The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California on June 25, 1975 · 60
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The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California · 60

San Francisco, California
Issue Date:
Wednesday, June 25, 1975
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.a. COMMENT Page 54-O.Examtnrr Wed., June 25, 1 975 4 of Jud The Hoiheinz Asti'odoMwim In retrospect, it seems that it all happened on a distant planet a million years ago with people who had pointed ears and oozed green blood when they were scratched. It was far too much like science fiction to have any vague partnership with reality. Here was this glittering stadium with those geometric patterns made of steel that supported an acrylic ceiling. Here was the mechanical marvel that had rendered God's own glorious' turf obsolete. The baseball players sprinted back and forth on a plastic lawn, fittingly the first one ever created. t : ' Lights flashed whenever somebody stroked the ball into the seats. A bull came galloping out across the screen, only to be lassoed by an electronic cowboy as cacophonus music blared out what most people think is the Texas national anthem. In a ring of exclusive suites underneath the rafters, astronauts mingled with oil zillionaires, movie cretins and . international philanderers., Hardly anyone looked a,t the game in progress for the very simple reason that it was too .far away. The suites were decorate in various examples of 'Petroleum Vulgar, which traveling authors from distant New York took to calling "lavish" and opulent, because that is what their editors expected of them. r. There was no gimmick too expensive or two incredible to escape the interest of Judge Roy Hofheinz, who may have been the greatest toy maker the American Republic ever gave birth to. Certainly he had more gall than Barnum and . more" flair than Mike Todd. He came frighteningly close to impressing Walt Disney once. In truth, he may have, even surpassed Mickey Mouse's godfather in some respects. He. was a genius at playing with other people's money. He set, records that may never be equalled. , While he was creating mankind's first indoor stadium, the Astrodome, there was a mild bit of humor popular in Houston. It seems that the judge he was rarely called, anything else had grown tired of carping politicians down at the Harris County courthouse. Just because it was county bond issues that were financing the stadium, they seemed to think they had a voice in how it was going to be run. One day, according to the legend, the Judge sent his son down to negotiate a purchase. "Good news and bad news," the son Wells TWOMBLY was supposed to" have told his father. "They're willing to sell. That's the good news. The bad news is that they want $10,000 down." It never happened Just that way, but it was typical of the way Hofheinz operated, mortgaging everything against a tomorrow he might not ever have to face. He was in his early 50s and he was host at one of the giddiest non-stop parties the nation has ever witnessed. This was the same warm, wonderful promoter who gave you Lyndon Johnson. It was Judge Roy Hofheinz who not only pursuaded Johnson to run for Congress the first time, but managed his campaign. In those days, the Judge saw-himself as the eventual governor of Texas and Johnson as a potential president. He was 24 years old at the time and he was half right. '" ' , "The Judge' was too smart to be governor," said a , friend, one of the few really good ones he had. "He got to be mayor of Houston and that was it. He wants to leave a monument of some kind, so he's building something nobody thought could ever be built. When,he's proved them wrong, he'll push like hell to prove that he can make it pay off. That won't be easy. He's got something like a $1 million overhead. That's nothing to laugh at. But he'll do it. Wait and see." - - " ' When he had constructed his modern Xanadu (he was Jond of quoting the Coleridge poem) Hofheinz built a palace Giants' plight iipsets Gomez for himself behind the scoreboard. It was an Incredible display of gaucherie that was so awful it was really quite good. There were yards and yards of deep gold carpet, lush scarlet and gold chairs supported by rampant Austrian leg? on gold metal frames. The bathrooms had golden velvet seats. The pipes were gold-plated. In his private viewing box, the Judge poured coffee into gold Flintridge china cups. Yellow velvet chairs'on gold ball legs could be pushed up to the window to permit his guests a better view of the field. . . : One of the living rooms bad as its central figure, a $13Q,000 Oriental dragon, part of the 26,000 pounds of art he once purchased on a six day sweep through Hong Kong, Bangkok, Saigon and Singapore; There -was a circular staircase leading up to a bedroom that Hofheinz said was every white man's mental conception of a Chinese brothel. . the description was not inaccurate. Beyond that was a Presidential suite with the great seal of office on the wall behind the bed. There was a barber shop, a kitchen, a bowling alley, numerous bedrooms and sitting parlors. There was even a shooting gallery. . "This is something I like to show my Madison Avenue friends," he said, "the ones who think there are wild Indians on the other side of the Hudson River. The sooner people see this, the quicker I sell my product. I've got an enormous overhead and we have to keep this place active." To do' that, Judge Roy Hofheinz strained the imaginations of most of the people in Texas, which seems like an impossibility. He brought in bloodless bullfights, major college basketball, demolition derbies, crusades, bands, performers. He even rented the Astrodome" out as a movie set for a film that was so bad it doesn't play the late show. He talked about producing Aida with a cast of thousands, including elephants. Relentlessly Hofheinz added to his empire, buying half of Ringling Brothers circus; constructing a convention hall, a hotel complex and a Disneyland-style amusement park.' "Our organization, Astrodomain, has three guide words Astrodome crisis Roger RENO - Baseball Hall of Famer Vernon (Lefty) Gomez, the southpaw throwing kid from Rodeo who played for the Seals at Old Recreation Park and later attained renown with the New York Yankees, is dismayed by San Francisco's lack of interest in the Giants.: "San Francisco was always a great baseball town," IV 1 1 T A 'lfCJ said Lefty, "and some of the greatest players came out of 1 1 A A Alf IlI there. You go back to people like Lefty O'Doul, Tony 7 Lazzeri, Joe Cronin, Gus Suhr, Walter Mails, as well as others, including Ernie Lombardi, Earl Averill and, of ; course, the DiMaggios. . "They helped make the game great and young players coming up today can also make it great. But they need encouragement and the support of the fans' would mean much to them." " , Gomez said he knows many people dislike Candlestick Park, and particularly its location. Yet he sincerely believes that if enough fans were going out there they would not be that concerned about some of the problems. "I thought baseball was really making a comeback out there, and that things, would pick up after the club's success on the road," he said. "But when less than 50,000 turned out for 10 home games, it has to be pretty discouraging. It "certainly didn't make much sense." , i . . . ' . . Gomez, one of the great southpaw hurlers of all time, has made his living (and a good one) for many years as a baseball ambassador for the Wilson Sporting Goods Co. His specialty is serving as master of ceremonies at various banquets around the country. Lefty is an articulate, humorous and loquacious story teller. This week he is playing in Johnny Ascuaga's Nugget Golf Classic, and, after smashing one of his longer drives off the tee in a hail storm at Hidden Valley yesterday, he cracked: 1 "If I could cut that one up into singles I'd have hit over .200 for the Yankees." .. Gomez agrees with most observers that , the World Champion Oakland A's have caused the Giants' attendance decline more than anything else. "I'd say they're at least 50 per cent, or more, to blame," he said.; ;, i "When you stop to think that the Giants once drew around a million three hundred thousand, and now that's all the two clubs drew between them, it's easy to see where the problem lies. There are only so many baseball fans in the area." . , .-. Although he is an old American Leaguer, Lefty's.heart is still in San Francisco and he has strong personal feelings about Horace Stoneham and his old teammate, 'Jerry Donovan, Stoneham's assistant. . ' "If anybody is to move, I certainly hope it will be the A's". said Lefty. "Horace is a wonderful man and has always run a good baseball operation. If he decides to sell. SPORTS CALENDAR Certainly Chub Feeney and Bob Lurie would make a strong combination, but I hope Mr. Stoneham remains." ' - Remembering the days of his youth as .a ballplayer, Gomez recalled how he played at Recreation Park at 15th and Valencia, and later moved to Seals Stadium. "I think those parks were situated in better spots," he said. "The fans liked to go there and enjoyed the game there. Candlestick Park is just out of the way," ' As a former Yankee and teammate (also roommate) of Joe DiMaggio's, Gomez still follows his old club with interest. He played in an oldtimers' gamjfe against the White Sox in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and had a chance to talk to Bobby Bonds. - "I think the Yankees will win the pennant this year, and one big reason will be Bobby Bonds," said. Lefty. "Bonds hit two home runs the night I saw him and also made a terrific catch. He seemed very happy and confident that the Yankees will win." ' "' , Gomez also had a few well chosen words about Jim (Catfish) Hunter, who got off to a bad start with the Yankees but has since come on strong to prove he has lost none of his effectiveness. ' "A lot of people were worried about Catfish because of his bad start, but I wasn't," said Lefty. "If you remember, Hunter was 2 and 7 last year with the A's and wound up 25 and 12. 1 don't believe he's ever had a real good start but he still wins 20, or more. : "Other people have come through for the Yankees. They've done a good job with their trades, and very few players have come up from farm teams. I definitely think they will win the pennant." Lefty had to toss in a couple of his pet stories, including one about John D'Acquisto, the young Giants' pitcher. "John is really a wonderful kid and a fine talent. He said, 'Lefty, you pitched a long time so I wondered if you could tell me what is the correct way to field a line drive that comes right back at you?' "I said, 'of course, John, I'll tell you what I used to do. I always ran in on line drives and caught them before they picked up speed.'" The kid was flabbergasted, but he got the message. Not all stupid questions are asked by sports writers. .. :' '. Television and radio (Television ond radio information is provided by stations.) TELEVISION TODAY Baseball Son Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres, (2).... 7:00 p.m. RADIO TODAY . Sports Wrapup-Wirh Mike Forrest, KNEW (910) AJO aai 5:30 p.m. Sports Roundup With Art Eckman, KSFO (560) 5:45 p.m. Sports Report With Scotty Stirling, KNBR (680).... :05 p.m. Sportstolk-With Monty Stickles, KGO (810) 6:05 p.m. SportsptKme With Scotty Stirling, KNBR (680) 6:15 p.m. Hone Racina-Valleio results, KNBA, ( 1 190)... 6:30 p.m. Soulsports With Som Skinner, KDIA (1310)....-:..... 6:35 p.m. BaseboH San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Podres, KSFO (560) .:. 7:00 p.m. Bosebo IV Minnesota Twins vs. Oakland A's, KEEN (1370), KKIS(990) S;00p.m. , TELEVISION THURSDAY No sports events scheduled. . . ... RADIO THURSDAY Soulsports With Som Skinner, KDIA (1310) AJUeJW. t 6:35 p.m. ' Sports Wropup-Wirh Mike Forrest, KNEW (9IO).....4JO.aod 5:30 p.m. Sports Roimd'up-With Art Eckman, KSFO (560) 5:45 p.m. Sports Report With Scotty Stirling, KNBR (680)... 6:05 p.m. Sportstolk With Monty Stickles, KGO (810)...'...... 6.-05 p.m. SportspfconeWifh Scotty Stirling, KNBR (680) '. 6:15 p.m. Horse Rocmg-Vaflejo results, KNBA (1 190) 6:30 p.m. Baseball Los Angeles Dodgers, vs. Son Francisco Giants, KSFO (560)....- , - 8:00 p.m. SportsoMl for sports results col 478-9560. In the Bay Area TODAY Baseball Minnesota Twins vs." Oakland A's, Oakland Coliseum, 8 p.m. Horse Racing Thoroughbred and quarterhorse racing at the Solano County Foir, Vallejo, first post 1 :30 p.m. Golf CGS State Amateur Championship ond Handicap Tournament, Pebble Beoch, all day. - they are -'First, Biggest and Best!' We've got . the " Astrodome, Astrohall, Astroworld and the Astro-Hotels," he-proclaimed. "We've got the fastest growing, most prosperous city in the world. Don't be surprised if there's a whole lot more to come." " ' ; Year after year, his baseball team drew more people than they were worth. The crowds poured into , the , Astrodome, paying $1 just to tour it. But nature contrived against the Judge. His entertainment empire was dependent almost entirely upon him. When he, .suffered a stroke a few years ago the empire began to sag. No longer was he a driving, dominant force capable of operating on four hours sleep a night. Instead, he was a human heap collapsed in a wheelchair, able to work only four hours a day. It was a disastrous irony. - . , ' ' What Hofheinz had wrought in the year 1965. was starting to become commonplace a .mere decade later. There were domed stadiums going up in New Orleans and Seattle. Tourists no longer considered the Astrodome to be . the eighth wonder of the world, so they stopped coming 'through in numbers that once reached as high as One - million a year. The place needed painting and there was no money to do that. When one of those soggy Blue Northers came screaming across the Texas plains, driving gallon of rainwater ahead of it, the roof at the Astrodome sprang numerous leaks. The magnificent brain, that was needed to keep the operation solvent was partly short-circuited. The admission of the Texas Rangers to the American League did nothing to improve Astro attendance. -! p .' .-:y- r : So the big money boys, the ones that a younger, more vigorous Roy Hofheinz used to delight in conning came and took control away from him the other day. He had debts up to $38 million. The assets were estimated at somewhere between $60 and $100 million. The problem was that there , was no way to generate enough of a cash flow to keep the .operation solvent. When the Judge was building his stately pleasure dome, his golden monument to his own intellect, it, was said in Houston that the whole thing would fail because he was the only man who could run it properly. And that was the truest statement any Texan ever made. Denial that Hofheinz has lost control United Press International HOUSTON - Crushing debts of $38 million have forced judge Roy Hofheinz to give up part of his control of the Astrodome and his entertainment. empire, officials say. But a top executive denied Hofheinz is out of the picture. v In addition, Ford Motor Credit Corp., one of the major lenders to the Astrodomain Corp., plans to commit several more millions in operating funds t6 help the debt-laden Hofheinz, a Ford spokesman said yesterday. -Ford, General Electric Credit Corp., and the HNC Realty hold mortgage notes for $38 million and have been assigned authority to run the sprawling - complex, the Houston Chronicle reported in a copyrighted story. . - However, Astrodonrain , executive vice-president Sidney Schlenker said he, Hofheinz and Astrodomain President T.H. Neyland, have been named by the creditors, to run the operation. , "We are in the process of completing a rearrangement of' our -longterm credit with major lenders which will greatly increase the viability of our company to operate in an . efficient . manner,'' Schlenker said. The Chronicle reported Hofheinz had lost control of the empire. ".. . ,"The part of. the Chronicle story relating to Judge Roy Hofheinz losing control is not true," Schlenker said. "The judge will retain the title of chairman of the board and will continue to be active as he has been in the past two years."' "' i ' " ' i Hofheinz, 63, owned 5Q per cent of the Astrodomain Corp., anti the other 50. per cent was left in trust for the three Hofheinz children. The children, Roy Jr., a Harvard professor, Dene, of Los Angeles, and Fred, current mayor of Houston, reportedly met in family council more than a week ago and agreed to relinquish control of their, holdings, the newspa-persaid. Auto Roclcra NASCAR Stock Cor racing,, San Jose Speedway, 8 p.m. Motorcycles AMA short track races, Fremont Raceway, 7 p.m. THURSDAY Baseball Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Son Francisco Giants, Candle stick Park, 8 p.m. Upcoming baseball THE GIANTS Todav-At Son Diego (N) June 26 Los Angeles (N) June 27 Los Angeles (N) June 28 Los Angeles . June 2 Los Angeles June 30 Idle . July I Arlonta (N) July 2-Atkmto (N) THE A'S Today Minnesota (N) June 26 Idle June 27 At California (N) June 28 At California (N) June 29 At California June 30 At Chicogo (N) July I At Chicogo (N) July 2 At Chicago (N) Se THE CALENDAR in comic pages Macy's II if 7 Oil Jl. mm 9wm mm FEATURING B.F. GOODRICH The Performers Vz off Belted tire specials. Your choice, any size listed Detroiter Belted Steel ' XV'a"V Detroiter HP. Belted Jifi 111) , n h III pii.t&.--J i" J ' . ''' j Whitewalls Size Reg. SALE A78-13 .....32.88 21.92 E78-14... ...38.88 25.92 F78-14 .39.88 26.59 G78-14 41.88 27.92 H78-1 4 ............... 43.88 29.25 G78-15 ........1.43.88 29.25 H78-15 45.88 30.59 J78-15..... .....47.88 31.92 L78-15 48.88 32.59 FIBERGLASS BELTS for strength, stability and good traction. POLYESTER CORD BODY for a smooth, quiet ride. " ' Raised White Letters Size . . Reg. , SALE B70-13.: ... ....37.88 25.25 E70-14 39.88 26.59 F70-14 . 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