|Born||Francis Thomas Vincent, Jr.
May 29, 1938
|Alma mater||Yale Law School (J.D.)|
|Known for||President of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (1998–2003)
|Title||Commissioner of Baseball|
|Term||September 13, 1989–September 7, 1992|
|Predecessor||A. Bartlett Giamatti|
Francis Thomas "Fay" Vincent, Jr. (born May 29, 1938) is a former entertainment lawyer and sports executive who served as the eighth Commissioner of Major League Baseball from September 13, 1989 to September 7, 1992.
Early life and career
Vincent was an exceptional athlete as a young man, showing talent in track and field as well as football. However, his life changed forever when a near-fatal accident in college crushed one of his legs. He had been locked inside his Williams College dorm room as a prank; climbing out onto the roof to escape, he slipped off the ledge, which was four stories high. Suffering a crushed spine and paralyzed legs, Vincent spent three months in a form of traction. He overcame his initial diagnosis, which was that he would never walk. But Vincent's leg has never fully recovered and he has been relegated to the use of a cane.
Vincent is a graduate of The Hotchkiss School, Williams College, (class of 1960), which he attended on a full academic scholarship and from which graduated with honors, and Yale Law School (class of 1963).
After graduating from law school, Vincent was a partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Caplin & Drysdale. He also served as Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Vincent was the chairman of Columbia Pictures (beginning in 1978) and the vice chairman of Coca-Cola (beginning in March 1982). In April 1986, he was promoted to the position of Executive Vice President of the Coca-Cola Company, which placed him in charge over all of the company's entertainment activities.
Commissioner of Baseball
At the behest of his longtime friend, incoming Commissioner of Baseball Bart Giamatti, Vincent accepted the position of deputy commissioner. He became the eighth commissioner of baseball following Giamatti's death on September 1, 1989. In his first year as commissioner, he presided over the 1989 World Series, which was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake; the owners' lockout during Spring Training of the 1990 season; and the expulsion of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner from the game. Before accepting the job as Commissioner of Baseball, Vincent consulted with Giamatti's widow, Toni, to make sure she thought it was appropriate for him to do so.
On September 4, 1991 the Committee for Statistical Accuracy, appointed by Vincent, changed the definition of a no-hitter to require that a pitcher throw at least nine full innings and a complete game. Since New York Yankee Andy Hawkins (who never gave up a hit during a game against the Chicago White Sox on July 1, 1990, despite the White Sox winning the game 4-0) played for the visiting team, the White Sox never batted in the ninth inning and Hawkins lost the credit for a no-hitter. This same committee also ruled that Roger Maris is the one and only single season home run record holder, overturning the 1961 decision of former commissioner Ford Frick that Maris and Ruth's home run totals should be listed side-by-side for 154 and 162 game seasons (contrary to popular belief, Frick never mentioned using an asterisk).
Also during his commissionership, Vincent made it known (e.g. while being interviewed by Pat O'Brien during CBS' coverage of Game 4 of the 1991 World Series) that if he had the chance, he would get rid of the designated hitter rule.
Vincent has also been connected with Pete Rose's lifetime banishment from baseball; however, Rose's banishment began while Giamatti was commissioner (although Vincent led the investigation and was involved in the negotiations). Vincent has publicly said he does not support Rose's reinstatement. In the 2004 made for television movie about the Rose affair entitled Hustle, Vincent was portrayed by actor Alan Jordan.
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. At approximately 5:35 p.m., after coming to the conclusion that the power couldn't be restored before sunset, Vincent ordered the game to be postponed. 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. However, the game had to be postponed due to trouble with gas lines as well as the power issue.
The World Series ultimately resumed after a ten day postponement (and some initial conflict between Vincent and San Francisco mayor Art Agnos, who felt that the World Series ought to have been delayed much longer) 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."
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 with both the owners and MLBPA, and on March 19, 1990, Vincent was able to announce 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.
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).
Per Fay Vincent's interview on WFAN (NY) on July 14, 2010 (the day after Steinbrenner died), Vincent had wanted to suspend Steinbrenner for only two years. It was Steinbrenner who asked for a lifetime ban as he was tired of baseball and wanted to help run the US Olympic effort. Steinbrenner knew he could not run the Olympic effort if he was suspended, so he asked for a lifetime ban, which he received. Steinbrenner then applied for (and received) reinstatement after two years.
On June 24, 1992, Vincent permanently suspended pitcher Steve Howe for repeated drug offenses. Vincent was incensed when upper Yankee management (Buck Showalter, Gene Michael, and Jack Lawn) agreed to testify on Howe's behalf, and threatened them with expulsion from the game:
|“||You have effectively resigned from baseball by agreeing to appear at that hearing.... you should have left your conscience and your principles outside the door.||”|
The three men were unaffected by Vincent's hyperbole, testified for Howe as promised, and remained active in baseball. Three months later, Vincent was removed from his job as commissioner. An arbitrator overturned Vincent's suspension of Howe on November 11, 1992.
|“||The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Selig and Reinsdorf of that money from the players. I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it’s the reason Fehr has no trust in Selig.||”|
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. Vincent said the owners expanded to raise money to pay their collusion debt.
Just prior to leaving office, Vincent had plans to realign the National League. Vincent wanted the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals to switch divisions with the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. When Major League Baseball realigned in 1969, this geographical anomaly was created in order to give the Chicago and St. Louis franchises more games during television's prime time schedule. National League president Bill White warned Vincent that realigning without league approval would be in violation of the National League Constitution.
Many thought this plan would be beneficial to the league as a whole, especially by building a regional rivalry between the new franchise in Miami and the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs, however, opposed the move, suggesting that fans in the Central Time Zone would be forced to watch more games originating on the West Coast with later broadcast times (had the realignment included the use of a balanced schedule, the Cubs would have actually played more games against teams outside their division).
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 approximately $500 million) beginning in 1990 (Vincent's first full season as commissioner) and upwardly spiraling salaries. (It is also important to note that CBS itself contributed to decreasing ratings thanks to the haphazard scheduling of Game of the Week broadcasts during the regular season to the point that fans grew tired of tuning into no baseball on summer Saturdays.) They also accused him of acting in a high-handed manner, especially in the Howe affair.
- Bud Selig, president of the Milwaukee Brewers;
- Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Chicago White Sox;
- Stanton Cook, head of the Tribune Co., which owned the Chicago Cubs;
- Carl Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins;
- Peter O'Malley, the longtime majority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers
In his farewell, Vincent said
|“||To do the job without angering an owner is impossible. 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, whose family continued to maintain ownership over the Brewers. Fay Vincent was never able to complete the five-year term that he had inherited from Bart Giamatti. Vincent would later contend that Major League Baseball made a huge mistake by not appointing his deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg — 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 Baseball 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.
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 have been a decisive turn in finding a compromise agreement. While being interviewed for ESPN Classic's SportsCentury (about the year in sports in 1994), Vincent believed 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.
In March 2006, Vincent called on baseball to investigate (similar to the Dowd Report surrounding Pete Rose) possible steroids use by Barry Bonds, saying the cloud hanging over his pursuit of the home run record is a crisis akin to the Black Sox scandal from 1919.
|“||I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it's the biggest crisis that's hit baseball since the '20s and the Black Sox scandal. The generic problem of steroids in baseball has been brought to a head by the Bonds situation. It's really an enormous mess because it has threatened all baseball records, everything that was done in the '90s forward is suspect because of the likelihood that lots of players were using steroids.||”|
Vincent wrote in the April 24, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated, that with most of Bonds' official troubles being off the field, and with the strength of the players' union, there was little Bud Selig could do beyond appointing an investigating committee. Vincent said that Selig is largely "an observer of a forum beyond his reach."
Fay Vincent also believes that the only franchises in Major League Baseball to have a chance to win are the ones that have their own regional sports networks. Vincent has credited Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner as one of the first to capitalize on this.
On May 28, 1992, Vincent was awarded an honorary doctoral degree at Central Connecticut State University. He also gave the 1992 Vance Distinguished Lecture at the university. On May 18, 2008, Fairfield University conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Mr. Vincent where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2002, and where he created the need-based Alice Lynch Vincent Scholarship Fund in memory of his mother in December 1996.
- Cohn, Roger. "Nothing But Curve Balls", The New York Times, June 3, 1990. Accessed December 18, 2007. "At the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., young Fay played guard on the football team, excelled at Latin and French and was remembered by classmates for his witty parodies of the poetry of Keats and Coleridge."
- Marantz, Steve (1994). "The Great Lakes gang". The Sporting News.
- "Fairfield University awards degrees to 1,233 graduates at 2008 commencement ceremony". Retrieved 2008-05-18.[dead link]
- Francis T. Vincent, Jr. at MLB.com
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Fay Vincent at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Fay Vincent in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Fay Vincent collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- The Commissioners: Baseball's Midlife Crisis
- Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent resigns
- Baseball’s Humanitarian Commissioner Feted at Hyatt
- Vincent: Selig may have to take a stand on Bonds
- Fay Vincent (MLB Commissioner 1989-1992)