How goes the National Pastime now that Rupert Murdoch is buying the Dodgers? On the strength of having worked for the press lord for nine years, I called Mr. Murdoch out on the Coast to be reassured. No, he is not moving the franchise to Perth. Yes, there will be a tea break instead of a seventh inning stretch. Yes, he feels the team is quite strong at wicketkeeper and fast bowling. But they could use an off-spinner and are definitely in the market for a talented young silly-mid-on.
When the Dodger acquisition news broke there was a good deal of chauvinistic carping. How dare they allow a native-born Australian, even though a Yank now, to buy the Dodgers? Listen, Steinbrenner bought a team. Major League Baseball made room for Marge Schott. If sufficient sky boxes were provided, Major League Baseball would have approved Mobutu.
A third of the way into the new baseball season, it seems appropriate to take measurement of the sport. The good, the bad and the indifferent (which translates out to two-thirds of the teams). To start with the good, Mister Blather of the Bronx has been bounced from committees of executive windbags who manage the grand old game.
The bad news, Mister Blather hasn't been expelled from baseball.
The good news? Yankees like Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Tino Martinez. Even that certified grouch O'Neill. And the sad sack Mets are actually winning games and have a good starting pitcher name of Jones.
The bad news, Albert Belle.
Here in New York both teams are, for the moment, doing OK. Especially in comparison with Chicago. When you consider the standings of both Chicago ball clubs you appreciate the exquisite good timing of the late Mike Royko. And you wonder if indeed the plagues of Egypt have descended on Cook County. The plague of boils having passed, next come the locusts. They've even had tornados.
But then again, the Chicago owners don't have a human whipping post like Bob Watson for Mister Blather to amuse himself with. Pulling the wings off butterflies is fun, but it can't shape up as entertainment, not like driving your general manager into the hyperactive ward at Lenox Hill.
In Detroit, Denny McLain's going inside again. Denny's got to be 50, fat, and doing time. And would still probably be the No. 4 starter for the Tigers.
Pittsburgh, which has no money, no stars, and an owner from Sacramento whose family runs newspapers like the Fresno Bee, is flirting with first place in the Central Division of the National League.
The top three teams in the National League East are Atlanta, Florida and Montreal. They are also playing baseball in the Rocky Mountains and there is a team in Anaheim. But nothing in Brooklyn. Enough, already, with expansion!
Isringhausen of the Mets got a lot of good wishes, tea and sympathy, when it was revealed he had spots on his lungs and might have TB. So then he called the team's PR man a "Jewboy." It was explained that the two are really pals, and it was all just kidding around. This same Isringhausen broke his hand earlier in the season punching a garbage can. And as a rookie, following his very first major league game, Izzy informed the beat writers, "Everybody here? Because I'm not going to say all this stuff twice. . ."
Isringhausen, shut up.
The Yankees are drawing 23,000 a game and the Indians 45,000. This has Mister Blather biting people. Nor is Kenny Rogers making him happy. Even Torre the manager, last year's poster boy for smiles and good cheer, is snarling at reporters.
Another major leaguer acquitted of rape and/or sexual harassment charges got a standing O on his first day back at the day job.
There is still no commissioner of baseball.
All spring the Yankees were saying how good it was to have Gooden and Strawberry back and performing. Both have been on the disabled list ever since, and Gooden, a past substance abuser, has been attending strip clubs in Texas and duking it out with cab drivers in the wee hours. Strawberry has been reading the Bible.
Mister Blather pays Cecil Fielder seven million bucks but won't tie up Bernie Williams in a long-term deal. Cecil is fat and can't run, and spent the off-season trashing the team and New York.
Mister Blather now is going to pay a fortune to a Japanese who never threw a major league pitch.
He is also recruiting some Cubans who may be in their forties and claim 25. Can Fidel still bring it? The guy could sell tickets . . .