Not within memory has a sporting enterprise been attended by so much rancor, recrimination and confusion as New York City's effort to get a home built for its new ball club. Mayor Wagner's bill authorizing the city to raise money to build a stadium in Flushing Meadow Park was resoundingly rejected by the State Assembly—an upset that horrified Metropolitan Baseball Club officials and National League President Warren Giles, who had been promised a stadium would be built. Then, amid cries of "pressure" and "ouch," the bill was presented again and gunned through as at least 35 assemblymen had sudden changes of mind.
The timing was good because the club had just signed a president—former Yankee general manager George Weiss—and the rumor was that he might lure Casey Stengel away from his bank to manage the team. Since the legislature was about to adjourn, if the bill hadn't been passed the New York club might find itself in Toronto or Kodiak.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are not at all pleased that Weiss has accepted the new job, and Mayor Wagner, his legal problems far from over, continues to squabble with Comptroller Lawrence E. Gerosa about the cost to the city of a stadium. It has become, as somebody pointed out, a political forkball.
We'd like to see a new stadium and a New York NL ball club. The stadium will have many uses (it may become the home of the football Titans), and a new ball club will help fill the vacuum left by the Giants and Dodgers. Too bad, though, that compared with Houston, where plans for 1962 in the big leagues are proceeding without a hitch, and cities like Milwaukee and L.A., which are wildly enthusiastic about their teams, N.Y. seems uncertain as to whether it wants a National League club or not. Maybe it doesn't deserve one.
The Pennsylvania State Harness Racing Commission met in Harrisburg last week to issue the four licenses for trotting tracks approved by the legislature and local option elections last year. The meeting lasted only 10 minutes, no applications for licenses were considered and none were granted. Instead, there will be another meeting on April 5.
Behind this delay is an attempt to thwart powerful politicians in the state who hope to gain a monopoly over Pennsylvania harness racing, with multimillion-dollar profits clearly in view. These interests had hoped to railroad through the commission a decision to issue only one license in the Philadelphia area. It is the same kind of scheme that led to harness racing scandals in New York and Illinois in the early 1950s.
Fortunately for Pennsylvanians, the commission chairman is Lawrence Sheppard (SI, April 18), a lifelong participant and official in the sport and a man of high and stubborn principle. Sheppard has been supported by Governor David Lawrence in his refusal to go along with the single-license idea. The delay in issuing licenses was arranged so that Sheppard could alert the two other commission members to the potential dangers of a monopoly situation in the sport.
But the battle is not yet won. If, on April 5, the commission grants only one license, the citizens of Pennsylvania are hereby warned that trotting trouble is brewing. And Lawrence Sheppard probably will resign in protest.