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PALACE COUP IN THE BASEBALL UNION: MOFFETT OUT, MILLER IN
In a stunning move, the Major League Players Association last week fired Executive Director Ken Moffett and temporarily replaced him with his predecessor, Marvin Miller. No single event triggered the dismissal, but players cited an erosion of confidence in Moffett's toughness, persistence and leadership. As Montreal Pitcher Steve Rogers, the National League pension representative, said to SI's Jim Kaplan, "The process of educating the members hadn't been followed as diligently as it should have been. There was a lack of direction."
But the real cause may have been the clash of styles and philosophies between Moffett and Miller. From the time he assumed office in 1966 until his retirement last January, Miller was a quintessential hard-liner. Baseball management was anything but compassionate, and negotiations became pitched battles. When Moffett, the former director of the federal mediation service, replaced Miller's firmness with conciliatory overtures, the players saw red. So, apparently, did Miller, who was still involved with the MLPA as a consultant and who presumably became disenchanted with the way Moffett was running things. The players wondered if Moffett had the stomach to fight for the retention of their free-agent and arbitration rights and the historical formula for funding the pension plan from TV revenues—all of which could be issues in contract negotiations next year. "What is a union leader, an advocate or a mediator?" asked one association member. Suddenly, the mediator was out, the advocate back in.
In recalling Miller, the players no doubt assumed that management will be as obdurate as ever. However, Moffett says that at his urging the owners appointed a more congenial man (it turned out to be American League President Lee MacPhail) as their chief negotiator to replace the often difficult Ray Grebey. Moffett felt he could work with—not against—MacPhail and members of baseball's new guard, particularly Oakland President Roy Eisenhardt.
Moffett and Miller have had differing approaches to the issues of drug and alcohol abuse by players. Image-conscious baseball officials have reacted to such malefactions by enacting suspensions and fines—and the union has filed grievances. Under Moffett, a joint committee of players and owners had been formed to devise a system to deal with the problem. This cooperative approach is said to have disturbed General Counsel Donald Fehr (an old Miller associate who is expected to be named acting executive director of the association next month) and Special Assistant Mark Belanger, although it was the players' executive board that fired Moffett. Moffett blames Miller for his ouster.
"Drugs aren't a win-lose type of situation," argues Moffett. "There are kids who are messed up and need help, and there are ways to do this short of confrontation. You can't go to the mat on every issue. My sense was that management was making an effort to be conciliatory. I felt this was the way to go, instead of to the brink. I think things will now go back to being confrontational. That's wrong, especially in this day and age when there are so many Greyhound situations, so many air-traffic-controller situations, so many National Football League situations. I think it's about time people came to their senses."
ALUMNI ROLL CALL
DON'T DO DAT TO DIT
When the Boston Bruins acquired veteran defenseman Guy Lapointe this season, they acceded to his request and gave him No. 5, the same number he'd worn earlier with the Montreal Canadiens and the St. Louis Blues. Simple enough. However, No. 5 was a sacred Bruin number, one that belonged to the late Dit Clapper, a great Boston player of decades past, and it had long since been retired, along with other numbers, such as Eddie Shore's No. 2 and Bobby Orr's No. 4. Dit's daughter, Mrs. Marilyn Clapper Armstrong, protested. In fact, she came all the way from her home in Waterloo, Ontario to Boston to protest—and couldn't get in to see the Bruins' brass. But she did see Mrs. Weston Adams Sr., widow of the longtime Bruins president, and talked to members of the press, who look up her campaign. Orr even asked that his No. 4 be reassigned to Lapointe instead of Clapper's No. 5.