SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
November 15, 1976
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November 15, 1976


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Here we go again: Tennis is at war with itself again. The Grand Prix circuit, with Colgate-Palmolive as its new angel, is going head to head against Lamar Hunt's World Championship of Tennis. Hunt has signed up such players as Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase and Manuel Orantes for extravagant sums of money. But Donald Dell, the former Davis Cup captain who is counsel for the Association of Tennis Professionals and manager of many top U.S. stars, has pulled some of his aces—Arthur Ashe. Roscoe Tanner, Stan Smith, Bob Lutz—out of WCT. Dell is closely aligned with Jack Kramer of the Men's International Professional Tennis Council, which administers the Grand Prix. Kramer is also a longtime rival of Hunt. "It is war," says Mike Davies, WCT executive director. Meanwhile, the best players of all persuasions have increasingly taken to picking up guaranteed big money in special all-star events. These exhibitions (usually with four players) skim the cream of the talent and threaten the existence of tournaments, which are the base of the game. The tournament directors are talking revolt.

Jimmy Connors revived this vaudeville star-turn aspect of tennis with his TV-oriented "Heavyweight Championship" matches from Las Vegas and said recently he would defend his "title" on CBS-TV against the winner of a Bjorn Borg-Ilie Nastase match. Connors was figuring Borg—his patsy—would win. But Nastase, the one player who can consistently beat Connors, came out on top, and now Jimmy is waffling.

If the match does take place, Connors' former manager, Bill Riordan, will handle Nastase. Riordan is in the process of suing Jimmy. Nastase, once Connors' closest big-name tennis friend, is also mad at his old buddy. Russia has been suspended from Davis Cup competition for refusing to play Chile. In Italy there is mounting political pressure to keep that country from playing Chile in the Cup finals. In the U.S., Renee Richards is talking about suing the Women's Tennis Association.

It's nice to have everything back to normal in the sport.


Baseball held another of its expansion drafts last week (the others were in 1960, 1961 and 1968) and, as always, pickings were slim. Seattle and Toronto, the new American League clubs, were not permitted to bid in the free-agent draft held the day before and, in selecting from the existing rosters of the 12 established AL clubs, had to contend with arcane restrictions fully understood only by baseball executives—and not by all of them. For instance, each of the old clubs could "protect" 15 players; after an unprotected player was chosen, a team could add three more to the protected list—and so on. And, as though to rub the newcomers' noses in the dirt, when the older clubs heard through the grapevine that Seattle and Toronto were going to emphasize youth in their selections, they protected as many young prospects as they could and left veterans somewhat long in the tooth out in the open.

Under such circumstances, it is to the credit of the new clubs that they pretty much resisted the temptation to go for superannuated players, particularly since history shows it is an ineffective practice. The newborn 1962 New York Mets splurged on veterans and took seven years to recover. The class-of-1969 Montreal Expos and Milwaukee Brewers (n� Seattle Pilots) still haven't recovered. The 1961 California Angels showed good early foot but then sagged, and the Angels have been rebuilding since.

The best picks by any of the eight previous expansion clubs were those of the 1969 Kansas City Royals, whose draft was conducted by Cedric Tallis, now a New York Yankee executive. "In the first few rounds you've got to go for youth," says Tallis. "Then you can fill in with a few veterans." The average age of the 60 players tapped by Seattle and Toronto was 25.

One of the few veterans picked—by Toronto—was 30-year-old Al Fitzmorris of Kansas City, a 15-game winner who was a Royal draftee back in 1968. The Blue Jays immediately turned around and traded Fitzmorris to the Cleveland Indians for 25-year-old Alan Ashby, an experienced young catcher. "Fitzmorris is a good pitcher," explained Toronto General Manager Peter Bavasi, "but he has always needed runs, and we wouldn't be able to give him enough."

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