The Fort Worth Cats spent much of last year tiptoeing on a hot tin roof, mired in money woes and inundated with uncertainty. Fans wondered if they’d seen the last of Cowtown’s professional baseball team. Team owner Carl Bell was strapped for cash and trying to find a new buyer, which wasn’t easy in a down economy. Rumors swirled.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘Well, they’ve torn down LaGrave Field to build a drive-in movie,’ ” said longtime fan Kay Fulgham, who attended her first Cats game back in the late 1940s.
A drive-in movie theater is indeed planned, but it will be south of LaGrave Field. These Cats aren’t skinned. A new ownership group has taken over the team, the Cats are now playing in the North American Baseball League, and the season opener is May 23. Expect to see new faces under those ball caps.
“We only have one player now who was with the Cats before, because all the others were dispersed to other teams in the old league when Carl Bell released them,” Fulgham said. “We’ll survive and learn to love the new ones. I’m just happy we’ve got a team.”
Fulgham and her friends have faithfully attended games, even during last summer’s record heat wave that hurt attendance at LaGrave Field and put an extra financial squeeze on Bell. Fulgham is encouraging everyone to join her in the bleachers on Opening Day.
“I want people to know the team is alive,” she said. “This is the most fun you can have for $10 or $12.”
A Losing Battle — Especially for Taxpayers
The Fort Worth school district keeps your tax dollars hard at work fighting whistleblower Joe Palazzolo on every front. And Fort Worth Weekly stays hard at work doing the math.
In that quest, the Weekly asked the district recently for the total costs to date of its two-year effort to keep the former Arlington Heights High School assistant principal from ever setting foot in a classroom again — here or anywhere else on the planet. The results were fascinating.
First, the district spent $6,985 in legal fees to fight Palazzolo’s request for $3,760 in unemployment benefits. Second, does half a million dollars paid to pursue this case worry anybody? Thus far the district has spent $522,300, most of which went to the Walsh Anderson law firm of Houston and Plano. The figure also includes back pay and benefits and an additional year’s salary paid to Palazzolo to sit home and do nothing. It doesn’t include a check for yet another year’s salary for him that he won’t cash because it’s an attempt by the district to settle the case, and he has refused all settlement offers.
What else is included? Oh yes, the too-lavish payment of $27,000 to a Texas Education Agency hearing examiner who upheld Palazzolo’s firing, a payment that the state commissioner of education said smacked of a bribe when he threw out the examiner’s ruling. (State law allows a maximum payment of $8,000 to examiners in such cases.)
Wait — there are more fees now being paid to a new set of attorneys, the Dallas law firm of Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin that recently took on the case after the school board dropped Walsh Anderson. The Weekly has not yet gotten the figures on Fanning’s fees.
In return for all that, what have taxpayers gotten? Zilch. The district has lost on every front. And waiting in the wings is the whistleblower lawsuit that Palazzolo filed when this mess began, set to go to trial in November.
And the band plays on.