An announcer for Major League Baseball Productions, which is responsible for Major League Baseball: An Inside Look, The Baseball Bunch and other TV fare related to the national pastime, Fusselle began turning out Fuse-Letter last year as an in-house memo to provide ideas for one of the most successful MLBP features, This Week in Baseball. The initial circulation was two. But Fuse-Letter soon gained a wider audience, and now—talk about a success story—there's a spin-off, a weekly column syndicated to 735 daily papers by Newspaper Enterprise Association. It contains such tidbits as this wry question about one of the young season's hottest sluggers and the hottest team: "Will Tony Armas and the Oakland A's vote to go on strike?" As for Tom Seaver's milestone strikeout victims, they were Donn Clendenon, Willie Montanez, Dan Driessen and Keith Hernandez.
GETTING IT ALL TOGETHER
First he was Ross Fields, a quarter-miler on the American University track team and small-time nightclub operator in Washington, D.C. Then he was Harold Smith, a free-spending track and boxing promoter who disappeared during the investigation of an alleged $21.3 million bank embezzlement. Subsequently apprehended and unmasked, he now hopes to merge his two disparate selves, or so it appeared last week when he filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to have his name legally changed to Harold Rossfields Smith.
ON WITH THE SHOW
Few things are more sacred to NFL bosses than Monday-night football games, extravaganzas that showcase the sport and produce abundant television riches. Trouble is, when Monday-night games are played in the East, the kickoff is at the late hour of 9 p.m. to accommodate the West Coast TV audience. This brings out younger fans, many of whom tune up for the game by drinking and carousing. Some of the worst problems occurred last season on the occasion of the New England Patriots' 23-14 victory over the Denver Broncos at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. As reported at the time (SCORECARD, Oct. 13), the game wasn't sold out, there was a last-minute crush of ticket buyers, fistfights broke out and a 69-year-old man was fatally injured when he was struck by a vehicle as he walked toward the stadium. Police said the driver, a teen-ager, had been drinking. During the game, cups of beer and Frisbees were recklessly hurled through the crowd, cops were doused with beer as they tried to quell disturbances and one was hospitalized after being kicked in the back. There were at least 50 arrests and more than 100 people were evicted from the stadium. When the game ended, youths rampaged through the parking lots, damaging cars.
It wasn't the first outbreak of violence on a Monday night at Schaefer, and Foxboro police reiterated their previously expressed opposition to such games. But the NFL, no doubt concerned about setting an unwelcome precedent, let it be known that it considered Monday-night football "a 28-team thing," as Val Pinchbeck, the league's director of broadcasting, puts it. By way of compromise, the Foxboro Board of Selectmen suggested a 7 p.m. kickoff that would leave less time for pregame drinking, but this was ruled out by the NFL, which complained that the earlier start—4 p.m. on the West Coast—would result in the loss of both viewers and revenue. Another suggestion is that the sale of beer be banned at Monday-night games in Foxboro. But the concessionaire, Canteen Corporation, wants no part of this, nor does the company that runs Schaefer, Stadium Realty Trust, which gets a cut of the beer revenue. They point out—correctly—that the banning of beer sales wouldn't prevent people from drinking before the game or sneaking liquor into the stadium.
The Foxboro Selectmen are due to meet May 18 to consider whether to permit Monday-night games at Schaefer. What makes this an interesting exercise is that the NFL has already gone ahead and scheduled a Monday game at Schaefer for Sept. 21—at 9 p.m.—between the Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. Asked whether the league had given any thought to what it might do if the Foxboro elders ruled out such a game. Pinchbeck replied, "None whatsoever." Expressing annoyance that a reporter was even questioning him on the subject, Pinchbeck protested at one point, "Could I ask you something? Is this really that big a thing?"
CHARGE IT, PLEASE
University of Texas athletic department officials were taken aback by the bill they received from the Austin Marriott after weekend visits by seven high school basketball players being recruited by Coach Abe Lemons. The players had charged a total of $1,267.40 to their rooms for the purchase of sportswear, souvenirs and sundries in the Hotel's gift shop. Texas officials notified the hotel that the charges weren't authorized, and Lemons informed the athletes, three of whom had signed letters of intent to attend Texas, that they wouldn't be welcome at the school unless they paid up.
One of the Texas-bound recruits, Robert Hughes Jr., a 6'3" guard at Fort Worth Dunbar High, reportedly ran up the biggest bill—$525.80. He told the campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, "I don't know about that total amount but all I bought was some gum and peanuts." Hughes' father, who also happens to be the basketball coach at Fort Worth Dunbar, seemed less than convinced. Pronouncing himself "extremely disgusted" with his son, he said, "I don't know who he thought he was, charging those things, but I do know who is going to have to pay for it. I also know who is going to pay me back with his first paycheck this summer, or UT is going to be minus a player after I break both legs." Although Hughes later said that the threat to break his son's legs was a rhetorical excess, he also said that any money he might have to come up with to cover the unpaid bill would be loaned to his son at "the highest interest rates the law will allow."