A week or so ago Charlie Finley made a curious trade. He gave Dick Redmond, a solid defenseman on Finley's California Golden Seals, to the Chicago Black Hawks for Darryl Maggs, an undistinguished second-year player. It seemed a one-sided deal, and hockey fans wondered why Charlie, the supposedly shrewd horse trader, had made it.
Now it appears it was a financial move by Finley. When the World Hockey Association was raiding the NHL, the Golden Seals lost half a dozen top players. General Manager Garry Young kept Redmond by signing him to a two-year contract for a reported $180,000. When Finley got back to paying attention to the Seals after his Athletics had won the World Series, he and Young had a falling-out and the general manager left the club. Meanwhile, Redmond had complained to Alan Eagleson, who runs the NHL players' association and acts as financial adviser for various players, that he had not received an advance he had been promised and that his regular paychecks were scaled to a $30,000 salary. Eagleson got in touch with the club and eventually met with Finley, who produced an affidavit signed by Young saying he had acted outside his authority in signing Redmond. Eagleson turned to other NHL owners. "Someone better straighten Finley out," he said. "I'm not wasting time with him."
This threat of a lawsuit brought quick action. Finley got rid of Redmond's onerous contract and picked up at least a usable player in return; the Black Hawks strengthened their back line; and Redmond began to receive the pay he had contracted for.
PRELUDE TO ACT II
Despite the Sybaritic atmosphere of his training camp at the Playboy Club in McAfee, N.J., heavyweight champion Joe Frazier was hard at work last week preparing for his title fight with George Foreman in Jamaica on Jan. 22. Spreading a surprisingly delicate hand over the mouth of a bowl-size goblet, Frazier waved off a white-tailed wine server. "Miss Bunny, none of that grape for Joe," Frazier said. "Joe's working."
Frazier has a strenuous schedule plotted for himself during the next several months: first, the undefeated Foreman, the 1968 Olympic heavyweight champion, and then the rematch with Muhammad Ali. "I reached out for the toughest opponent I could find," said Frazier, "and I got Foreman. I need that kind of fight because then I'm going to take on Clay. And I'm going to whip him, knock him out."
Farther south in New Jersey, in Cherry Hill, Muhammad Ali also had rematch on his mind, although he was supposed to leave shortly for Las Vegas to sign for a Feb. 14 fight with British heavyweight Joe Bugner. He was sitting in front of the massive fireplace in his Spanish-style home, chatting with singer Billy Eckstine, when he suddenly bolted up from the couch and ran over to a white concert-grand piano. Poking out a boogie-woogie rhythm, Ali sang, "Joe FRA-ZAH, Joe FRA-ZAH, I got something FOR YA."
Back on the couch, Ali said, "I sense this match is about to happen. It's built up to be a dream fight, two years a-steaming, and now Frazier can't escape me no longer. I see Frazier on TV, announced as the heavyweight champ, and I say, how can that be? Then I think, this is the man that beat me, made me second best. And that doesn't seem right."
The long wait is nearly over. Frazier wants the fight to take place in June, although for personal reasons not in California, which is a problem. Jack Kent Cooke holds the rematch contract and he wants the fight in his Los Angeles Forum. His lawyer told Frazier, " Jack Kent Cooke has his pride."
"I got my pride, too," said Frazier, "and I don't want to fight in California." Frazier feels that economics and logic will prevail. In a long-distance call he told Cooke, "We better get the fight on soon, because something awful could happen to old man Clay, and all that money will get away. And that would be terrible, now, wouldn't it?"