Skip to main content
Original Issue


A woman or a black should get the National League's top job

The National League's owners will soon select a new president to succeed A. Bartlett Giamatti, who will leave the job in April to become the baseball commissioner. The vacancy, which could be filled at the major league owners' meetings that begin Dec. 1 in Atlanta, gives the National League brass the chance to make a bold statement. The owners should consider giving the job to National League vice-president and secretary Phyllis Collins, who knows the workings of the game as well as anyone and who would become the first woman to head a major professional sports league. Failing that, they should select a black, which would also be a dramatic first.

Naming a black to the National League presidency would demonstrate that baseball is serious about correcting the racial imbalance in the game's hierarchy. That imbalance was given wide exposure after Al Campanis, then the Los Angeles Dodgers' vice-president for player personnel, said on national TV a year and a half ago that blacks lacked "some of the necessities" for positions of leadership in baseball.

According to Clifford Alexander, a black whose Washington, D.C., consulting firm was hired to help baseball improve its minority hiring in the wake of Campanis's remarks, 36% of the major league front-office jobs and 30% of the big league coaching positions filled last year went to minorities. "What baseball has done in these two years is really quite impressive," says Alexander.

Still, there are no black general managers in the majors, and the Baltimore Orioles' Frank Robinson is the only black field manager.

The search for a new National League president is being conducted by a four-member committee headed by Dodger president Peter O'Malley. Those most frequently mentioned for the job include Mets general manager Frank Cashen, Philadelphia Phil-lie president Bill Giles and Dick Wagner, the former G.M. of two National League clubs; all three are white. However, the fact that Alexander, who was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Johnson and Secretary of the Army under President Carter, is working with the search committee makes it almost certain that black names have at least been brought up.

Alexander, who was a .400 hitter at Fieldston School in New York City in the late 1940s and early '50s, says that he has been asked by baseball people if he would allow himself to be considered for the job. Alexander said no, but Chicago Cub chairman John Madigan, a member of O'Malley's search committee, said, "We'll try to identify several good people, including minorities."

Which blacks might fit the bill? Among former players, Lou Brock, 49, now a successful businessman, and Joe Morgan, 45, a broadcaster and owner of an investment firm, come quickly to mind. And there are plenty of other blacks who seem at least as qualified for the presidency as some of the white administrators under consideration. Here are three:

•Calvin Hill, 41, the former Yale and NFL running back who is now the Baltimore Oriole vice-president for administrative personnel, as well as a member of the club's board of directors. Hill has also coordinated antidrug programs for businesses.

•Clifton Wharton, 62, the former chancellor of New York State's university system and former president of Michigan State. Wharton is now CEO of TIAA-CREF, the nation's largest private pension fund with assets of $60 billion. A onetime high jumper and captain of the track team at Boston Latin School, Wharton is an avid sports fan who at Michigan State made a personal project of trying to improve academic achievement by athletes. If anything, he has had more experience with big-time sports than Giamatti had when he moved from the presidency of Yale to head of the National League.

•Walter Massey, 50, a former dean at Brown and now vice-president for research at the University of Chicago and at the Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nation's preeminent energy-research facilities. Massey is on the board of the Chicago Cubs. Asked if Massey would make a good league president, fellow Cubs board member Madigan indicated that the search committee had not considered him, but allowed, "Sure, he'd be a good candidate."

Before long, baseball likely will have black owners. Two black businessmen, J. Bruce Llewellyn, the chairman of Queen City Broadcasting Inc. (which operates WKBW-TV in Buffalo) and of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Philadelphia, and Boston businessman Bertram Lee, have separately expressed interest in buying the Orioles. Presumably, black owners would have no qualms about hiring black league presidents. White owners should have none, either, and there's no shortage of qualified candidates for the job.