Replacements give unpleasant aroma to spring

March 21, 1995|By BILL TANTON

It's fascinating, the talk that's going around about sports right now.

Reports are surfacing that five, maybe six other major-league baseball owners are actually in agreement with the Orioles' Peter Angelos and will refuse to field replacement teams.

We can only hope that's true. Using replacement players in big-league games would be shamefully wrong.

It was one thing for those owners to posture during the autumn and winter and say they supported replacement ball. But today is the first full day of spring, nitty-gritty time for baseball. The season is supposed to open in two weeks. It's time to get down to business.

Ex-Oriole Davey Johnson, now the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, is merely the latest big-leaguer to come forth in disgust and call scab ball what it is -- "a travesty."

If there are eight owners who won't go along with it, that will scuttle the plan to play replacements. In the expanded, watered-down majors of the '90s (with two more teams coming soon), there are too many players in the bigs already who don't belong there. Replacement ball would be the biggest mistake the game has ever made.

When will the real major-league players play ball again? Not one of them knows. Some of the most veteran among them told friends two weeks ago that the strike was over. Angelos said a month ago it would be over in two weeks. And it ain't over yet.

If you don't think there's public bitterness over the baseball strike, listen to a Baltimorean who has been a fan since this was an International League city 50 years ago:

"I don't even care anymore when it ends, but at this point I want both sides -- owners and players -- to suffer. They didn't really lose that much money last year by stopping in August. They'll all lose a lot of money if they don't play now."

I'm surprised at the number of people who believe the strike could go unsettled for all of the '95 season. The players I talked to last August thought it would last two weeks. They were sure the owners would cave in, as they always had.

* Nap Doherty, who was a college basketball coach for more than 20 years, is not high on Maryland's chances against Connecticut in the NCAA Sweet 16 Thursday night in Oakland. He says Maryland's perimeter shooters lack the quick release that UConn's shooters have. But then the Terps have Joe Smith.

Says Doherty: "People can praise Maryland's other four starters all they want, but Joe Smith makes this team what it is. Without Joe Smith, Maryland is N.C. State."

* Even though A.D. Charley Brown and his UMBC athletic department staff did an outstanding job handling last week's NCAA basketball first- and second-round activities at the Baltimore Arena, don't look for the event to return here soon. The building is too small (capacity less than 13,000).

Not only would a larger arena generate more ticket revenue; it would alleviate some of the problems that arose last week.

Wake Forest people, for example, said when the tickets were distributed to the eight participating schools there were only 250 of them for Wake.

That wasn't nearly enough, they said, to take care of the important Deacon boosters who wanted to attend the games here. They felt it would have been better if four schools participated in the first-round site instead of eight. Or if the games had been played in a 20,000-seat arena.

Despite all that, visitors here were struck by the attractiveness and convenience of our city's downtown and Inner Harbor. Charley Brown says the NCAA would bring the Final Four here if we had a dome.

* Never underestimate the public relations good that can be achieved by a school's successful athletic teams. The Wake Forest graduate who lives in our house received a fund-raising solicitation letter yesterday that had on the envelope: "WFU is . . . #1!"

* When ex-Baltimore Bullets player-coach Buddy Jeannette was honored at a Bullets game at the Arena Jan. 20 for his election to the Basketball Hall of Fame, he and his wife, Bonnie, boasted about their granddaughter, Kristin. No wonder.

Kristin Jeannette-Meyers is more famous than Buddy now. Kristin, a Fordham law graduate, is seen by millions every day as a commentator on Court-TV for the O. J. Simpson trial. She also has appeared on NBC's "Dateline" and ABC's "Good Morning America." Blond, pretty and smart, she's all her grandparents say she is.

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