Tell All, Again Thanks to the author's children, a classic look at baseball's front-office follies has gotten new life

July 07, 2002

As a sportswriter for the Brooklyn Eagle and later in numerous
roles--from traveling secretary to ticket manager to promotions
director--for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, California
Angels, Seattle Pilots and San Diego Padres, Harold Parrott
witnessed firsthand the machinations of the game's top
executives. His 1976 memoir, The Lords of Baseball, pulled back
the curtain on the game, exposing baseball's front-office follies
much the way Jim Bouton's Ball Four had taken readers inside the
clubhouse six years earlier. In the book Parrott derided most
owners as "little boys with big wallets" and delighted in
detailing their misadventures on the job. He saved his most
withering comments, however, for longtime Dodgers owner Walter
O'Malley, whom he considered selfish, vindictive and just plain
cruel. Noted Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman called
Parrott's book "revisionist history at its absolute best, written
with flaming and accurate pen."

So why isn't the book as famous as Bouton's? Despite its positive
reception, The Lords of Baseball never made a big impact; in
fact, it seemed to disappear almost entirely from public
consciousness. For that the author blamed his villain. Until
Parrott died, in 1987, he swore that O'Malley, livid at how he
was depicted, had bought 14,000 of the 15,000 published copies,
enough to make Lords all but impossible for people to find on
store shelves but not enough to warrant a second printing.

Like many baseball stories, from the founding of the game to Babe
Ruth's called shot, this tale is probably impossible to prove.
Mimi Ross, who worked in the copyright division for Lords
publisher Praeger Press back in the '70s, says no one who might
know the truth is still around. (Publishing giant Henry Holt long
ago swallowed up Praeger.) O'Malley died in 1979, and his son,
Peter, declined to comment on the accusation.

"There's no evidence, but Dad believed it," says Parrott's son
Tod, 65. His younger brother Brian, 54, adds, "That was the way
O'Malley operated."

Fact or myth, the story helped inspire Tod, Brian and their
brother Lynn, 63, to bring the book back to life. "After Dad
died, it always lingered in the back of my mind that anyone who
had read the book enjoyed it," says Brian. Adds Lynn,
"Republishing it is a way of honoring Dad. When he wrote Lords of
Baseball, he was truly in his glory."

Reviving Lords wasn't easy. Brian spent a decade shopping the
book before the brothers struck a deal earlier this year with
Atlanta's Longstreet Press in which the family assumed much of
the financial risk for the book's distribution. Tod says more
than 5,000 copies of a 10,000-copy run have sold in just a few
months. Proceeds go to the nonprofit Bonfire Foundation, a
sports-and-education-oriented organization started by Tod's
children. (Bonfire was Harold Parrott's nickname.) The family is
negotiating for a paperback edition.

Parrott had set out to write an insider's look at Jackie
Robinson's early days in the majors. The editors at Praeger liked
his personal stories, Tod says, and had him rewrite the book as a
memoir. Seeing the results, they asked for another rewrite, this
time focusing on behind-the-scenes tales from the front office.
He gave them plenty. Parrott accused Dodgers general manager
Larry MacPhail and then St. Louis Cardinals G.M. Branch Rickey of
colluding on a trade involving rising star Pete Reiser. Parrott
portrayed Padres general manager Peter Bavasi as not only inept
but also downright daft, and he accused Dewey Soriano, the owner
of the expansion Seattle Pilots, of taking the city for a ride
with the fledgling franchise, which he sold after one year to Bud
Selig, who moved it to Milwaukee. O'Malley, though, comes in for
the harshest treatment. He's portrayed as betraying everyone who
ever worked with or for him, from Rickey to G.M. Buzzie Bavasi to
Parrott.

Despite the passage of years, Parrott's book remains relevant,
says New York Times columnist Dave Anderson, who wrote the
foreword to the new edition. "Today's owners still think the way
those owners did," Anderson says. "They create their own
problems." Adds veteran baseball writer Leonard Koppett, "What
Harold said about owners not grasping their own business is even
more true now. In that respect baseball has changed very
little."

COLOR PHOTO: LONGSTREET PRESS (BOOK) TWO B/W PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE BONFIRE FOUNDATION (2) FATHER KNEW BEST Parrott drew from his years alongside Dodgers such as Pee Wee Reese (above left) and Preacher Roe; sons Tod and Lynn met greats like Jackie Robinson.

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)