BASEBALL WINTER MEETINGS : Marlins’ Boss Collapses, Dies : Owners: Barger, 62, stricken at meeting and succumbs on operating table without ever getting to see his new club play.


Carl Barger, president of the Florida Marlins, collapsed while attending a meeting of major league baseball owners Wednesday and died during surgery at Humana University Hospital. He was 62.

Robert Fulton, the thoracic surgeon who operated on Barger, said death was because of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

“It’s a common entity caused by a hardening of the arteries,” Fulton said at a news conference. “I understand that Mr. Barger had several of the risk factors.”


A chain smoker, Barger was being treated for high blood pressure, Fulton said, adding that Barger’s heart was “almost stopped” by the time surgery began.

“It was probably too late by the time he left the (hotel where baseball’s winter meetings ended Wednesday),” Fulton said.

The owners meeting was adjourned after Barger collapsed. Bud Selig, chairman of the Executive Council, said a meeting will be called in January to complete the agenda.

Dodger President Peter O’Malley, who had left Louisville before learning of Barger’s death, said:

“More and more frequently I have been warning family and friends that the level of anxiety and frustration (has) been notching up for everyone in the game--from executives to players to the media. I hope this is not an example of that, but I’m very concerned.”

Barger and the Marlin staff had been preparing to begin play as a National League expansion team next season, and he and owner Wayne Huizenga had opposed Monday’s decision to reopen collective bargaining talks with the players’ union out of concern that a work stoppage would delay the Marlins’ debut.


An emotional Dave Dombrowski, the team’s general manager, said he was shocked and saddened by the loss of a friend and the thought that Barger would not share in that debut.

“Carl lived for the baseball end,” Dombrowski said. “He was supportive in every way. I was with him yesterday, and it was one of his happiest days because we had signed a couple players (Charlie Hough and Dave Magadan) who he knew the people in Florida would recognize. He was into those feelings all the time.”

Barger collapsed outside the door to the owners’ meeting en route to the rest room. American League President Bobby Brown, a cardiologist, said he and Rusty Rose, managing general partner of the Texas Rangers, reached Barger’s side in 10 to 15 seconds.

“He was breathing but unconscious,” Brown said in a news conference before Barger entered surgery.

“We used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest pressure until the paramedics arrived, but he never regained consciousness, and they were unable to get a pulse or blood pressure. We knew it was precarious.”

Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, said he was deeply saddened.

“Carl was devoted to our game and active in several important areas,” he said. “His role in preserving major league baseball in Pittsburgh and bringing the game to South Florida have been well documented. His loss will be felt deeply in these communities and throughout baseball.”


A graduate of Shippensburg State and Dickinson law school, Barger was a partner and chairman of the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin and Mellot and a director of Huizenga’s Blockbuster Entertainment Corporation.

Before joining the Marlins, he formed a limited partnership that purchased the Pirates in 1986 and, as president and chief operating officer, was influential in keeping the club in Pittsburgh and directing its rise from the National League East cellar to three consecutive division titles.

Said Pirate Manager Jim Leyland: “Carl was one of the closest friends I had, and this breaks my heart because of that friendship. But also because I know how excited he was that, after such a long wait and so much work, he was going to get to see his new team play.”