-Star Game scheduled at Camden Yards on July 13 and assorted other economic reasons, it doesn't take a genius to conclude that Orioles owner Eli Jacobs is against anything that would interrupt the season as scheduled.

Bastion of integrity

Say what you want about his work in the broadcast booth, where he's regarded as one of the best, but you can't question the integrity of Tim McCarver. The former major-league catcher, who played in four decades but is best remembered as Steve Carlton's personal receiver, doesn't duck issues.

Nor buckets of water -- as Deion Sanders proved after the Atlanta Braves' pennant-clinching win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Upset because McCarver had the audacity to suggest he hadn't lived up to the letter of his baseball contract with the Braves when he also played for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons during the baseball playoffs, Sanders doused McCarver not once, but three times, during the post-game celebration.

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Once is acceptable, because anybody who enters a clubhouse in such circumstances is a candidate to get wet. But Sanders left little doubt this wasn't a prank and that the celebration took a back seat to his feelings. McCarver rightfully lodged a complaint, then displayed his class by going about his business during the World Series as though the incident never happened.

But it didn't end there. The shoe company that pays Sanders megabucks to "just do it" saw a marketing opportunity. McCarver was approached about doing a commercial with Sanders.

"You've got to be kidding," was McCarver's response. It was a polite way of telling the company (which paid for the private jet that squired Sanders between sports) to take the offer and just shove it.

Incidentally, Sanders has appealed the $1,000 fine he drew from National League president Bill White for his antics against McCarver. For good reason, no doubt. If Sanders donated 10 pairs of the shoes he endorses to charity, the retail value would be more than the fine. What does that tell you about the severity of his punishment? And the price of playground shoes?

Paths recrossing

Last weekend, Mike Ferraro was named Orioles third-base coach the same day that left-hander John O'Donoghue was promoted to the big-league roster. Those kind of transactions are common this time of year.

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However, 23 years ago, the same names were involved in a trade of seemingly little significance. The Orioles traded John O'Donoghue Sr., also a left-handed pitcher, to the Seattle Pilots for Ferraro, an infielder.

Ferraro never played for the Orioles, but in 1970 and 1971, he was a teammate of Johnny Oates' with the club's Triple-A team in Rochester. The two were reunited 10 years after their initial introduction, when Ferraro was third-base coach and Oates was concluding his playing career with the New York Yankees.

Now, more than 20 years later, Oates is managing the Orioles, Ferraro is his new third-base coach and John O'Donoghue Jr. is a candidate for the pitching staff.

John O'Donoghue Sr., meanwhile, is the pitching coach for the Orioles' Single-A team in Frederick.

Expansion baby

On the same day that he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies, right-hander Brett Merriman became a father for the first time.

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Alec Merriman instantly inherited a nickname -- Rocky. Or Rocco, if you want to be formal.

His mother, Rosemary, already is contemplating the future. "If our next one is a girl, we're thinking about Rachel," she said.

Standing offer

Word is out in Chicago that the Orioles have a standing offer for free-agent outfielder Andre Dawson.

Considering that the Chicago Cubs have offered Dawson $5 million for two years and he's asking twice as much, the Orioles' offer could be standing for quite a while.

Free-agent return policy?

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Supposedly, the Yankees submitted bids to right-handed pitchers Doug Drabek of the Pirates and Jose Guzman of the Texas Rangers -- then withdrew the proposals when they weren't accepted.

Is this free agency's version of the Home Shopping Network? If so, can you ship the merchandise back if you're not satisfied?


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