Peter Victor Ueberroth (born September 2, 1937) is an American executive….who served as the sixth Commissioner of Baseball from 1984 to 1989…..after serving for five years as the organizer of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games….where he was a prominent figure in the games….while receiving the Olympic Order in gold at its conclusion of the Games. Due to the success of the games…. he was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1984….as a result of his leadership and management of the first privately financed Olympic Games….which resulted in a surplus of nearly $250 million USD. This was subsequently used to support youth and sports activities throughout the United States.
Just a lil ole chiweenie Sportsphile tidbit gift of information for you….Peter Ueberroth was born on the day on which the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, died.
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 USD….while his salary was raised to a reported $450,000…which was nearly twice what Kuhn was paid.
Just as Ueberroth was taking office….the Major League Umpires Union was threatening to strike the postseason….which he 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.
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…..plus he suspended numerous players because of cocaine use….and negotiated a $1.8 billion television contract with CBS….while initiating the investigation against Pete Rose’s betting habits. In Peter Ueberroth’s first full year in office (1985)….the League Championship Series expanded from a best-of-five series to a best-of-seven series….and 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.
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 off-seasons were 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. 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. The MLBPA, under Miller’s successor, Don Fehr, filed collusion charges and won each case….thus resulting in “second look” free agents….and over $280 million in fines. 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.
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…..and in Ueberroth’s last full season (1988)….every team either broke even or finished in the black. In 1987, for example, baseball as an industry showed a net profit of $21.3 million….which was 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 although his contract was to have run through the end of the season….and was succeeded by National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti.