C (for Creep) Arnholt Smith, who owns a bank, an airline, and a luxury hotel, among other things, has just sold his baseball team because he could not keep up the payments. In a deal arranged by John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, the San Diego Padres baseball team was sold to Washington, D.C. group headed by dry-cleaning magnate Joseph Danzansky.
In December 1972, during the height of speculation of a Padres move to Washington, Buzzie Bavasi, president and part owner of the Padres, held a press conference to announce that "there is only one Santa Claus it baseball, and his name is C.A. Smith." Sportswriters. baseball fans, and the people of San Diego interpreted this statement to mean that the Padres were going to remain in San Diego. In actuality, this statement was to signal the beginning of an operation to be known by the code name "Santa Claus."
The operation was culminated successfully on May 25, and announced to the public on May 27. The major question that must be answered now is, did the president have prior knowledge of the secret negotiations which led to the sale of the padres, or was he an unknowing victim of the hands of fate? On May 25, President Bavasi's son, Peter, the general manager of the Padres, released a 3500-word position paper on Padre attendance. In it he revealed that management was pleased with crowd support and was happy to announce that the Padres were holding their own with weekday crowds, though a bit more support was needed on weekends to make the 1973 season a financially successful one. Was this action a diversionary coverup, paving the way for the scurrilous proclamation two days hence, or was son Peter simply a pawn in C. (for Creep) Arnholt Smith's game?
I call upon San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson to hire an independent special investigator to look into these matters with all due speed. Can we allow the Bavasi family to remain in our town while they are still tainted by the stench of Operation Santa Claus? Buzzie Bavasi's position is quite unclear in this whole matter. He says he was not told of the sale of the baseball club until May 13, eight days after it occurred. Even if this is so, it does not tell us whether or not Bavasi was involved in any of the negotiations. and what of San Diego Union's sport editor Jack Murphy? To what degree is he involved in this scandal? Murphy's voice could be heard soprano alto, singing highest the praises of C. (for Creep) Arnholt Smith last December. Then on May 28, in the San Diego Union, Murphy was writing that the sale was conditional; that if San Diego investors can scrape up the money, the Padres would remain in San Diego. But in another article on the same page, he quotes Smith as saying there is nothing in the agreement which gives San Diego interests an opportunity to purchase the franchise and keep it in the city.
What role should the Padre fan play in all of this? Should he work desperately to prove support for the Padres because Murphy says there is a chance they will stay? Or should he say to hell with the whole thing because C. (for Creep) Arnholt Smith says there is no chance they will stay? I do not even dare to tell you how Smith offered to move the Padres lock, stock, and barrel, to Washington D.C. this month.
What I am going to do is quite simple. I like going to baseball games. but now when I go I'll bring my own peanuts, and a Thermos full of Pepsi. I'll try to drive past the parking attendants without paying a dollar whenever possible. No more will I try to talk everyone I see into going to a Padres game and taking along their parents also. I've already called Mayor Wilson's office and voiced my view that there should be no giving in by San Diego on the 20-year lease signed by C. (for Creep) Arnholt Smith. I'm going to take all my savings out of Smith's bank (U.S. National), try to enter Smith's hotel (the Westgate Plaza) without a tie whenever I pass by, fly any airline but Smith's (Air California), honk my horn long and loud when I pass Smith's daughter's home in Rancho Santa Fe, and check the financial pages to see what new troubles Smith's financial holdings are having with their auditors and the SEC.
San Diego is left with big-time football in the Chargers, championship volleyball in the Aztecs, minor league hockey in the Gulls, NBA basketball without an arena, and surfing, The Padres, the Ali-Norton return bout, the Rockets, have all moved on to greener pastures. Local sportswriters will soon be selling magazine subscriptions. Maybe in a few years the Baltimore Orioles will have lost so much money because of the competition from the Washington Padres, that they will move to San Diego, and we will finally know if our town can really support a contender.