Bowie Kuhn is on my mind. I wish I could take a pill for it. It started when this month's The New Yorker magazine carried an account of how Minneapolis has made Indoorism a source of municipal pride.
Much as Aspen throws back its shoulders when conversation turns to mountains, the chilled folks in Minnesota boast of their skyways. Those are glassed-in second-story bridges connecting buildings. Next on the drawing board is a domed sports stadium, built, The New Yorker says, for a lot of reasons but one mainly: "Without a domed stadium the quarterback's hands would continue to get cold every winter."
Sportswriters must watch what they read. The brain can be short-circuited by an overdose of decimal points and the sportswriter then might have to work for a living. So I had The New Yorker in hand, knowing it was good for me, and then, alas, I read about the domed igloo palace in Minneapolis which would keep Fran Tarkenton's hands warm while also providing refuge for the baseball Twins.
The stadium and the Twins reminded me of Kuhn, the baseball commissioner, who for a month now has again caused me spells of confusion.
The latest example of Kuhn's actions in what he calls "the best interests of baseball" came in the Rod Carew deal.
Calvin Griffith owns the Minnesota Twins and held Carew's contract. For 10 years, Carew loved Minnesota because he could live a reasonable home life there. Then last summer, Griffith made a remarkable civic club speech in which he said Carew was foolish for playing for so little money. Griffith also said he moved the Twins from Washington to get away from a large black population.
Carew, who likes being black, does not like being foolish. He said he wasn't going to work for a plantation bigot and demanded to be traded.
So Griffith worked up a deal to trade Carew for four players and $400,000 cash.
But Kuhn said, "No money."
His Omniscience, who in 1975 arranged the Atlanta Braves' batting order, said Griffith could trade Carew, but he could not take any money as part of the transaction.
Kuhn once said the free-agent system in baseball was destructive because it would send all the best players to the richest teams in the nicest climates.
He decided he would not let any team pay more than $400,000 for a player. Griffith knew that and so used that limit in the Carew deal.
He would have liked to ask for more. Carew is worth five times $400,000.
And you would think Kuhn would see the reason Griffith needed the money.
Attendance has been falling in Minneapolis. The proposed domed stadium would bring in some fans out of the spring and early fall chill. But what the Twins need most are contented stars. They now have lost Lyman Bostock, Larry Hisle, Bill Campbell and Carew.
Contentment is spelled m-o-n-e-y.
Griffith might take some of that $400,000 -- Kuhn set the precedent by approving Charlie Finley's sale of Paul Lindblad two years ago -- and pay his stars better.
Doing that, Griffith would improve his team and, one would think, thereby please Kuhn, whose obsession with "competitive balance" is such that he has voided three Finley deals on that basis.
Is Kuhn pleased?
Kuhn, in the Carew case, seemed to say no money can change hands in any deal.
Most people believe the freeagent system has raised baseball to new levels of popularity. Fans' loyalties are to teams, not individuals, and the prospect of immediate improvement by signing a Pete Rose keeps the customers eager.Kuhn now admits the free-agent system, which he feared, is working to baseball's good.
Calvin Griffith needs big money to compete with the shipbuilders and cowboys in that free-agent market so he tried to get it by selling an unhappy player who had announced he would become a free agent the next year. Had Griffith waited until the next year, he would get nothing when Carew leaves.
Yet Kuhn says no money allowed.
The commissioner's intentions, I think, are good. He sees rich men buying up all the stars. He can't stop the free-agent deals but the owners have given him the power to do practically anything else. So first he creates a $400,000 limit and then, still worrying, he lowers that by $400,000.
Or does he? Only last weekend, Kuhn let his tormentor, Finley, peddle two of Oakland's minor leaguers to George Steinbrenner's Yankees. The price tag was $500,000, and somewhere in a Minnesota snowbank, Calvin Griffith must be coming down with confusion, too.
What Kuhn, a lawyer, needs is legal help. Unlike football and basketball, baseball has no meaningful provision for compensating a team that loses a free agent. If Rick Barry goes to Houston, John Lucas moves to Golden State. A $250,000-a-year halfback who defects is replaced by two first-round draft choices.
But in baseball, if Pete Rose quits Cincinnati to go to Philadelphia, the Reds get nothing in return. (Not precisely; they do get choices in the amateur draft.)
Eventually, significant compensation must be made part of baseball's law. Then, just for example, when the Yankees sign three free agents, they might pay those players' teams one-third of the total value of the new contracts.
Then Kuhn could take a vacation and I wouldn't need confusion pills.