While not as well known as his brother, Dewey, who was the 'face' of the Pilots' ownership, Max Soriano--lawyer and former college pitcher--was deeply involved in the Pilots' saga, first in helping to secure the franchise, then serving as secretary/treasurer of the team and finally, in helping oversee its bankruptcy and sale.
I admit that when I met with Max in his Ballard office on January 10, 1994, I wasn't sure what to expect. After all, this was a man who was burned in effigy in his home town; one of the villians who was responsible for the Pilots leaving town; and a man who one of my other interview subjects had warned me off the record about as being "bad people."
As much as I tried to be detached, any thoughts about Max being a villain disappeared right away. He was smart, gracious, frank and unafraid of tough questions. I was impressed by his recall and willingness to relive, in great detail, an experience that must have been at least as painful for him as it was for the fans. I have added prefaces to some of my questions and explanations to some of his answers where I felt that they were needed to make the story more understandable to the casual reader.
How did you come to apply for an American League franchise?
My brother, Dewey, was the president of the Pacific Coast League and in the summer of 1967--the late summer, like into August, Joe Cronin, who was the president of the American League, came to Seattle and met with Dewey and he also met with me. At the time, I was the attorney for the Pacific Coast League. Joe Cronin thought they would be moving the Kansas City franchise from Kansas City to Oakland and that they would look to have another team go into Kansas City--an expansion team--as well as one in Seattle. He suggested to Dewey that he should be thinking in terms of getting investors to go into the American League and put in an application for membership later in the fall of '67.
Was he sure that Seattle was going to be one of the expansion cities?
I couldn't read his mind, but he felt, as president of the American League, that this is where the American League wanted to expand. They felt that with Kansas City moving to Oakland and already the California Angels, they needed additional clubs on the Pacific Coast--and they felt that Seattle was a growth area. To say that he was sure, let me put it this way, he stated "this is what they'd like to do and we'd like to get started as early as possible on getting investors to promulgate the franchise here in the Northwest."
Was this a possibility that excited you?
Well, of course, this would be like a childhood dream coming true if we could be part of that franchise to bring major league baseball to Seattle. There was no question in our minds but that it would be successful. That, I think, was the exuberance of youth or perhaps a miscalculation, but that's the way we felt at the time.
What do you have to do to apply for franchise?
The actual application for the franchise has to go to the American League office. Baseball is like a large fraternity. There are people that are in baseball and they have these meetings and they know who the people are in the communities that are interested. Of course, Dewey had been in baseball for many years, both as a player and as an executive. With the Seattle Rainiers, he was General Manager of the team and then he went from there to the presidency of the Pacific Coast League. He'd been in baseball for all these years and then when Mr. Cronin came to Seattle, he was intent on meeting with Dewey and giving him the framework from which to proceed.
What I was getting at was, did the AL say you had to have X number of dollars?
Early on, and I'm talking now about August of 1967, there was no set amount stated as to how many dollars were needed. That would come later. We were hoping that the sum would be similar to the expansion franchise of 1961, when the California Angels came into being and, I believe, the Washington Senators. There was an expansion at that time and my memory was, you were looking at about three and a half million dollars, in that range for the expansion. There was no sum mentioned by Joe Cronin in our meeting in August of 1967. The concept of how the team would be implemented--the stocking of the team--would be three players from each existing team. At that time there were ten teams in the League, meant there would be 30 players acquired from existing clubs. But the actual amount to be paid for each of those players was not stated until sometime well later into 1967.
The cost of the franchise was well above 3 1/2 million.
The cost of the franchise was 30 times 175,000 [Note from Mike: This refers to the price per player that the Pilots paid in the expansion draft: 30 players would be picked at $175,000 each. It was an arbitrary number and didn't reflect the salary of those players--no player made over $100,000 at the time.]. In addition to that, the working capital that the club needed to have was set at a total of eight million. The working capital was to set up the farm system, scouting staff and set up your entire operation.
[Note from Mike: Before the American League awarded a franchise to the group headed by the Sorianos, Seattle and Los Angeles newspapers had carried stories about the National League's desire to snap up the territory. Long-time Dodgers executive, Buzzie Bavasi, announced his interest in getting a franchise for the territory and he had support from all of the most powerful NL owners. Bavasi told me that the lack of a major league stadium was the deal breaker. That interview will be posted later this year.]
Was there any real competition with Buzzie Bavasi for the territory?
The actual competition, I don't believe existed. There was an attempt by one of the Seattle sportswriters to pick up on the potential of Buzzie Bavasi. At no time did Mr. Cronin and the American League...indicate to us that there was the potential for a third party to intervene.
[Note from Mike: To bolster their bid for an American League expansion team and to help keep the National League out, the Sorianos bought the Pacific Coast League's Seattle Angels.]
How much did you pay for the Seattle Angels?
My memory is $75,000. That sounds like a small amount of money, but you have to remember that at that time, minor league baseball was not an enterprise that you would want to go into unless you just so loved baseball that you were ready to lose money. To give you an example, the Seattle baseball team, the Seattle Rainiers, that had been owned by Emil Sick or the Rainier Brewing Company for many years, was sold to the Boston Red Sox for one dollar--just to give you an idea as to what the value of a franchise was. It's my belief that when the California Angels came into Seattle and set up the Seattle Angels team it was a one dollar transaction with Boston. The $75,000 was a substantial sum, greater than had been paid in recent years for a Triple-A franchise.
Why would Sick sell it for a dollar?
Because you were losing money in operating the team. What was happening was that in the larger cities such as Seattle, the fans were becoming disenchanted because of the farm club operation that was going on. For years, it had been an independent entity. Now what was happening was the major leagues were coming in and using even the high Triple-A cities as farm clubs. The problem with that was that, in the heat of the pennant race, the major league club would reach down and pick off some of the better ballplayers to bring up to the big club in case one of the big club's players was injured, they'd reach down and pick up a replacement like this and it took away from the pennant race in the lower league. With the advent of television, the minor leagues were in a state of flux. Most of the cities were actually losing money, so what is that franchise worth? It was worth something to the major league club because that's where they're training their younger ballplayers. As an independent owner, if you don't have a major league club and you're losing money, to keep that organization together, how much is that worth to you?
[Note from Mike: The Sorianos were the Pilots' local presence, but the vast majority of the money was put up by Ohio millionaire, William Daley, a former owner of the Cleveland Indians.]
How did you get hooked up with William Daley?
William Daley had come to Seattle in the '60s. In his mind was the possibility of moving the Cleveland Indians to Seattle. My brother Dewey had met with Mr. Daley and also with Gabe Paul, who was General Manager and President of the Cleveland baseball team. They had come to Seattle and looked at the possibility of moving the Indians to Seattle and that's when Dewey met Mr. Daley. Dewey felt that in order to have stability in our organization, that we needed somebody who was well-known in the American League and was well thought-of and he certainly filled that bill.
[Note from Mike: In 1964, upset at near-record low attendance and what they saw as a reluctance on the part of Cleveland mayor Ray Locher to make concessions, team executives were eyeing a possible move, with Seattle their favorite destination. How serious were the team directors? According to the board notes of October 16, 1963, "If they had a stadium, there would be no question..." It has been speculated that William Daley might have been willing to stick with the Pilots had he been a Seattleite. The fact that he was considering moving his hometown Indians only two years after he purchased the team seems to destroy that theory.]
So, how did you feel when you first got the franchise?
We were elated. It was December 1st at a meeting of the American League in Mexico City. Pacific Northwest Sports [the Pilots' corporate entity] was granted the franchise with a series of conditions. The biggest condition was the passage of the bond measure that was on the ballot for February 13, 1968. This was an absolute must. That was the first condition and as we looked at it, it was the biggest hurdle. Pacific Northwest Sports was granted the franchise conditioned on the approval of 60 percent or greater on that bond issue, which was part of Forward Thrust--a series of bond issues, $40 million of which was to be applicable to the construction of the domed stadium. Because of a meeting in Chicago, the concept was not for the 1968 season, but for the 1969 season. That would be both Kansas City and Seattle would go into the American League.
Can you paint me a picture of that meeting?
It was a full meeting of the American League and and you'd have the owners and the general managers of the ten clubs. You had the attorneys representing the American League. You had some interesting personalities. I remember Joe DiMaggio--he was then vice-president of the Oakland Atheltics--congratulating us and saying if there was anything he could do to help as far as the bond issue was concerned, he'd be glad to come to Seattle to work on that. That was very pleasing to our ears, to hear we were going to get that support from the American League. Joe Cronin, as president of the League, felt the same way, that the American League was going to do as much as they could to give the proper emphasis as far as the greater Seattle area was concerned, as far as this bond issue--which was coming up. You have to remember, you get to December 1st and then you get into the holidays and it isn't long before February 13th comes around. There was considerable question at that time, because to get 60 percent of the people saying yes when it's going to cost people some money for the taxes, is not easy to do. In fact, it's very difficult to get the 60 percent number.
And similar measures had failed in 1960 and 1966. Did that concern you?
It concerned us, but we thought with the American League committing itself--'hey, here, you have this franchise'--it wasn't a question of building something and then hoping to get a franchise, here was the franchise, conditioned upon the actual vote.
At that time, Marvin Milkes had already been selected as the general manager. I believe Marvin and my brother Dewey came up with this idea of bringing in several of the stars of the American League, one of whom was Mickey Mantle. Then at the same time, Jim Piersall came in. That was January 30th, 31st--he was here for four or five days. That was the difference, when we brought people like that in. Mickey Mantle the first week and then, the second week was Carl Yazstremski of the Boston Red Sox. Of course, he had just had the fantastic year in 1967. He was the Most Valuable Player in the American League and had carried the Red Sox into the World Series and they'd gone seven games with the Cardinals in the '67 World Series. Here we are in early in 1968 and Yazstremski was here and, as I said, Mantle and we had the Commissioner of Baseball, Commissioner Eckert, we had Joe Cronin of the American League. We had a series of individuals that were coming into Seattle and that were talking extensively on the plus-side of having a domed stadium, having a first-class stadium in which to play, because they all knew that Sick's Seattle Stadium was a minor league stadium that would not, in the long term, be a sufficient area in which to play in.
The American League was taking polls and they were tracking as to how the public sentiment was. I remember Joe Cronin coming in early--like the tenth or twelvth of January--and he came in and he said, "Max, you've got to do a little better." He says "you're up around 55, 56 percent, but you've got to do something more to get up to over 60 percent." He said "you've got to work on the women's vote, you've got to work on the..." They had these polls that were tracking how the populace was leaning on this vote. That's what happened was, we brought in these personalities: Mantle and Yazstremski and others like that and what they were doing was going out to the high schools and the junior high schools and talking to the non-voters, but the non-voters--the children in high school, junior high school and all were going back to their homes in the evening and saying, "Mickey Mantle was here and he talked to us in assembly!" In other words, the non-voters--the youngsters--they were selling their parents. Of course, it was getting good press. The newspapers were following them around at these various meetings they were having. They were very, very busy for five or six days at a time and they really did help. They pulled that up from the middle-50 range to 62.3, was the final vote. I atttribute it to the help of the major league athletes that came in to put the bond issue over the top.
So, the shareholders just divided up the stock in the teamand you were in business?
Yes. The American League set up the ratio of stock. In effect, Mr. Daley was to have control of up to 60 percent. He actually acquired 47 percent and then he had six investors, possibly seven investors, from the Cleveland area--mostly friends of his that had the other 13 percent. Dewey and Max had the right to the other 40 percent. Of that 40 pecent, we had 31 pecent. One of our other brothers, Milton, had two and three-quarters percent. That meant our family had just under 33 percent. Dr. Bill Hutchinson had one percent. Pat Patterson, the former chairman of United Airlines had one or two percent. Chinn Ho, who was a gentleman from Honolulu had one or two percent. Vern Coulon, who was a long-time friend of mine had one or two percent. John Tomlinson had one quarter of one percent. That pretty much made up the 40 percent.
Daley said he offered part of his shares to Seattle investors, but he couldn't find any. Does that seem right?
Yes, it does seem right. I know that early on, Mr. Daley actually wanted to have the control in Seattle. He said that he would be satisfied with 25 percent to 49 percent, that he wanted the majority control in Seattle. It was the American League that set the control in Mr. Daley. He had the right by the American League definition to take the 60 percent, but he chose not to do so, he took 47 percent. I know that he, at times, was in Seattle trying to get other investors--local people--to try to take some of his stock. I was not actually present in some of those meetings, but I knew that he was moving around with some of the very strong people in the community: people at Boeing and other financially strong individuals in the community.
[Note from Mike: The Soriano group went into partnership with Arizona developer, E. B. Smith, to build a spring training/shopping/hotel complex in Tempe. The stadium, called Pilots Field and later Tempe Diablo Stadium, still exists but the commercial portion of the project became the subject of lawsuits. White died a number of years ago, but I interviewed his lawyer, John Hughes, who was able to add perspective to this part of the Pilots' story. I will post that interview later this year or possibly next year.]
Can you recount the situation with E.B. Smith and Tempe?
E.B. Smith had this deal with the City of Tempe. They had this acreage on which we felt a training complex could be built--and was actually built by Pacific Northwest Sports to get ready for the 1969 season. He had this lease with the City of Tempe, which game him this lease as long as he was able to bring a major league team for spring training at a complex which would be built on that property. He came to our General Manager, Marvin Milkes and promoted the idea of the Pilots going in and developing the stadium there. The Pilots took out the mortgage from the Arizona bank and built the complex. This was during 1968 and the complex was ready to go for the opening of training in February of 1969. At all times, Mr. E.B. Smith was very difficult, very difficult to deal with and we had all the problems of getting the team to spring training and there were serious problems in our relationship with Mr. Smith as to how we were going to be able to continue to train at this location and he felt we should not only be building the training complex but also we should be developing other parts of this property with commercial investments. In other words, he was getting a substantial amount of land, but the training complex did not take all of that land. He wanted a motel and that sort of thing developed on the property and, of course, we were just getting started in the American League. He wanted to move much faster, let's put it that way, than we either wanted to or were capable of doing.
At what point in the season did you realize that things were going wrong?
I knew early on it was going to be a very, very difficult period, because in early May we had a series with the Boston Red Sox coming to town, I think on a Tuesday evening. It was just a beautiful evening and I was thinking to myself we're going to really draw the people--because here was Yazstremski, who had been instrumental in the 1968 bond issue and Reggie Smith and some of these outstanding ballplayers coming to town...and we drew just over 7,000 people. In mid-summer we lost some of our key infielders, our shortstop was knocked out, our third baseman was knocked out with injuries and we just took a tailspin. It wasn't until September that we got most of our players back. For an expansion club it was bad. We were probably a little overly optimistic, both Dewey and I were, as to what the potential was of the Seattle market. We were perhaps disappointed in the amount of cooperation we received, but then, having said that, maybe we should have done something differently as we went along that would have brought that cooperation sooner and perhaps more spontaneously. The second indication was the projection of the cash flow. Here we are right in the heart of the season--and this would be early in June to mid-June...we're paying the players, we're paying all these expenses, but we also know we've got to carry the club during the off-season and I could see our dollars were not increasing. In other words, we were not building up a fund that would carry us during the off-season. Then we asked for a projection by our accounting staff to project forward the results of the year, based on the early three months of the season and to project forward our dollars and cents, where we were going to be and also what our obligations were in paying off our loans. It came out to be that we were about $2.2 million short once we paid off our loans. I'm not saying that that's the kind of money that would be lost, that would be the kind of shortfall in our cash flow. That's when I knew we were in trouble. This would have been in early July.
Why wasn't the attendance in Seattle higher?
The problem was that we were not strong enough financially to properly promote the game in Seattle. We thought the game would promote itself and we were wrong, it needed more than that. We were playing in a ballpark that was a minor league ballpark and we had considerable resistance from the city as far as accomplishing even the bare minimum of a restructuring of the park itself. We were not able to sell tickets for opening day because the seats were not even in position. We were given 25,000 seats. Originally it was going to be 30,000 seats, then that was backed down to 25,000 seats and we actually probably got about 23,000 out of it. But even the 23,000 were not up and ready to go on opening day. We had considerable delay, delay, delay, delay, delay in getting going on the work of altering the stadium. Finally, when the contracts were signed--this was being done by the city--and then we had this horrendous snow storm that hit us and that delayed the work in January of 1969--and yet we had known since February 13th of 1968. There just hadn't been any real force in getting the job done. We had written a letter to Mayor Braman in August of 1968, pointing out that even though next April seems like a long ways away there hasn't been and real honest-to-goodness work or preparation for work being done at the stadium. It was a delay getting started and it seemed like the stadium never was up to major league specifications. There were so many of the seats--a great majority of the seats didn't have backs on them. It was difficult to sell baseball at that time. Here we were an expansion club, and although we had some bright moments, we still were not a winning team. We won 64 and lost 98.
Why do you think you didn't have the cooperation of the political community?
I don't think the political entity really got behind the team. I know Dorm Braman was mayor at first, but Floyd Miller came in before the season was over. We just had a difficult time with the city; the reason for that, I can't answer.
[Note from Mike: Relations between the City and the Pilots soured considerably at the beginning of June when Dewey Soriano refused to pay the rent and post an insurance bond, charging that the City had failed to upgrade Sick's Stadium to major league standards, per its agreement, and that there was much work still needed. His intent was to force talks, but Miller not only refused to talk, he threatened to evict the team immediately.]
How about the business community?
I think the business community was beginning to warm up to the Pilots and I think if we could have held on, it would have responded. I'm not going to blame the business community. We've got to sell ourselves. Just because a person has a business in Seattle, that isn't any reason he has to subsidize the baseball franchise. Seattle didn't have a chance. We weren't here long enought to develop the proper rapport. I think it takes two, three, four years.
Would the Pilots have worked if they'd started in 1970 instead?
I don't think there would have been a difference. The real problem that we had was that this was a minor league ballpark. It would have been more timely, because it would have been ready for opening day and that sort of thing, but it still would have been a poorly-done minor league ballpark. I remember Joe Cronin coming out and viewing Sick's Stadium and he looked at me and he said, "you know, really, this franchise should start once the domed stadium is built. This is not a site for major league baseball." Of course, he had all these years of experience and a perspective that I didn't have. He was looking at the broad perspective and yet we were so anxious to get started, I felt that we could get by with that. But, I really do think that he was right, that we would have been better off had we waited until the domed stadium was actually constructed and then started the franchise.
You were criticized for high ticket prices. Was that fair?
It was unfair because in our brochure, we had these prices listed at $6 a seat. Which seems kind of low today, but of course, we're talking about almost 25 years later. We should not have put the $6 number on those seats because they were all season tickets and they came to, I think, about $4.20. Instead of being [viewed as] a good buy, the idea came across that we gouging or overcharging, but it wasn't true. It was certainly a partial error on our part to be advertising that $6 when these seats were not available, they were all taken.
Why weren't the Pilots on television?
The cost of the A.T. & T line was such that we couldn't get enough advertisers to come forth [to pay for it]. There wasn't any revenue for the ballclub by the time that you paid the telephone charges. All of the funds would be eaten up by the line charges. We were just absolutely unsuccessful in getting any television revenue.
There's a story that Dewey demanded extraordinarily high rates for the rights.
I don't think that's true. He was asking for a rate where there would be some compensation to the ballclub for the product. The problem, once again goes back to what those charges are. You're seeing the same problem with the Mariners here. They're getting, relatively speaking, much smaller revenue than some of the other clubs are getting from their advertising for their television because of those same line charges. We had to be compensated, because the concept was, okay, people are able to watch the games free on television--how many of those are going to say, "well, I've seen enough baseball this week, I'll forget about going to the ballpark."
William Daley could have kicked in more money to keep the team going. Why didn't he?
You're talking about big monies to get the club through the winter and into the next year. Sure, he had the money to do so, but I don't think he was a careless person with his dollars. I think he was, I'm not saying frugal, but he was a prudent businessman. I think he looked at it as the odds being too much against it being a viable franchise until a new stadium was built and he didn't know how long that was going to be--and if it continued on this shortfall of $2.2 million a year for several years--4, 5, 6 years, which it so happened it would have been--then you're looking at a very substantial number of dollars into the franchise. It seems like that would be a small amount of money today, but you're got to remember that the Yankees, I believe, sold for $11 million in '73. It was a different ballgame compared to our present prices.
[Note from Mike: In August, William Daley was quoted as saying that Seattle had one more chance to support the Pilots or the team would move. Needless to say, this was not well-received.]
Daley's 'one more chance' quote--was that a prudent thing to say?
I think he probably was disappointed in some of the things we spoke about earlier on the cooperation that we had from the city. I think that the feeling of the management--and Bill, of course, was the chairman of the Board--was that the people we earlier thought would be out in front leading, just like they had done in San Francisco, where the mayor had been the champion for bringing the Giants from New York and getting behind building the new stadium--should be really boosting the team and helping get the community behind us, but they weren't doing that, and that was a reason right there why he felt that maybe baseball wouldn't catch on in Seattle. I personally didn't feel that the 1969 season was a good example. I just think it was too short, we were under adverse circumstances in the park that we were playing. I would not agree then or do I agree now that that one season was a fair test.
Ultimately, was it paying back the loans that tripped you up?
Yes. The team was overleveraged and it was a substantial mistake to have done so. This, I think, was based on some of the overly-optimistic positions that both Dewey and I had. We felt that the team itself--the operations--would be able to pay back the loans, not realizing as I do with 20-20 hindsight, that you really need that cash up-front to stabilize your operation. If the money is going to flow, it's going to flow later. Yes, I'd say that was a very significant part of the problem.
[Note from Mike: Sportservice was one of the largest concessionaires in the world and one of the Pilots' biggest creditors, having loaned the team $2 million as part of its original financing. The intent was that Sportservice would be the concessionaire once the domed stadium was built, but an unexpected roadblock appeared in the form of a local law requiring competitive bidding for such contracts. Dewey Soriano said that if Sportservice didn't go into the new stadium, then neither would the Pilots. The plaintiffs in the State of Washington's suit against major league baseball made much of this, citing it as evidence that there was a conspiracy involving the team and Sportservice. This was a key to getting around baseball's fabled anti-trust exemption, but more about that once I post my interview with the late Judge William Dwyer, who was lead attorney on the State's case.]
Dewey said that the Pilots wouldn't go into the domed stadium unless Sportservice had concessions. Was that part of the reason the Pilots moved?
No, not at all. Not at all. Sportservice had zero to do with the Pilots' moving. Sportservice had loaned the $2 million and they were as if they were a completely passive creditor. They at no time took a stand whether we should try to move the club or whether we should stay here. They were completely passive. In my judgment, what they may done or could have done, because they were involved with several other major league franchises with their concessions, what they may have said, I have no way of knowing. But I know as far as my relationship with [top Sportservice executives] Jack Zander and Jeremy Jacobs, they were completely neutral. It was "hey, you fellows, it's up to you, whatever works best for you." They were, as far as I can see, gentlemen to do business with.
Some people have said you rushed into bankruptcy. Is that fair?
We were insolvent. We had debts that we could not pay and the only way those debts could have been paid--our projections showed this $2.2 million minus cash flow--and that was before we had the significant dimunition in the radio rights. The radio rights were, I believe, $850,000 and we were looking at less than a quarter. We were looking at, I think, $220,000 or $225,000, something in that range is what Golden West Broadcasters had reduced the amount to for 1970. [Note from Mike: Golden West, the broadcast company owned by California Angels owner, Gene Autry, had the rights to broadcast Pilots games.] So the $2.2 million I referred to earlier was going to be our negative cash flow and now we were looking now at closer to $3 million. We definitely had no place to go except to sell franchise, which we were able to do, and to pay off everybody.
[Note from Mike: In February of 1970, the American League sent former Yankees and Phillies general manger, Roy Hamey, to Seattle to oversee team operations.]
There was a rumor that Roy Hamey was sent by the American League to run the franchise into the ground so they could move it. Was it his idea to negotiate such a drastic reduction in the radio rights fees?
No, that was Golden West. But I can see their point. They didn't know what was going to happen to the Pilots for 1970. Were the Pilots going to be in Seattle? Were they going to be somewhere else? Were they going to be in Milwaukee? Were they going to be in Texas? Nobody really knew. Golden West, they didn't know who to talk to. Remember, Fred Danz was also in the picture and Eddie Carlson was in the picture. [Note from Mike: Fred Danz and Eddie Carlson were local businessmen who each attempted to purchase the Pilots and keep them in Seattle.] There has to be somebody in charge and we were taken out of the loop as far as the American League was concerned.
Were you and Dewey hung in effigy under the Monorail?
I don't know if that's true.
How were you feeling about being the bad guys all of a sudden?
We were both feeling very dismal, there isn't any question about it. It was like the dream of youth ending up in a nightmare. You know how you feel in a nightmare--you can't even walk when someone's coming at you, you can't move? That's the way we felt.
Your director of ticket sales, Harold Parrott said some nasty things about Dewey in his book and accused you both of being fast buck artists. Why would he say something like that?
Because he was fired from his job. I think he was discontented because of that. It didn't take a CPA or anything like that to know what we were doing as far as the cash flow was concerned. We were properly apprised we were losing money and I think Harold Parrot, who was a very good man in a franchise that was sailing along smoothly. In our franchise we didn't have the luxury of having a person as qualified and confident as him helping us. He had to be severed. It was basically, partially to save dollars.
[Note from Mike: After the Danz and Carlson bids to purchase the Pilots failed, and amid rumors of a relocation in February of 1970, the American League announced that the Pilots would would stay in Seattle, run by the Sorianos and Daley, who would be loaned $650,000 to get them through spring training and into the start of the season. It was a short-lived promise; a month later, the Pilots were on their way to Milwaukee.]
The $650,000 advance--what was the League's thinking?
They were in an emergency situation--in what you'd call "in extremis" in the legal term. In extremis of two vessels moving toward each other, toward a collision. You're in extremis, you have to do something. The League knew that they had to get these players into spring training. It was imminent. This was the middle of February as I recall, the middle of February 1970. The meeting was in Chicago. It was less than a week before the catchers and the pitchers were due to report and so they made this decision. It was a band aid. They were hoping they would be able to revive the Eddie Carlson proposal or to modify it so that it would be acceptable.
So, it was just a stop-gap?
Yes. I think they wanted more time.
Could the other owners have done more to revive the team?
No, I don't think so. It's an impossible situation. You're talking about a highly-competitive business and the other owners have got their own problems. They've got to look after their own ballclub and try to make that ballclub as competitive as possible. They cannot be diverting funds from their own operation to help somebody over here. It's only in extreme cases that you'd even seek that, only because it is a League. To ask them to do more? They did plenty. They got the team to spring training and the rest is history.
How did the sale to Milwaukee interests came about?
We had been negotiating with Milwaukee in the latter part of the 1969 season, because we knew that the ballclub had to be moved in order to pay the debts of the club. We entered into a gentlemen's agreement at the World Series in late October of '69. The Mets were playing the Baltimore Orioles there at the Baltimore park. At the second game of the series, we concluded a deal with Bud Selig and Mr. [Edmund] Fitzgerald, who was the senior man there at the negotiations. We had made this gentlemen's agreemment for the acquisition by Milwaukee--if the American League would allow the transfer of the team, which was absolutely essential. We had gone to Mr. Cronin and told him of this and he said, "well, we have to set up a special meeting," which they did in Chicago. The American League owners met in Chicago with the Milwaukee contingent not present. They set up a committee to investigate the situation in Seattle and report back to the League just as soon as possible. Because this was October and they wanted to be able to finalize something as soon as they could. The committee, I believe, was made up of four different owners. The committee came back three weeks to a month later--in the middle of November and said that, "by all means, the present owners of the Pilots should try to obtain ownership in Seattle for the club. That the club could not and should not be transferred." They wanted Seattle to get a fair deal, that every effort should be made to keep the club in Seattle. That was a strong effort by the American League. They said flatly, "no, you can't move that club. Seattle has not had a fair chance and we're not in the business of putting a franchise in a city and then after one year, transferring it out." They were adamant about it, even though we had discussed some of the shortfalls of the stadium and so forth.
Was Selig your only option?
Lamarr Hunt and a Texas group also wanted to buy the team. But we had felt we had made a gentlemen's agreement with Bud Selig and the Milwaukee group that's what we were committed to.
Why did the AL say the Pilots would stay when you already had a deal with Selig?
The American League didn't feel--and the committee that was set up was unanimous--that Seattle had been given a proper chance and that they wanted the club to remain in Seattle. It wasn't a wishy-washy commitment. They said the club is not moving, you are staying in Seattle--get yourself some local support.
I'm still not clear why they said what they said.
That sales agreement we had was a gentlemen's agreement, but it was all predicated on the American League's approval and without that approval, it was for naught, the agreement that we had.
Did you and Dewey make a lot of money from the sale?
No, no, no, no, not at all. The total money, as I recall, that was distributed to the stockholders and which we would get our proportionate share--and that's all the stockholders and that's after the bankruptcy and the costs of the bankruptcy--for all the stockholders was maybe $200,000. Of that $200,000, Dewey and Max together would have 31 percent. That would come to what? $62,000?
Do you regret that it didn't work out?
I regret it very much, but I've got to be a realist and I have to look at myself in the mirror and say I was, at least partially, responsible for it not working. I think as you go back to the original premise I had that baseball would not only survive, but it flourish in Seattle, and I was too optimistic as to what are some of the ingredients that would cause it to do that. Looking back on it now, I was very naive.
Do you have a fond Pilots memory that you hold onto?
I remember that first game that we played, opening the season in '69 in Anaheim, California. We got off to a four-to-nothing lead and hung on for dear life and ended up winning the game four-to-three. That was a big win. Then, I remember the opening day in Seattle. It was a beautiful, beautiful day in April. If you'll put aside for a moment the fact that the stadium wasn't completed or even close to being completed, the fact that Gary Bell pitched a shutout against the White Sox. I remember Gene Brabender, the pitcher that we had obtained from Baltimore, had come on and become a very effective pitcher. When he first started in the spring, he looked like he couldn't get anybody out. But he pitched himself into condition and toward the middle and end of that season, he was firing that ball and he was really a tough pitcher. I remember the work that he did and then Tommy Harper stealing all those bases and Mike Hegan at first base, Marty Pattin coming on and Jim Bouton and so forth. I've got a lot of good memories from the season. But I have to look back and say I was too optimistic and wasn't really prepared for the responsibility, not only to bring the team, but as an on-going officer of the corporation.