The Fight Is Over The Red Sox, Not In Them

As general partners Buddy LeRoux (left) and Haywood Sullivan battled for control of their team, Boston sank in the standings
June 19, 1983

The dramatic week that was for the Red Sox had bathos, pathos, intrigue, justice, nostalgia and a banana republic-style attempted coup. The only thing missing was a love interest. "No, not much romance, I'm afraid," said Edward G. (Buddy) LeRoux Jr., one of the leading men in the tragicomedy.

LeRoux, former ankle-taper to the stars, mini-mogul in health care and real estate and a jolly good fellow, is one of three general partners of the Red Sox. He headed a marvelous cast of characters, and he was either Mickey Rooney or Peter Lorre, depending on your taste. There was also Haywood Sullivan, general partner No. 2 as well as the general manager of the Sox. Sullivan, a former third-string catcher and protégé of the late Boston owner Tom Yawkey, was either Gary Cooper or Lon Chaney Jr. The leading lady was Jean Yawkey, erstwhile fashion model, widow of Tom, the mysterious eminence in Luxury Box No. 1 and the third Sox general partner. She was either Helen Hayes or Agnes Moorehead. Also on stage were a prodigal son, lots of lawyers, lots of tycoons and almost the entire cast of The Impossible Dream, which was Boston's big hit in 1967.

The real Red Sox, the ones on the field, were reduced to being extras while they were fought over in the courts, in the press lounge and in the executive offices. The players had begun the week tied for first place, but they then took a spectacular plunge to as low as fifth, extending their losing streak to seven games while falling as many as six games behind the American League East-leading Orioles. They did at least settle the question of who owned the Red Sox. The Tigers and Orioles did.

The Red Sox fans, to whom the team really belongs, could either laugh or cry at the proceedings. Or they could disappear, as many did. Walk-up sales dwindled to a precious few during the week, and on Friday afternoon Ticket Director Arthur Moscato surveyed the scene in the ticket lobby and said, "On Friday at this time the lobby is usually filled, the phones are ringing off the hooks and I wouldn't have time to talk to you. But now there's nobody here, the phones aren't ringing and I've got plenty of time to talk to you."

What follows is a brief plot synopsis: On Monday, June 6, LeRoux, who has been skirmishing with Sullivan and Yawkey for the last couple of years, declares all-out war. He announces that, under an amendment to the ownership agreement, he's in charge and is hiring a new general manager, Dick O'Connell, who was the old general manager. He does this against the backdrop of Tony C Night, which was supposed to be a heartwarming charity affair. Sullivan says of LeRoux's action, "It stinks," and tells LeRoux he'll see him in court. The Red Sox lose 11-6 to the Tigers.

On Tuesday afternoon, in Room 243 of the old Suffolk County Courthouse, Superior Court Civil Action No. 62138 begins and Judge Andrew Linscott hears the arguments of the plaintiffs, Sullivan, Yawkey et al. His Honor adjourns the case till the next morning, making both sides promise they'll keep their hands off the team in the meantime. The Red Sox lose 4-2 to the Tigers.

On Wednesday morning, Linscott hears arguments from the lawyers for LeRoux and Rogers Badgett, the money behind LeRoux. At 3:50 p.m., Linscott grants a preliminary injunction against LeRoux and cronies' taking over the Sox and schedules a trial on LeRoux's amendment for July 11. Sullivan holds a victory press conference at 6 p.m. The Status Quosox lose 6-3 to the Tigers.

On Thursday, Sullivan and the Red Sox get back to losing. Boston falls 8-2 to the Tigers, who regretfully leave town.

On Friday, the Orioles come into Fenway. The Red Sox lose 3-0. On Saturday, the Down The Tube Sox lose 10-6. Finally, on Sunday, the Red Sox pull out a 7-6 victory, to end the week tied for fourth, five games behind Baltimore.

The whole mess really started when Tom Yawkey, patriarch of the Red Sox, died in 1976. A year later, the Yawkey estate put the team up for sale and selected a combine put together by Sullivan and LeRoux, friends then, over five other bidders, including a group headed by O'Connell. The transaction was financed by Sullivan and LeRoux selling 30 shares at $500,000 apiece for a total of $15 million, plus $5.5 million worth of Fenway Park and other Red Sox properties that Mrs. Yawkey provided. LeRoux, Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey were to be the general partners. LeRoux would take care of business, Sullivan would take care of baseball, and Mrs. Yawkey would take care of tradition.

Like most bad marriages, the Red Sox partnership came apart gradually. At first there were little things, like Sullivan signing sore-shouldered free-agent Pitcher Skip Lockwood to a costly contract over LeRoux's objections. After on-field disappointments in 1978 and '79, Sullivan and Yawkey resisted the public's and LeRoux's call for Manager Don Zimmer's head. A year later, over many objections, Sullivan hired Ralph Houk, which he says is the best thing he has ever done. Matters eventually reached the point where Yawkey refused to get out of her car at Fenway Park if LeRoux was in the Red Sox office.

In the meantime, through LeRoux's management, parking prices were raised, ticket prices were raised, even the roof was raised. Roof box-seat holders were moved to accommodate 41 luxury boxes, which go for about $35,000 per season. "They said Fenway Park couldn't be changed," says LeRoux, who worked his way up from being the Celtics and Red Sox trainer, "but I changed it. I like to make things happen."

He made things happen, all right. Last year he attempted to buy out Sullivan. This year he tried to sell his and Badgett's 14 shares, held by two corporations called Strike One and Ball One. One prospective purchaser was David Mugar, who owns WNEV-TV in Boston. Mugar was going to bring his old friend Carl Yastrzemski into the deal. The price for the 14 shares and LeRoux's general partnership was $19 million. But a month ago Mugar and Yaz announced they were dropping out of the bidding for now. "We knew this thing was headed for court," says Yastrzemski. "And we didn't want to be mixed up in it."

The partnership agreement clearly states that the other general partners have the right to refuse to let one general partner assign his interest. Either or both also have the right to buy out the third at fair market value as established by three appraisers. The price that Yawkey and Sullivan offered LeRoux is less than $13 million. The price LeRoux and Badgett want is $19 million. That gulf of more than $6 million indicates just how strained the relationship is.

"I say hello to Haywood all the time," says the genial LeRoux. "I say hello to everybody. And, yes, he says hello to me. To anticipate your next question, no, she doesn't."

Until last week the Red Sox hadn't let the squabbles upstairs bother them, which is a tribute to Houk, who's an excellent buffer for his players. Before the open warfare began, the fans were singing the praises of Reliever Bob Stanley, marveling at the solid play of Centerfielder Tony Armas and bidding farewell to Yaz, who will retire at the end of this season. Wade Boggs, whose batting average was as high as .390 at one point, was becoming the stuff of legend. His superstitions had become well documented, and fans started to count how many times he made the Hebrew chai sign in the dirt and to wonder what kind of chicken, the food he eats before virtually every game, he had for lunch.

But then came Black Monday and the palace coup. It was a day meant to honor Tony Conigliaro, the former Red Sox hero who has been hospitalized since 1982 following a heart attack. The proceeds of the game that night were to go toward Tony C's medical expenses, and his teammates from the pennant-winner of 1967 flew in from all over the country to visit him and reune.

LeRoux staged his takeover that afternoon. Before a scheduled general partners' meeting, he informed Sullivan and John Harrington, Yawkey's representative, that he was seizing control. He'd gotten the backing of an additional two shares from Albert Curran, who had resigned as team general counsel to avoid a conflict of interest, and now held sway over 16 of the 30 limited partnership shares. He had drafted an amendment to the partnership agreement making himself "managing general partner."

One of the stranger scenes that day came at 4:30, when the department heads were addressed first by Sullivan and then LeRoux. Sullivan told them he was still in charge, and then LeRoux got up and said he was in charge. Twelve minutes later LeRoux came into the press lounge on the roof of Fenway to inform the media that the Red Sox were his and to hand out a release on plain, not official Red Sox, stationery. Sullivan, who stood by stoically while LeRoux spoke, followed by saying what Buddy had done was invalid and ineffective. He would seek a restraining order the next day.

O'Connell, architect of the '67 team, took it all in with a smile. Retired in Belmont, Mass., he may have been relishing a little revenge. In 1977, after 31 years with the Red Sox, he had been dismissed by Jean Yawkey and the other executors of her husband's estate.

LeRoux's action spoiled Tony C Night, for which he should be ashamed. The fans should have been concentrating on recalling the glory of '67, on seeing Jim Lonborg arrive in a tuxedo which he would wear later that evening as a graduating student at the Tufts Dental School prom, on figuring out which guy was Bill Landis and which guy was Billy Rohr. "I didn't recognize some of them," said Yastrzemski, who was voted The Oldest-Looking at a dinner the night before. Most of all, thoughts should have centered on Conigliaro. Said '67 Third Baseman Joe Foy, "I'm sure if these guys had gone into that hospital room and seen Tony, they'd have waited another day."

Down in the clubhouse, the Red Sox watched news of the front-office developments on TV with some interest. "I don't think this business will have any effect on the team," said Houk. That night, the Red Sox entered the seventh inning with a 5-4 lead and Stanley, their savior, on the mound. Yaz had driven in a key run. But, for the first time all year, Stanley got lit up and the Red Sox fell out of first. Boggs, who'd had oven-fried chicken that afternoon, went 3 for 3.

At two o'clock the next afternoon, the two sides met in court. Attorney Daniel L. Goldberg, representing the Yawkey-Sullivan interests, argued that LeRoux was trying to usurp all power, that the team was already being well managed—"They were in first place yesterday"—and that the LeRoux amendments were void and of no effect. The other side said it hadn't had enough time to prepare an answer to the complaint, and Judge Linscott adjourned the case until nine o'clock the next morning. At Fenway that night, John Tudor pitched one-hit, shut-out ball over eight innings. Unfortunately, they were the last eight. In the first inning he gave up four runs and the Red Sox lost 4-2. Boggs dined on lemon chicken and went 0 for 3.

The next morning, in Superior Court, Ball One and Strike One sent two lawyers to the plate, Bernard Dwork and James St. Clair, Richard Nixon's former attorney. When Clerk James Lynch greeted St. Clair, he said, "Uh, oh, the heavy bat." St. Clair said that his client, Badgett, was in the Red Sox to make money, that he wasn't making money, and that he had the right to see that he made money. "Mrs. Yawkey has stated to my client that she has no interest in my client's making money," said St. Clair. "This comes as a surprise to my client, who has invested $6 million in the Red Sox." St. Clair was on pretty thin ice; Badgett has received 11.7% per annum after taxes on his investment. Besides, the original partnership agreement clearly prohibits the limited partners from interfering in the general partners' management of the club. LeRoux may have had a majority of shares, but he didn't have a majority of general partners.

At 3:55 that afternoon Linscott ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The second paragraph of his brief decision read, "This injunction is to issue since there is a strong likelihood of success on the merits and also a strong likelihood of irreparable injury without such relief."

"Whenever you go to court, there are no victories," said Sullivan at his post-hearing press conference. No victories were forthcoming on the field, either, although before the game Stanley said, "We'll win tonight. We just didn't want to win for Buddy." Boggs had Italian chicken and went 1 for 4 as Detroit won 6-3. "The Tigers are hot, that's all," said Houk when asked about distractions.

Had LeRoux won his court case, there were all sorts of possible scenarios. Houk would have immediately resigned. LeRoux would have brought in his friend Ken Harrelson to manage. Several of the office staff would have left. But LeRoux didn't win, and he really didn't expect to. His maneuver was designed to raise the price of his and Badgett's shares while at the same time making Sullivan and Yawkey more willing to buy him out or let him sell. "My only wish is to make this team a winner," says LeRoux. "Of course, if someone walked through the door with an offer I couldn't refuse, what kind of businessman would I be if I turned it down? My one regret in this whole thing is that I lost a good friend in Haywood Sullivan."

Calm settled over Fenway Thursday. Sportscaster Bob Lobel of WBZ-TV even got an exclusive interview with Jean Yawkey. It consisted of Lobel's putting a microphone in front of her and saying, "You seem to be very happy." She replied, "I am." Garbo speaks.

That night the Tigers completed their sweep. Not even barbecued chicken helped: Boggs went 1 for 4. The sad thing was that for the second time in four nights Yaz was almost the hero. He drove in two runs in the fourth to tie the score, only to have Pitcher Dennis Eckersley self-destruct the next inning.

"I honestly feel that what's been going on has had no effect on the team on the field," Sullivan said Friday. "But I know this is going to hurt attendance. Fans don't want to read any more about lawyers, especially with the troubles the Celtics are having, and the Patriots. I only hope we can bring them back with just plain baseball."

Friday night the Red Sox got three hits off Storm Davis and wasted a seven-hitter by Bruce Hurst. Boggs went so far as to try pork chops. He went 0 for 3, made an error and got hit on the elbow by an errant throw from Cal Ripken Jr. before the game. On Saturday he went 1 for 5 with a RBI after sending the clubhouse boy out for a McChicken sandwich. On Sunday, though, Boggs passed up the chicken for doughnuts, went 2 for 3 and drove in the winning run by drawing a walk with the bases loaded.

Baltimore Pitcher Dennis Martinez hails from Nicaragua, so he was asked if the same things that went on in Boston last week go on in Nicaragua. Martinez smiled and said, "Same things."

There's no telling when peace will come to Boston. The squabbles could go on and on. Then again, maybe LeRoux and Badgett will be allowed to sell out, and maybe Yastrzemski will become the general manager, and maybe Jean Yawkey will replace Sherm Feller as the public address announcer.

But maybe the Bosox died on Monday, June 6. That was the night they were supposed to honor the team that brought them back to life.

THREE PHOTOSJim Rice looked on helplessly as a homer by Detroit's John Wockenfuss helped defeat Boston again. PHOTOYawkey's no longer speaking to LeRoux. PHOTOLonborg and Yaz were the class of the Class of '67. PHOTORice and the rest of the drooping Sox were having trouble putting good wood on the ball. TWO PHOTOSBoggs laid an egg at third on Saturday when he missed this throw from the outfield. PHOTOHouk tried to smooth things over by saying the squabbling wasn't hurting his team.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)