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BackgroundEdit

Ronald Reagan throws out the opening pitch at a Chicago Cubs baseball game

Ueberroth (front right) watches President Ronald Reagan throw the first pitch prior to a game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

Peter Victor Ueberroth; (born September 2, 1937) is an American executive. He served as the sixth commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1984 to 1989. He was recently the chairman of the United States Olympic Committee; he was replaced by Larry Probst in October 2008.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Although Ueberroth was born in Evanston, Illinois, he grew up in northern California. While attending Fremont High School, Ueberroth excelled in football, baseball, and swimming. After graduating from high school, Ueberroth attended San Jose State University on an athletic scholarship. While attending San Jose State he joined Delta Upsilon. He competed in the 1956 United States Olympic water polo trials but failed to make the team. Ueberroth ultimately graduated from San Jose State in 1959 with a degree in business.

Trans International AirlinesEdit

After college, Ueberroth became a vice president and shareholder in Trans International Airlines (he was 22 years old at the time). Ueberroth worked at Trans International until 1963, when he founded his own travel company, which would become First Travel Corporation. By the time he sold First Travel in 1980, it was the second largest travel business in North America.

The 1984 OlympicsEdit

For five years Ueberroth served as the organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. He was a prominent figure in the games, receiving the Olympic Order in gold at its conclusion. Due to the success of the games, he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1984. Under Ueberroth's leadership and management, the first privately financed Olympic Games resulted in a surplus of nearly $250 million. This was subsequently used to support youth and sports activities throughout the United States. Coincidentally, he was born on the day on which the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, died.

Baseball commissionerEdit

Ueberroth was elected to succeed Bowie Kuhn on March 3, 1984 and took office on October 1 of that year. As a condition of his hiring, Ueberroth increased the commissioner’s fining ability from $5,000 to $250,000. His salary was raised to a reported $450,000, nearly twice what Kuhn was paid.

Just as Ueberroth was taking office the Major League Umpires Union was threatening to strike the postseason. Ueberroth managed to arbitrate the disagreement and had the umpires back to work before the League Championship Series were over. The next summer, Ueberroth worked behind the scenes to limit a players' strike to one day before a new labor agreement was worked out with the Players Association.

However, Ueberroth, with the assistance of the owners, also facilitated collusion between the owners in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players. Players entering free agency in the 1985, 1986 and 1987 offseasons were, with few exceptions, prevented from both signing equitable contracts and joining the teams of their choice during this period. The roots of the collusion lay in Ueberroth's first owners' meeting as commissioner, when he called the owners "damned dumb" for being willing to lose money in order to win a World Series. Later, he told the general managers that it was "not smart" to sign long-term contracts.[2]Former Major League Baseball Players Association president Marvin Miller later described this as "tantamount to fixing, not just games, but entire pennant races, including all post-season series."[3] The MLBPA, under Miller's successor, Don Fehr, filed collusion charges and won each case, resulting in "second look" free agents, and over $280 million in fines.[4] Fay Vincent, who followed Ueberroth's successor in the commissioner's office, laid the crippling labor problems of the early 1990s (including the 1994-95 strike) directly at the feet of Ueberroth and the owners' collusion, holding that the collusion years constituted theft from the players.[5]

During the course of his stint as commissioner, Ueberroth reinstated two Hall of Famers, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, who had been banned from working for Major League Baseball by Kuhn because of their associations with gambling casinos. Also, Ueberroth suspended numerous players because of cocaine use, negotiated a $1.2 billion television contract with CBS[6], and initiated the investigation against Pete Rose's betting habits. In 1985, Ueberroth's first full year in office, the League Championship Series expanded from a best-of-five series to a best-of-seven series.

At his urging, the Chicago Cubs chose to install lights at Wrigley Field rather than reimburse the leagues for lost night-game revenues. Ueberroth then found a new source of income in the form of persuading large corporations to pay for the privilege of having their products endorsed by Major League Baseball.

Under Ueberroth, Major League Baseball enjoyed increased attendance (record attendance four straight seasons), greater awareness of crowd control and alcohol management within ballparks, a successful and vigilant anti-drug campaign, significant industry-wide improvement in the area of fair employment, and a significantly improved financial picture for the industry. When Ueberroth took office, 21 of the 26 clubs were losing money; in Ueberroth's last full season - 1988 - all clubs either broke even or finished in the black. In 1987, for example, baseball as an industry showed a net profit of $21.3 million, its first profitable year since 1973.

Nonetheless, following the announcement of the first of three large awards to the players following the collusion findings, Ueberroth stepped down as commissioner before the start of the 1989 regular season; his contract was to have run through the end of the season. He was succeeded by National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti.

Post-baseball activitiesEdit

Three years after leaving office, he led the Rebuild Los Angeles project after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

In 1989, Ueberroth considered purchasing Eastern Air Lines, then crippled by a strike and bankruptcy from Texas Air. However, a management dispute with Texas Air CEO Frank Lorenzo led to the deal falling through.[7]

In 1999, Ueberroth, along with Arnold Palmer and Clint Eastwood, bought the Pebble Beach golf course.

Ueberroth ran for Governor of California in the 2003 California recall election as an independent, though he was a registered Republican. His campaign focused on California's economic and budget crisis, avoiding social issues. With polls indicating only a low level of support, he pulled out of the race on September 9, 2003, though his name still appeared on the ballot and received a small but significant amount of votes. He placed 6th in a field of 135 candidates.

Ueberroth has been a director of The Coca-Cola Company since 1986. Mr. Ueberroth is an investor and chairman of the Contrarian Group, Inc., a business management company, and has held this position since 1989. He is also co-chairman of Pebble Beach Company. He is a director of Hilton Hotels Corporation and Adecco S.A.

Ueberroth was chairman of Ambassadors International, Inc. but was replaced by his son, Joseph Ueberroth in April 2006. Ueberroth resigned from the board in November, 2008.

Ueberroth was also the chairman of the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors.

Ueberroth is a Life Trustee of the University of Southern California.[8]

Ueberroth and his wife, Ginny, were two of the founders of Sage Hill School. He additionally served briefly on the school’s Athletic Advisory Council.[9]

In the middle of a Ueberroth speech at Claremont McKenna College in California, the college president accidentally tumbled off the back of the platform. As the fallen academic scrambled back to his seat, Ueberroth quickly flipped over his speech, scrawled "4.5" in big numbers on the back and flashed it to the audience.

Further readingEdit

  • New York Magazine, "Hardball: Nancy Collins Quizzes Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth", June 9, 1986, pp. 52-57+61.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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