Jerry West vs. Jack Kent Cooke. Tony Perez vs. Muhammad Ali. Chuck Wepner vs. Tony Perez. Howard Porter vs. the NCAA. Dale Hackbart vs. Boobie Clark and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Buffalo Braves vs. Eddie Donovan and the New York Knicks. Joe Kapp vs. the NFL. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. the NBA. Charlie Finley vs. Catfish Hunter. State of Minnesota vs. Dave Forbes.
Check your local court calendar for further details, but scores of disputes involving your favorite sports personalities and teams are heading for litigation. Some of them—including the Hackbart and Forbes cases—grew out of differences that occurred during the heat of competition. But for the most part the glut of pending or threatened lawsuits reflects the complexities of expansionist, big-money sport as well as an emerging awareness by athletes of their real and imagined rights. No longer does University of Wisconsin Law Professor Robert Skilton urge his students, as he once did, to scour the sports pages for neglected legal issues; the issues are now in the headlines. Skilton says, "As in the consumer area and malpractice held, people in sports are becoming far more litigation-conscious."
No doubt about it. So bogged down are NFL owners in various legal suits that there has been talk about postponing their annual June meeting. Too many of them are scheduled to appear in court around that time.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
Kids used to aspire to be big-league ballplayers completely on their own, but they now have the added prodding of a slick full-color booklet entitled Baseball: The Now Career. The 28-page publication, distributed by the major leagues to scouts, Little Leagues, college coaches and the like, is worthy of Exxon or IBM, the sort of item you'd expect to find stacked in neat piles in recruiting booths on college campuses and in high school corridors.
The booklet opens with an invitation from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to "join us in this rewarding, challenging—and historic—profession" and it provides information about average salary ($43,000) as well as pensions, dental insurance and scholarship benefits. Promising "a journey like no ego trip in the world," it notes that ballplayers stay in first-class hotels, play before millions on TV and appear at sports awards banquets. Telecaster Joe Garagiola and investment counselor Hank Greenberg are cited as living proof of postbaseball opportunities and there are encomiums from such diverse figures as Dwight Eisenhower ("Baseball is a wonderful sport for American youth") to Kansas City's 5'4" Fred Patek ("You don't have to be a big man to make it in baseball").
Emphasizing that there is no shortage of ballplayers, Bob Wirz, a publicist in the commissioner's office, says that the booklet is aimed mostly at "the all-around, blue-chip athlete who might also be considering careers in other pro sports." That makes sense, but there is something disconcerting about the campaign. Nowhere in the booklet is there any hint that special skills might be necessary. But then, job seekers aren't told where to send for application blanks, either.
A horse drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes? Anything's possible, of course, but stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club were naturally suspicious when a routine prerace drug test at Happy Valley track turned up caffeine and nicotine in the urine of a 5-year-old mare named Viking, entered in the 1?-mile Kwaichung Handicap. They scratched the horse and launched an investigation.
The probe led to stableboy Ho Waicheung, who confessed his misdeed. Seems that Ho, annoyed when Viking proved slow to provide a urine sample, substituted his own instead. Fired by the Jockey Club, Ho sighed, "I didn't have time to wait around all day, you know."