They only play games with the local teams
By Will McDonough, Globe Staff, 05/27/2000
mazing, isn't it, how diligent politicians become when a local sports team asks for public help in building the FleetCenter, a new stadium in Foxborough, or another Fenway Park. All of a sudden they know all of the numbers. Interest rates. Parking fees. Revenue streams. Every minute detail. Where, however, were they for the Big Dig? The new Convention Center? The South Boston Seaport and all of the shenanigans that have taken place with those three major city/state projects? Answer: nowhere to be found. Here's the difference: The politicians control the Big Dig, Convention Center, and the Seaport, so when certain things go wrong, they look the other way. They don't want to know anything when ''it'' hits the fan on those deals.
The politicians don't control the sports teams, so they don't get any of the gravy. What they get is a prime opportunity to posture as the defenders of the public good. If you have a team, and present your stadium plans, whether you own the Bruins, Patriots, or Red Sox, you then have to dance the dance. The pols will hold you at arm's length, squeeze you, waltz you around until you are dizzy, and then when the music stops, will only help you if they look good doing it. This is a way of life in Boston and Massachusetts.
Some 15 years ago, I was involved in running a retirement weekend for Red Auerbach and much of it was devoted to raising money for what is now known as the Red Auerbach Fund, which has been highly successful. Along with others, I asked successful Bostonians to donate $5,000 each in Red's name to start the fund. One of them was one of the top pols of the day, who had a very close relationship to Red. I visited him in his office on Beacon Hill. I kept pitching him for the $5,000 and he kept ignoring me. Finally I put it right on him. Yes or no. I'll never forget this as long as I live. He looked at me and said with a smile, ''You don't understand. I get the money. I don't give the money.'' He was honest. The answer did not mean he did anything illegal. He had a huge campaign war chest and could have taken the $5,000 out of that. It just wasn't his policy to give anything away.
In spring 1965, I stood in front of Tom Yawkey's desk for nearly three hours one day, talking about the future of the Red Sox. The team stunk. The next year they would draw a low of 620,000. He talked about needing a new park, but didn't want anything to do with politicians. ''You ask them for something, you never get rid of them'' was his line. Yawkey told me that day, and I know it was true, he never made money with the team (he bought the Red Sox and renovated the ballpark in 1932) and told his general managers he didn't want to lose any more money, but he didn't want to make a profit, either. He told them if the team made any money, to spend it on the team.
The Yawkey name has been attached to the Red Sox for 68 years. Neither he nor his widow, Jean, who controlled the team until 10 years ago, ever took a cent out of the ball club. When Tom Yawkey died in 1976, he left a trust that to this day spins out $2 million or better a year, some 70 percent going to Massachusetts-based charities. The man was not a local native and he didn't live here. Yet, he left the bulk of his charitable money to Massachusetts and Boston. When he died, his wife established Yawkey II. That also spins out money each year, primarily to Boston and Massachusetts-based charities. In her will, she said she wanted the Red Sox and Fenway Park sold for the highest amount possible, and all of that money would go into Yawkey II.
Now, when the politicians of today talk revenue streams, this is what they don't want to see. If, for example, in a new ballpark, the team sold for $600 million, which would be about the range in today's economy, 55 percent of that money - or more than $300 million - would go into Yawkey II.
The Yawkey Trusts have been giving away money each year to charities at a rate between 5 percent and 10 percent of the money in the trust. At this rate, Yawkey II alone, each year, for the lifetime of this planet, would spin out anywhere from $15 million-$30 million a year to charity, some 70 percent going to Massachusetts-based charities.
Now the city and the state say they want some money back on the collective $270 million the Red Sox are seeking to build a new park. In 10 years, they would have a minimum of $150 million back. In 50 years, they would have $750 million back. In the next millennium, they would have $1.5 billion back from Yawkey II.
They know this. But they don't want to see it because they can't control the charity. No jobs. No patronage. No taking credit.
So let's put together how much money the Red Sox have brought to the city of Boston and the state in the last 100 years, with the money the Yawkey Trusts would bring in the next 100 years, and see if it covers the $270 million investment.
Of course it does. But the politicians don't want to see that. It's not about them. It can't help get them votes or run for a higher office. They can't take credit for what the Yawkeys have done for this community. And without some benefit coming to them personally, they're not going to let it happen.
House Speaker Tom Finneran said this week there are plenty of people in this community who would love to buy the team and build a new park privately. Find them, Mr. Speaker. Line them up. Have them put the money on the table. For $500 million, it will be all theirs in a heartbeat. John Harrington, CEO of the Red Sox and the head of Yawkey Trust, is on record with this. Call his bluff.
Two local products could be taken in the top 10 in the National Hockey League draft, to be held in Calgary June 23-24. This will be the first time the NHL has had a two-day draft, and no doubt it's for television. Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro and Boston College defenseman Brooks Orpik are in the top 10 on several lists.
''They're both considered outstanding prospects,'' said Bruins assistant general manager Mike O'Connell. ''There will be a heavy emphasis on the European players. It has been proven over time that the top players are coming from there. Just look at the best players in our league. The Europeans are highly skilled and have proven they can handle the physical aspect of our game. Four Russians are rated among the top five in Europe, and overall, you could see 20 of the first 30 players taken be from Europe.''
The Bruins have the option of taking Colorado's first pick this year or waiting for next season, as part of the Ray Bourque trade. ''We won't make that decision until the pick is on the board,'' said O'Connell. ''If there is someone there we like, we can take it. If not, we might be able to use it to move around in the draft.'' O'Connell thinks there'll be fewer deals than usual around draft time this season because of the impending expansion draft for Minnesota and Columbus. The Bruins will protect two goalies in the draft, likely John Grahame, who was magnificent for Providence in the AHL playoffs, and Byron Dafoe.
Things are not always greener in the Land of the Rising Sun. Former Red Sox players Lou Merloni (Framingham) and Reggie Jefferson have not fared well in Japan. In midweek, Merloni was 9 for 46 (.196) with a homer and two RBIs. Jefferson, who ran out on the Red Sox in the playoffs last year, is hitting a robust .225 (25 for 111) with two homers and 15 RBIs.
Class act. On the same day, Julius Erving flew from Orlando, Fla., where he is working with the Magic, to Boston and back, just to play in University of Massachusetts president Bill Bulger's golf tournament. Erving's presence helped raise $85,000 for Bulger's Honors Program, which specifies the money go toward keeping top state high school seniors by providing scholarships at UMass. Incidentally, the Patriots and New York Giants are closing a deal that would have the teams practice against each other in McGuirk Stadium July 9. There will be tickets for the 17,000-seat facility, but none will be sold - admission will be free. Patriots-Giants will bang the place out.
Sad to hear that Rocket Richard, one of the great athletes of our time, is very sick in Montreal. Even though he was the star on the greatest hockey teams ever, the Canadiens of the 1950s, Rocket never got his due in this country because he was based in Montreal.
''He was the man responsible for so many of those championships they won,'' said Bruins legend Milt Schmidt, who faced the Rocket in so many great duels. ''Rocket is the best I have ever seen from the blue line to the net. Absolutely the best. He was very strong, tough to take out of the play. He had a great burst with the puck. I asked our goaltender, Don Simmons, once what he thought about when he saw Rocket coming over the blue line. Simmons said it looked like a 16-ton truck bearing down on him.
''I remember I was coaching against Montreal in the playoffs and we had a good guy named Larry Regan on our club. I told Larry before the game, whatever you do tonight, don't get farther than 3 feet away from Rocket at any time. I don't care if you ever touch the puck in this game, just keep him from scoring. Rocket scored two goals in the first period. In the dressing room, I start going after Larry. I ask him how he could let it happen. Rocket scored two goals and he made it look easy. Larry said, `He gets paid twice what I get paid, so he should make it look easy.' That shut me up. Everyone in the room started laughing. One of the greatest achievements in our league was Rocket scoring 50 goals in 50 games, when everyone in the league was trying to stop him.''
Former Bruin player and coach Tom Johnson was a teammate of Rocket's during the glory years in Montreal. ''Rocket was the most intense athlete I have ever been around,'' he said. ''He was the star of the league. Because of this, he had to be somewhat of a loner when we went on the road. When we came to a town, Rocket sold the building out. I saw him deck two players from Toronto in the same fight, with just two punches. Boom. Boom. He had a tremendous flair for the game. He always drew special attention.
''The group we had on the power play in those days changed the rules. Back then, if you got a penalty, you had to stay in the penalty box until the [entire penalty time was served]. We had Rocket, [Bernie] Geoffrion, [Jean] Beliveau, [Doug] Harvey, and sometimes Dickie Moore, who led the league in scoring a couple of years, all on the power play. One night we were playing the Bruins and one of their guys got a two-minute penalty. Before he got out of the box, Jean Beliveau scored a hat trick in less than two minutes. The next year, at the league meeting, Lynn Patrick, the general manager of the Bruins, made a proposal to change the rule, so that when a goal was scored, the guy got out of the penalty box. That's what caused the change.''
Don't look for either Bruce Armstrong or Ben Coates, two of the best to ever play for the Patriots, to be back with the team this season. At the start of free agency in February, when both refused to take salary cuts, I said they were making a mistake. Armstrong didn't agree. The Patriots offered Armstrong $2 million for this year and Coates $1.5 million. Both said no thanks. On Thursday, most teams will have to cut veteran players to get under the salary cap to make room for signing their draft choices. At that point, the money for a veteran player with five years in the league is $440,000. If either of them receives an offer from another team, and there's no counting on that, they still won't get the money they would have received if they re-signed here.
USA Today published salary figures for each player and team. The Patriots had the highest payroll in the league in '99 at $56.6 million. Former Patriot Sam Gash, who was cut for salary-cap reasons in Buffalo, says if he doesn't get an offer before the season, he will enroll in law school.
In a recent profile, former Cowboys star and Hall of Famer Roger Staubach was asked: ''Person whom you emulate most [outside of your family].'' Answer: ''Father Joseph Ryan, former Navy captain, one of my closest friends, and father figure.''
Father Ryan is a Milton native who befriended Roger nearly 40 years ago at the Naval Academy. Father Ryan passes along this story. ''Roger recently was invited to the opening of a restaurant in Washington. Joe Theismann challenged him to a `throwing contest.' The restaurant had a game that involved throwing footballs at moving targets for 90 seconds while accumulating points. Joe was the reigning champion. He had a 97 out of a possible 150. Roger scored 120, and said it felt great as a Cowboy to come into Redskin country, where the people in the restaurant gave him a standing ovation when the game was over.''
Will McDonough is a Globe columnist.
This story ran on page G01 of the Boston Globe on 5/27/2000.
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