The Houston Astros concluded the Donn Clendenon controversy by accepting two young pitchers and an undisclosed amount of cash from the Montreal Expos. Roy Hofheinz, owner of the Astros, then said he he dropping a federal suit for a minimum $10,000 in damages from the Expos. Houston obtained John Billingham, 26, Montreal’s No. 2 or 3 starter, and Skip Guinn, 24, a left handed reliever the Expos obtained from Atlanta in the National League expansion draft. Billingham was a right handed reliever with the Dodgers last year.
Hofheinz said the settlement was worked out after Houston rejected Wednesday another offer by Montreal to send Clendenon to the Astros. The controversy, that once had Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn demanding and receiving a written apology from Hofheinz, dated back to a January 22 trade in which Houston sent outfielder Rusty Staub to Montreal in a straight deal for first baseman Clendenon and outfielder Jesus Alou. Clendenon visited the Astros and indicated he was pleased with the trade but last month abruptly asserted that business commitments had forced him to retire from baseball. Houston claimed the retirement nullified the deal. Staub added complications by saying he would return to the Astros. Kuhn eventually assigned Staub and Clendenon to Montreal and Alou to Houston and told the two clubs to work out satisfactory compensation for Houston.
Clendenon changed his mind again Wednesday and signed a two-year contract with the Expos. Hofheinz and Spec Richardson, Astro general manager, said they accepted the two young players and cash because they were no longer interested in Clendenon because of his heavy business commitments and because of the high level contract his signed with the Expos. Manager Harry Walker agreed.
“Despite all of the ramifications of this situation, the morale of our club is at a high point now and the high priced contract offered to Clendenon by Montreal would not have been worth the risk of disrupting this high morale. This settlement gives us a relaxing feeling because this has been a big cloud hanging over us all spring,” Walker said.
It is rumored that the Expos contract was for $100,000 for two seasons. Houston revealed they had offered Clendenon a $36,000 one year contract so by retiring, Clendenon apparently got himself a $14,000 raise.