Joe Cronin's office already has blocked out a tentative schedule for 1964 that includes Oakland in the American League. Cronin also has charted a schedule that would include inter-league play with the National League, but the National League wants no part of that.
Anywhere is better than here
The Kansas City Athletics want to go to Oakland. Well, the Athletics themselves don't really want to go to Oakland, but their owner, Charles O. Finley, does. In the past Charles O. Finley has wanted to go to Dallas and to Atlanta as well. This ambulatory urge stems from nothing more complicated than Finley's desire to find a bigger ball park in which to play the Yankees nine times a year (the KC ball park seats 32,500, while a new Oakland park would seat 55,000—and nine times 20,000 equals quite a few dollars). But the people of Kansas City have been antagonized repeatedly by Finley, and they do not sympathize with his problems at all. They point out that he has failed to promote the Athletics, and one year he even cut the
Kansas City Star
, the town's leading newspaper, off from any sources of information about his team.
The American League may be stepping on some important—and sensitive—toes if it allows the Athletics to forsake Kansas City. Three U.S. Senators—Stuart Symington and Edward Long of Missouri and James Pearson of Kansas—have been closely watching the situation. Their mailboxes overflow with irate letters from constituents who maintain that Finley is doing everything possible to sabotage the Kansas City franchise. Senator Long conducted a survey of the Kansas City baseball situation last year and deduced from that survey that Kansas City was supporting the Athletics quite well, thank you, considering that the A's had never finished higher than sixth. He also deduced that Owner Finley was remiss in dealing with the chambers of commerce in surrounding towns. Senator Long also just happens to be a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly. Congress has several times refused to buck a 1922 Supreme Court decision that baseball was a sport and not a business, but baseball's executives still lose sleep worrying about the possibility that the matter might one day come up again.
The situation in Cleveland is confusing, and some say the apathy in that city is caused by the fact that the Indians have had a recent history of jumping off to a good start and then collapsing. But the favorite argument of baseball executives is that the city of Cleveland itself has had a mad march to exurbia and that it is too difficult to stay in town to see a game. On August 17, however, baseball's argument was swamped under a shower of dollar bills when 83,000 people appeared in Municipal Stadium on a bleak, rainy Saturday to see a professional football doubleheader—and an exhibition doubleheader at that. Obviously, the people of Cleveland still support an attraction and, if they are presented with one, they will push the barbecue routines aside and come to town.
Beneath the sore surface of American League franchise trouble another infection has begun to gnaw. At the next major league meeting, Griffith and Tom Yawkey, the president of the Boston Red Sox, will come out strongly against the share of money going to the New York Yankees from CBS-TV's Baseball Game of the Week. These broadcasts, seen on Saturdays and Sundays except in blacked-out major league cities, put an added $500,000 into the Yankee bank account on top of the $1.2 million that the Yankees already draw from their local sponsors. CBS-TV has a contract with the Yankees for all their Saturday and Sunday home games, and the network can use them whenever it wishes. The other American League teams are invited to appear hardly at all.
Of the 47 games scheduled by CBS this year, 31 are American League games and 24 of these involve Yankee home appearances. Visiting teams do not draw a dime from these telecasts. Bill MacPhail, vice-president of CBS Television Sports and the brother of Lee, says steadfastly, "We use the Yankees most of the time because they are the biggest draw. We get a lot of letters saying that the name of the show should be The Yankee Game of the Week, but the Yankees are the draw. This year NBC-TV had a Yankee game one weekend and, although they usually aren't too close to us in the ratings, they popped way up on that game. The Yankees are the team that people want to see and anyway it is up to the American League to do something about distributing the money. That certainly isn't my business. I'm buying a product—the Yankees—and I shall keep buying them as long as they are the big draw."
When you consider that the Senators get roughly only $300,000 for local TV rights to their games, it is not hard to imagine what an extra $500,000 does for the Yankees. It does things like getting a Tom Tresh, a Jim Bouton, an Al Downing, a Joe Pepitone.
The time has now arrived when the other American League teams must take steps to obtain their own share of the Treshes, the Boutons, the Downings and the Pepitones—and the answer is to build themselves up to the Yankees rather than tear the Yankees down. The first gesture, however, may have to come from the Yankees themselves, a gesture that would involve carving up that extra $500,000 television pie. In the long run this would be to the Yankees' advantage, of course, since they must present something of a contest in order to attract even TV fans.
The next step for the American League is to formulate and execute a plan that would give the bottom teams a distinct advantage in the selection of young player personnel, a plan based perhaps on the draft systems used by the professional football and basketball leagues. These involve only college athletes, but baseball is fast approaching a related dependence upon colleges for its young players. Now that the major leagues are trying so hard to discourage large bonus payments, the campus may soon be the primary source.