THE ICE MEN HAGGLETH
The Boston Bruin management was shaken when Clarence Campbell, National Hockey League president, suggested that the team "cannot afford" the luxury of its two top stars: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. So were Orr and Esposito, who are negotiating new contracts.
"The Bruins can't trade Orr," Campbell explained, "but they could sell Esposito for, say, $350,000. I can think of at least three teams in the NHL that can afford him—Toronto, New York and Chicago. Chicago can get $9 for a top-priced ticket. Boston can't do that. The tax situation of the Bruins is frightening. They are one of the few teams in the league that don't own their own building."
The response of the Bruins was a quiet suggestion that Campbell should worry about league affairs and not meddle in club business. The response by Bruin fans goes unrecorded, but can be guessed.
Orr reportedly wants a five-year contract for $1 million. Esposito, a year-round resident of Boston and reluctant to leave, said he would like to have a five-year contract, too—for a slightly lower amount—but doubted that he could get it, despite the fact that he scored a record-breaking 76 goals and 152 points last season.
Buffalo's Punch Imlach sums up the insider's view of Campbell's suggestion. Esposito, he said, would be "hockey's biggest bargain at $350,000. If Buffalo didn't come up with the money, I'd buy him myself and lease him to the club. I spent $200,000 for five players in the recent draft, and they won't get 76 goals among the whole lot of them."
BALL FOUR RECONSIDERED
During spring training Charlie Finley, owner of the Oakland Athletics, was loudly propagandizing for a change in baseball rules. He wanted three balls, instead of four, to constitute a walk.
One baseball man said the only good in the proposal would be to make Jim Bouton's book, Ball Four, obsolete. But Finley insisted: "Let's get men on base. Let's get more runs. There is nothing duller than a 2-1 game."
Since the season started, though, Finley has not been saying anything about ball three. His ace, Pitcher Vida Blue, is stimulating the game everywhere. Vida causes some 2-1 scores, and even has six shutouts among his 17 wins. Just the other night he pitched 11 innings of shutout ball and struck out 17 before being lifted to save his arm. Rollie Fingers took over in the 12th. It was doubly dull for 19 innings, and then the A's won in the 20th, 1-0, at the especially dull hour of 1:15 a.m.