In what MLB terms an "unprecedented exchange designed to
strengthen longstanding relationships with Japanese baseball,"
the NL and AL have agreed to conduct an experimental umpire
exchange program with the Central and Pacific Leagues of Japan
for spring training '96. Under the deal, four Japanese umpires
will join AL and NL umps in split-crew assignments this spring,
while AL umps Jim Evans and Don Denkinger and NL umps Jerry
Crawford and Charlie Williams will work for a week in Japan. NL
President Len Coleman: "I hope it is just the beginning of more
activities involving Major League Baseball and Japanese
Baseball." AL President Gene Budig: "No sport is better
positioned than baseball for international growth ... There will
be other significant initiatives in the future." MLBPA official
Gene Orza: "This is a small but obvious step in the eventual
internationalizing of the sport. I'm sure the players will have
a positive response to it" (MLB).
Greg Norman claims that he is being "singled out" by the PGA
European Tour's effort to enforce guidelines regarding the use of
appearance fees to attract top PGA Tour stars to overseas events.
In letters to the Dubai Desert Classic, Murphy's Irish Open and
Canon European Masters, PGA European Tour Exec Dir Kenneth
Schofield reminded tournament officials that only 25% of the
total purse could be used for such side events as clinics and
skins game -- namely, appearance fees. But Norman, who played in
all three events last year with fees as high as $350,000, took
offense: "I said to Ken, 'It seems to me you are discriminating
against me.' A lot of other guys played in those events and got
appearance money. I seem to be a target for everything."
Despite Norman's assertion the guidelines could be seen as
"restraint of trade," a spokesperson for Great White Shark
Enterprises Inc. said, "Litigation is not the answer."
Meanwhile, the tournaments responded by raising purses by as much
as 200,000 Pounds (GOLFWORLD, 2/9 issue).
HOW MANY QUID FOR THIS PRO QUO? Norman -- who once termed
the atmosphere at TPC Eagle Trace "carnival golf" -- will play
the Honda Classic when the tournament returns to the course this
year. GOLFWORLD reports the change of heart is due to a promise
from the PGA Tour to award Norman's architecture firm the
contract to design the planned TPC club in Atlanta (Geoff
Russell, GOLFWORLD, 2/9 issue).
NewSport's Dan Wasserman reports the NFLPA will go before
U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis to have the NFL
salary cap increased by $2M per team above the $38.8M set by the
league last week. The union claims the league "improperly
excluded" revenues from the two expansion teams. ... Wasserman
also reports former NBPA accountant Charles Bennett has taken
himself out of the running to be the union's new Exec Dir
(NewSport, 2/14)....76ers officials will make their pitch to the
NBA today to host the '98 All-Star Game. 76ers Exec VP Tom
Chestnut, on the competition -- New York and Portland: "The
league's offices are in New York and there will come a time when
there are reasons for the game to be there. Right now, though,
the league likes taking the All-Star Game to other cities, to new
buildings. Our focus will be on the substance of our
presentation. The league has seen glitzy presentations before.
I think they're looking for substance" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS,
2/15).... NEWSDAY's Rob Parker is highly critical of NBA
Commissioner David Stern's new deal, calling it "the most
outrageous contract in the history of pro sports." Parker
illustrates his point by substituting a dollar sign for the "S"
in Stern's name (NEWSDAY, 2/14)....The CFL is seeking buyers for
the Calgary Stampeders, with Owner Larry Rykman under threat of
losing control of the team to the Alberta Securities Commission.
Hard Rock Cafe owner Sig Gutsche is mentioned as a possibility
(CP/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 2/15).