This article was written by Jeff Barto
This article was published in the
The 1985 Winter Meetings had showcased a then-record 62 free agents, but the 1986 free-agent class shattered that mark as 82 players filed for free agency by the deadline.1 Despite the uptick in the number of free agents, however, for the second year in a row none of them signed with a new club at the winter convention. Curiously, this inaction ignored one of the strongest free-agent crops in history. It included two Detroit Tigers stars, right-hander Jack Morris and catcher Lance Parrish, as well as Montreal’s two star outfielders, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines. Morris and Dawson garnered the most press over their declaration not to re-sign with their respective clubs. After 10 seasons pitching for the Tigers, Morris was disappointed in the team’s salary offer and wanted out. After 10 seasons pounding his legs on Montreal’s concrete outfield, Dawson sought a softer surface on which to nurse his knees. Both men anticipated strong bidding for their services from several clubs, just as Kirk Gibson did the previous year. But as Gibson learned, Morris and Dawson saw no interest beyond their original clubs. Spurning these and other stars led to further speculation by the players of collusion among the owners. Their union had already filed a grievance over owner complicity after last year’s snub. A second grievance would soon follow these winter meetings, held in Hollywood, Florida.
The Diplomat Hotel kicked off baseball’s 1986 winter meetings by hosting a cocktail party from 7 to 9 P.M. on Sunday December 7. Official business began the next morning with Commissioner Peter Ueberroth giving his third annual “state of the game” address. Ueberroth opened by defending accusations of collusion from last year. The players’ February grievance on collusion during the 1985-86 offseason had not yet gone to arbitration, so the commissioner and owners continued to justify their free-agent frugality. To buffer against the union’s collusion charges, Ueberroth claimed owners had exercised “fiscal responsibility” last year due to two things. First, the three major television networks planned to offer much lower bids for all 26 teams, thus reducing revenue and affecting offers to free agents. Second, the owners were embarrassed by the $50 million-plus lost to players on the disabled list and “dead money” lost on long-term contracts. Specifically, they were stunned by the amount of losses revealed during negotiations of the 1985 collective bargaining agreement.2 Ueberroth argued that he never suggested that owners offer shorter-term contracts or avoid other clubs’ free agents. He bolstered his defense by saying, “[T]he idea of the commissioner being able to manipulate owners of baseball can only be thought by those who don’t know baseball very well. If you can tell me that there is any individual on earth who could control a George Steinbrenner and a Ted Turner and a Marge Schott and a Ewing Kauffman, you’ve got to show that person to me because he certainly is not standing here.”3 This awkward dodge would reprise itself at the following year’s meetings, but for now Ueberroth and the owners held firm to their story. Conversely, 1986 marked the first season in history in which every club drew over 1 million fans.4 As the owners cried poor in the face of rising revenue, another battle loomed between the owners’ claim of financial sanity and the players’ charge of market manipulation.
Ueberroth quickly pivoted to other topics in his 43-minute address.5 The 1987 season would mark the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major-league debut. Ueberroth announced the owners planned to present the Jackie Robinson Foundation with an endowment, co-chaired by the commissioner and actor-comedian Bill Cosby.6 Furthermore, Ueberroth suggested portraying Robinson’s number 42 on second base in each major-league ballpark, as well as on a uniform patch to be worn by all big-league players.7 After a brief break, he addressed the dearth of minorities in major-league front-office positions. He advised implementing an affirmative-action program to encourage the hiring of more black executives.8 “We (must) look at ourselves,’ Ueberroth said. ‘Not on the field, where we have a very fine record, but off the field, and ask the question, ‘Are we providing enough opportunities for minorities, particularly blacks, in baseball?’ The answer to that question today is ‘no.’ I am looking for all of baseball to progress in that arena in 1987.”9 By 1986 only three men of color had managed a major-league team (Frank Robinson, Maury Wills, and Larry Doby), one black had been a general manager (Bill Lucas), and only one minority had served as a personnel director (Hank Aaron).10
Ueberroth moved down his checklist of nearly a dozen topics to briefly revisit baseball’s drug concerns. Pittsburgh’s “Cocaine Trials” from 1985 still haunted major-league baseball, but Ueberroth cited evidence of an improving landscape. In February, after sanctioning the 21 players involved in those trials, Ueberroth felt that peer pressure among the players increased their awareness and effectively helped to clean up the game; baseball was now “drug free,” he declared.11
While cocaine had been the drug of choice among players in the mid-1980s, alcohol had become the drug of choice among the fans. Increasing violence in the stands, due to rising alcohol consumption, concerned the commissioner and owners. Items like 32-ounce beers, hard liquor, and alcohol sales past the seventh inning often contributed to boorish fan behavior.12 Ueberroth urged each club to consider tackling these issues and to customize a “responsible alcohol management” policy for their fans.13
Near the end of his speech, Ueberroth floated a trial balloon that went flat. He suggested a “review board” to help players going bankrupt from associating with dishonest player-agents. Ueberroth said, “There have been people out there who have been picking the pockets of baseball players, players who have earned millions of dollars who are broke when their playing careers have come to an end.”14 The commissioner’s office planned to create a board to assist players in handling their agents and investments. However, the players union was a step ahead of the commissioner, having decided a week earlier to begin screening player agents. Those who failed to pass the union’s review would not be allowed to represent the players.15 The union viewed the commissioner’s proposal as grandstanding, since he was aware of all this.
After Ueberroth completed his opening speech, there came an unusual sound: applause. His third annual address was a charm as it drew praise from Bill Rigney, three-time manager who currently consulted for the Oakland A’s. “He was very good,” Rigney offered. “It may have been the best speech we’ve ever had by a commissioner.”16 Hyperbole aside, Ueberroth earned the owners’ ovation by confining his talk to baseball issues, rather than politics as he had in the past.
Major-league baseball’s Rule 5 draft followed Ueberroth’s opening statements. Until the previous year, the cost to draft a player left off another team’s 40-man roster was $25,000, but that had been doubled, so this year was the second using the $50,000 pricetag. Nine teams selected a total of 10 players, eight of them pitchers. The Seattle Mariners were the only team to make two selections, landing a pair of left-handed pitchers, Tony Ferreira from the New York Mets and Stan Clarke from the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays also lost left-hander Cliff Young to the Oakland A’s. Toronto picked up a right-hand pitcher, Jose Nunez, from Kansas City. Milwaukee lost two players, right-hander Robert L. Gibson to the White Sox, and outfielder Bob Simonson to Montreal. The Brewers took right-handed pitcher Vicente Palacios from Pittsburgh, who also lost outfield speedster Cecil Espy to the Texas Rangers. The Los Angeles Dodgers surrendered left-hander Jeff Edwards to Houston while the Mets secured right-hander Charlie Corbell, who had pitched for the San Francisco Giants’ Texas League farm club in Shreveport.17
The Triple-A phase of the draft followed the next day with six players changing organizations, five of them pitchers. In this draft phase, “teams may select any eligible player left off the major league 40-man roster or the Triple-A reserve roster of 38 players.”18 Players selected this deep from other rosters are theoretically the 79th best player in a team’s system. Most teams use this part of the draft to fill special needs in their farm system for a price of $12,000. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the most active. After losing right-handed pitcher Jeff Nelson to Seattle, they replaced him with right-hander Mike Hartley from St. Louis, and then took shortstop Jeff Schaeffer from the California Angels. Toronto selected Cleveland left-hander Gibson Alba. Texas took Philadelphia right-hander Jose Cecena and the Chicago Cubs took a right-hander, Heathcliff Slocumb, from the New York Mets.19 The minor leagues capped off their day with a banquet that night honoring Hall of Fame Pitcher Lefty Gomez as the “King of Baseball.”20 Gomez, a popular speaker on the banquet circuit, pitched his quips as quickly as his (old) fastball as he accepted the 36th edition of this lifetime achievement award.
While the minor leagues conducted Tuesday’s business, the National and American Leagues held their joint meeting on a different floor. First, they unanimously approved the sale of the Cleveland Indians to the Jacobs brothers, Richard and David, for $35 million. The shopping-mall magnates had been seeking the club since May. Former owner Francis J. “Steve” O’Neill had died in 1983 and his estate had owned the team for more than three years. American League President Bobby Brown was pleased when the sale finally materialized. “At no time did we think the completion of this sale wouldn’t happen,” Brown said. “This is a great day for the American League. We hope it’s a great day for Cleveland.”21 It was also a great day for the National League and the New York Mets. Previously, Nelson Doubleday’s publishing company had held ownership of the team, but Doubleday requested a transfer of ownership from his company to himself and Fred Wilpon for $81 million. They became equal partners in the club.22
Before the end of the meeting, an interesting economic wrinkle emerged. Initially, Hawaii was poised to host the 1987 Winter Meetings, but Ueberroth cited the high expenses required for that venue and suggested a switch to Louisville or Nashville.23 This small move bolstered the owners’ claims of cost-cutting while also diverting attention from their collusive ways.24 By the end of the meetings, however, the drought of trades and free-agent signings would provide more evidence of an owner conspiracy.
Wednesday’s meeting featured a host of smaller items of business. Chub Feeney retired as NL president and treasurer. To honor his 17 years of “long and meritorious service to baseball,” he was presented the August A. Busch Jr. award.25 Busch initiated the award in 1978 to be given to “an individual involved with baseball in a non-playing capacity, and has the stature, on the front office level, (as) the Most Valuable Player award has on the playing field.26 The National League then tapped A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former Yale University president, to replace Feeney. Little fanfare accompanied Giamatti’s new position. He was not available to field questions nor was his promotion revealed to the reporters. Only a bulletin-board announcement alerted those in the newsroom who happened to notice.27
A few more items of interest rounded out Wednesday’s events. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and Tigers skipper Sparky Anderson each won their league’s first Milton Richman Award.28 Richman, a former prize-winning United Press International sports editor and columnist, had died in June and the new award honored those who served former baseball colleagues in financial need. Another writer, Jack Lang of the New York Daily News, won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, earning him recognition by the Baseball Hall of Fame.29 A less inspiring sight was slugger George Foster wandering through the Diplomat’s lobby all week, campaigning for a job. The Mets cut Foster on August 7 after his racial remarks rankled the front office. The White Sox signed him a week later but released him on September 7. Now Foster used the Winter Meetings to find a new team. “Some people put themselves up on a pride pedestal. They wouldn’t do this. They feel like they’d be lowering themselves,” said Foster. “But I feel I still can play and want to let people know I’m here … creating that visibility, planting that seed.”30 That seed never took root. At $2 million, Foster had earned the most money in 1986, yet said his new demands would not be an obstacle. However, his deteriorating skills and bitter attitude made him the least attractive free agent in a market that ignored everyone. His failure to sign at the meetings marked the end of Foster’s career.
A hotel’s lobby offers a good setting in which to spin rumors, talk trades, and create deals. The 1985 Winter Meetings saw little such action, in part because the owners inexplicably had selected a lobby-less motel in San Diego. In Hollywood, Florida, the Diplomat Hotel’s football-sized lobby offered a better atmosphere in which to conduct business; it did not help. The 1986 Winter Meetings turned into the slowest in history with a record low of seven trades involving 21 major-league players.31 By early Wednesday, not a single trade of note had been hatched. The old interleague trade deadline in December used to motivate GMs to trade by the last day of the meetings. The new deadline, installed the previous year, pushed the cutoff to July 31. Responding to the lack of trades at the meetings, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said, “There are a lot of reasons. There are no trading deadlines and you’re not sure about free agents. Now you call a team about a player and the other team asks you how much he is making and does he have a no-trade contract. It’s tough to make a trade.”32
The inert trade market finally came to life late Wednesday afternoon with three deals. The Dodgers sought pitching and got it in two trades. First they sent their underachieving first baseman, Greg Brock, to Milwaukee, landing two right-hand pitchers, Tim Crews and Tim Leary. They then swapped left-handers with Seattle, trading Dennis Powell and minor-league infielder-outfielder Mike Watters to the Mariners for their best reliever, Matt Young.
In the prior offseason, the Kansas City Royals sought power to energize their cleanup spot, yet they reneged on their interest in signing free agent Kirk Gibson. This year they pulled the trigger on a slugger via the trade route, landing Seattle’s powerful outfielder Danny Tartabull. Seattle was happy to part with their “lackadaisical” rookie, who refused to play winter ball.33 The Royals were eager to accept him along with right-hander Rick Luecken. In exchange for Tartabull’s talents, the Mariners received right-handers Scott Bankhead and Steve Shields along with utility outfielder Mike Kingery.34
With most of the scheduled business having been concluded by Wednesday, most executives left the Diplomat on Thursday morning. Staying behind to complete deals, however, the Yankees swapped hitting for pitching by trading designated hitter Mike Easler and infielder Tom Barrett to Philadelphia for right-handers Charles Hudson and minor-leaguer Jeff Knox. Also doing some last-minute trolling, the White Sox sent right-handers Gene Nelson and Bruce Tanner to Oakland for utility infielder Donnie Hill. The last trade of the meetings was also the biggest, in terms of impact and total number of players. Fresh off their World Series win, the New York Mets refused to stand pat. Since 1978 every World Series winner had failed to even win its division the next season, including the previous year’s champions, the Royals who, after backing out of that deal with free agent Kirk Gibson, scored fewer runs than any team in the league except for the White Sox.35
The Mets looked to break this trend and finally acquired the player they had been seeking throughout the offseason, San Diego Padres slugger Kevin McReynolds. Rumors swirled all week about the outfielder’s final landing spot. The Mets and Padres talked every day during the meetings, including several times on Thursday, and finally the Mets got their man in an eight-player trade. For McReynolds, lefty reliever Gene Walter, and minor-league infielder Adam Ging, the Mets gave a bundle of talent to the Padres: Shawn Abner, the first overall pick of the 1984 draft, outfielder Stan Jefferson, third baseman Kevin Mitchell, and minor-league pitchers left-hander Kevin A. Brown and right-hander Kevin Armstrong. It took until late Thursday night, but the eleventh-hour deal was worth the wait, according to Mets vice president Joe McIlvaine. “From our perspective, we set out at these meetings trying to find a right-handed hitter with power to hit in the middle of our lineup with Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry — without disturbing our pitching staff,” said McIlvaine. “We think we’ve done that with Kevin McReynolds.”36
The few trades made at the meetings, though, seemed like a flood when compared to the logjam of free agents. Secretly, the owners agreed that all available players were “hands off” until January 8. That was the date by which clubs had to re-sign their own free agents or lose that chance until May 1. After this deadline, the owners would know which players they could go after, since their 1986 clubs now showed no interest in retaining them.
With less competition for their services, players were frequently the ones making the offers, rather than the clubs.
Throughout the meetings, the fate of two free agents simmered in the hands of their agent, Dick Moss. Ten years earlier, Moss had famously represented two other free agents, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, when they successfully challenged baseball’s reserve clause, and now he was steering Jack Morris and Andre Dawson through the same free-agent jungle. By the last day of the meetings, Moss had received no interest in either client. Earlier in the week Moss made a telling remark to a group of reporters. “I shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Moss said. “Just before the end of the season, Andre was told by someone in the front office he ought to sign because if he doesn’t sign with the Expos, he’s not going to play baseball next year.”37 Dawson had upset the Expos when he told them he was seeking another venue on which to patrol center field. His knees ached on Montreal’s artificial turf. He declared free agency so that he might play on real grass for his home games, and his first and only choice was in Chicago and Wrigley Field. The Expos had offered Dawson less than the $1,047,000 he made in 1985, proposing $2 million for two years.38 “He doesn’t want to return to Montreal and has been thinking that way for some time. For now, though, the Cubs are as far as we’ve got,” said Moss.39 Dawson eventually became the first significant player to sign with a new team from the 1986 free-agent class, but it happened only because Moss and Dawson offered the Cubs a blank check on March 6, 1987. The club got to choose the amount and filled out the check for $500,000, with $150,000 in incentives, less than half of what Dawson was worth in an “unrigged” market. After they made the offer, Moss said, “We had hoped that the club’s definition of fairness would have been more realistic. But our offer was unconditional (blank check) and we will, of course, honor our commitment.”40
Moss’s other client, Tigers right-hander Jack Morris, stunned everyone with an announcement near the end of the meetings. Morris had won the most games in the 1980s and was the top prize of the free-agent crop. He made $975,000 in 1986 and sought a five-year deal nearing $9 million.41 The Tigers, upholding the owners’ unwritten rule against long-term contracts, showed no interest in any deal beyond two years. They offered Morris several options: a two-year deal for $2.5 million, accept salary arbitration by the December 19 deadline, or sign elsewhere.42 Morris was not interested in a lengthy arbitration process with Detroit, so on December 10 he went on the offensive. At a press conference, Moss announced that Morris had ended discussions with the Tigers. He would now only sign with the Twins, Yankees, Phillies, or Angels. “The clubs have said they do not want to negotiate any further,” Moss said. “They want us to bring them an offer and they will say yes or no. OK, we will play their game.”43 In effect, Morris reversed the free-agent process by offering his proposals to the teams. He ranked the teams one through four in his order of preference. He then said would sign with the first club that accepted or negotiated an agreement with him. This move agitated the owners by putting four of them in the spotlight. They faced the dilemma of a taboo signing that would anger the other owners, or reject Morris and cause fury for their fans. Morris tried to redirect the market to his terms with this unprecedented move. The uninvolved owners were pleased the pitcher didn’t back their team into his corner. When Morris did not list his team, one owner exclaimed, “We’re off the hook!”44 In the end, all four teams rejected multiple offers from Morris, fueling further allegations of owner collusion. By the December 19 deadline, Morris reluctantly submitted to arbitration with Detroit. Fittingly, on February 13, 1987, Morris set a record by winning the largest contract through arbitration, netting the one-year, $1.85 million contract he sought from the Tigers.45
As the arbitration deadline passed, another cutoff date loomed, one that had been put in place the previous year. Free agents who refused salary arbitration could still re-sign with their 1986 team by midnight of January 8, 1987. After this date, clubs could not negotiate with their own free agents until May 1. This window invited owners to go after those free agents who appeared to be unwanted by their former clubs. Last year every free agent re-signed with his original club before the January deadline. This year eight players entered a new battlefield by not re-signing.46 These eight pioneers included outfielders Tim Raines and Andre Dawson, catchers Lance Parrish, Rich Gedman, and Bob Boone, first baseman Bob Horner, and pitchers Ron Guidry and Doyle Alexander. For the most part, the owners continued their hands-off policy as five players re-signed with their clubs after May 1 (Raines, Boone, Gedman, Guidry, and Alexander). Bob Horner received no offers and eventually signed with the Japan’s Yakult Swallows. Dawson and Parrish then became two of only four players who signed with new teams before the 1987 season began. Dawson’s blank-check ploy paid off as he won the 1987 National League MVP Award and tripled his salary the following year.47 Before Parrish signed with Philadelphia in March, evidence suggested that American League President Bobby Brown and owners Bud Selig of Milwaukee and Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox urged the Phillies president not to sign the catcher.48
The 1986 Winter Meetings echoed those of 1985. The lack of free-agent signings and glacial trading marked the gridlock sought by the owners. Donald Fehr, the director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, had smelled conspiracy after the 1985 meetings and filed a grievance in February 1986. Though that grievance was still pending, it did not deter Fehr from filing a second grievance on February 18, 1987. These two protests became known as Collusion I and Collusion II. Yet despite the grievances, the owners felt confident in their cold-market scheme for a number of reasons. First, since both complaints were months from arbitration, they had time to sharpen their defense. Second, they believed that no “smoking gun” existed to convict them. Finally, their free-agent freeze-out was working. Their rigged market reduced free-agent salaries for 1986-87 by 16 percent, and most of the players failed to sign a multiyear contract.49
Fehr noted this decline in pay and the 15 percent increase in owner revenues, and suspected collusion.50 Since the two grievances were in limbo, the owners saw no reason to end their illicit fix. Their new “economics” would continue at the 1987 Winter Meetings, albeit under a new cloak of deception. More free-agent offers would occur during the next winter, but they would be lowball bids and strangely similar. The owners planned to poison the process using an “information bank,” in which they shared details of their offers.51 Collusion III was starting to boil, and soon so would Fehr and the players union.
1 Associated Press, “Annual Winter Meetings Open Sunday in Florida,” Rome (Georgia) News-Tribune, December 7, 1986: 13-B. Note: Other sources cite 79 free agents who declared this status. Regardless, this offseason was the largest free-agent class to date.
2 Randy Youngman, “Ueberroth Praises Owners. He Says Good Business Sense Keeps Costs Low,” Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California), December 9, 1986: C07.
4 Associated Press, “Baseball Smashes Attendance Record,” Newburgh-Beacon Evening News (Newburgh, New York), October 8, 1986: 2B.
5 Jerome Holtzman, “Ueberroth Hits Spending Waste,” Chicago Tribune, December 9, 1986: C3.
7 Youngman, “Ueberroth Praises Owners.”
8 Ross Newhan, “Blacks in Major League Baseball Management: Absence or Malice? — The Action Doesn’t Look Affirmative,” Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1987: 1.
9 “Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin Applaud Minority Push,” Jet Magazine, Vol. 71, No. 15, December 29, 1986: 46.
10 Ross Newhan, “Blacks in Major League Baseball Management.”
11 James Edward Miller, The Baseball Business: Pursuing Pennants and Profits in Baltimore (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 317.
12 The author experienced Ueberroth’s alcohol plan firsthand as a beer vendor at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. In 1987, ARAmark, the Pirates concessionaire, stopped beer sales after five innings, two innings sooner than at most ballparks in the league. It truly truncated vendor commissions for the last 14 years of the stadium’s life.
13 Youngman, “Ueberroth Praises Owners.”
15 Marty York, “Expo GM Plans to Talk New Game,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), December 10, 1986: D3.
18 Baseball America, baseballamerica.com/minors/ask-ba-2/#Kkm9OvMp9wLM57BM.97.
19 Baseball-Reference, baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/1986-transactions.shtml.
20 Joe Goddard, “Baseball Winter Meeting Bits,” Chicago Sun-Times, December 10, 1986: 126.
21 Howard Sinker, “Major Leagues Approve Sale of Indians to Jacobs,” Minneapolis Star and Tribune, December 10, 1986: 6D.
24 The 1987 meetings eventually were awarded to the Loew’s Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas.
27 Murray Chass, “Mariners Reinforce the View They Run a Tight Ship,” New York Times, December 14, 1986: A7.
28 Tom Verducci, “Herzog Adds Spice to Bland Meetings,” Newsday (Long Island, New York), December 10, 1986: 157.
29 Larry Whiteside, “Busy Mariners Swap Young and Tartabull: Seattle Sends Lefty Reliever to Dodgers, Outfielder to Royals,” Boston Globe, December 11, 1986: 90.
30 Craig Barnes, “Morris, Dawson Promise to Open Free-Agent Market,” Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), December 11, 1986: 1C.
31 Associated Press, “Baseball Clubs Made Few Deals. Winter Meeting Slowest Ever,” Eugene (Oregon) Register-Guard, December 13, 1986: 8D.
33 Associated Press, “Royals Hope Tartabull Fills Void in Lineup,” Lawrence (Kansas) Daily Journal-World, December 11, 1986:1B.
34 Baseball-Reference, baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/1986-transactions.shtml.
35 Associated Press, “Baseball Clubs Made Few Deals.”
36 Associated Press, “Mets Acquire Power Hitter They Wanted in McReynolds,” Washington (Pennsylvania) Observer-Reporter, December 12, 1986: B4.
37 Sinker, “Major Leagues Approve.”
38 Ryan Allan, “Morris Moves to Thaw Free Agent Freeze-Out,” Toronto Star, December 11, 1986: F1.
40 “Dawson, Cubs Reach Accord,” Newsday, March 7, 1987: 31.
41 Ryan Allan, “Morris Moves.”
42 Murray Chass, “Morris Ends His Tiger Talks,” New York Times, December 11, 1986: D29.
43 Larry Whiteside, “Morris: Tigers Are Out; Agent Says Pitcher Will Deal Only With Four Teams,” Boston Globe, December 11, 1986: 89.
44 Murray Chass, “Mariners Reinforce.”
45 Ross Newhan, “A Record Judgment for Morris,” Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1987: 1.
46 Associated Press, “Free Agents’ Fight Prepares for a Different Battleground,” Gainesville (Florida) Sun, January 10, 1987: 8C.
48 Murray Chass, “Arbitrator Finds Baseball Owners in Second Free-Agent Conspiracy,” New York Times, September 1, 1988: A1.
49 John Helyar, Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball (New York: Villard Publishing, 1994), 356.
51 Scott Rosner and Kenneth Shropshire, The Business of Sports (Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2004), 212.
Let’s Make a Deal — Cleveland-style
Lawsuits had previously halted sales of the Cleveland club. On November 14, 1984, David LeFevre withdrew from his attempt to purchase the team. There is an argument to be made that LeFevre had already purchased the team twice.
In June 1984, he bought controlling interest in the team only to have it negated by a lawsuit filed by minority stockholder Walter Laich, who owned about 22 percent of the team. Then, in August 1984, LeFevre and his group increased their purchase offer, but three limited partners, who owned less than one half of one percent, refused to approve the deal. As the case worked its way through the courts, in November, one of the dissenting partners filed an affidavit of prejudice against the judge. Soon LeFevre’s group withdrew its intent to buy, leaving Cleveland without a sale for another two years.
Indians President Gabe Paul had this to say about the failed sales: “The so called civic-minded citizens are civic-minded as long as they can squeeze another nickel out of somebody.”1
1 Paul Hoynes, “LeFevre Withdraws Offer to Purchase Indians,” Mansfield (Ohio) News-Journal, November 15, 1984: 21.