Allentown Morning Call - May 16, 1980

‘Back to you, Joe’ – in Oklahoma City?


By Willie Schatz, Special to The Morning Call


Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek and NBC have seen the future, and it's anything from the College World Series to the minor leagues. 


The three will join forces tomorrow afternoon in Montreal for the Expos-Reds telecast. They may not meet again for a week, a month or the rest of the baseball season. Then again, they may see each other next Saturday, depending upon whether the players keep their strike on May 22. 


"We've got everything from the College World Series to the minor leagues to Japanese baseball ready," NBC Sports executive producer Don Ohlmeyer said yesterday with a laugh which didn't quite hide his unspoken prayer that none of those alternatives would be necessary.


"Most everybody's expecting a strike, and I think it's going to happen," Garagiola said from his Phoenix home. "It sounds like a long, hot summer. And a boring one." 


"I don't think it's going to happen," Kubek said from his home in Appleton, Wis. "When they stop talking for publication it means they're getting serious and finally getting somewhere. It's always like that in the 11th hour. When they both get closer to deadline, they start getting serious. 


"I'm still not completely optimistic. I guess I'll see a lot of minor league games, but I really haven't thought about it." 


His employer has. Should there be a strike, NBC will show a two- or three-hour highlights anthology next Saturday and a college game on June 1. There are tentative plans for a Japanese game and possibly some minor league games, although the latter potentially could create friction between minor and major league players. In essence, the network is going to take it week-by-week and hope the weeks don't become months. 


Meanwhile, Garagiola and Kubek have kept on truckin', presenting the issues as frequently and expansively as possible within the limited scope of a visual medium that abhors talking heads. 


"I'm not for or against anybody. I'm out of it," Garagiola said. "But on the surface, I certainly wouldn't give anything back that I'd already won. You always negotiate forward. You hear a lot about how nobody's holding a gun to the owners' heads, but it's true. I don't blame players for making so much money. It's almost as if the owners are asking the players to police themselves to protect the owners against themselves.


"I have difficulty sympathizing with the owners," admitted Kubek, a player representative when he played for the Yankees. "If the fans were better informed they would see the players' side. If they realized how players' salaries were held down for so long they'd understand why things got this way and why there's been such an upheaval. The issue isn't money. It's freedom." 


It's both. Garagiola 's main concern is more equitable treatment of former players who haven't yet been covered by baseball's generous pension plan. Kubek's target is to prevent a repeat of what happened to former teammate Johnny Blanchard, who languished for years on the bench behind Yogi Berra and Elston Howard and never was adequately compensated for his skills, and to Kubek's father, who quit baseball to work in a tannery because he could make more money there. 


When Garagiola's St. Louis Cardinals won the 1946 World Series, the winners' share was $2,900, slightly more than one-tenth what Nolan Ryan earns in a week. Television, from which Garagiola has since made a handsome living, had better programs to show. Most of the money came from radio rights.


When Kubek hit .340 in the Three-Eye League and was promoted to Denver, club president Bob Howsam, now president of the Reds, offered him a $15 per month raise. That boosted Kubek's salary to a stratospheric $275 per month.


"I don't think fans understand how long and hard players have struggled to prevent their individual earning power from being shut off," Kubek explained. "I don't think people want to hear about legalities or understand the details. They only understand money.


"That's unfortunate, because the real issues are complex and important and they're being muddled by the dollar figures. The mood of the country is not conducive to being pro-player, because all they hear about is the big-money contracts. But the only flaw with the current system is that the owners can't restrain themselves." 


"Neither the fans, broadcasters nor writers really know what's going on," Garagiola said. "I study it very closely and I'm not sure how they're breaking it down. But I think the fans could care less about compensation. They can't identify with it when the average salary is $149,000, even though that's misleading because while Bruce Sutter makes $700,000, Joe Blow makes the minimum. 


"I'm like a lot of guys from my era. I can relate to it but I can't understand it." 


He does understand that he may be looking for work next Saturday. 


"I haven't really thought about the alternatives. I'll do anything NBC wants me to, within reason. I don't want to do The Gong Show." 


Some of the players might. 


NOTES: For those who are lost in the legalese, pre-game producer David Stern has lined up players' association head Marvin Miller and owners' chief negotiator Ray Grebey for live questioning by Bryant Gumble. Stern is also trying to find Curt Flood, who attempted to start it all. and Andy Messersmith. who did, for their reactions to what's happening. He'll also attempt to put together a segment on fans' reactions and those of players at the Toronto-Oakland game who he hopes will be watching Miller-Grebey. This could be your last chance to get it from the horses' mouths… NBA playoffs have jumped from a 6.6 rating last year to 7.7 this season. "That's absolutely superb," a network spokesman said. Too bad Brent Musberger isn't. Why don't they just give him a cheerleader's uniform.

Players’ group offers to put free agent-reserve demands ‘on hold’


NEW YORK (AP) – Movement, absent for so long in the baseball negotiations, continued to surface yesterday with a proposal offered by the players association which would isolate the troublesome compensation question from the rest of the issues. 


Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, said his group would withdraw all of its demands in the area of free agency and the reserve clause, if agreement could be reached on the other contract matters. Those would include among other items, player pensions, health and safety questions, and minimum salaries. 


"Since we are reasonably close on issues outside of compensation and free agency, we have offered to withdraw all our proposals in these areas unconditionally," said Miller. 


If the owners accept that proposal, a joint study committee would be established to examine the ramifications of the current free-agent system for the next two years.


At the end of that period, if it is unhappy with conditions, management would have the right to demand that the contract be reopened to deal with the issue. 


Management negotiators asked for time to study the proposal and talks were recessed. A scheduled afternoon meeting was postponed and it was expected that the two sides would next discuss the matter officially today. 


Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for the clubs, declined immediate comment on the players' proposal. 


The compensation question has been a cornerstone of management's demands since these contract talks began last winter. The clubs have said throughout they would insist on some form of it being written into a new agreement so that teams losing premium free agent players, would receive replacements. 


The players association has been just as adamant in its refusal to accept any form of compensation and the talks have been deadlocked for sometime on that issue. 


Earlier in the week, with the May 22 strike deadline closing in, both sides presented new proposals and although they were not dramatic, apparently they triggered yesterday's development when the players offered to pull back all their free agent-reserve clause demands and place the most troublesome issue “on hold.”


"This is the best way to get out of a locked-in situation and proceed with the season," said Miller. "It's a compromise proposal." 


Miller said the players would accept the current six-year waiting period for free agent eligibility, withdrawing the request that it be reduced to five years and also accept keeping the five-year wait for repeater rights. 


He also said they would accept the current rule granting unlimited free agency only to players drafted by one club or no clubs instead of the seven teams which they had proposed. 


Also withdrawn were player demands on limiting the number of re-entry draft rounds and trade demand rights.