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THE PRICE OF RICE
Is Jim Rice going to become the first salaried athlete to earn $1 million a year? Could be, if Dave Parker doesn't beat him to it. The American League MVP is only 25 years old and has a mere year left on his contract. His attorney, Tony Pennacchia of Providence, has met twice recently with Red Sox General Manager Haywood Sullivan, who let Luis Tiant slip away to the Yankees, and Pennacchia says, "We have resolved some points—the length of contract and the mode of payment—but we haven't discussed salary or signing bonus. I haven't given the Red Sox a figure, but they agree they want Jim Rice to stay. The only problem is, do they have the money?"
Pennacchia knows he holds strong cards. Rice wants to stay with Boston, but Pennacchia points out, "This is the team that sold Babe Ruth. The fans are paranoid about finishing second. It's important to the psyche of the fans that Jim Rice remain in New England. Losing Jim Rice would be traumatic. If we don't come to a meeting of the minds with the Red Sox, there will come a time when Jim is so close to becoming a free agent that he will owe it to himself to see what he's worth on the open market."
The high cost of racing an Indianapolis-type car, which can amount to more than $1 million a year, has prompted a car-owners' movement that may sharply alter the 1979 season. An organization that calls itself CART, the acronym for Championship Auto Racing Teams, has declared itself free of United States Auto Club rule for next year; no small action, since USAC is the group that sanctions races and licenses drivers. And CART is not to be toyed with; its 18 members include such heavyweights as A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall and Roger Penske.
In October, CART proposed to USAC that an 11-man board, totally independent of USAC, be formed, consisting of six CART and five USAC members. This board would make engine rule-changes that would cut costs, would propose a maximum of 14 races per season (with a minimum of 13 days between races) and would demand increased purses. As it is now, New Jersey's 200-mile Trentonian pays less than $90,000 in purses, but expenses are so horrendous that even first-place money of $12,892 doesn't permit a team to break even.
USAC rejected CART's proposal and then a second proposal as well. As a result, says CART's U. E. (Pat) Patrick, who owns the cars raced by Gordon Johncock, the new organization "is going to function separately from USAC in 1979 and will run the entire Championship Trail events under a separate sanctioning organization.... We want to have some say over our destiny. The cost of auto racing has tripled in the last five years, and all USAC is interested in is who is going to pay travel expenses. We've already got two dates at Phoenix and Michigan, and we've talked to promoters at Atlanta and Ontario. We're prepared to lease tracks and do whatever we have to do to get good races."
CART's split with USAC is likely to have no effect on the Indy 500. "We have no argument with the Speedway," says Patrick. "It's the other tracks that have to worry." Dick King, USAC president, says, "I just hope we can get things ironed out before it's too late."
HEAVEN, CAN, WAITE
Harry Waite, a decoy carver in West Chester, Pa., is in no hurry to use the life-size canvasback duck he is working on now. The hollowed-out decoy, which will be set adrift on Chesapeake Bay after he dies, will carry his ashes. Already carved on the bottom is the notice: "In this decoy lies the carver, H.J. Waite, 1939-." Waite says, "I was going to whittle in the first two numbers of the last year, but I got to thinking that I just might make the year 2000. This one has to be perfect. It's mine."