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Haywood Sullivan
Born December 15, 1930
Donalsonville, Georgia
Died February 12, 2003 (age 72)
Fort Myers, Florida
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of Florida
Known for Ownership of the Boston Red Sox

Haywood Cooper Sullivan (December 15, 1930 — February 12, 2003) was an American catcher, manager, general manager and club owner in Major League Baseball. From 1978 through 1993, he was a general partner in the Boston Red Sox, where he reportedly parlayed a $200,000 investment into a $33 million cash out.

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MLB catcher and manager

Born in Donalsonville, Georgia, and raised in Dothan, Alabama, Sullivan threw and batted right-handed, stood 6'4" (1.93 m) tall and weighed 215 pounds (98 kg). He attended the University of Florida, where he was a football quarterback and a baseball standout. He signed with the Red Sox in 1952, but his career was derailed by military service and a severe back injury: Sullivan missed the entire 1958 season after surgery. Finally, in 1960, he made the big leagues as Boston's third-string catcher (playing behind Russ Nixon and Ed Sadowski). The following season, he joined the Kansas City Athletics, where he played for three full seasons and was the club's semi-regular catcher in 1961-62. Overall, Sullivan batted .226 with 13 home runs in 312 games over all or parts of seven seasons[1].

In 1964, Sullivan was named manager of the Athletics' Birmingham Barons farm club in the AA Southern League. His team just missed the pennant, by one game, earning him a promotion to the AAA Vancouver Mounties of the Pacific Coast League in 1965. But after only 25 games in Vancouver, Sullivan was called up to manage the A's on May 16, 1965, succeeding Mel McGaha, with Kansas City lodged in last place in the ten-team American League. They remained there under Sullivan, winning 54 and losing 82 (.397).

Front office and ownership career

At season's end, he was recruited by the Red Sox, who had reorganized their front office under new general manager Dick O'Connell. As vice president, player personnel, Sullivan was positioned as the top "baseball man" in the organization, and from 1965-67 was instrumental in acquiring several players from the Athletics (such as José Santiago, John Wyatt, Jose Tartabull and Ken Harrelson) who would help lead Boston to its surprise 1967 AL pennant. But O'Connell gradually assumed more power and took over most of Sullivan's responsibilities; during the early 1970s, Sullivan kept his title but in reality became the Red Sox' director of amateur scouting.

Despite his decline in overall authority, Sullivan maintained very close personal ties with owner Tom Yawkey and his wife, Jean. In 1977, a year after Tom Yawkey died of leukemia, the Red Sox were put up for sale. Sullivan — reportedly borrowing $100,000 and using his home as collateral — joined an ownership group organized by former Red Sox athletic trainer Edward "Buddy" LeRoux. Because of Sullivan's close friendship with Jean Yawkey, the LeRoux offer was accepted, even though it was not the highest bid and the group did not have the financial resources of some of its rivals. The American League initially rejected the deal, but reconsidered when Mrs. Yawkey joined the group as a third general partner in 1978.

Before the sale was consummated, in October 1977, Mrs. Yawkey fired O'Connell and promoted Sullivan to general manager. Overall, his first off-season as GM of the Red Sox was highly successful. Still using the resources of the Yawkey fortune, and benefitting from the depth of the Red Sox farm system that he helped to build, Sullivan acquired players such as Mike Torrez, Jerry Remy, Dick Drago, Tom Burgmeier and Dennis Eckersley. Buoyed by the new additions to an already strong team, the Red Sox charged into first place in the 1978 AL East race. The Red Sox would lose a 14½ game lead over the New York Yankees and a one-game playoff that season. Although manager Don Zimmer is usually cast as the chief culprit for the collapse, Sullivan contributed to the debacle by dealing away useful players such as Bernie Carbo, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Willoughby and Reggie Cleveland, who were considered to be "clubhouse lawyers." None of the players fetched comparable value, and the loss of pitching and bench strength was a critical factor in Boston's struggles.

Post-1978 decline and the 'Coup LeRoux'

Sullivan further endured the wrath of Red Sox Nation after the '78 season when he allowed legendary pitcher Luis Tiant to leave for the Yankees as a free agent and, as he had done with Jenkins, Carbo and the others, dumped a clubhouse dissident, lefty pitcher Bill Lee, in a giveaway trade — in this case, to the Montreal Expos. In 1979 he raised eyebrows when he selected his son Marc Sullivan, who was not considered to have early-round talent, in the second round of baseball's amateur draft; the younger Sullivan would bat a paltry .186 in parts of five major league seasons[2]. In December 1980, Sullivan faced the imminent free agency of Rick Burleson, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn — Boston's starting shortstop, catcher and center fielder, and thus the "up the middle" core of the ballclub. Sullivan was able to trade Burleson for value (young third baseman Carney Lansford), but then failed to mail contract offers to Lynn and Fisk by MLB's mandated deadline, unintentionally speeding their free agency. Sullivan was forced to accept fifty cents on the dollar for Lynn in a trade to the California Angels, and then lost Fisk outright when he was declared a free agent.

From then on, Sullivan's reputation in Boston was tarnished. He refused to enter the market for free agents, preferring to rely exclusively on player development, but the Boston farm system hit a dry spell resulting from poor drafts during Sullivan's tenure as GM; whereas O'Connell in 1976 alone had drafted Wade Boggs, John Tudor, and Bruce Hurst, the only starting player drafted and signed by the Red Sox between 1977 and 1979 was Marty Barrett. The Red Sox were also ridiculed for stinginess and ineptitude, with one sportswriter claiming that the team motto should have been "don't just do something; stand there!" The contending Bosox of the late 1970s were reduced to also-rans.

Sullivan's legacy received another battering in 1983 when a long-simmering estrangement from LeRoux became embarrassingly public. On June 6, just prior to a ceremony celebrating the Red Sox' 1967 AL champions, and raising money to care for stricken outfielder Tony Conigliaro, LeRoux called a press conference to reveal that he and his limited partners had exercised a contract clause and taken control of the Red Sox. He fired Sullivan on the spot, and restored O'Connell — who hadn't set foot in Fenway Park since his dismissal in 1977 — to the GM post. Boston called it "the Coup LeRoux." Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey then immediately called their own press conference to announce they had filed suit to prevent the takeover. A court granted them an injunction, and in a public 1984 trial that aired dirty laundry on both sides, Sullivan and Yawkey won the day again. LeRoux was bought out and Jean Yawkey became the majority general partner.

From GM to CEO/COO

But the damage had been done. Sullivan voluntarily gave up his general manager post to Lou Gorman in June 1984, immediately after the court victory over LeRoux, and became the team's chief executive and chief operating officer. Gorman received credit for trades that helped the 1986 Red Sox win the AL championship, although Sullivan's determination to build from within helped to furnish the club with many of its key players.

During Sullivan's tenure as general manager and top executive, the Red Sox, with their history as the last pre-expansion MLB team to break the color line, were again criticized for institutional racism. Fans and media noted the Red Sox' relative lack of African-American and Latin-American players. In a 1985 public relations disaster, the team was sued by former outfielder and coach Tommy Harper, an African-American. Harper was fired as a minor league baserunning instructor after he complained to the media about the club's policy of allowing the all-white Elks Club of Winter Haven, Florida (where the team held spring training), into its clubhouse to invite white players and front-office personnel to its segregated facilities. Harper's complaint was upheld by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on July 1, 1986. (Moreover, the city of Boston itself was painted as racist after the violence surrounding its school desegregation of the 1970s and incidents such as the Charles Stuart affair in the late 1980s.) When the Red Sox re-entered the free agent market late in the 1980s, they were able to sign All-Star catcher Tony Peña, but many nonwhite players ignored the Red Sox in free agency, or included them on their "no trade" lists. This trend began to change when the Red Sox bid aggressively (but unsuccessfully) for Kirby Puckett after the 1991 season.

After 1986 and LeRoux' exit, Sullivan and Mrs. Yawkey grew distant, and, although he still held a general partnership in the team by the late 1980s Sullivan was consistently outvoted 2-1 by Mrs. Yawkey's two general partnership shares. (Sullivan's title of CEO/COO, meanwhile, quietly was removed from the team's masthead.) When Mrs. Yawkey died in 1992, Sullivan and her representative, John Harrington, who headed the JRY Trust, each vowed to buy the other out. In November 1993, Harrington made good his word, acquiring Sullivan's share in the team for a reported $33 million.

Life after baseball

Sullivan then retired to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where he operated a marina and invested successfully in real estate, his name occasionally popping up (usually linked with former Commissioner of Baseball Fay Vincent)[3] as a potential part-owner of another major league club. When he died at age 72 in Fort Myers, Florida, in February 2003 after suffering a stroke, Boston baseball observers such as Peter Gammons took a fresh view of Sullivan's impact on the Red Sox and gave him renewed credit for building the team into contenders, and keeping them there, from 1966 forward. He was named to the team's Hall of Fame in 2004.

External links

References

  1. ^ Haywood Sullivan Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com
  2. ^ Marc Sullivan career statistics: http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/sullima02.shtml
  3. ^ Gammons, Peter, "Reality - Instead of Disaster - Sets In", Boston Globe, Dec. 12, 1994
  • Bryant, Howard, Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston. Boston: The Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Gammons, Peter, Beyond the Sixth Game. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1985.
  • Spink, C.C. Johnson, editor, The 1965 Baseball Guide. St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1966.
  • Stout, Glenn and Johnson, Richard A., Red Sox Century. Boston and New York: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2000.
  • Obituary, The Boston Globe, February 13, 2003.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Mel McGaha
Kansas City Athletics Manager
1965
Succeeded by
Alvin Dark
Preceded by
Dick O'Connell
Red Sox General Manager
1977 - 1984
Succeeded by
Lou Gorman
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