Novel in Nashville were the half a dozen White Sox officials who broke off conversations in midsentence, said "Gotta go" and then scurried off. Explanation: They were responding to walkie-talkie messages coming through earplugs. The messages they received couldn't be overheard, and they could stay in constant contact to summon one another for trade talks, advice—or lunch.
Former Yankee Third Baseman Bobby Brown (1946-52 and 1954, .279 career average) was elected to succeed Lee MacPhail as AL president, commencing Jan. 1. There's one hitch. Brown, 59, is a cardiologist in Texas and has obligations to his patients that will prevent him from assuming the job until perhaps July 1. In the interim, his chief aide, Bob Fishel, executive vice-president of the league, will handle most of the work.
"This looks like a very irrational act by a rational man," Brown said. "I've been in practice 26 years in a tough speciality. You deal with the worst types of catastrophic medical emergencies. I reached the point in my life where I had to decide how much longer I could effectively do this. For me to continue into my 60s was unrealistic. I wanted to make a change."
As a "baseball purist," Brown is not fond of the designated hitter rule, though he said diplomatically, "That doesn't mean I'm advocating a disenfranchisement of the designated hitter." He takes office at a propitious time. A joint American League-National League committee is to recommend a DH rule for both leagues. If the NL owners and the new AL president have their way, the DH era could be over after the 1985 season.
One of the best things about a gathering of baseball men is the old stories that are swapped. Here are two of the best heard in Nashville:
? Executive Vice-President Buzzie Bavasi of the Angels recalled a long bargaining session he had at the 1952 winter meetings with John Quinn of the Boston Braves. "John came to the suite about 6 p.m. and said he wanted to trade for Andy Pafko," said Bavasi, who at the time was the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. "I told him it would take $150,000 and two players. We talked and talked. His last offer was $150,000 and Roy Hartsfield. About 1:30, I went into the bedroom and put on my pajamas. John came in and started undressing. 'What're you doing?' I asked. 'I'm getting in bed with you until I get Pafko,' John said. I told him, 'You've got him.' "
?"I guess I can tell this now that the player is out of the game," said former Pittsburgh General Manager Joe L. Brown. "It was in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the '79 World Series, we were ahead 3-1 and had the bases loaded. Bill Robinson [of the Pirates] tried to get out of the way of an inside pitch. Tony Bartirome, the trainer, ran out. Bill whispered to him, 'It didn't hit me.' Tony said, 'The hell it didn't' and dug a fingernail into Bill's finger until he cut it. Then Tony showed the mark to the umpire [Jerry Neudecker], who sent Bill to first and forced in a run." Pittsburgh went on to "nail" down that 4-1 triumph.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said it was "the old warhorse" in him that prompted him to sidetrack his own plans and agree to a second and final extension of his term, until March 1, 1984. In a sense, he was again victimized. "I'm not frustrated," said Kuhn, who appeared more at ease than at any time during his 15 years on the job. "I probably chuckle a little bit over the whole process, for reasons you can probably figure out."
As for what he'll do when he finally steps down, Kuhn said there "is still a candle in the window" at the New York law firm where he worked before becoming commissioner. He has also stated that it's possible "in the near term" that he'd be involved in the ownership of a baseball team.
Meanwhile, the search for a new commissioner goes on. One of the two leading candidates to surface last week, White House Chief of Staff James Baker, no longer seemed interested. The other, Peter Ueberroth, the head of the LAOOC, hinted he'd be available only after the Olympic Games end in August.