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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In Ballpark, a book about Oriole Park at Camden Yards, journalist Peter Richmond notes that for all its charms, that facility became a reality only after Edward Bennett Williams, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles at the time, threatened to move the team to Washington. The Orioles, Richmond says, received what amounted to a public subsidy, "a quarter-of-a-billion dollar gift of a stadium, designed to help a private enterprise meet its payroll." And in Playing the Field, Charles C. Euchner, an assistant professor of political science at Holy Cross, details how owners like the Phoenix Cardinals' Bill Bidwell and the Chicago White Sox's Jerry Reinsdorf—who, as Wulf notes, is a friend of Steinbrenner's—have shamelessly played cities against one another to get sweetheart stadium deals for their teams.
Euchner shoots down the notion, seldom questioned by the politicians who accede to the owners' blackmail, that stadiums are catalysts for redevelopment and the creation of jobs. He cites evidence that sports facilities actually may impede economic growth by diminishing spending on other urban activities. So what if a new restaurant opens across from the ballpark? An established eatery across town might close as a consequence. In fact, writes Euchner, "Money spent on game tickets, parking, and so on might instead be spent somewhere else in the city if there were no local team."
To justify the state's stake in the financing of Camden Yards—$216 million in bonds and four annual lotteries to pay them off—Maryland officials point to supposed economic benefits, but Richmond and Euchner aren't buying it. Neither is Stanford economist Roger Noll, who recently told the Los Angeles Times, "With 200 million, you could go out and build an industrial park and generate 10 to 100 times as much taxes and jobs."
As chairman of the Italian syndicate that raced Il Mow di Venezia, which lost to America in the finals of last year's America's Cup, in San Diego, industrialist Raul Gardini was an elegant figure who, paradoxically, was relentless in accusing rivals of dirty tricks. In the Cup challenger series finals against New Zealand, Gardini repeatedly and angrily accused the Kiwi boat of using its bowsprit in an improper manner, and, indeed, New Zealand eventually was penalized. Gardini also alleged—again with some justification—that operatives from Bill Koch's America syndicate spied on Il Mow di Venezia.
Gardini's quickness to point fingers at others came to mind after he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot in his Milan apartment last week. The suicide occurred amid allegations that Gardini had bribed politicians and falsified balance sheets of the family-owned Ferruzzi conglomerate, a financial colossus that he headed until he was ousted in 1991. But Gardini remained courtly to the end. Next to his body, police found a business card on which he had written the first names of family members and the word grazie—thank you.
A race last week on Istanbul's Bosporus Strait left crews from Oxford and Cambridge sputtering. The two English eights started the 3.75-mile event as heavy favorites over a crew from Bosporus University, but when Cambridge jumped to an early lead, a Turkish Coast Guard cutter buzzed by, sending up a wave that forced the Light Blues to stop and bail. Oxford then forged ahead only to be Hooded and sunk by the same cutter. Bosporus U went on to win.
Members of the British crews stopped short of suggesting that the swampings were intentional. However, The Times of London pointedly noted that the race finished in front of "the castle of Rumeli where, in the 15th century, the Turks fired specially forged cannons to prevent foreign ships [from] reaching the city."