Baseball games of distinction; NFL tidbits
Baseball historians have already circled three dates on their 1982 calendars.
This Saturday Boston holds its first strictly Red Sox Oldtimers Day; on July l3 Montreal becomes the first Canadian city to host the major league All-Star Game; and six days later, in yet another first, numerous former greats square off in the inaugural Cracker Jack Old-Timers Baseball Classic.
Boston, with its long, colorful baseball tradition, is a natural for an oldtimers' game, yet the Red Sox have gone without one until now. The game was the brainstorm of George Sullivan, the club's new media director. It will not necessarily become a regular tradition as have similar diamond reunions in other major league cities.
Saturday's contest, which proceeds a Boston-Texas game at Fenway Park, has been billed as a salute to 50 years of Yawkey family tradition. Tom Yawkey, the team's beloved former owner, purchased the Red Sox in 1933, and since his death, wife Jean has carried on as president and part owner.
Back in the late 1930s, former members of the Red Sox and old Boston Braves joined forces against ex-players from other clubs. That the Red Sox never followed up with their own in-house game, some believe, is because Mr. Yawkey disliked the idea. Mrs. Yawkey's support of this year's game, however, seems to discount that theory.
Saturday's trip down memory lane will last only an hour, not including introductions, with no prescribed number of innings. Every seat will be filled for the occasion. ''I believe we could have sold 200,000 seats, maybe more,'' says Sullivan. As the game's promoter, he has attempted to reunite players who made history together, such as the double play combinations from pennant winning teams in 1946 (Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky) and 1967 (Rico Petrocelli and Mike Andrews). Maybe the most crowd pleasing reunion will occur in the outfield, where three stars of the '50s - Jackie Jensen, Jimmy Piersall, and Ted Williams--will patrol Fenway's outer precincts.
Fans are particularly excited about seeing Williams, a private individual who avoids the spotlight. The last player to bat .400, he was spied earlier this year smacking the ball sharply in batting practice with former teammate Frank Malzone. The Splendid Splinter once hit a dramatic game-winning homer in the 1941 All-Star game, and if he sails one over the fence Saturday there will be bedlam.
Ted has said it will be the only oldtimers game he'll ever play in, which means he probably won't be in the lineup for July's Oldtimers Classic. There's an outside chance, though, of talking him into managing the American League stars, who will meet former National Leaguers in a legitimate five-inning game at Washington's RFK Stadium. This will be a special treat for the capital's starved baseball fans, who haven't had a major league team since the Senators left for Texas in 1972. A portion of the game's proceeds will go to the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America, a benevolent organization that looks after the needs of former ballplayers.
Game organizers are currently seeking network television coverage, which shouldn't be hard to secure. Each team's 30-man roster will be a virtual Who's Who of baseball nostalgia. All major leaguers retired for at least a year are eligible for election in fan balloting. Ads for mail order tickets will soon appear in several national publications.
As an incentive to sluggers, temporary outfield fences will be moved closer than normal (perhaps 250 feet away) for these former stars. Mopping up after football draft
Herein, a few tidbits in the wake of this week's National Football League draft:
* Not having the opportunity to make a first-round selection didn't seem to concern New Orleans head coach Bum Phillips. He already got his man last year, when he chosed Illinois quarterback Dave Wilson in a supplementary draft, thereby relinquishing the third overall pick in Tuesday's opening round. ''I'm prejudiced of course,'' he said, ''but I'll take Wilson over Art Schlichter and Jim McMahon (this year's top quarterback selections) - yesterday, today, tomorrow. He's already beaten the Rams.''
* The Dallas Cowboys, a team with a history of making shrewd and surprising draft picks, caught a fair number of observers off guard this year by taking Kentucky State defensive back/kick returner Rod Hill near the end of the first round. Hill led the nation in punt returns his junior year with a 31.8-yard average.
* The Washington Redskins, a team once destitute of first-round draft picks, was without one this year, too, having traded it to Los Angeles. When George Allen was coach, of course, he had a reputation for swapping high draft choices for established players. When Washington selected wide receiver Art Monk in the 1980, it marked the first time since 1968 the Redskins had a first-round choice. Allen, incidentally, has resigned as the Montreal Alouettes' president and chief operating officer after only three months on the job. He bowed out when an option to purchase the team dissolved. Allen had nothing to do with this year's draft situation, the Redskins having dealt their No. 1 away after his departure.