|Bowie Kent Kuhn (October 28, 1926 – March 15, 2007) was an American lawyer and sports administrator who served as the 5th commissioner of Major League Baseball from February 4, 1969 to September 30, 1984. He served as legal counsel for Major League Baseball owners for almost 20 years prior to his election as commissioner.|
Early life and career
Kuhn was born in Takoma Park, Maryland, grew up in Washington, D.C. and graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School. He then attended Franklin and Marshall College in the V-12 Navy College Training Program before going to Princeton University in 1945. He graduated from Princeton with honors in 1947 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. He then received his law degree in 1950 from the University of Virginia where he served on the editorial board of the law review.
Following his graduation from law school, Kuhn became a member of the New York City law firm Willkie, Farr & Gallagher because the firm represented the National League. While working in baseball's legal affairs, Kuhn served as a counselor for the NL in a lawsuit brought against it by the City of Milwaukee when the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta following the 1965 season.
After the owners forced out William Eckert in 1968, Kuhn seemed like a logical replacement for the job of commissioner. He, unlike Eckert, was very aware of the inner workings of Major League Baseball before taking office. Kuhn's closest challengers to the commissionership were Mike Burke, president of the New York Yankees; and San Francisco Giants head of baseball operations Chub Feeney, who instead became president of the National League. Kuhn was the youngest (42), tallest (6-foot-5), and heaviest (240 pounds, 109 kg) commissioner in history.
Actions as commissioner
His tenure was marked by labor strikes (most notably in 1981), owner disenchantment, and the end of baseball's reserve clause, yet baseball enjoyed unprecedented attendance gains (from 23 million in 1968 to 45.5 million in 1983) and television contracts during the same time frame.
Kuhn suspended numerous players for involvement with drugs and gambling, and took a strong stance against any activity that he perceived to be "not in the best interests of baseball."
In 1970, he suspended star Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain indefinitely (the suspension was later set at 3 months) due to McLain's involvement in a bookmaking operation, and later suspended McLain for the rest of the season for carrying a gun. He barred both Willie Mays (in 1979) and Mickey Mantle (in 1983) from the sport due to their involvement in casino promotion; neither was directly involved in gambling, and both were reinstated by Kuhn's successor Peter Ueberroth in 1985.
Also in 1970, Kuhn described Jim Bouton's Ball Four as "detrimental to baseball" and demanded that Bouton retract it. The book has been republished several times and is now considered a classic.
On October 13, 1971, the World Series held a night game for the first time. Kuhn, who thought that baseball could attract a larger audience by featuring a prime time telecast (as opposed to a mid-afternoon broadcast, when most fans either worked or attended school), pitched the idea to NBC. An estimated 61 million people watched Game 4 on NBC; TV ratings for a World Series game during the daytime hours would not have approached such a record number. Kuhn's vision in this instance has been fulfilled, as all the World Series games are now shown in prime time.
Kuhn's war on drugs
After being in office for over ten years, Kuhn had grown a strong reputation for being hard on players who abused drugs. Kuhn was quick to punish players who used drugs with heavy fines and suspensions. Kansas City Royals catcher Darrell Porter told the Associated Press that during the winter of 1979-1980 he became paranoid, convinced that Kuhn knew about his drug abuse, was trying to sneak into his house, and planned to ban him from baseball for life. Porter found himself sitting up at night in the dark watching out the front window, waiting for Kuhn to approach, clutching billiard balls and a shotgun. Ironically, when Porter was named the most valuable player of the 1982 World Series while playing for the Cardinals, Kuhn was on hand to congratulate him.
In 1980, during the Iranian hostage crisis, Kuhn sat at a baseball game with Jeremiah Denton, a Navy admiral and former POW in Vietnam who would be elected U.S. Senator later that year from the state of Alabama. Recalling the event to The Washington Post, Kuhn believed that "that afternoon...the idea of a lifetime baseball pass was discussed," and upon their return from Iran, each of the 52 hostages was given one of these unique passes.
In 1983, four players from the Kansas City Royals - Willie Wilson, Jerry Martin, Willie Mays Aikens, and Vida Blue - were found guilty of cocaine use. In addition, such established stars as Ferguson Jenkins, Keith Hernandez, Dave Parker, and Dale Berra admitted to having problems with drugs.
See also: Pittsburgh drug trials
Kuhn was both praised and attacked for the firm stand that he levied against offenders. In 1982, some of the owners organized a move to push him out of office. In 1983, Kuhn and his supporters made a last-ditch effort to renew his contract but ultimately failed. Kuhn, though, was allowed to stay for the 1984 regular season before being replaced by Peter Ueberroth.
Life after baseball
Following baseball, Kuhn returned to the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher and assumed presidency of the Kent Group, a business, sports and financial consulting firm. Mr. Kuhn left Willkie, Farr & Gallagher to join with Harvey D. Myerson, a former senior partner in the firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey, to form the firm of Myerson & Kuhn. He also became an adviser and board member for Domino's Pizza and the Ave Maria Foundation.
Kuhn had been a longtime resident of Ridgewood, New Jersey. According to an AP wire story, he partnered in a law firm with Harvey Myerson which subsequently went bankrupt and then sold his New Jersey home and moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, because his home and other assets were shielded from the bankruptcy.
Kuhn became the Chairman of the Catholic Advisory Board of the Ave Maria Mutual Funds upon the inception of their first mutual fund, Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund, in May 2001.
During a telecast of the 2004 World Series, broadcaster Joe Buck announced that just prior to his 78th birthday, Kuhn was scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery.
Kuhn died in 2007, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame later the same year.
Racial insensitivity and other criticisms
A number of observers complained about Kuhn's apparent insensitivity (or at least poor public relations) on race-related matters:
* When the decision was made to induct Negro League players into the Baseball Hall of Fame starting in 1971, Kuhn announced that their plaques would be in a separate wing of the Hall, presumably based on the argument that the Negro Leagues were not true "Major League Baseball" leagues, ignoring the historical fact that Major League Baseball's exclusionary policies had compelled the creation of the Negro Leagues in the first place. (He also ignored the fact that the Hall of Fame is a separate entity from Major League Baseball; it is under no obligation to induct and chronicle only Major League Baseball players and events, as inductees have included figures from the era before the first professional leagues were established. In spite of this, both sides cooperate as it is in their mutual interests.) Whatever the motivation for this idea might have been, the resulting public outcry resulted in the inclusion of Negro Leaguers' plaques with the others.
* Although Kuhn was personally in attendance in Cincinnati when Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron hit his 714th home run to tie Babe Ruth for the all-time record, the commissioner made himself a target for criticism when he was absent on the historic night that Aaron hit his 715th home run in Atlanta. NBC-TV announcer Tony Kubek specifically commented on that point, on the air. Kuhn argued that he had a prior engagement that he could not break.
* He was said to have personally added the name of Carl Yastrzemski to the All-Star roster in Yaz's last season, but had failed to make the same gesture for Willie Stargell in 1982.
* According to George Steinbrenner, during the YES Network's broadcast of the Thurman Munson episode of Yankeeography, Kuhn was opposed to the Yankees team chartering a plane to Ohio to attend Munson's funeral. Kuhn cited the possibility of not returning in time for their next scheduled game and therefore having to forfeit.
* When the major leagues went on strike in 1981, Kuhn made no effort to order the striking players back, and allowed a two-tiered playoff series to be played after the regular season. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds, who had the best won-lost records in the National League, were left out altogether.
* According to an article in Sports illustrated, while Kuhn enforced gambling rules against Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, he took no action against Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, who owned a racetrack. (The first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, had ordered owners and managers to sell out any interest they owned in racetracks.)
Luke Easter (left) and Steve Bilko (right) flank Bowie Kuhn, Major League Baseball commissioner, before a June 26, 1975 game at Silver Stadium. Easter and Bilko were back for an old-timers game. Kuhn was on hand to present Rochester with an award for being the top organization in minor-league baseball.
|Bowie Kuhn, TMLC Hall of Fame|
People - Bowie KuhnMr. Kuhn was Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1969-1984. Since then he had been a leader in both the business and Christian community, recognized widely for his defense of the sanctity of human life, and other political and cultural issues important today. He was a graduate of Princeton University with a law degree from the University of Virginia. He was a board member of Christendom College, New York Medical College, Thomas Aquinas College, Franklin & Marshall College, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He also was a board member of the Ave Maria Foundation. Bowie Kuhn Died March 15, 2007. A clergyman with Bowie Kuhn on March 15th relayed to TMLC that the Thomas More Law Center was in Bowie Kuhn's thoughts on the day he died.
|Bowie Kuhn (Law ’50) of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., died March 15, 2007. He served as the commissioner of baseball for 15 years, from 1969 to 1984. During his tenure, players won the right to free agency and staged their first strikes. Additionally, the major leagues expanded into Canada and realigned into divisional play. Prior to serving as commissioner, Mr. Kuhn was a partner in Willkie Farr & Gallagher, the law firm that represented the National League. In 1966, he won an antitrust court battle that cleared the way for the Braves’ move from Milwaukee to Atlanta.|
|A memorial Mass for Bowie Kuhn, the former Commissioner of Baseball, is on the schedule soon. A long time ago, Bowie and Tom Monahan pushed me into the Order of Malta. Bowie was a great inspiration to me as he visited with AIDs patients every week at St. Claire’s Hospital and at the Terrence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center. Bowie and Tom used to communicate very often to discuss their spiritual realities — one of the things they often discussed was their spiritual reading. Both of them were daily communicants and did spiritual reading every day. Spiritual reading is a necessity to develop one’s spiritual life. It should be a part of each person’s spiritual development.|
On March 15th, Bowie Kuhn, former Hospitaller of the American
Association, died at the age of 80.
http://www.maltausa.org/files/newsletter_hospitallers_14.pdf (Proof Positive)
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