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I WAS MAD AS HELL, AND I WASN'T GONNA TAKE ANY MORE
TRAVERS (MIDDLE) AND THE '81 JOHNSON CITY CARDINALS

I am glad the baseball players are not going on strike, but I have been wounded by their actions already. Let's start in June, 1981, I was a young pitcher. Not a top prospect, but definitely a prospect. I had an 87-mile per hour fastball, a roundhouse curve, a biting slider, a great screwball, a reliable sinker, and perfect control. I was 6-6, 220 pounds, healthy as an ox, and able to start or relieve effectively.

 

Two scouts approached me that Spring. Paul Tavares of the Boston Red Sox told me the Sox are going to draft me. Tom Gamboa of the Milwaukee Brewers told me the same thing. I was projected as a twentieth round pick. Not a major prospect, but no slouch. I would be able to get about $10,000 in bonus money.

 

The draft came around the first week in June. I waited by the phone. It never rang. I turned on the TV, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced that the draft was being limited to 17 rounds because of the imminent baseball strike. That meant they ended the draft three rounds before I was supposed to get drafted.

 

"Lousy, rotten stinkin' millionaire baseball players," I thought to myself. 

 

The players struck a couple of weeks later.

 

The St. Louis Cardinals did sign me as a free agent, but I got no bonus and was not accorded prospect status. I got hurt, and my career was short - two years. I can not help thinking if the players had not struck, I would have been drafted, protected, given decent medical attention, and a better chance.

 

Fast forward 13 years. It is 1994. I have graduated from USC and attended law school. I am now a budding sports agent. My partner and I represent Al Martin of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Martin had a strong rookie season in 1993, replacing Barry Bonds when he left for San Francisco. He is having another good year in '94. We have started talking to Cam Bonifay, the Pirates' general manager, and are making progress towards wrapping up a multi-year contract early. We have arranged for various marketing opportunities for Al, and the commissions are just enough to keep the company alive until the commission from his Pirates contract.

 

On August 12, 1994 the players strike. Al's marketing opportunities dry up. The Pirates put all contract negotiations on hold. The strike lasts until the next Spring. The company withers up and dies. Martin goes back to his old agent, Joe Bick. It is "Jerry Maguire" without the happy ending.

 

"Lousy, rotten stinkin' millionaire baseball players," I think to myself. Then I add "lousy, rotten stinkin' agents," and "lousy, rotten stinkin' union."

 

Eight years pass. Now it is 2002. I have segued from almost being one of those agents, babysitting baseball players, to being an author who writes about them. My new book, "Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman" hits the shelves. It makes some Best Seller lists. It does not make me a millionaire, but it sells out its printing in a few short months. Naturally, it is time for my publisher to go into another printing. This is the key, the difference between a successful book and a really successful one.

 

"We're waiting to see if the players go on strike before we order another printing," my publisher tells me.

 

This was at mid-season. My man Bonds has homered in the All-Star Game, and he leads the league in batting average, His team is in contention. He is the favorite to win his fifth Most Valuable Player award.

 

"Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman" is selling out of bookstores from Bangor, Maine to San Diego, California, but we are not re-stocking because the players might go on strike. Valuable days and dollars are just passing by like water running down the sinkhole.

 

I am galled beyond belief that this book, which I have put my heart and soul into - not just writing it, but promoting it, and willing it to be a success - may fall short of what it should be because a bunch of malcontent, greedy men-children may decide to strike.  I am just one person affected by the possible strike. How many newspapers can keep beat writers who have no beat to cover? What about stadium workers, broadcasters, restaurant owners, sports memorabilia sellers?

 

All because these players do not realize that they do not own baseball. Instead of leaving the game better than they found it, they were ready to ruin it for everybody. Especially those of us who have a big financial stake in the game.

 

I know this. If I had made it to the Major Leagues, I would have been ostracized. I would have announced early on and told anybody who asked that I am not a "union guy" by nature, would never strike, and if the players struck, they could not count on my support.

 

I no longer think they are "lousy, rotten stinkin' millionaire baseball players," but I am none too happy that because of them, my book was not being printed in time to capitalize on the Summer. Better late than never, though. It will be re-printed in time for the stretch run and post-season. As Mick Jagger once said, "You don't always get what you want…but sometimes, you get what you need."