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LAW AND DISORDER
It wasn't just Ferguson Jenkins that Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended last week. He suspended logic, too. Kuhn said he was sidelining Jenkins, who pitches for the Texas Rangers, indefinitely because Jenkins had refused to answer questions from the commissioner's office about his Aug. 25 arrest after cocaine, marijuana and hashish were allegedly found in his luggage at the airport in Toronto, where the Rangers had traveled to play the Blue Jays. Jenkins declined to talk on advice of his lawyer, who feared the player might thereby prejudice his case, which is scheduled for trial in an Ontario court on Dec. 18. Seemingly acknowledging that Jenkins' position had some validity, Kuhn said that while he was ordering the player out of uniform, he was also asking the Texas club to continue paying his salary. This, the commissioner said, "should make clear that my action is in no sense intended to be punitive."
But the suspension is just that. Ferguson is a Hall of Fame candidate who, with 259 career victories to his credit—his record this season is 12-10—has a shot at 300 wins, a milestone no pitcher has reached since 1963. At 36, Jenkins can squander few opportunities if he hopes to achieve that goal, and he would have had perhaps five more starts had he not been suspended. Kuhn's action also hurts Jenkins' team. Although the Rangers can't catch Kansas City in the American League West, they are in a dogfight for second place, with both pride and share money at stake. By depriving Texas of the use of Jenkins' right arm, Kuhn is meting out a very real punishment—before any wrongdoing has been determined in a court of law.
By tradition, Kuhn and the other pro sports commissioners have often taken it upon themselves to discipline athletes. And in certain instances they should become even more zealous—for example, in dealing with violence during games and with certain off-the-field activities, such as betting on games, that directly threaten a sport's integrity. It's a different matter, though, when the offenses don't have anything to do with the sport or, more important, are amply covered by the laws of society. But it's not enough, it seems, that an athlete is convicted and sentenced under the criminal justice system. The commissioner has to exact his pound of judicial flesh, too, by righteously leveling a fine or a suspension. Trouble is, by heaping new penalties on top of those already imposed by the courts, the commissioners put miscreants in something akin to double jeopardy—being punished twice for the same offense. The commissioners also leave the no doubt unintended impression that they lack faith in the judicial process.
Disciplining somebody already convicted in court is troubling enough. But because it deals with a case still before the courts, Kuhn's suspension of Jenkins is even harder to justify. Edward Greenspan, the Toronto attorney who is representing Jenkins, points out that if his client had answered questions about his case, as the commissioner's office requested, legal steps might have been taken by Canadian prosecutors to compel disclosure of his testimony. Thus, in a sense, Kuhn was trying to coerce Jenkins into incriminating himself, which an individual is entitled to refuse to do under both U.S. and Canadian law. Noting that Kuhn is a lawyer, Greenspan said, "It's taught at all law schools that a man has a right to remain silent. Kuhn must have missed that lecture." The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance in Jenkins' behalf, and Marvin Miller, its executive director, accused Kuhn of having "reversed one of our most fundamental principles. He has said you are guilty until proven innocent." Invited by SI to respond to that and other complaints, Kuhn said he didn't want to talk while the grievance was pending. Which, of course, is exactly the position that Jenkins was trying to take with reference to his pending court case.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
General Motors has its line of X-cars, Chrysler is cranking up its K-cars, and auto racing is also going for letters in a big way—witness the Datsun Z-cars that Paul Newman has helped make famous. All of which lends timeliness to a story making the rounds about a snail who went to a sportscar dealer and said, "I want to buy the fastest car you have and I want the letter S painted on the rear, the hood and the doors."
The dealer was puzzled by the request but had the car painted as the snail wished. The snail paid cash, and as he prepared to drive off, the dealer could restrain himself no longer. "Tell me, sir," he said. "Why did you want S painted on the car?" It was too late. The car was already roaring away, and the snail never caught the question.
A week later the dealer saw the snail zoom past at 90 mph and gave chase, finally catching up with the snail, who had run five red lights. The dealer went over and said, "I just have to know why you had the letter S painted all over the car."
"O.K., I'll tell you," said the snail. "Until now, people have always said, 'Look at that snail.' But now they say, 'Look at that S car go.' "