Haywood Sullivan

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Haywood Sullivan
Catcher
Born: (1930-12-15)December 15, 1930
Donalsonville, Georgia
Died: February 12, 2003(2003-02-12) (aged 72)
Fort Myers, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 20, 1955 for the Boston Red Sox
Last MLB appearance
June 30, 1963 for the Kansas City Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average .226
Home runs 13
Runs batted in 87
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Haywood Cooper Sullivan (December 15, 1930 – February 12, 2003) was an American college and professional baseball player who was a catcher, manager, general manager and club owner in Major League Baseball. From 1978 through 1993, he was a general partner in the Boston Red Sox, where he reportedly parlayed a $200,000 investment into a $33 million cash out.

Early years[edit]

Sullivan was born in Donalsonville, Georgia, and raised in Dothan, Alabama. He received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he was the starting quarterback for coach Bob Woodruff's Florida Gators football team in 1950 and 1951,[1] and a standout catcher for coach Dave Fuller's Gators baseball team in 1951 and 1952. In his two seasons as the Gators' quarterback, Sullivan threw for 2,016 yards in an era when the emphasis was on a running offense. As a Gators baseball player, he was named to the All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) team in 1952. He threw and batted right-handed, stood 6'4" (1.93 m) tall and weighed 215 pounds (98 kg). Sullivan signed a guaranteed $45,000 bonus contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1952, a contract that would not have been available in another year under pending baseball rules changes, and thereby ended his college football and baseball career after his junior year.

MLB catcher and manager[edit]

Sullivan's professional baseball playing career—derailed by military service (causing him to miss the 1953 and 1954 seasons) and back surgery that cost him the entire 1958 campaign—was largely confined to the minor leagues for its first eight seasons. Finally, in 1960, he made the big leagues. He was the starting backstop for the first three games of the Red Sox' season, including on Opening Day against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium. But Sullivan injured his hand in the season's third game, struggled offensively, and after the acquisition of Russ Nixon on June 13 (when Sullivan was hitting .135 in 36 games), he played sparingly. He ended the season as Boston's second-most-used catcher, behind Nixon, but he batted only .161 and was left exposed in the 1960 Major League Baseball expansion draft. The new Washington Senators franchise picked him up, then traded him to the Kansas City Athletics for pitcher Marty Kutyna in December 1960.

Sullivan played for 2½ seasons with the Athletics, and was the club's semi-regular catcher in 1961 and 1962. For his MLB career, Sullivan batted .226 with 13 home runs in 312 games over all or parts of seven seasons.[2]

In 1964, Sullivan was named manager of the Athletics' Birmingham Barons farm club in the Double-A Southern League. His team—the first integrated team in Birmingham[3]—missed the pennant by just one game, earning him a promotion to the Triple-A Vancouver Mounties of the Pacific Coast League in 1965. But after only 25 games in Vancouver, Sullivan was called up to manage the A's on May 16, 1965, succeeding Mel McGaha. At age 34, Sullivan was the youngest manager in Major League Baseball that season.[4] Kansas City had lost 21 of its first 26 games and was lodged in last place in the ten-team American League when McGaha was fired, and they remained in the cellar for the rest of the 1965 season, winning 54 and losing 82 (.397) under Sullivan.

Front office and ownership career[edit]

In November 1965, he was recruited by the Red Sox, who had reorganized their front office under new general manager Dick O'Connell. As vice president, player personnel, Sullivan was positioned as the top "baseball man" in the organization, and from 1965 to 1967 was instrumental in acquiring several players from the Athletics (such as José Santiago, John Wyatt, José Tartabull and Ken Harrelson) who would help lead Boston to its surprise 1967 AL pennant. But O'Connell gradually assumed more power and took over most of Sullivan's responsibilities; during the early 1970s, Sullivan kept his title but in reality became the Red Sox' director of amateur scouting.

Despite his decline in overall authority, Sullivan maintained very close personal ties with owner Tom Yawkey and his wife, Jean. In 1977, a year after Tom Yawkey died of leukemia, the Red Sox were put up for sale. Sullivan—reportedly borrowing $100,000 and using his home as collateral—joined an ownership group organized by former Red Sox athletic trainer Edward "Buddy" LeRoux. Because of Sullivan's close friendship with Jean Yawkey, the LeRoux offer was accepted, even though it was not the highest bid and the group did not have the financial resources of some of its rivals. The American League initially rejected the deal, but reconsidered when Mrs. Yawkey joined the group as a third general partner in 1978.

Before the sale was consummated, in October 1977, Mrs. Yawkey fired O'Connell and promoted Sullivan to general manager. Overall, his first off-season as GM of the Red Sox was highly successful. Still using the resources of the Yawkey fortune, and benefitting from the depth of the Red Sox farm system that he helped to build, Sullivan acquired players such as Mike Torrez, Jerry Remy, Dick Drago, Tom Burgmeier and Dennis Eckersley. Buoyed by the new additions to an already strong team, the Red Sox charged into first place in the 1978 AL East race, but they would squander a 14½ game lead over the New York Yankees and then lose a one-game playoff for the division title to miss the playoffs completely. Although manager Don Zimmer is usually cast as the chief culprit for the collapse, Sullivan contributed to the debacle by dealing away useful players such as Bernie Carbo, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Willoughby and Reggie Cleveland, who were considered to be "clubhouse lawyers." None of the players fetched comparable value, and the loss of pitching and bench strength was a critical factor in Boston's struggles.

Post-1978 decline and the "Coup LeRoux"[edit]

Sullivan then further earned the wrath of Red Sox Nation after the 1978 season when he allowed legendary pitcher Luis Tiant to leave for the Yankees as a free agent and, as he had done with Jenkins, Carbo and the others, dumped a clubhouse dissident, lefty pitcher Bill Lee, in a giveaway trade—in this case, to the Montreal Expos. In 1979, he raised eyebrows when he selected his son Marc Sullivan, who was not considered to have early-round talent, in the second round of baseball's amateur draft; the younger Sullivan would bat a paltry .186 in parts of five major league seasons.[5]

In December 1980, Sullivan faced the imminent free agency of Rick Burleson, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn—Boston's starting shortstop, catcher and center fielder, and the "up the middle" core of the ball club. The three players, represented by agent Jeremy Kapstein, had been embroiled in a contract dispute with the team in 1976, the first year of free agency, and hard feelings still lingered between them, Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey. Sullivan was able to trade Burleson for value (young third baseman Carney Lansford and relief pitcher Mark Clear), but then failed to mail contract offers to Lynn and Fisk by MLB's mandated deadline, unintentionally speeding their free agency. Sullivan was forced to accept fifty cents on the dollar for Lynn in a trade to the California Angels, and then lost Fisk outright when he was declared a free agent.

From then on, Sullivan's reputation in Boston was tarnished. He refused to enter the market for free agents, preferring to rely exclusively on player development, but the Boston farm system hit a dry spell resulting from poor drafts during Sullivan's tenure as GM; whereas O'Connell in 1976 alone had drafted Wade Boggs, John Tudor, and Bruce Hurst, the only starting player drafted and signed by the Red Sox between 1977 and 1979 was Marty Barrett. The Red Sox were also ridiculed for stinginess and ineptitude, with one sportswriter claiming that the team motto should have been "don't just do something; stand there!" The contending Bosox of the late 1970s were reduced to also-rans.

Sullivan's legacy received another battering in 1983 when a long-simmering estrangement from LeRoux became embarrassingly public. On June 6, just prior to a ceremony celebrating the Red Sox' 1967 AL champions, and raising money to care for stricken former outfielder Tony Conigliaro, LeRoux called a press conference to reveal that he and his limited partners had exercised a contract clause and taken control of the Red Sox. He fired Sullivan on the spot, and restored O'Connell—who hadn't set foot in Fenway Park since his dismissal in 1977—to the GM post. Boston sportswriters called the gambit "the Coup LeRoux." Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey then immediately called their own press conference to announce they had filed suit to prevent the takeover. A court granted them an injunction, and in a public 1984 trial that aired dirty laundry on both sides, Sullivan and Yawkey won the day again. LeRoux was eventually bought out and Jean Yawkey became the majority general partner.

From GM to CEO/COO[edit]

But the damage had been done. Sullivan voluntarily gave up his general manager post to Lou Gorman in June 1984, immediately after the court victory over LeRoux, and became the team's chief executive and chief operating officer. Gorman received credit for trades that helped the 1986 Red Sox win the AL championship, although Sullivan's determination to build from within helped to furnish the club with many of its key players.

During Sullivan's tenure as general manager and top executive, the Red Sox, with their history as the last pre-expansion MLB team to break the color line, were again criticized for institutional racism. Fans and media noted the Red Sox' relative lack of African-American and Latin-American players. In a 1985 public relations disaster, the team was sued by former outfielder and coach Tommy Harper, an African-American. Harper was fired as a minor league base-running instructor after he complained to the media about the club's practice of allowing the all-white Elks Club of Winter Haven, Florida (where the team held spring training) into the Red Sox clubhouse to invite white players and front-office personnel to the Elks' segregated facilities. Harper's complaint was upheld by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on July 1, 1986. (Moreover, the city of Boston itself was painted as racist after the violence surrounding its school desegregation of the 1970s and incidents such as the Charles Stuart affair in the late 1980s.) When the Red Sox re-entered the free agent market late in the 1980s, they were able to sign All-Star catcher Tony Peña, but many nonwhite players ignored the Red Sox in free agency, or included them on their "no trade" lists. This trend began to change when the Red Sox bid aggressively (but unsuccessfully) for Kirby Puckett after the 1991 season.

After 1986 and LeRoux's exit, Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey grew distant, and, although he still held a general partnership in the team, by the late 1980s Sullivan was consistently outvoted 2-1 by Mrs. Yawkey's two general partnership shares. (Sullivan's title of CEO/COO, meanwhile, quietly was removed from the team's masthead.) When Mrs. Yawkey died in 1992, Sullivan and her representative, John Harrington, who headed the JRY Trust, each vowed to buy the other out. In November 1993, Harrington made good his word, acquiring Sullivan's share in the team for a reported $33 million.

Life after baseball[edit]

Sullivan then retired to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where he operated a marina and invested successfully in real estate, his name occasionally popping up (usually linked with former Commissioner of Baseball Fay Vincent)[6] as a potential part-owner of another major league club. Upon Sullivan's death at age 72 in Fort Myers, Florida, after suffering a stroke, Boston baseball observers such as Peter Gammons took a fresh view of Sullivan's impact on the Red Sox and gave him renewed credit for building the team into contenders, and keeping them there, from 1966 forward.

He was named to the team's Hall of Fame in 2004.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 96, 148, 186 (2011). Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  2. ^ Haywood Sullivan Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com
  3. ^ Southern League, Larry Colton,Grand Central Publishing, 2013, ISBN 1455511889
  4. ^ Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, p.92, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0
  5. ^ Marc Sullivan career statistics: http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/sullima02.shtml
  6. ^ Gammons, Peter, "Reality - Instead of Disaster - Sets In", Boston Globe, Dec. 12, 1994

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bryant, Howard, Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston. Boston: The Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Gammons, Peter, Beyond the Sixth Game. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1985.
  • Spink, C.C. Johnson, editor, The 1965 Baseball Guide. St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1966.
  • Stout, Glenn and Johnson, Richard A., Red Sox Century. Boston and New York: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2000.
  • Obituary, The Boston Globe, February 13, 2003.

External links[edit]