It has been a rough World Series for ABC's Howard Cosell. NBC's Joe Garagiola called him "a butcher;" the first mother, Lillian Carter, said she "wished he would be taken off the air," and an inspired reporter dubbed him "Howard Cosell, his royal heinous."
Now Cosell may face an assault and battery suit from Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Stan Hochman, who says Cosell slapped him in the head several times on a jet flight from Los Angeles to New York in the Sunday-Monday a.m.
The News confirmed that Hochman met with the paper's lawyers today to discuss the possible suit. ABC refused to comment and a network spokesman added, "And I would hope Howard would be smart enough to keep his mouth shut."
Hochman, the only witness willing to give his version today, said he was buckled into his seat when he and Cosell, who was walking past, got into an altercation.
Hochman said sarcastically, "What a pleasure," when he saw Cosell. The announcer responded with denigrating comments about Hochman's talent and economic standing, according to Hochman. After more unpleasantness, Hochman said Cosell cuffed him.
According to baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who was on the plane at the time but did not see the incident, Cosell maintains he merely chuckled Hochman playfully under the chin. Hochman, who has had a history of inner-ear problems, said Cosell smacked him with an open hand on the side of the head and ear five times - not playfully.
"With a dozen of the best sportswriters in the country on the same plane," said Hochman, "it's my luck that my only witness is an army sergeant."
Hochman tried unsucessfully to have Cosell arrested when the plane landed in New York, despite Kuhn's efforts to convince the columnist to forget the whole thing.
Hochman returned to Philadelphia, saying the incidence had made him feel sick enough to leave the World Series, and that he wanted to see a doctor.
Speaking of airplanes, Yankee pitcher Ed Figueroa created a small stir today when it was first reporrted that he would be on one headed home to Peurto Rico with the Series still in progress.
The Yankees said Figueroa, initially announced Sunday as the Yank starter in Game 6, was finished for the season because of lingering side and finger injuries.
Figueora's first reaction was to go home. "Then I thought about it," he said, "and decided it would be a bad move on my part. It wouldn't look good, and even though I don't want to play for the Yanks next year, I want to be part of the club until the Series is over."
The Yankees, who have been playing the series with only 24 men, are now down to 23. And that counts unused Ken Holtzman.
Tommy Lasorda, the L.A. manager, when asked today what special advantages he had going for him in his uphill fight, snapped back, "a great ballclub."