Fox’ Erik Malinowski sat down with former commissioner Fay Vincent recently, and the result is probably the best profile of Vincent ever done. And one which says way more about baseball and how it’s run than it may say about Vincent. It’s absolute must-read material.
The first half is about the 1989 World Series and the earthquake which interrupted it. Vincent’s response and what went into the immediate aftermath (evacuating Candlestick Park and getting to a hotel with no water and no power). The highlight of that part is a positively fabulous George Steinbrenner anecdote which pretty much captures everything you ever needed to know about what Steinbrenner was like before the Yankees started winning in the late 90s and his persona and reputation began to undergo something of a rehabilitation.
The second half is about his tenure as commissioner in general and his ultimate downfall after being pushed aside by Bud Selig and the other owners. This stuff is highly illuminating as to how baseball ownership works and how, in reality, the commissioner never really was the leader of baseball as much as he was the water-carrier for the owners. Vincent either didn’t realize that or forgot it, and his description of how he met his professional end makes you realize just how silly it is for people to demand a strong commissioner who dictates anything to anyone. Selig’s strength came from being an owner and knowing where his power came from. Rob Manfred’s tenure will be dictated by either realizing, or failing to realize, the same thing.
Ultimately, though, what makes this all so intriguing is how frank and honest Vincent is about his legacy. Unlike so many deposed leaders, Vincent admits that he failed and knows why he did. He says so in frank terms multiple times. Maybe it’s taken him over 20 years to realize all of this, maybe it’s something he even knew while it was happening. But the clarity that the now-76-year-old Vincent has about his tenure as commissioner is pretty striking.
Beyond all of that, great anecdotes about George W. Bush — who seems way too reasonable a guy to ever have been a baseball owner — and Bart Giamatti, Vincent’s friend and predecessor. People often talk about what may have happened had Giamatti lived and whether he could’ve prevented the 1994 strike. Vincent, with love, points out that it would’ve ended no differently and, possibly, it may have ended worse.
Clear your schedule and check this piece out.