Share this article

print logo

ARIZONA OWNER COLANGELO STOPS TO SMELL THE ROSES

This is the week Jerry Colangelo has dreamed of.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' managing general partner owns a team in just its fourth year and already has it in a World Series, a first in baseball history. As the owner of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, he's no stranger to championship runs, but he's not taking this one for granted.

"It's going to be great. It's not like I'm a novice in the business of being in the finals fighting for a world championship," Colangelo said prior to the World Series opener in Bank One Ballpark. "I'm very respectful of the fact it's probably tougher to get here in baseball than any other sport.

"Seven years after we joined the NBA (1968-69), we were in the finals against Boston (1976), another storied franchise. There we were in Boston Garden. Red Auerbach was being interviewed in one corner, I was being interviewed in another corner standing under all the banners, and I was thinking, 'This is great. It only took us this long to be here, and we're going to be here a lot.' Well, it took us 17 years to get back (losing in 1993 to the Chicago Bulls) so I'm going to appreciate and enjoy this."

Colangelo has quickly become one of the most controversial figures in baseball. The sport's establishment, including Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, branded him a neophyte when he campaigned hard to be put in the National League for the team's 1998 inaugural season.

The team spent 2 1/2 years preparing for its opener and infuriating established clubs with its bluster about how its methods were the best and will be proven on the field. When Arizona opened its first season 9-26 en route to a 100-loss season, its NL rivals howled with derision.

Colangelo reacted quickly, especially when the club's season-ticket base fell from 36,000 to 27,000 in one year. He made trades (including the acquisition of Luis Gonzalez from Detroit straight-up for ex-Bison Karim Garcia), signed free agents such as Randy Johnson, Matt Williams and Jay Bell, and suddenly found his team as West Division champions in its second year. Arizona lost the division series to the Mets in four games.

"I was focused and committed to compete in year two because of the loss we had in the season-ticket base," Colangelo said. "It was something we had not expected after year one. Rolling the dice is what it's all about. If you go too much by the book in pro sports, that's how you probably get limited. You have to have a wide-open mind.

"And I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions. I've never second-guessed anyone about how they do business, and everyone should be left to do what they feel is appropriate."

Still, the Diamondbacks are having money trouble. Only by making the Series will they break even this year. In the future, however, they have $120 million in deferred salary they owe to 10 players and another $75 million Colangelo took out in loans from baseball's central fund.

Colangelo didn't want to discuss that or the potential labor problems the game faces when this series is done. To him, the next 10 days are going to be enjoyed without the weight of the game's other problems.

The lifelong Cubs fan attended his first night game in Wrigley Field in 1993 while in town for the Suns-Bulls NBA finals and said that's when he began to feel his hometown had a place in baseball.

"It was a warm summer night, a great crowd and I got a little twinge," he said. "I was thinking, 'Holy cow, this would be so great in Phoenix. Maybe we're ready.' "

In 1994, he began to put together the consortium of political and business leaders that got Arizona into the big leagues.

Saturday night, the Diamondbacks hit the world stage.
The Yankees were 16-1 in their previous 17 World Series games prior to Saturday night's loss, but Game One losses in the playoffs are nothing new to them.

In its current run that has seen them win the World Series four times in five years, New York dropped the opener of a playoff series five times. The Yankees have come back to win the series each time, including this year's division series against Oakland.
The crowd roared during the seventh-inning stretch when President Bush told them, "We will prevail against the evil ones" in a taped message on the stadium Jumbotron just before Vanessa Williams sang "God Bless America."

As expected, security was ultra-tight. Military helicopters flew over the stadium and no commercial jets were allowed at an altitude of under 3,000 feet. Some media members spent close to an hour in line to enter the ballpark because all computer and photography equipment was searched.

The national anthem featured a re-enactment of the U.S. flag being raised at Iwo Jima during World War II and the similar act that took place by New York firemen during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Phoenix firemen staged that re-enactment.
New York shortstop Derek Jeter went 0 for 3, snapping his Series hitting streak at 14 games, the third-longest in history. . . . Arizona reliever Mike Morgan pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his Series debut after 21 seasons in the majors. At age 42, he is the oldest player to play in the Series since Joe Niekro pitched for Minnesota at 43 against St. Louis in 1987. . . . All those ads for Fox Network shows you see rotating on the backstop behind home plate are projected there for television viewers. If you're in the stadium, there's nothing but green padding in that spot. . . . At game time it was 78 degrees; afternoon highs have been in the 90s.
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment