Would you have kept the ball from Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit?


I joked last week that there was no need to put a special marking on Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit ball because it was almost certain that it would be some infielder who got it.  Boy, that was wrong. Unless you were under a rock all weekend you know that number 3,000 was a homer. You also know that the fan who caught it — a 23-year-old man named Christian Lopez — simply gave the ball back to Jeter rather than keep it and auction it off for what would probably be several hundred thousand dollars.

That led to a lot of stories about Lopez’s selflessness — and got Lopez premium tickets for the rest of the season and a ton of replacement memorabilia — but I can’t say I would have made the same decision he did.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a 23-year-old dude. I have a mortgage and bills to pay and kids who look like they’ll be going to college if I don’t kill them first. A couple hundred grand would help all of that out nicely.  Sure, it was a nice gesture on some level that Jeter got his trophy, but when you consider that he already has a gigantic mansion, a scorching hot girlfriend, five World Series rings, hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank and the adoration of millions and millions of people — and you realize that the Yankees and Jeter are making millions off of the hit already — I can’t say that I’d lose a wink of sleep over him not having his 3,000th hit ball.

Hell, if Jeter wanted it that bad, he could bid on it just like everyone else. It would only cost him pocket change. For a regular person, keeping that ball could mean the difference between making ends meet or not.  The grand total of Jeter’s inconvenience would be a quick cell phone call to his business manager to authorize a bid. It doesn’t seem like it would be a tough call. Even this Lopez guy’s dad agrees that his son might not have gotten that call right.

But then again, I’m not the sentimental type, and you’ve heard me go on and on about how I place little value on the possessing of memorabilia (short version: it’s the memories, not the totems of those memories, that matter).  Maybe you’re wired differently than I am and you, like Mr. Lopez, would have given Derek Jeter his ball back.  So let’s vote on it:

Before seeing any vote totals, I’m willing to bet that there will be a disconnect between the kudos given this Lopez guy for being noble and selfless and the number of people who would have kept the ball and taken care of themselves before they took care of Derek Jeter. But don’t let my cynical take influence your vote.

Wayne Huizenga, founding owner of the Marlins, dies at 80

Getty Images
1 Comment

MIAMI (AP) H. Wayne Huizenga, a college dropout who built a business empire that included Blockbuster Entertainment, AutoNation and three professional sports franchises, has died. He was 80.

Huizenga (HY’-zing-ah) died Thursday night at his home, Valerie Hinkell, a longtime assistant, said when reached at the family residence Friday. She gave no details on a cause of death.

Starting with a single garbage truck in 1968, Huzienga built Waste Management Inc. into a Fortune 500 company. He purchased independent sanitation engineering companies, and by the time he took the company public in 1972, he had completed the acquisition of 133 small-time haulers. By 1983, Waste Management was the largest waste disposal company in the United States.

The business model worked again with Blockbuster Video, which he started in 1985 and built into the leading movie rental chain nine years later. In 1996, he formed AutoNation and built it into a Fortune 500 company.

Huizenga was founding owner of baseball’s Florida Marlins and the NHL Florida Panthers – expansion teams that played their first games in 1993. He bought the NFL Miami Dolphins and their stadium for $168 million in 1994 from the children of founder Joe Robbie, but had sold all three teams by 2009.

The Marlins won the 1997 World Series, and the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, but Huizenga’s beloved Dolphins never reached a Super Bowl while he owned the team.

“If I have one disappointment, the disappointment would be that we did not bring a championship home,” Huizenga said shortly after he sold the Dolphins to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross. “It’s something we failed to do.”

Huizenga earned an almost cult-like following among business investors who watched him build Blockbuster Entertainment into the leading video rental chain by snapping up competitors. He cracked Forbes’ list of the 100 richest Americans, becoming chairman of Republic Services, one of the nation’s top waste management companies, and AutoNation, the nation’s largest automotive retailer. In 2013, Forbes estimated his wealth at $2.5 billion.

For a time, Huizenga was also a favorite with South Florida sports fans, drawing cheers and autograph seekers in public. The crowd roared when he danced the hokey pokey on the field during an early Marlins game. He went on a spending spree to build a veteran team that won the World Series in the franchise’s fifth year.

But his popularity plummeted when he ordered the roster dismantled after that season. He was frustrated by poor attendance and his failure to swing a deal for a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.

Many South Florida fans never forgave him for breaking up the championship team. Huizenga drew boos when introduced at Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino’s retirement celebration in 2000, and kept a lower public profile after that.

In 2009, Huizenga said he regretted ordering the Marlins’ payroll purge.

“We lost $34 million the year we won the World Series, and I just said, `You know what, I’m not going to do that,”‘ Huizenga said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d say, `OK, we’ll go one more year.”‘

He sold the Marlins in 1999 to John Henry, and sold the Panthers in 2001, unhappy with rising NHL player salaries and the stock price for the team’s public company.

Huizenga’s first sports love was the Dolphins – he had been a season-ticket holder since their first season in 1966. But he fared better in the NFL as a businessman than as a sports fan.

He turned a nifty profit by selling the Dolphins and their stadium for $1.1 billion, nearly seven times what he paid to become sole owner. But he knew the bottom line in the NFL is championships, and his Dolphins perennially came up short.

Huizenga earned a reputation as a hands-off owner and won raves from many loyal employees, even though he made six coaching changes. He eased Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula into retirement in early 1996, and Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, interim coach Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sporano followed as coach.

Harry Wayne Huizenga was born in the Chicago suburbs on Dec. 29, 1937, to a family of garbage haulers. He began his business career in Pompano Beach in 1962, driving a garbage truck from 2 a.m. to noon each day for $500 a month.

One customer successfully sued Huizenga, saying that in an argument over a delinquent account, Huizenga injured him by grabbing his testicles – an allegation Huizenga always denied.

“I never did that. The guy was a deputy cop. It was his word against mine, a young kid,” he told Fortune magazine in 1996.

Huizenga was a five-time recipient of Financial World magazine’s “CEO of the Year” award, and was the Ernst & Young “2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year.”

Regarding his business acumen, Huzienga said: “You just have to be in the right place at the right time. It can only happen in America.”

In September 1960, he married Joyce VanderWagon. Together they had two children, Wayne Jr. and Scott. They divorced in 1966. Wayne married his second wife, Marti Goldsby, in April 1972. She died in 2017.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine