Karl Eller of Phoenix, principal a day earlier in the deal by which Channel 7 here will become a part of the firm he heads and the Washington Star will get an infusion of capital, folded his Roadrunners of the World Hockey Association yesterday.
Win some, lose some. "We simply can no longer afford the tremendous cash drain required to keep the Roadrunners in business," said Eller, who heads Combined Communications Corp., the firm that not only is swapping KOCO-TV, Oklahoma City, for WMAL-TV-7 (soon to be WJLA-TV), Washington but owned Arizona's team in the WHA.
Eller said losses during the 1974-75 season after Phoenix stepped up from the minors to join the WHA were more than $3 million and red ink the past year ran to another $2 million-plus. "I probably should have closed a year ago. It must have been misguided optimism and sheer stupidity that made me continue," he said.
So yesterday the Roadrunners sold three stars -- top scorer Robbie Ftorek, forward Del Hall and goalie Clay Hebenton -- to the Cincinnati Stiners, a WHA team reportedly under consideration for merger into the National Hockey League. "As far as the other players are concerned," said Eller, "we will do our best to give them an opportunity to play with other clubs in the league." Meanwhile, unlike in some other recent hockey situations, all players will be paid in full.
"If we could have just broken even, . . That would have been enough," Eller said as he set his club to cease operations at season's end next week and become the eighth WHA franchise to fold in the league's five-year history.
If Eller's Washington venture should also run into rough going, he might always change his first name to Carl with a C, put on a purple football uniform and start throwing Redskins for playoff losses . . .
There is a brand-new bright light at the end of the Detroit Red Wing NHL tunnel. The cellar-dwelling club's owner, Bruce' Norris, announced yesterday that by the 1978-79 season, the Red Wings will dwell no longer in Olympia, the downtown arena he owns, but in a $15 million, 18,000-seat palace to be erected across the street from the two-year-old Pontiac Silverdome that houses the NFL's Detroit Lions . . . Shades of Abe Pollin beating the District to the arena punch, Norris' announcement could torpedo plans by Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young for a new riverfront arena ("Olympia II") in Detroit, intended for both Red Wings and NBA Pistons. That one's been held up by legal maneuvers, for one thing; for a sure thing, the hockey team wants out of Detroit's decaying inner-city and the Olympia that has been home since Nov. 22, 1927 . . .
Not only Joe Thomas but Al Davis of the NFL front-office fraternity made hay of the San Francisco 49ers sale to Ohio contractor Edward J. DeBartolo that landed Thomas the 49ers general managership. Davis, managing general partner of the champion Oakland Raiders picked up $100,000 as a finder's fee for helping negotiate the deal -- "I handled every phase, so I wasn't really a finder so much as a consultant." The previous 49er ownership and DeBartolo both contributed to Davis' commission . . .
Gordon Johncock was fined $1,500 yesterday and U.S. Auto Club president Dick King tacked on a stern reprimand to Johncock and John Rutherford for their fistieuffs at the press trailer in Phoenix last Sunday.
That was after Rutherford slowed down late in a 150-mile race and on-rushing Johncock car clipped his and ran off the track. Rutherford got off without a fine and said, "It was a pretty good meeting. Gordie and I shook hands when it was over and I hope we can stay good friends. There's no way a grudge can be carried on in racing as far as I am concerned" . . .
Jim Palmer, the habitual Cy Young awardee of the Baltimore Orioles, says his negotiations with Bird general manager Hank Peters for a five-year contract have been "unamiable . . . I don't know what I'm going to do, I don't even know if I'm going to be here. I told them I'd come to the park every other day (although) I'll pitch when they tell me to pitch." Palmer is exercised because the Orioles' latest offer to him reportedly approximated the $1.1 million teammate Ken Singleton recently signed for. "I don't hold anything against Kenny," said Palmer, -but I think I do my job better than he does his." And, "Why should I have to sign a lot of contingency classes, just because I'm not threatening to play out my option?" . . . Dave (King Kong) Kingman told the N.Y. Mets, "If I am not signed by opening day I will not sign in 1977" but will play out his option. "If they don't have me signed by (Thursday) I would welcome a trade as soon as possible" . . .