The Last Commissioner
(A Baseball Valentine)
By Fay Vincent
Review by Dan Fox
Former commissioner Fay Vincent aptly subtitled his 2002 book “A Baseball Valentine”. At just over 300 pages Vincent takes the reader through nine innings (chapters) that range far and wide.
This very personal memoir includes his favorite moments with baseball icons Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams, his own life and the influence of his father (a college umpire and referee from whom he learned respect for the rules of the game), his relationship with A. Bartlett Giamatti and the Rose investigation, his time as commissioner and run-ins with George Steinbrenner, and finally his assessment of baseball’s historical wrongs in its treatment of African Americans, and his financial prescription for fixing the game he clearly respects. Sprinkled throughout the book Vincent offers some interesting anecdotes including his contrast between Dimaggio, who held a multi-year grudge against Vincent for a remark an employee made (“that was just Joe”), and the graciousness of Stan Musial and Joe Garagiola. His insiders view of meetings with Rose and his lawyers is required reading for anyone who still remains in the Rose camp. And as recounted in his chapter “Baseball is Sorry” Vincent is clearly passionate for Negro League players and recounts his actions in helping Negro League players obtain health care and pension benefits. However, he and Giamatti’s strategy for addressing historical wrongs led them to hire Bill White as president of the National League solely on the basis of his race as Vincent proudly admits.
Readers of this web site, however, will be most interested in Vincent's broad and admittedly incomplete plan for baseball's future centering on a corporation that players, owners, and fans all have a stake in that would provide incentive for all parties to act in the best interests of the game. In conjunction with his plan he predicts that media outlets like the Tribune Company will increase their ownership and promotes the idea that MLB rules could be amended to allow the same company to own multiple teams in a region. Not surprisingly, he provides a dim portrait of Bud Selig and appears to have been prescient in his assessment that Selig was interested in the commissioner's position for himself even while ostensibly seeking other candidates including George W. Bush who was seriously considering the position.
Finally, Vincent uses the book to give kudos to friends and many he’s worked with – especially Ralph Branca (“a great friend”), Bart Giamatti (“a friend who enriched me”), and Bush 41 and 43 (“straight shooters”). In all and even if you don’t agree with his views on everything, this is a baseball book worth the read.
Republished by permission