The Cleveland Barons cannot meet their National Hockey League payrolls, yet the Cleveland Nets have $1.5 million for Bjorn Borg in the three-year World Team Tennis contract he is expected to sign today . . . Black Hawk Bobby Orr, for one, and the St. Louis blues, for another, are in almost as much danger as the Barons of prematurely ending their life in the NHL . . . Fran Tarkenton's knee may not be as ravaged as Orr's but i's bad enough - and his other pursuits sweet enough - that he is talking retirement from pro football . . .
But before we get into that, our valentine couple of 1975 - Johnny Bench and Vickie Chesser Bench - must be breaking Cupid's heart as Valentine's 1977 nears.
Mrs. Bench and the World Series hero of the Cincinnati Reds were in domestic relations court this week for a preliminary divorce hearing, and Vickie, quoted by the Cincinnati Enquirer in a copyrighted story, relates that the baseball star "broke my heart and spirit."
It did't take long after their huge, celebrity-studded wedding Feb. 21, 1975, Mrs. B. said, that things started snowballing downhill toward their breakup a year later and her husbands's petition last August for a divorce on grounds of gross neglect: "After the wedding party, he took his best man home with us - and they played Ping-Pong . . .
"Johnny has told the press he wanted a wife who was (wanton) in the bedroom. I'm afraid that's the only kind of woman he ever understands. He certainly has no respect for any woman, and probably not for any man. (He) can lose $10,000 on a bet and appear to be unconcerned. Yet, when I was sick he told me to delay seeing a doctor until the team physician came to town - his services were free. When I asked if I could hire a maid one day a week, Johnny(TAX OMITTED FROM SOURCES)
The former Miss South Carolina said the marriage troubles have ruined her chances for a renewed modeling career - "I did have one offer: Hustler magazine offered me $25,000 to pose in Hustler style. I rejected the idea but Johnny said, 'Why not, it's good money.'"
Just wait until the case goes to court . . .
Tennis: It's all set, or Net, for Borg and his entourage - finance Mariana Simionescu and coach Lennert Bergelin - to sign with the Cleveland WTT entry in ceremonies at a midtown New York restaurant today. Nets owner Joe Zingale was flying in to do the honors, with a package including $15,000-20,-000 each for Simionescu as a player and Bergelin to take over as the team's coach; sorry, Marty Rieseen player-coach for two years . . . . And sorry, Pennysylvania Keystones. That WTT franchise has died aborning - overturn by the Soviets. WTT commissioner Earl (Butch) Buchloz disclosed that the U.S.S.R. national team entering the league is supplanting the Keystones to play a full 44-match schedule over the 13-week season, beginning in April. Some home matches in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlantic City . . .