1976 Winter Meetings: Changing Demographics and Broadcast Challenges

This article was written by Gregory H. Wolf

This article was published in Baseball’s Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016

Baseball's Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016What a difference a year makes.

When an estimated 1,200 baseball owners, executives, and club representative convened at the Los Angeles Hilton in December 1976 to conduct the 75th annual Winter Meetings, professional baseball had experienced dramatic and history-altering changes in the preceding 12 months. Sportswriter Joseph Durso suggested that the meeting “couldn’t have come a worse time.”1 The weeklong event was normally a celebratory occasion and the locus for trades, the discussion of rule changes, and other business-related issues. However, this year the meetings also culminated a tension-filled year which saw the demise of the reserve clause, a lockout, a new Basic Agreement, the establishment of free agency and its corresponding re-entry draft, and an expansion draft. “[B]aseball clans will be fussing and fretting,” continued Durso, “and probably wondering about their new values.”2

A Prelude to the Winter Meetings: Free Agency and a New Basic Agreement

A year earlier, in 1975, baseball’s Winter Meetings, in Florida, took place under a cloud of anxious anticipation and uncertainty as arbitrator Peter Seitz’s ruling on the legality of the reserve clause was expected any day. About two weeks after the conclusion of the meetings, on December 23, Seitz announced his landmark decision: Clubs could legally reserve players for only one year, after which they would become free agents. Pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, both of whom had played the 1975 season without a contract, were declared the first free agents, sending a shiver of doom through the collective spine of club owners. “Make ’em all free agents,” said Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley sarcastically.3 He, like many other owners, predicted that free agency would usher in a new era of high salaries and destroy the sport. Eight days later, on December 31, 1975, baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expired. Owners and players now had another concern: Would there be baseball in 1976? A new Basic Agreement between owners and the players union, the Major Leagues Players Association, would necessarily need to define the optimal threshold for free agency. “No one knew what the magical figure was,” said Marvin Miller, director of the MLPA.4

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn immediately challenged Seitz’s ruling. On February 3 Judge John Watkins Oliver of the US District Court in Kansas City upheld Seitz’s decision, as did the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals a month later.5 Unable to reach an agreement with the MLPA regarding free agency, baseball owners ordered a lockout barring players from spring training beginning March 1. Nationally syndicated sportswriter Red Smith called the owners’ move “foolish,” while Miller denounced it, terming it as “destructive and counterproductive an action as anyone can imagine.”6 According to Robert F. Burke in his exhaustive study, Marvin Miller, A Baseball Revolutionary, Kuhn soon thereafter felt pressure from both television networks and owners in big markets (especially George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees and Walter O’Malley of the Los Angeles Dodgers) to end the lockout, which he did on March 17 with a “unilateral action.”7 The regular season began as scheduled, on April 8, albeit with a shortened training camp, as owners and the MLPA continued to negotiate a new contract.

While the two sides hammered out the details of free agency, Finley took matters into his own hand. Fearful of losing players without compensation, the outspoken owner traded outfielder Reggie Jackson and left-handed pitcher Ken Holtzman to the Baltimore Orioles for right-hander Mike Torrez and outfielder Don Baylor days before the ’76 season started. Hours before the June 15 trading deadline, Finley sold three more lame-duck free-agents-to-be, outfielder Joe Rudi and right-handed relief ace Rollie Fingers, to the Boston Red Sox, and left-hander Vida Blue (the 1971 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner) to the Yankees for $3.5 million in what was then the biggest deal in baseball history. The next day, before any of the three players could take the field for their respective teams, Kuhn voided the sales in the name of preserving the integrity of the game. [In yet another bizarre twist, both Rudi and Fingers had suited up for Boston, coincidentally against the A’s in Oakland, and had participated in pregame warm-ups before news of Kuhn’s directive reached the Red Sox.] Baseball appeared on the verge of mass chaos. Kuhn’s actions “stunned the baseball world,” wrote Joseph Durso in the New York Times, while Finley promised to take the matter to court.8

Re-entry and Expansion Drafts

On July 12 owners and the Executive Board of the MLPA cleared the last major hurdle for the new CBA. The MLPA accepted the owners’ offer of a six-year service requirement for free agency. In August the two sides approved a new Basic Agreement. Described in detail by Burke, the new CBA increased minimum salaries to $19,000 in 1977 and $21,000 by 1979, increased each team’s annual pension contribution, and defined free agency.9 All players playing out their option in 1976 would become free agents. They would be eligible to be chosen by up to 12 clubs, whose draft order was based on their record (from worst to best) alternating by league, in a “free agent re-entry draft.” According to the new CBA, all teams losing a player would receive a compensatory draft pick in the following annual amateur draft from the team that signed its player. Teams were permitted to sign a maximum of two free agents.

On November 4, the first re-entry draft took place at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The Montreal Expos chose the Orioles’ Reggie Jackson with the first pick. Of the 24 official free agents, only two players, Willie McCovey and Nate Colbert, were not selected by any teams. Thirteen players were selected by the maximum 12 clubs, including A’s stars Sal Bando, Don Baylor, Rollie Fingers, Joe Rudi, and Gene Tenace. “It’s horse manure,” said Finley of the draft. “It’s the worst thing that could ever happen to baseball. I don’t blame the players. It’s the owners who are stupid.”10 Two days after the draft, right-handed reliever Bill Campbell, who had earned $23,000 for the Minnesota Twins in 1976, became the first free agent to ink a pact when he signed a five-year, $1 million deal with the Red Sox. By the opening of the Winter Meetings, 19 of 22 free agents had signed. Contract negotiating with free agents made it clear, suggested sportswriter Ralph Ray, that “newer managements were far more aggressive than veteran operators.”11 The success of clubs like Steinbrenner’s Yankees (who signed Jackson and left-handed pitcher Don Gullett), Ray Kroc’s San Diego Padres (Tenace and Fingers), and Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves (outfielder Gary Matthews and, earlier, Messersmith) stood in stark contrast to clubs led by what Ray deemed the “old hands,” like the Mets, Pirates, Phillies, Dodgers, and Giants, among others, who were shut out.12 Only the Cincinnati Reds refused to participate in the draft.

On the day after the re-entry draft, the expansion draft took place. Actor and comedian Danny Kaye, a part-owner of the Seattle Mariners, announced his club’s first pick, outfielder Ruppert Jones of the Kansas City Royals. The Toronto Blue Jays selected Baltimore’s infielder Bob Bailor with the second overall pick. The two teams drafted 60 players.

Oh Yeah, There Was Baseball in 1976, Too

With all of the negotiations over a new CBA, the 1976 baseball season seemed at times to be an afterthought. Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine cruised to its fourth pennant in seven seasons. After crushing the Philadelphia Phillies — in the postseason for the first time since the Whiz Kids’ pennant in 1950 — in three games in the NLCS, the Reds avenged their 1961 World Series loss to the Yankees by sweeping the Billy Martin-piloted club in four games. The Reds’ Joe Morgan claimed his second straight NL MVP Award, while Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, who had led his club to its first fall classic since the end of its dynasty in 1964, took home the MVP hardware in the AL. Left-hander Randy Jones, who led the NL with 22 wins for the lowly San Diego Padres, was named the NL Cy Young Award winner; Baltimore’s ace right-hander Jim Palmer, also with 22 victories, won his third AL Cy Young Award in four seasons. Detroit Tigers starter and 19-game winner Mark “the Bird” Fidrych, who captured the nation’s attention with his entertaining personality on the mound, was named AL Rookie of the Year. And for the first time in the history of the award, two players shared honors: San Diego’s right-handed relief ace Butch Metzger and Reds right-handed starter Pat Zachary were named NL Co-Rookies of the Year.

Winter Meetings: The Agenda

The 75th version of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings officially started on Friday, December 3. The first three days were dedicated to the National Association (minor leagues), while the major leagues opened their sessions on Monday, December 7, to address the sport described by the New York Times as “filled with intrigue, plots, subplots, feuds, lots of money, and cast of thousands.”13 From making sense out of free agency to discussing possible franchise relocation and league alignment, baseball men (and a few token women) had a full slate of meetings through Thursday, December 9.

Kuhn’s State of Baseball Address: A Cautionary Tale

In his state of baseball speech at the opening session on Monday, December 6, Commissioner Kuhn was guardedly optimistic. “[T]here should be some real exhilaration in some areas and cause for concern in others,” he said. “I am satisfied we have the talent and ability to solve our problems and keep growing.”14 The chief cause of concern was the cost of free agency, which Kuhn claimed was “higher than expected.”15 Owners and executives were still wrapping their heads around salaries that were unimaginable just a year earlier: For example, Reggie Jackson signed for $3 million over five years; Joe Rudi inked a five-year deal worth in excess of $2 million with the California Angels, and pitcher Wayne Garland signed a 10-year contract worth $2 million with the Cleveland Indians. Many around baseball wondered when there would be the first million-dollar-a-year player. Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, Kuhn warned that rising player salaries might have an unintended effect on the quality of players in the future. “You may see some reduction in the expenses of player development,” Kuhn suggested ominously in an interview with the Washington Post. “I am afraid it could have an effect on our minor leagues.”16 On the other hand, Kuhn noted that baseball was more popular than ever. The major leagues set a new attendance record with 31,318,331 (an increase of more than 1.5 million from the previous season); the minor leagues drew in excess of 11.3 million.17 Televised baseball was also booming: Viewership of ABC’s Monday Night Baseball was up 17 percent from a year earlier, and all four games of the World Series between the Reds and Yankees topped the ratings of the 1975 fall classic between the Reds and Red Sox.18

Kuhn-Finley Feud

The long-running feud between Charlie Finley and Bowie Kuhn reached a new nadir in 1976 when the commissioner voided the sale of a trio of A’s players (Rudi, Fingers, and Blue) at the trading deadline. Finley went on a widely publicized tirade at the Winter Meetings, taking the national stage in anticipation of opening a $3.5 million lawsuit against Kuhn in federal court in Chicago a week after the meetings. At a press conference at the LA Hilton, Finley lambasted Kuhn. “Without leadership, you have no stability. At this point in time, we have no stability,” said Finley.19 Suggesting that neither Kuhn nor the owners were capable of running the game and policing themselves, Finley dropped a bomb: “I’m in favor of the government stepping in, not just in baseball, but in all sports, before the owners destroy sports.”20Finley vehemently rejected Kuhn’s claim that affluent and less affluent and big-market and small-market teams equally benefited from free agency. “In the end,” said Finley in remarks that have been repeated by other owners and executives since then, “the rich clubs will end up controlling baseball. There is no way the A’s, Minnesota, and a couple of others clubs can survive the battle.”21

Rule 5 and Minor-League Draft

For a number of years, the major-league draft (also called the Rule 5 draft) had been losing its importance as the official opening of the Winter Meetings. Only eight players combined were drafted in 1974 and 1975. Seven players were drafted in 1976, headlined by former Reds right-handed hurler Tom Carroll, whom the Montreal Expos selected with the first pick. In the minor-league draft, which took place on December 7, 16 players were selected; seven had been drafted in 1975. Sportswriter Oscar Kahan noted that the increase was due primarily to a new rule stipulating that a club could option a drafted player to a lower classification without giving up the rights to the player; formerly, the team had to retain a player on its roster or offer him back to the original club for half the draft price.22

Trades: The Effects of Free Agency

Described as a “traditional hotbed of trading activity,” the 1976 Winter Meetings produced only 14 trades involving 38 players (and two players to be named later) among 19 clubs.23 A year earlier 64 players were involved in transactions. “The chief reason for the quiet market is the uncertainly over players’ contracts,” opined Peter Bavasi, GM of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays. “In the past you were primarily interested in the ability of the players in your trades. Now you have to consider the status of the players — the legal status, their seniority status, their option status.”24 Another reason cited for the slowdown was the addition of the new interleague trading period, from February 15 to March 15, when clubs have a better understanding about the availability of players during spring training. Among the headline-grabbing trades were the following: The Chicago White Sox sent relievers Rich Gossage (a right-hander and two-time All-Star) and southpaw Terry Forster to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for outfielder Richie Zisk and right-handed pitcher Silvio Martinez; the Boston Red Sox shipped first baseman Cecil Cooper to the Milwaukee Brewers for their first baseman, All-Star George “Boomer” Scott, plus outfielder Bernie Carbo; and the Texas Rangers sent outfielder and former AL MVP Jeff Burroughs to the Atlanta Braves in return for a trio of hurlers (right-handers Carl Morton and Adrian Devine and left-hander Roger Moret), outfielders Ken Henderson and Dave May, and cash.

The “Washington Problem”

“We in professional baseball,” stated Commissioner Kuhn unequivocally, “think having baseball in Washington is highly important to our interests and to the interests of the people in the Washington community.”25 It was unclear whether Kuhn’s “community” referred to baseball fans in the nation’s capital or to politicians. In any case, Kuhn and the baseball owners had been acutely feeling the pressure of the US House Select Committee on Professional Sports, which had repeatedly threatened to strip baseball of its antitrust status if an adequate solution to the future of baseball in D.C. was not reached.26

The “Washington problem” had its roots in 1971 when the Washington Senators relocated to Arlington, Texas, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth. As Leonard Koppett pointed out, Kuhn had made assurances since then that “baseball would make every effort to return to the nation’s capital” even though the city had lost two teams in 11 years. (The original incarnation of the Senators had moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season.) 27 The situation seemed to be resolved in 1973 when Washington-based grocery-chain magnate Joseph Danzansky announced his plan to purchase the San Diego Padres for $13 million and promised to move the club to the capital; however, the deal fell through; Ray Kroc acquired the Padres in 1974 and kept them in Southern California.

At the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, Kuhn announced what he described as a “coordinated resolution that reflected a positive attitude” with regard to baseball in Washington.28 The NL decided to drop for one year its unanimous-consent provision regarding baseball in the capital, opting instead for a three-fourths vote. In addition, the NL agreed “in principle” to allow any of its 12 members teams to relocate to D.C., and to approve the application of any AL team to relocate to Washington and become a member of the NL.29 Of course, the latter would create two 13-team leagues, thus raising the distinct probability of interleague play. And finally, Kuhn announced that the Baltimore Orioles would “try to shift” a “suitable” number of their games to RFK Stadium in Washington by 1978.30 No one knew what a “suitable” number of games would be; however, many reports suggested it would be 13, representing one game against each of the AL teams. [A plan to play a portion of a team’s home games in a different nearby city had clear precedence, as owners fully recognized. In 1956 and 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers played 15 games in Jersey City; in 1968 and 1969, the Chicago Cubs played 20 games in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, including one game against all 11 AL opponents in the latter season.

Contrary to Kuhn’s rosy picture of a united front, Orioles GM Hank Peters was livid. He claimed that his club had voted against the AL resolution supporting what the NL had passed, and did not advocate any plan calling for Orioles games to be played in D.C. “I felt that a vote for [the resolution] would have been an indication that the Orioles are all gung-ho for this plan, and that simply isn’t the case,” said Peters, who also claimed that he was blindsided by the NL’s resolution and had no idea that the topic would be discussed.31 In an effort to reassure the Orioles brass, AL President Lee MacPhail stated, “Our primary concern is the Baltimore franchise and the people of Baltimore,” and added that a proposal two years earlier calling for the Orioles to shift 22 games to Washington had been dropped for lack of interest.32 Sportswriter Jim Henneman suggested that the resolutions were just a “case of baseball buying another year’s time with the impatient Congress.”33 [Henneman was correct: Baltimore never shifted any of its games to Washington in 1978, or in subsequent seasons.

The Washington A’s?

Kuhn’s announcement of the Washington proposals renewed rumors that the Oakland A’s might relocate. For several years, baseball had sought to solve the “Bay Area problem” of two financially distressed clubs, the San Francisco Giants and the A’s. One component of the problem seemed to be solved in January of 1976 when real-estate magnate Bob Lurie bought the Giants from Horace Stoneham, who had required financial assistance from the NL to operate the club. However, given the poor attendance by both the Giants and the A’s, most experts concluded that the Bay Area couldn’t support two teams. [In 1976, the Giants finished last in NL attendance for the third consecutive season, averaging 7,739 per game; despite three World Series championships, the A’s had drawn in excess of one million fans only twice since relocating from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968.] One anonymous AL owner said the A’s move to Washington was probably impossible as long as Finley owned the club.34 Two other compelling issues also complicated a shift of an AL team to Washington and the NL: two 13-team leagues would ensure interleague play, and the NL’s position against the DH.

AL Realignment: A Possibility

Since expansion in 1969 and the subsequent reorganization of both the NL and AL into two six-team divisions, baseball had a tidy, balanced system. That equilibrium was upset with the addition of two more expansion teams, in Seattle and Toronto, set to begin play in the AL in 1977. Led by Phil Seghi, GM of the Indians, and Angels President Red Patterson, the AL began exploring realignment options. According to sportswriter Stan Isle, American League GMs, at a meeting in Palm Springs a month before the Winter Meetings, overwhelmingly approved a plan calling for a three-division format to begin in 1978.35 Such a split would necessitate a multi-tiered playoff system involving a wild- card team (which the National Football League had implemented in 1970 after the NFL-AFL merger). The extra revenue from playoff games was especially attractive to owners, so much so that the NL also began to look at possibilities of realigning into three four-team divisions. Isle also reported that owners seemed “likely to approve” a realignment plan at the Winter Meetings;36however, the plan stalled. One reason for the proposal’s failure was the AL’s preference that both leagues realign in the same year to ensure uniformity of a prolonged playoff schedule. [Despite interest in realignment, it took another 17 years for it to become reality when the two leagues split into three divisions in 1994, one year after two expansion teams, the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, joined the NL.

Postseason Games: An Earlier Start

Since the division format began in 1969, necessitating a league championship series, the baseball postseason had begun on Saturday to ensure maximum television viewership, widely thought to be greatest on the weekend. That timing was not an issue when the regular season ended on a Wednesday, but since 1973 the season had been ending on a Sunday, which meant that baseball was falling off the collective radar of sports fans across the country because of the six-day layoff. It also became a possibility that the World Series could be extended into late October. In order to remedy the problem, the AL proposed to start the best-of-five League Championship Series on Tuesday, with the World Series beginning the following Tuesday,37 while the NL proposed a plan with Wednesday as the start date of each. Neither was perfect: The Tuesday start would run the risk of no weekend game for the LCS, and the Wednesday plan could potentially mean no Sunday World Series game in the event of a four-game sweep. However, both plans were subject to the approval of television networks. ABC, which had exclusive television rights for the World Series, subsequently adopted the AL’s proposal, and the 1977 NLCS began on a Tuesday.

Rule Changes

John Johnson, a deputy to Commissioner Kuhn and chair of the Official Playing Rules Committee, was concerned about the rash of highly publicized early-season bench-clearing brawls, which he claimed resulted from brushback pitches after home runs. “Anybody who goes head-hunting is putting us all in danger,” he said in May. “But the problem is in the rule.”38 He kept his promise to address the rule governing “dusters” at the Winter Meetings. The rules committee, which also included Fred Fleig, secretary-treasurer of the NL and supervisor of umpires, and Dick Butler, AL supervisor of umpires, revised rule 8.02(d) regarding intentionally hit batsmen. Unlike the previously rule, which required an umpire to warn each pitcher separately, thus giving one side the opportunity to retaliate, the new rule enabled the umpire to warn both managers and pitchers simultaneously and to eject the retaliating pitcher immediately.39 The committee also approved three scoring changes, the most substantial of which required official scorers to make “decisions regarding judgment calls within 24 hours after a game.”40

New Amendments

From a legislative standpoint, the Winter Meetings were lackluster. Five amendments to the Professional Baseball Agreement and Rules were passed. According to sportswriter Stan Isle, these included the requirement of each major-league team to support “through ownership or Player Development Contract” one minor-league team on the A, AA and AAA level.41 The two expansion teams, Seattle and Toronto, were exempted until their third year of operation. Another amendment permitted a team to retain a player on its active roster until the newly promoted player reports; the old rule stipulated that the demoted player had to be cut immediately if the club was at its limit. Four amendments to the National Association Agreement were passed. Two amendments dealt with budgets and fees; the two others addressed player limits in Class A (an increase from 25 to 30 players; five of whom could be on inactive lists) and Class AA, increasing the active list from 22 to 23 for the last 20 days of the seasons.42

The DH: Another Rejection by the NL

Sportswriter Leonard Koppett opined that baseball paid a lot of lip service to “uniformity,” but that was not motivation enough to settle the DH question, which had been simmering since the AL instituted the rule in 1973.43 The DH study committee (comprising Red Patterson, president of the Angels; Bill DeWitt, president of the White Sox; Phil Seghi, GM of the Indians; Joe McDonald, GM of the Mets; Buzzie Bavasi, GM of the Padres; and Al Campanis, GM of the Dodgers) reported its findings.44 Showing some signs of weakening its stance, the NL voted 8 to 4 against adopting the DH; Houston, Montreal, San Diego, and St. Louis voted in favor.45 “We obviously don’t like the present situation,” said Kuhn, “but we will continue to have the designated hitter in the World Series in alternate years.”46 The 1976 World Series was the first time a DH was used in the fall classic, with Cincinnati’s Dan Driessen becoming the first NL batter to serve as a DH.

The Minor Leagues

Bobby Bragan, concluding his first full year as president of the National Association, opined that the minor leagues were stable; he desired, however, a long-term plan to ensure the leagues’ prosperity. “I don’t ever expect to see a return to the 59 minor leagues we had in 1949,” said Bragan. “The Triple-A and Double-A clubs now are more or less stabilized. But the Class-A leagues are flexible.”47 For the fifth straight season, attendance surpassed the 11 million mark; but there was also a decline of approximately 300,000 from 1975 to 1976. There were 19 leagues, including three in Mexico. Perhaps the biggest news in the minor leagues was the announcement that Roy Jackson, president of the Pacific Coast League, was voted president of the International League, becoming the first person ever to hold the top executive position in two Triple-A leagues concurrently.48 Oscar Kahan reported that many baseball insiders expected Jackson to take over the president’s position of the other Triple-A league, the American Association, the following year should his first year go as smoothly as expected.49 The American Association made news, too, when the circuit, the last remaining holdout against the DH, voted to adopt the rule on a limited basis, namely when both managers agreed to use it.50 In an issue that had been brought up frequently since the 1950s, the National Association submitted a proposal requesting that a study committee be formed to examine what it considered the “increasingly detrimental effect” of major-league television broadcasts on minor-league markets.51

Umpires: A Looming Battle with Owners

Represented by attorney John Cifelli, the Major League Umpires Association met with representatives from the AL and NL, including league presidents Lee MacPhail and Chub Feeney, to negotiate a new contract. “It is our aim,” said Cifelli, “and it is long past due — to have the first $50,000-a-year umpire working the major leagues next season.” Cifelli also promised to seek “a substantial increase in every economic involvement while maintaining all gains achieved previously.”52 Under the current contract, set to expire on December 31, 1976, umpire salaries ranged from $15,500 for rookies to $47,500 for the most experienced. In addition to the 30 percent increase in salaries, Cifelli proposed that baseball adopt a “gag rule” that would prohibit owners, managers, and players from criticizing umpires publicly. Unrelated to the umpires’ contract, the major leagues increased their annual contribution to the Umpire Development Program to $288,000 (up from $264,000).53

Banquet of the National Association: The Entertainment Steals the Show

The awards banquet of the 75th Winter Meetings offered a first-class entertainment program that overshadowed the honorees. Vin Scully, broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, served as master of ceremonies for the event, which took place in the grand ballroom of the Hilton. Frank Sinatra sang, actor Cary Grant spoke briefly about his life in Hollywood, and comedian Don Rickles went through his typically edgy routine. But those three were upstaged, according to one report, by Monty Hall, host of the syndicated game show Let’s Make a Deal, who “stole the show” with his version of “The History of Baseball According to the Bible.”54 The big winner of the gala was Don “Bucky” Buchheister, GM of the Cedar Rapids Giants (San Francisco’s affiliate in the Midwest League). He was honored as the Class A Executive of the Year, co-winner of the National Association Larry MacPhail Promotional Award (sharing it with Jim Paul, owner and GM of the El Paso Diablos in the Double-A Texas League), and Midwest League executive of the year.55

Publicity Men: Recognizing what Fans Want

Public-relations directors for all 26 baseball teams met for a three-day seminar, which one participant characterized as “one of the best sessions in years.”56 Jack Schwadel, longtime photo director of the Associated Press; Dick Enberg, radio-television voice of the California Angels; Ross Porter, member of the Dodgers broadcast team; and LA sportswriter Ross Newhan discussed ways to promote baseball more effectively through all aspects of the media. Additional guest speakers included Commissioner Kuhn and other team executives, who touched on everything from the role of the PR man in everything from free agency to player transactions, the need to promote star players, and scheduling of leaguewide promotions like the All-Star Game.

Conclusion: Few Solutions

“I’ve been sitting on committees all week and still don’t know what’s going on,” said Minnesota Twins owner Clark Griffith at the conclusion of the 75th annual Winter Meetings. “The world thinks of us as one organization, but in reality we’re two — the American and National Leagues — and one is trying to dump its problems on us.”57 After days of discussions, the AL and NL were no closer to solving their most pressing “common problems” (in the words of John McHale, president of the Expos).58 Those problems included two financially troubled teams in the Bay Area and no definitive plan to bring baseball back to the nation’s capital. Charlie Finley, never at a loss for words, described the situation in baseball as “chaos.”59 Perhaps the feisty owner was correct. When the meetings were over Commissioner Kuhn “hurriedly” traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the House Select Committee.60 Days later, on December 15, Kuhn was due in federal court in Chicago, where Finley would open his $3.5 million lawsuit against baseball.



In addition to the sources listed in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.



1 Joseph Durso, “See How They Run,” New York Times, December 5, 1976: 211.

2 Ibid.

3 Robert F. Burke, Marvin Miller. A Baseball Revolutionary (Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield, Illinois: University of Illinois, 2015), 183.

4 Burke, 184.

5 “Appeals Court Upholds Ruling on Free Agents,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 10, 1976: D1.

6 Red Smith, “Baseball Lockout Childish,” San Bernardino (California) County Sun, February 26, 1976: D1.

7 Burke, 187.

8 Joseph Durso, “Kuhn Voids Player Sales; Finley Threatens to Sue,” New York Times, June 19, 1976: 49.

9 Burke, 190.

10 Associated Press, “Finley Watches an Empire Crumble,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, November 5, 1976: 1D.

11 Ralph Ray, “Ex-Agents to Tighten Races — Kapstein,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1976: 39.

12 Ibid.

13 Durso, “See How They Run.”

14 Stan Isle, “Free-Agent Signings Costly, Kuhn Warns Execs,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 25.

15 Ibid.

16 Kuhn quote in Washington Post from C.C. Johnson Spink, “We believe …” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 14.

17 Isle, “Free-Agent Signings Costly, Kuhn Warns Execs.”

18 Ibid.

19 Dick Miller, “Kuhn Sidesteps Finley Offer to Fight,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 34.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Oscar Kahan, “New Rule Boosts Minors’ Draft Picks to 16,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 36.

23 Stan Isle, “Free-Agent Derby Slows Down Trades,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 38.

24 Joseph Durso, “Baseball Meetings End, Problems Don’t,” New York Times, December 12, 1976: S1.

25 Stan Isle, “Majors Promise Baseball to Capital in ’78,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 33.

26 Ibid.

27 Leonard Koppett, “Baseball Giving Oriole-Games-in-Washington Plan Another Time at Bat,” New York Times, December 10, 1976: 51.

28 Isle, “Majors Promise Baseball to Capital in ’78.”

29 Ibid.

30 Koppett, “Baseball Giving Oriole-Games-in-Washington Plan Another Time at Bat.”

31 Jim Henneman, “Orioles Shouted ‘Nay’ on Shift Resolution,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 33.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

34 Durso, “Baseball Meetings End, Problems Don’t.”

35 Stan Isle, “A.L. Seen Ready to Okay 3-Divison Format,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1976: 37.

36 Ibid.

37 Leonard Koppett, “Tight Postseason Slate Is Proposed,” New York Times, December 11, 1976: 37.

38 Joseph Durso, “Aftermath of Beanball Controversy,” Wilmington (North Carolina) Star, May 10, 1976: 1-B.

39 Stan Isle, “Umps Given Muscle to Curb Dusters,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 34.

40 Ibid.

41 Stan Isle, “Nine Amendments Pass Voter Muster,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 38.

42 Ibid.

43 Koppett, “Tight Postseason Slate Is Proposed.”

44 Isle, “Majors Promise Baseball to Capital in ’78.”

45 Koppett, “Tight Postseason Slate Is Proposed.”

46 Stan Isle, “Majors Promise Baseball to Capital in ’78.”

47 Oscar Kahan, “Bragan Calls for Long-Term Program for Minors,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 39.

48 Oscar Kahan, “PCL Boss Jackson Takes on Int Prexy’s Post,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 39.

49 Ibid.

50 “Association Will Use Limited DH,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 38.

51 “Group Sought to Study Major TV Into Minors,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1976: 37.

52 Stan Isle, “Umpires Seeking to Shatter $50,000 Barrier,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1976: 39.

53 Stan Isle, “Majors Promise Baseball to Capital in ’78.”

54 “Buchheister Carts Away Lots of Hardware at Banquet,” The Sporting News, December 25, 1976: 36.

55 Ibid.

56 Stan Isle, “Publicity Men Swap Ideas in Three-Day Seminar,” The Sporting News, December 25, 36.

57 Joseph Durso, “Baseball Meetings End, Problems Don’t.”

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.

60 Stan Isle, “Majors Promise Baseball to Capital in ’78.”