Baseball owners are putting the search for a new commissioner on hold until after the strike. They want a salary cap and, without a meddling commish, stand a better chance of getting one.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn resolved a player lockout in 1976, Peter Ueberroth settled a 1985 work stoppage, and Fay Vincent pushed to open training camps during a 1990 lockout. A big reason for Vincent's ouster, says Henry Aaron, a baseball-economics expert--not the slugger--"was to clear the deck before confrontation with the players."
Atlanta Braves Chairman William Bartholomay, head of the owners' search committee, confirms that a commissioner will be named shortly after a player deal is done. The owners don't want to thrust the new commish into the midst of a labor dispute, he says.
Dallas-based executive-search firm Eastman & Beaudine winnowed 350 applicants down to 22. The short list now has four names, which are top secret. Possible finalists include several pols, with soon-to-retire Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Me.) the likely front-runner. While the headhunters didn't speak to him, several owners did. Mitchell lacks business expertise, but his political ties more than compensate for that.
AND THE NEW COMMISSIONER IS. . .
Tom Butters Duke University athletic director
WILLIAM HYBL former U.S. Olympic committee president
Paul G. Kirk former Democratic National Committee chairman
George Mitchell U.S. Senate Majority Leader