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Amid the turmoil of the contract discussions between owners and players in major league baseball and professional football there has persisted a feeling that when things are settled peace and serenity will reign in the world of sport. Andy Robustelli, the staunchly conservative director of operations for the New York Giants, disagrees.
"People keep hoping we'll settle with the players and get on with the games so that they won't have to hear about our labor troubles anymore," says Robustelli. "Well, things aren't going to happen that way. The old days are gone. From now on the players are always going to find something they want changed. The present era of confusion and acrimony in football and baseball isn't something crazy between two eras of peace and quiet. This is the normal way now."
Even though the National and American Leagues are integral parts of the same sport, they disagree on such things as interleague play, the designated hitter rule, umpiring methods. Last Friday a more serious rift developed when the American League, operating independently, beat the National into the lucrative territory of Toronto by awarding a 1977 expansion franchise to that city. The National League, planning to meet this past Monday to consider expanding into Toronto itself, was miffed, but to whom could it protest? Theoretically, organized baseball is a unit headed by a commissioner to whom the two leagues are subordinate. But the owners in both leagues have been undercutting the commissioner's power for years, and the authority he once held is gone. He had no say in the Toronto matter. His opinion was not sought and he was not informed of what the American League had done until after it had taken place.
The owners, who talk of the need for discipline among the players but do not care for it themselves, see no danger in not having a strong central authority. But what if a grave disagreement develops between the leagues—on such matters as Toronto, for example, or network television contracts or the proper approach to the players on the reserve-clause problem? How long will it take for the rift to develop into open war, one circuit bidding against the other for players or threatening not to play the World Series if certain conditions are not met?
Farfetched? Perhaps. But by acting independently the leagues are moving baseball back to where it was 60 years ago, before Judge Landis, the game's first commissioner, brought order and direction to a chaotic situation.
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