Fay Vincent

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Fay Vincent (left) and Bud Selig announce the settlement of the 1990 lockout.

Francis Thomas "Fay" Vincent, Jr. (born May 29, 1938 in Waterbury, Connecticut) is a former entertainment and sports executive who served as the commissioner of Major League Baseball from September 13th, 1989 to September 7th, 1992. He is a graduate of Williams College, Class of 1960, which he attended on a full academic scholarship, and Yale Law School, Class of 1963.

Columbia Pictures & Coca-Cola career

Prior to becoming deputy commissioner under his friend A. Bartlett Giamatti, Fay Vincent was the chairman of Columbia Pictures (beginning in 1978) and the vice chairman of Coca-Cola (beginning in March 1982). In April 1986, Vincent was promoted to the position of Executive Vice President of the Coca-Cola Company. This meant that Vincent was responsible for all of the company's entertainment activities.

Actions as commissioner

He became the 8th commissioner of baseball following the untimely death of Bart Giamatti on September 1, 1989, and presided over the 1989 World Series, which was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake; the owners' lockout; and a suspension of George Steinbrenner in his first year. In 1990, National League president Bill White was prepared to suspend umpire Joe West for slamming Philadelphia pitcher Dennis Cook to the field, but Vincent intervened and no discipline was imposed.

Vincent has also been connected with Pete Rose's lifetime banishment from baseball; however, Rose's banishment began while Giamatti was commissioner, not Vincent (although Vincent led the investigation and was involved in the negotiations). Vincent has publicly said he does not support Rose's reinstatement.

1989 World Series

On October 17, 1989, Vincent sat in a field box behind the left dugout at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. At 5:04 p.m., just prior to Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, the Loma Prieta earthquake (which measured 7.1 on the Richter scale) hit. After coming to the conclusion that the power couldn't be restored before sunset, Vincent ordered the game to be postponed at approximately 5:35 p.m. According to Vincent, he had already made the decision to postpone Game 3 without telling anybody first. As a result, the umpires filed a form of protest of Vincent's decision.

The World Series ultimately resumed after a ten day postponement (and some initial conflict between Vincent and San Francisco mayor Art Agnos) on October 27, 1989. While presenting the World Series Trophy to the Athletics, who wound up winning the World Series in a four game sweep, Vincent summed up the 1989 World Series as a "Remarkable World Series in many respects."

1990 lockout

In February 1990, owners announced that spring training would not be starting as scheduled. This occurred after MLBPA Executive Director Donald Fehr became afraid that the owners would institute a salary cap. Fehr believed that a salary cap could possibly restrict the number of choices free agents could make and a pay-for-performance scale would eliminate multiyear contracts. The lockout, which was the seventh work stoppage in baseball since 1972, lasted 32 games and wiped out all of spring training.

Vincent worked feverishly with both the owners and MLBPA, and on March 19, 1990, Vincent was able to conclude a new Basic Agreement (which raised the minimum major league salary from $68,000 to $100,000 and established a six-man study committee on revenue sharing). As a consequence for the lockout, Opening Day for the 1990 season was moved back a week to April 9, and the season was extended by three days to accommodate the normal 162-game schedule.

George Steinbrenner

On July 30, 1990, Vincent banned New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner from baseball for life after Steinbrenner paid Howie Spira, a small-time gambler, $40,000 for "dirt" on his outfielder Dave Winfield after Winfield sued Steinbrenner for failing to pay his foundation the $300,000 guaranteed in his contract. Steinbrenner was eventually reinstated in 1993 (one year after Vincent left office).

1993 Expansion

In June 1991, Vincent declared that the American League would receive $42 million of the National League's $190 million in expansion revenue and that the AL would provide players in the National League expansion draft (involving the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins). In an attempt to win support in the American League and balance the vote, Vincent decreed that the AL owners were entitled to 22 percent of the $190 million take. This decision marked the first time in expansion history that leagues were required to share expansion revenue or provide players for another league's expansion draft.

Realignment

Just prior to leaving office, Vincent had plans to realign the National League. Vincent wanted the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals to move from the Eastern Division to the Western Division. The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves, who had been a geographic mistake ever since Major League Baseball realigned in 1969, would move to the Eastern Division. National League president Bill White warned Vincent that realigning without league approval, would be in violation of the National League Constitution.

On July 17, 1992, the Chicago Cubs sued Vincent and asked the U.S. District Court in Chicago for a preliminary injunction to prevent implementation, which was granted two weeks later. After Vincent's attorneys appealed, oral arguments were scheduled for August 30 of that year. Ultimately, Vincent resigned before the litigation was scheduled to resume, so as a result, the Cubs dropped their suit.

Although Vincent's vision never really came into fruition, Major League Baseball did in fact realign in 1994, albeit in the form of three divisions in each league, and the addition of an expanded playoff format.

Vincent's relationship with the owners

His relationship with baseball's owners was always tenuous at best; he resigned in 1992 after the owners gave him an 18-9 no confidence vote. The owners were still angry at Vincent over his intervention during the 1990 lockout. The owners were also disappointed by dwindling television ratings in light of a $1.2 billion, four year deal with CBS (which ultimately cost the network $500 million) beginning in 1990 (Vincent's first full season as commissioner), and upwardly spiraling salaries.

The leaders in the movement to oust Vincent were members of what was later called "The Great Lakes Gang":

"To do the job without angering an owner is impossible," Vincent said in his farewell. "I can't make all twenty-eight of my bosses happy. People have told me I'm the last commissioner. If so, it's a sad thing. I hope they [the owners] learn this lesson before too much damage is done."

He was replaced by Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig. It should be mentioned that Fay Vincent was never able to complete the five year term that he had inherited from Bart Giamatti. Because Selig's family retained ownership of the Brewers, Vincent was the last truly impartial commissioner of baseball, since he held no ownership of a team himself. Vincent would later contend that Major League Baseball made a huge mistake by not appointing his deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg, who's also the son of the Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, as the commissioner.

Life after baseball

After stepping down from the commissioner's office, Vincent became a private investor and the president of the New England Collegiate League. Vincent would serve as the NECBL’s president from 1998 to 2003.

In 2001, when baseball owners voted to contract two clubs, Vincent criticized them for not consulting the players union. In 2002, Vincent wrote his autobiography entitled "The Last Commissioner: A Baseball Valentine."[1]

In 2005, during an interview Fox Sports Radio, Vincent shared his thoughts on the controversy surrounding Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers, who received a 20-game suspension for a tirade directed at two TV cameramen. Vincent believed that Rogers, who had a record of 9-4 with 2.45 ERA at the time of the incident, shouldn't have been allowed to play in the All-Star Game in Detroit. Vincent said "The All-Star game is a great honor. Again, if you are trying to send a message to players to think twice before you do something stupid, one way to do that is by sending the message that, and by the way, if there is an All-Star game, you're not going to get to play in that."

Fay Vincent has also been critical of Major League Baseball's handling of the dreaded strike in 1994. Some observers feel that Vincent's absence (or any other permanent commissioner at the time) could've been a decisive turn in finding a compromise agreement. Vincent believes that the strike turned out to be a lost cause since the end result was federal judge Sonia Sotomayor ruling that work had to resume under the previous collective bargaining agreement. Vincent has hinted that he believes that the strike was instigated by the owners (including his successor Bud Selig) who were frustrated by their diminishing power over the MLBPA. Vincent strongly believes that the cancellation of the World Series in 1994 (the first time that there wasn't a World Series played in 90 years) was a major mistake.

Trivia

  • Vincent was an exceptional athlete as a young man, showing talent in track and field as well as football. Vincent's life changed forever when a freak accident in his college dorm room crushed one of his legs. Vincent's leg has never fully recovered and he has since been relegated to having to use a cane.
  • Before becoming the chairman of Columbia, Vincent attended the Washington, D.C. law firm Caplin and Drysdale. It was during this time that Vincent also served as Associate Director of the Division of Corporate Finance of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Before accepting the job as Commissioner of Baseball, Vincent consulted with Bart Giamatti's widow, Toni, to make sure she thought it was appropriate for him to do so.

External links

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