Former President Gerald Ford, who shows signs of wanting to return to the White House in 1980, ought to check over the press releases sent out by his office. One recently noted that golfer Ford, who made a hole in one last year, made another recently. The release concluded, "The odds of a former President making two holes-in-one within a year are as unlikely as his returning to the White House in 1980."
As the years grind on in Oakland, Charlie Finley's reign over the A's is getting more and more like Ludwig's in Bavaria. Last week Bobby Winkles, who had managed a collection of low-salaried kids and has-beens to first place in the American League West, chucked his job because Finley had become just too much. There were reports that Finley had been considering putting earphones on Winkles so he could communicate with him directly in the dugout. Meanwhile, Finley kept calling him on the phone at home. A typical early-morning call to Winkles would command, "Get up! Only whores make their living in bed." When Winkles recently spent a day off visiting Napa Valley vineyards and was unreachable by phone, Finley raged, "If you ever do that again, you can go someplace else." After Winkles finally phoned (ah, the irony) Charlie to tell him he was quitting, Finley was moved to concede, "Maybe my telephone calls were driving him to the nut house."
The A's have now had 16 managerial changes in the 18 years that Finley has owned the club, counting repeats like Jack McKeon, Winkles' replacement last week, who had been replaced by Winkles last season. Despite its fast start, the club has had dismal attendance, even below last year's, which was the worst in the majors. Last week the A's mimeograph machine broke and members of the press had to forage for statistics. Bob Hofman, the traveling secretary who also serves as team statistician, simply gave up when the A's acquired Glenn Burke from the Dodgers. The Oakland press release was a photostated bio of Burke from the Dodger media guide without updated averages.
Ever since spring training the A's have lacked a lefthander to pitch batting practice and, perhaps as a consequence, seven of their last 10 losses have been to lefties. "I realize Charlie is low on money," says Designated Hitter Gary Alexander, "but I think it would really help us if we could get a lefthander in batting practice." If a hitter such as Mitchell Page wants to check up on his form at the plate, he must repair to Ricky's, an Oakland bistro, which keeps videotapes of the games. The A's don't have the equipment. Tune in next week.
WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
John Ziegler Jr. is paid $230,000 a year to be president of the NHL, but you wouldn't have known he was on the job during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The rival coaches, Scotty Bowman of Montreal and Don Cherry of Boston, were constantly critical of the referees, to say nothing of the outrageous comment of the Bruins' Brad Park, who said, "I thought they only fixed horse races." Bowman termed the officiating a "joke." He also called in the media and played a videotape of alleged Bruin transgressions not whistled in the two games the Canadiens lost in Boston. Cherry repeatedly claimed that the referees had it in for the Bruins and that they were plotting to get him. The players showed up Referee Dave Newell on the ice. In Game 5, Boston's Wayne Cashman skated past Newell and waved his stick under Newell's nose. Boston's Terry O'Reilly drew a misconduct penalty when he fired the puck at Newell but missed by a couple of yards.
No other sports commissioner puts up with such nonsense. The NBA's Larry O'Brien has warned Washington and Seattle that he will deal severely with anyone who criticizes the officiating in the finals. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle fines teams heavily if they dare run films for the press to show up officials. And last week American League President Lee MacPhail suspended Fred Lynn of the Red Sox for three days for bumping Umpire Nick Bremigan.
So what's with Ziegler? As one NHL ref says, "What's happening is absurd. If the league's not going to back up its officials, then maybe what the league really wants is games without officials. Then let everybody kill each other."