It took 50 days to put baseballs back in the air, but now the players may be grounded.
When the baseball strike ended Friday, team traveling secretaries breathed a sigh of relief. At last they could stop canceling flights and hotel reservations and concentrate on getting their teams back on the road -- and into the air.
But three days later the air traffic controllers walked out, leaving several major league baseball executives wondering what they had done to deserve so much bad luck in one season.
"When I heard about the controllers I just got sort of a sick feeling," recalled Glenn Rosenbaum, the traveling secretary for the Chicago White Sox, who must somehow get his team through the longest road trip in the major leagues -- a 17-day, 16-game, five-city, two-country swing that begins Aug. 10, the first day of the new season.
"It's chaos here," said Rosenbaum from his Comiskey Park office yesterday. "We go everywhere you can think of -- Boston, Baltimore, New York, Toronto and Milwaukee. . . I said all along that when the baseball strike was settled there would be a lot of problems. . ."
For baseball teams, the travel problems commence this weekend with secretaries scrambling to get their all-stars to Sunday's game in Cleveland.
Reggie Jackson may have to take the bus.
"I've put them (Jackson and the other Yankee all-stars) on a regularly scheduled flight Saturday out of Newark," said Bill Kane, the Yankees' traveling secretary. "If the flight is canceled I guess they'll have to drive or take the bus. . . Strikes are getting to be a way of life. You just learn to roll with punches."
If the air traffic controllers are not back at work next week when the baseball season is resumed, the Orioles will have more than the home-field advantage when they meet Kansas City, if the Royals are suffering from bus lag.
"We're not panicking yet," said Bill Beck, the Royal traveling secretary, who had already assured his team bus transportation to Baltimore. "I hope the president's strong words will force them back to work."
"My first reaction when I heard about the air traffic controllers' strike was how would this effect us," said Phil Itzoe, the Oriole traveling secretary. "We are scheduled to leave on Aug. 17th for California and I figure by then the strike will be over."
National Football League officials went into action late last week when they first learned of the impending strike.
"We do have several things in our favor," said Al Ward, the AFC conference coordinator. "No. 1, we travel on full planes, and No. 2, we travel long hauls -- the average team trip is 1,200 miles."
Ward said that travel agents for the various teams were offering to fly their teams on red-eye specials before and after games to assure players of seats.
The Kansas City Chiefs, due here Friday night for an exhibition game against the Redskins at RFK Stadium, have reserved six buses (including two sleepers) in case the team is stranded at the airport.
"At this point we have three options. We can go by charter flight, a commercial flight or a bus," said Jim Schaaf, the Chiefs' general manager, who has booked his team on a regular flight and rounded up the buses as insurance. "We've got all the bases covered as well as we can cover them. Now it's in somebody else's hands."
The Colts are scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Saints Saturday in New Orleans and the team has been told the flight will probably take off as scheduled.
"Right now we still have a charter flight, which we're hoping will pan out," said Walter Gutowski, a Colt spokesman.
Fred Farrar, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said: "There's no priority system right now (regarding charter flights). But if there was a crunch between a charter and a regular flight, maybe the charter would have to give. Right now, we are letting the airlines decide."
A spokesman for United Airlines said yesterday that charter flights were not getting priority treatment.
A spokesman for soccer's Chicago Sting, scheduled to arrive today at National Airport for a game tonight against the Diplomats, said the team was traveling by commercial airline and had been assured that the flight would be going as scheduled.
Rosenbaum was fretting over how best to sent Carlton Fisk to the All-Star Game and contemplating how unhappy the team would be busing up and down the East Coast during the second half of August.
"I'm sure they're not going to like it," Rosenbaum predicted. "I'm not going to like it, either. I'll be riding on the bus with them.
"They should understand about strikes, though. They were just on one."