"People are ignorant if they wonder whether a black man can handle this job or this responsibility," says Willie Randolph, who coaches third for the New York Yankees. "I don't think of myself as a pioneer, but I don't take the job lightly."
And baseball should not take this issue lightly. When managing slots open up, it's the guys on third who most often get serious consideration.
Signing for a Just Cause
We couldn't help but notice that among the celebrities hawking autographs at the recent International Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center was one John Wooden. Was it possible? The Wizard of Westwood, the prince of piety, reducing himself to the level of Al Cowlings, who was at the other end of the arena signing everything from personal photos to toy Broncos for $20 a shot, $5 more than Wooden's price?
Have no fear. Whenever Wooden appears at such shows, all the proceeds go to charity. The recipient in this case was the First Christian Church in Santa Monica, which was damaged in a 1994 earthquake. "I never even see the money," Wooden says of such appearances, "so I have no idea how much it was." It did seem, though, that he was outdrawing the noted Bronco driver by a 2-to-1 margin.
Peace in the NBA
Forget the fat lady. In sports labor disputes, it's usually not over until the appellate court judge sings. The players and agents whose push for decertification of the NBA Players Association was soundly defeated in a National Labor Relations Board election last week could have taken that attitude, since there were still several legal avenues open to them to keep the league from returning to business as usual, But none of those options looked especially promising, and at week's end it appeared that the so-called dissidents would go gently into Opening Night.
Michael Jordan, whose support of the decertification effort gave it credibility, made it clear before the election that if his fellow players voted in favor of the union, he would abide by their decision. And after the 226-134 vote against decertification, followed by the 25-2 vote by the player representatives to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA, other players on the decertification side seemed ready to follow Jordan's lead. "At some point you have to let go of the fight," said Indiana Pacer guard Reggie Miller. "The players have spoken."
The biggest potential roadblock to the new agreement, which has been approved by the owners, is the unfair labor practices charge filed by Sacramento King guard Mitch Richmond. But even in the unlikely event that Richmond's grievance is upheld, it could result only in another NLRB election, and there is little reason to think the outcome of that vote would be different.
Nearly all the principals have reason to feel fortunate. The NBA maintains its status as the only U.S. major professional league that has never missed a game because of a work stoppage. Commissioner David Stern enhances his image as the great conciliator. And the dissident players, while avoiding the role of villains who kept the games from being played, can also take credit for modifications to the original contract proposal that should enrich the players. No doubt the fans will have forgotten the dispute by the time they see Jordan dunk, and therein lies a lesson for all pro sports.