A. BARTLETT GIAMATTI 1938--1989 : Baseball World Is Stunned by Death : Commissioner Praised for Unwavering Display of Courage, Integrity

Times Staff Writer

Shock was the obvious reaction in baseball Friday to the sudden death of Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti.

Peter Ueberroth, Giamatti’s predecessor, was vacationing in Paris when informed of his death.

“Baseball has been deprived today of the services of its finest commissioner in history,” he said, in a statement released by his Newport Beach office.


“Bart Giamatti encompassed everything that is good and enduring about America’s favorite pastime. For this man of words, courage and deeds . . . no words can express the loss.”

Deputy Commissioner Francis T. (Fay) Vincent Jr. had spent Friday morning with Giamatti, who died Friday afternoon after collapsing at his summer home in Massachusetts.

“It was a tremendous shock,” Vincent said. “I dropped him off at noon and he seemed OK. He had great friends and admirers. Baseball, his family, his friends, the country suffered a big loss. This was a uniquely talented man. It’s a very sad event, a tragedy for a lot of people.”

Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, in a statement released by a spokeswoman from his New York law office, described Giamatti as a man of varied talents.

“He was a man of extraordinary character,” he said. “He blended together such a remarkable combination of virtues--eloquence, intellectuality, patience, fair-mindedness, humor, prudence and courage. He surely would have been one of the great commissioners had he served on.”

Giamatti, president of Yale University in 1978-1985 before becoming president of the National League in 1986, was remembered by his Yale successor.


“He gave of himself magnificently to Yale as a teacher, a scholar and a leader,” said Benno C. Schmidt, Jr. “This university will be a better place because of his service. . . . He will never be forgotten at this university.”

Dodger President Peter O’Malley, in a statement released by the Dodgers, said he was “deeply saddened.”

“We will always remember his great love for the game of baseball. Our thoughts and prayers go with the Giamatti family,” he said.

O’Malley is in the Soviet Union, attending the dedication of a baseball stadium.

“It was a great shock to me,” said Angel owner Gene Autry.

“I had a lot of respect for him--I found him to be honorable, very smart and very fair. In my opinion, he would have been one of the great commissioners.”

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner called Giamatti “brilliant.”

“There have been other men who have wanted to be commissioner because of what the office represented,” he said.

“Bart, however, wanted to be commissioner because of his love for the game. . . . When we lose Bart Giamatti, we lose a man this country could never replace. He was brilliant and compassionate . . . it left me dumbstruck.”


A.B. (Happy) Chandler, 91-year-old former baseball commissioner (1945-1951) and two-term U.S. senator, reacted similarly.

“Naturally, I’m shocked,” he said, from his Lexington, Ky., home. “I’ve always felt Bowie Kuhn was the best one (commissioner) we ever had, and Ueberroth was a good one, too, but Giamatti just wasn’t around long enough (to be compared).

“It’s a terrible thing.”

Said National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle: “He was a man of many talents, one of which (handling the Rose case) he proved during his few short months as commissioner,” he said. “I admired the man and the manner in which he conducted himself during his all-too brief time in baseball.”

Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, remembered Giamatti as serving a game he loved.

“I got to know Bart during his time as National League president, and the thing I think of is his great love for the game. . . . He was very excited about the opportunity that had come his way to serve the game.

“And he was a man who, along with that love, also brought an intelligence to the game. Although his term of service proved to be short, he showed all the strengths he had in that time.”


Mike Port, executive vice-president of the Angels, said Giamatti spelled the game with a capital “G.”

“Having heard him talk about the Game--and by ‘the Game’ I mean with a capital G --I could tell the Game was special to him. He reminded us of the grace and beauty and atmosphere this game has.

“He was an incredibly bright individual. But he was a very gentle and compassionate man, also. He’ll be missed.”

John Ziegler, commissioner of the National Hockey League, paid tribute to Giamatti’s handling of the Pete Rose affair.

“Every commissioner’s heaviest responsibility is the occasional but serious challenge to the integrity of the sport,” he said.

“Commissioner Giamatti was called early to exercise this responsibility. He stood firm against the challenge, exercised his responsibility, and all of us in sports are the better for it.”


Times staff writers Rich Roberts and Mike Penner contributed to this story.

BASEBALL COMMISSIONERS Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Jan. 12, 1921 to Nov. 25, 1944 Happy Chandler: April 24, 1945 to July 15, 1951 Ford Frick: Oct. 8, 1951 to Dec. 14, 1965 William Eckert: Dec. 15, 1965 to Feb. 4, 1969 Bowie Kuhn: Feb. 4, 1969 to Sept. 30, 1984 Peter Ueberroth: Oct. 1, 1984 to April 1, 1989 A. Bartlett Giamatti: April 1, 1989 to Sept. 1, 1989 GIAMATTI CHRONOLOGY April 4, 1938--A. Bartlett Giamatti is born in Boston. 1960--Graduates from Yale. 1964--Receives a doctorate in comparative literature from Princeton. 1964-67--Teaches at Princeton and New York University. 1967--Joins the English department faculty at Yale. Dec. 19, 1977--Is named president of Yale. June 30, 1985--Resigns as president of Yale. June 10, 1986--Is named president of the National League. May 1, 1988--Suspends Pete Rose for 30 days for bumping umpire Dave Pallone. April 1, 1989--Is named commissioner of major league baseball. Aug. 24, 1989--Suspends Pete Rose for life for allegedly betting on baseball games. Sept. 1, 1989--Dies of a heart attack in Edgartown, Mass. - GIAMATTI’S DEATH Baseball commissioner dies of apparent heart attack at 51. Story, Part I, Page 1. - DEPUTY COMMISSIONER Francis T. (Fay) Vincent Jr. shuns the glare of publicity. Story, Page 12. - WHO’S IN CHARGE? The Executive Council will run baseball until a successor is chosen. Story, Page 12.