The Cubs' Clause
Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent could be in for an embarrassing surprise next week. That's when a federal judge in Chicago will rule on Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. v. Francis T. Vincent, Jr. The "Ball Club" is the Chicago Cubs, who brought the suit in response to Vincent's decision two weeks ago to realign the National League by moving the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals into the Western Division and the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds into the East. The Cubs, who maintain that their lucrative superstation broadcast package would be diminished if they had to play additional games in the Pacific time zone, as the divisional shift would require, claim that Vincent overstepped his authority. Hence the suit in Chicago—a city that does not consider itself a part of the West. "This is not a cowboy boot city," wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko.
Vincent thinks his "best interests of baseball" power gives him the authority to realign the league. But lawyers for the Cubs have put together a powerful argument to the contrary. Citing the Major League Agreement, an elaborate contract that created the office of commissioner 70 years ago, the Cubs say that Vincent's authority is limited to correcting "an act, a transaction, or a practice" that is "not in the best interests of baseball." The Cubs argue that Vincent's decision to realign the league was based on no such act, transaction or practice.
It's a nifty legal argument supported by the words of the Agreement and by longtime practices of the two leagues. According to the Cubs, the Agreement also prevents the commissioner from intruding into "league matters." Realignment is one of those matters, say the Cubs, and the National League constitution gives them a veto over any move involving them. In 1964, for example, commissioner Ford Frick's counsel, after consulting the Agreement, announced that if the Milwaukee Braves wanted to move to Atlanta, there was nothing the commissioner could do about it because it was "a league matter." Vincent says he has the authority to resolve "all disputes and controversies related in anyway to professional baseball." But those words cannot be found in the Agreement.
Vincent may have overestimated his power and underestimated the Tribune Company, the owner of the Cubs. The last time the company took on a commissioner in court, it triumphed. That happened two years ago, when it sued David Stern of the NBA to keep him from limiting the number of superstation telecasts of Chicago Bulls games. The legalities that defeated Stern are similar to the ones the company has raised against Vincent. They could very well work again.
Au Revoir, LeMond
In Europe, where the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500 are distant notions, the race to the top of L' Alpe d'Huez during the Tour de France is known as "the greatest day in sports." On Sunday, however, two non-Europeans—three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond and former Tour of Italy winner Andy Hampsten, both Americans—figured most prominently in the stage that ends, after a climb of 6,000 feet, at a ski resort in the French Alps.
LeMond never made it to the base of the mountain. After having lost 20 minutes on a lesser ascent earlier in the day, he decided to withdraw from the event he has made his own. He cited fatigue, which had dogged him since the race began two weeks ago—he stood 41st in the Tour, entering Sunday's stage—when a French truckers' strike turned the journey from his home in Brussels to the race's prologue in Spain into an ordeal.
Though by day's end Hampsten could only close to within eight minutes of overall leader and defending champion Miguel Indurain of Spain, he did become the first U.S. rider to win the most storied stage of the world's premier bike race. "I've dreamed about winning this stage every time I rode my bike," said Hampsten afterward. "It's absolutely the most incredible sensation for a rider, to have half a million people pulling for you. But the great thing is they're all for the last man, too."
Hampsten's charge moved him into third place, but with only one week to go in the race it's unlikely that he could overtake Indur�in. "If you don't have it, you don't have it," said Hampsten. "And the Tour de France is not kind to people who don't have it."