One of the sad things made evident in the latest bickering between baseball players and owners is the decline in status of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who seems now to be little more than an exalted public-relations man—and not a very successful one at that. A curious, even paradoxical, byproduct of Kuhn's abdication of executive control is the renaissance of the league presidents. A few years ago, soon after the apparently energetic Kuhn took over, it was accepted in baseball circles that league presidents were a dying species and would in time disappear, their offices becoming little more than administrative branches of the central baseball structure. But it seems to be working the other way round. The commissioner's office has less authority, while in matters of substance, like labor negotiations, Joe Cronin of the American League and Chub Feeney of the National appear to be playing far more influential roles than Kuhn.
The baseball commissioner's relative impotence is even more apparent when the National Football League's Pete Rozelle is considered. Even though he is a P.R. man at heart, the smooth, glib Rozelle runs pro football. If underneath it all he is an owner's man, he nonetheless makes forceful decisions from time to time that are not at all popular with some of his bosses. The most recent case in point is Rozelle's ruling that New Orleans Saints Owner John Mecom Jr. must pay his former general manager, Vic Schwenk, the profit that Schwenk would have realized had he exercised an option to buy and then sell a 5% share of the club. Mecom disputed Schwenk's right to the option and the ex-general manager went to Rozelle, who said the evidence indicated "an agreement between Schwenk and Mecom on the essential terms" and ruled that Mecom should pay. Since the amount involved is said to be more than $200,000, Mecom at first muttered something about going to court but later said, "I have no comment on the matter."
It will be to Mecom's credit and pro football's, too, if the dispute is thus settled in camera, so to speak. What is the point of having a commissioner in the first place if he does not have authority and the right to exercise it?
Byron Nelson, who won the New York Metropolitan Golf Writers' Gold Tee award this year for his services to golf, took his 61 years out to a par-3 course in Arizona last week and gave a small demonstration of the skills that made him the best in the world 30 years ago. It had been raining, but Nelson played the first six holes in 1-2-3-2-3-1 and finished the 18 in 46, eight under par.
Polls, particularly those staged by amateurs in the field, are risky things to lay much store by. Saying that, we boldly turn to one conducted by Sports Editor Chuck Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal. Johnson asked his readers to rate TV sports announcers, good and bad. When the mail subsided, 1,812 ballots had come to the paper, the greatest response the Journal had had since 2,500 readers wrote for free seeds two years ago. After the counting job was completed, the results were revealed to a waiting world.
The favorite play-by-play announcer, at least in Wisconsin, was Ray Scott. The fact that Scott for years did play-by-play for the Green Bay Packers might have had a little something to do with his nearly 2-to-1 margin over runner-up Keith Jackson. Curt Gowdy was a distant third, Chris Schenkel fourth.
In balloting for worst play-by-play announcer, Frank Gifford eked out a win over Lindsey Nelson, with Jack Buck and Jack Drees in a virtual tie for third. Schenkel was fifth.
As for color commentators, the favorite was Bill Russell, with Pat Summerall second. Tony Kubek, a Milwaukee boy, finished third, just ahead of the team of Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. Like Schenkel, Cosell and Meredith go both ways: they finished third in the voting for worst color commentators, though well behind Alex Hawkins and Tom Brookshier, who were a decisive one-two.