THE HIGH MINORS
That cities like Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego, Dallas and Milwaukee—and the baseball fans in them—should be eager advocates of big-league expansion is certainly understandable. And the enthusiasms of the American and National Leagues for widening their horizons are explainable: the American League will collect $10,900,000 from the franchises it has allotted to Seattle and Kansas City for the 1969 season. Each of the established clubs will sell six cut-rate players to the new teams at the cutthroat price of $175,000 apiece. And the American League office gets a $100,000 fee from the two new clubs.
But is expansion really good for baseball as a business and baseball as a sport? When the leagues expanded from eight to 10 clubs in 1961 and 1962, the talent in the majors was diluted by 20%. Now, if the National League follows the American League's example, as seems likely, and adds two new teams of its own, one out of every three players in the majors will be an athlete who, eight seasons ago, would not have been good enough to compete in the big time.
Baseball purists have complained for years about the death of the minor leagues. The minors aren't dead—they're just disguised.
Those who like to view their sports through a psychedelic prism—to reflect, say, upon the Oedipal drama manifest in Pete Maravich playing basketball for his father—can read the San Francisco Express Times, the only known underground newspaper with a sports column. "I see the game differently from many fans," says Sportswriter Frank Bardacke, who is fresh out of jail following his arrest at an antiwar demonstration. "I think there are things to say to underground people about sport. You know the material is there. So far, half my columns have been political or racial [he saw the Houston- UCLA game last January as a confrontation between "hired hands" and "sophisticated black nationalists"], and the others have been just fun, or maybe psychological. My best column, I think, was commenting on a letter sent by Charles Finley to a million people in the Bay area urging them to buy his mule and his A's. I likened it to a letter from your Congressman—oh, you think that's political satire? Perhaps."
Bardacke, a graduate student in political science at the University of California, says many underground people have "a narrow focus and have never read the sports page. They tell me they are first-timers and enjoying it." Ordinarily, he doesn't burden them with things like scores—it's just the relationships that are important.
IN A VALLEY
The Missouri Valley Conference was for a long time one of the strongest in basketball—Cincinnati won successive national championships in 1961 and 1962—but the conference now appears to be losing its punch. The cause, the MVC coaches complain, is the 1.6 rule, which has been in effect for three seasons. The conference has a tradition of demanding competition, but its colleges have often been less demanding scholastically. As one coach puts it, "Except for St. Louis and maybe Drake, the Valley isn't made up of what you'd call academically oriented schools."
The 1.6 rule and a conference regulation passed in 1966 barring the admission of athletes who score less than 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test have severely restricted recruiting, which is, after all, the whole point. A poor recruiting year in 1966 left four Missouri Valley colleges without any sophomores on their squads this season.