Forget the teapot, that's quite a tempest whipped up in the Dome by the firing of Tal Smith as general manager of the Houston Astros.
So incensed are some of the minority owners over the dismissal of the baseball team's patient architect Smith by Johnny-come-lately John McMullen -- a naval architect by profession -- if they could swing it McMullen would be the one ousted.
"Speaking on behalf of the limited partners, who represent a majority interest in the franchise, we are all outraged over Tal's firing," said David LeFevre, a New York lawyer who owns the second-largest share in the almost-pennant-winners, behind McMullen's 33 percent. Another of those partners is Don Sanders, an E.F. Hutton vice president who said they have hired a lawyer to study their options. "Don't say goodbye to Tal yet," counseled LeFevre.
Still, it appears McMullen, who took command in midyear 1979, has the power to make stick his termination of Smith, a 20-year Astro organization man except for 20 months with the Yankees, to make way for Al Rosen. No matter how angry his partners are over the multimillion-dollar investment, and mere 11-10 initial won-lost return, in Nolan Ryan. No matter if, as LeFevre marvels, McMullen didn't want to sign J. R. Richard, when the big guy was healthy a year ago, and "Tal and I had to convince him that J. r. was the outstanding pitcher in baseball.
"He ultimately signed for half of what Nolan Ryan got."