When the Women's Pro Basketball League failed to reappear for the 1982 season, Nancy Lieberman, who had been playing for the Dallas Diamonds, was out of a job. But Lieberman, the most celebrated woman player in the U.S., wasn't about to call it quits. She began talking to Larry King, who was one of the developers of the team-tennis concept, a good idea that was probably ahead of its time and that was resurrected last summer in the form of a four-team league in California. King agreed to join Lieberman in getting something new going in women's pro hoops.
Lieberman and King are thinking small. They envision a geographically compact league that, to start with, will have teams only in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Iowa, all places where the WBL drew well. Each club will play a three-week season of 12 games, six home and six away, followed by an all-star game. As in team tennis, the athletes will compete for prize money. The championship team will win $30,000, or $3,750 for each of seven players and the coach. The runners-up will divide $26,000, with $22,000 and $18,000 going to the third-and fourth-place finishers, respectively. Individual bonuses totaling $40,000 will be awarded to the players who do best statistically at their positions in scoring, assists, rebounding and free throws. Each member of the winning all-star team will earn $1,000; the losers will get $500 apiece. The MVP of the all-star game will receive $1,000. The most a player can earn in a season is $17,750; the least, $2,250. That's peanuts, of course, but not bad for barely a month's work.
To get the league off the ground by next winter, Lieberman and King hope to enlist a corporate sponsor. Because the season will be short, filling team rosters shouldn't be a problem. "Players who are skeptical about playing pro ball again because they didn't get paid last time or because their teams folded can work and keep their full-time jobs year-round," says Lieberman, who has learned a lot from the WBL's sad experience. "The people in the WBL were really nice, but they weren't sports people. They were putting money in so many places where it didn't belong, like paying $25,000 a night to rent Madison Square Garden." The new think-small league obviously isn't about to make that mistake.
THE ORIOLE CONNECTION
Oriole fans are likely to have mixed feelings about the heroics performed the other day by Brooks Robinson's son, Mike, a shortstop for Baltimore's Loch Raven High School. After singling in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh—and final—inning, Mike, a 6'3" senior, preserved his team's 7-6 win over Pikesville High in the bottom of the inning by making a spectacular play to turn what appeared to be a sure hit by Pikesville Left-fielder Terry Blair into a game-ending double play.
Did we say something about mixed feelings? Oh, yeah, Terry, also 6'3" and a junior, is the son of another former Oriole standout, Paul Blair.
TERROR ON THE BASE PATHS
The University of Houston's Carl Lewis, the 1981 Sullivan Award winner, is currently ineligible for the Cougar track team because of poor grades, but that hasn't kept him from playing for the university payroll department's team in an intramural softball league. In a recent 14-7 loss to a team representing the College of Social Sciences, Lewis, who plays centerfield, had a perfect day at the plate without ever hitting the ball out of the infield.
In his first at bat, Lewis grounded to short and beat the throw to first by a good five steps. On his second time up, he hit a grounder to second and once again beat the throw. The next batter hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who immediately stepped on second in expectation of getting a forceout but was shocked to find Lewis already there. In his final plate appearance, Lewis drew a walk but was subsequently called out on Softball's equivalent of a false start: He left the base too early in tagging up on a fly ball.
After the game, one opposing player came up to Lewis, who had the best performances in the world last year in both the long jump and 100 meters, and said, "It sure was nice to see you run."