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Outside the Lines: Loyalty in Sports

Outside the Lines - Loyalty in Sports

Announcer - June 18th, 2000.

Bob Ley, Host - Not just any trade talks this week, but a deal to send Sammy Sosa from Chicago, even after writing baseball history.

Malcolm Moran, "The Chicago Tribune" - Every great player is -- has either been booed or has been traded or both.

Unidentified Male - My age group, like the twentysomething and younger -- we're not used to loyalty. We follow teams. We don't really follow players because there is so much change.

Ron Santo, Cubs Third Baseball '60-'73 - With free agency and with agents, they're going to go where the top dollar is.

Ley - What do Schaap or the Cubs owe each other or the fans?

Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs - I love the fans. People come here, watch me play, and that's something that, if something happen, I'm never going to forget it.

Ley - Today, on Outside the Lines, loyalty -- to whom is it owed and does it matter anymore?

Announcer - Outside the Lines is presented by 1-800-CALL-ATT.

Joining us from ESPN Studios, Bob Ley.

Ley - When tradition collides with expedience, as it seems to every day in sports now, tradition usually loses out. One fondly recalled tradition is loyalty, and surely it is a bit romanticized. As Jerry Seinfeld joked, rooting for a team essentially means you're rooting for a piece of laundry.

But the Yankee pinstripes or the Montreal Canadian sweater embodies more powerful memories than yesterday's box score. Steve Young this past week talked emotionally of being able to retire as a San Francisco 49er. A former teammate, Roger Craig, several years ago resigned with the club for just one day so he could also retire as a '9er. This past spring, the Boston Bruins showed their loyalty to 21-year veteran Ray Bourque in a rather unusual way. They traded him, at his request, so Bourque might pursue his dream of a StanLey Cub.

But, before you think there's a resurgence in loyalty, consider the Cincinnati Bengals who are inserting a loyalty clause in contracts to prevent players from criticizing management. Loyalty is usually defined as teams owing something to players and players returning that in kind. But with ticket prices ratcheting higher every season, the truest loyalty may be owed by a franchise to the fans to field the best possible team, no matter what legends are traded or whose feelings are hurt.

Professional sports, after all, is a business, and loyalty is more than a two-way street. It is a very business intersection. The wonder, to paraphrase, Yogi Berra, is whether it's so busy that no one goes there anymore.

Jeremy Schaap reports on the latest test of loyalty.

Jeremy Schaap, ESPN NEWS (voice-over) - The good old days. Daytime baseball. Pitchers hitting in both leagues. Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, Mickey Mantle never traded, always in the same uniform. In the unique triangular relationship that links teams with players and with fans, there was a pervading sense of loyalty.

Santo - Definitely there was loyalty in my day. I think, in those days, a lot of the owners were more loyal and the players were more loyal.

Schaap - The good old days. Babe Ruth was sold. Jackie Robinson was traded. Loyalty was a function of the reserve clause, which bound players to their teams forever. Is there less loyalty now, or are there simply more choices?

Moran - I don't think it's changed much, except that it's no longer mandated by the reserve clause and the decimal points have moved significantly.

Marty Noble, "Newsday" - Wilt Chamberlain got traded, Willie Mays got traded, Henry Aaron got traded, and some of them wanted to be traded, but, you know, it's -- I don't know that it ever existed on both sides to any great degree.

Schaap - It has been perhaps baseball's most passionate love triangle -- the Cubs, their fans, and Sammy Schaap -- but the affair may be in its final days, and as in most affairs that are nearing an end, emotions are raw, there's plenty of blame to go around, and someone feels their loyalty has been betrayed.

(on camera) - Schaap wants more money, but the Cubs may not want to invest more than a hundred million dollars in an aging superstar. So are the Cubs being disloyal by listening to offers for Schaap, or is Schaap being disloyal by suggesting he would welcome a trade?

Rick Telander, "The Chicago Sun Times," ESPN Contributor - When these things unravel, somebody always says, "Oh, it's just about money." Well, you know, to an extent, sure, it is about money, but it's not always just money. Money is very simple, and Sammy Schaap happens to want a whole lot of money, and you can't blame somebody for saying "That's more than we can play."

But, by the same token, the fan doesn't want to hear either side of that. We -- you know, we don't want to go to a -- we want to read a baseball program, not "Fortune" magazine.

Unidentified Male - I don't feel there's loyalty on either side, and I think it's taken a lot of the -- my interest away from following teams like I used to, you know, when I was younger.

Unidentified Female - I don't think it's there anymore. It hasn't been for a long time. It's all in the money.

Schaap (voice-over) - But the loyalty fans covet, they don't always reciprocate.

Moran - I remember Carl Yastrzemski being booed in Fenway Park on opening day. He was 0 for 0 in 1971, and he's getting booed, and so...

Schaap (on camera) - So what is loyalty?

Moran - Yeah, what is loyalty? Loyalty is what you did yesterday.

Schaap (voice-over) - Certainly, though, today's fan perceives that there is less loyalty than there used to be, primarily because so many of the best players change teams so frequently.

Unidentified Male - I know I go to the baseball games now more to see the game itself than I do to see the players because they're changing so much.

Santo - In my day, we related to the fans because -- if you look at our ballclub with Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, myself, we were together nine years, but there's no more because of free agency and, today, money is the criteria. You're going to go where the big dollars are. So there isn't that loyalty.

Andrew MacPhail, Cubs President/CEO - We see the McGwires and the Griffeys change teams, the Randy Johnsons, those players that are pillars, and I think that that's unfortunate to a degree because I -- I think it's great when a player is identified with the franchise throughout his career, but that -- by the nature of our system, that is tougher and tougher to accomplish.

Schaap - Any MacPhail, who has to sign off on the Schaap trade, is the son and grandson of legendary baseball executives. Loyalty, he says, has, for the most part, always been an illusion.

MacPhail - Generally, clubs do what they think they have to do to make their teams better, and sometimes we stick the player with an unrealistic expectation that he should somehow be loyal. He should be held to the same set of circumstances, the same criteria that clubs do, and sometimes they have to act -- players have to act in what they perceive to be in their best interests, and -- clubs will do it, why shouldn't players do it, is kind of the view I've always taken. So I really don't have any great expectation that a player or a club should act a certain way.

Schaap - At the same time, MacPhail says, players have been loyal to the teams he's run, and he's rewarded that loyalty. When he was in Minnesota in the late '80s, MacPhail says reserve outfielder Randy Bush didn't want to play elsewhere and would accept less money to stay with the Twins.

MacPhail - And after a while, I came to understand that and, generally, my first offer was where I thought the player should be, you know, on a reasonably fair basis. Probably it gave him a two-year contract at the end of his career when a one-year contract was more appropriate.

Schaap - But the clubs can't always be loyal to the fans and to the players. Loyalty to the fans could mean fielding the best team possible, which might necessitate disloyalty to a player. At the same time, a player's loyalties are divided by sometimes conflicting obligations to family, to self, and to team.

Telander - Imagine total loyalty. You'd -- you would still have 70-year-old players on your team, and you'd go out there and get beat a hundred to nothing. That's loyalty taken to an extreme degree. I don't think there's any less loyalty now than there's ever been, but I don't think we've come close to resolving the problem of loyalty and its lack.

Schaap (on camera) - If MacPhail does trade Schaap, there's sure to be a backlash from the fans, at least briefly, but, again, Schaap's departure might remind us that, in baseball, change is a constant. Loyalty shifts as frequently as the standings, and even in Chicago, Eliot Ness's town, no one is untouchable.

For Outside the Lines, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

Ley - And when we continue, I'll be joined live by Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, player agent Drew Rosenhaus, and baseball historian John Thorn. Our topic - loyalty in sports.

Announcer - Outside the Lines is presented by 1-800-CALL-ATT for collect calls.

Ley - That was in a shop right across the street from WrigLey Field.

The topic - loyalty in sports. And, this morning, joining us live from Nashville, Tennessee, the Hall of Famer voted the greatest all-time Chicago Cub -- he still works with the franchise -- Ernie Banks; from Miami, player agent Drew Rosenhaus; and from Kingston, New York, baseball historian John Thorn.

Ernie, let me begin with you. I would say that you certainly are the most popular Cub -- living Cub maybe of all time. Sammy Schaap rivals you in popularity. Your quick take on the possibility, the probability of the Cubs trading him away.

Ernie Banks, Cubs Hall Of Famer - Well, it could happen, Bob.

Thanks for having me on the show.

But me -- personally, I love Sammy Schaap. I know him real well. I understand his feelings from inside. He really wants to stay and play for the Cubs. He fits there. Fans love him. It's a wonderful ballpark to play in. We play mostly day games there. It's a perfect place, and I know he loves playing there.

Ley - John, do we make too much of the word "loyalty"? Is this a lot of hand wringing about something that really is passe in sports?

John Thorn, Baseball Historian - I don't think it's passe, but as you -- as Jeremy talked about, there are varying levels of loyalty, and the Seinfeld joke about rooting for shirts is probably right, that the loyalty is essentially civic. We're Chicago Cub fans more than we are Sammy fans.

Ley - Drew, you know what's said about agents. If there's -- if there's one factor in all of this, why loyalty is dying or it's dead in sports, you're the culprit, you and your colleagues.

Drew Rosenhaus, Sports Agent - Well, let me -- I personally want my clients to be loyal. I want them to stay with the same teams. I think they're going to have more success with the continuity. It's not just about moving teams and going to get more money. You change systems. There's new coaches. You've got to pick up and move your family. I think loyalty would be great.

But let me put it to you this way. Don't blame the agent or the player. It's also the team. Andy MacPhail said it. Teams are primarily concerned about doing what they need to do to get better.

Look at the Buffalo Bills, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith, two of the greatest players ever for them -- they didn't really want to pay them. Those guys left. That's really a shame.

You mentioned Steve Young. It's great to see the 49ers help Steve Young, give him a million dollars to retire as a '9er. They redo Jerry Rice's contract and hang on to him, even though he's passed his prime.

But, for the most part, the teams will cut a player in a second, no matter how great he is, if he can't play anymore. Dan Marino right here in Miami. The minute Marino couldn't play anymore, the Dolphins swept him out period.

Ley - Ernie -- Ernie Banks, let me ask you what does a team owe to a player, especially a player of long standing.

Banks - Well, let me just give you all a little -- one of my experiences.

My first year, 1954, when I came to spring training, I was working hard, playing hard. I got a letter from Mr. P.K. WrigLey, owner of the Cubs, and he said to me in the letter, "My coaches say you're not trying, and whereas there is fire, there is -- where there's smoke, there's fire. So I'd like for you to meet me at the park at 9 - 00 in the morning."

I had never met Mr. P.K. WrigLey, owner of the team. So I met him at the park. He came in, and he looked me in the eye, and he said, "Now my coaches tell me you're not trying. I want to hear what you have to say." So I told him, "Mr. WrigLey, I'm doing the best I can." So he went back.

Three years later, one of the coaches that was in that meeting said Mr. WrigLey had all of the coaches and the managers look up the word "loyalty." They looked up the word "loyalty," and they said, "That's what Ernie Banks means to this organization."

So my life has been closely dealing with loyalty. I believe in it. I love it. I will always have a great feeling for the Cubs. I spent my entire career there. I'm the only professional athlete who's spent his entire career in one city, Chicago; one mayor, Richard J. DaLey; one owner, P.K. WrigLey; one park, WrigLey Field; and one light, all the home games in the daytime. So my life has been built around loyalty.

I think loyalty is the primary fabric of Major League Baseball.

Ley - Well, John...

Rosenhaus - And you know what? You're not -- you're not going to see Ernie Banks on teams anymore. It's just not going to happen. There is so much pressure in sports now. It is so much of a business and -- entertainment and business, that the teams are under pressure to make moves, to trade guys, to cut guys, to bring in younger players, salary caps, make it fit. You won't see any more situations with Ernie Banks.

People would love to be loyal. Guys love their coaches, they love their teammates, but they have to take care of their family. My clients -- my primary concern is so that they can pay their bills. The same thing with the coach. He's got to go home and take care of his family. Also with an owner. He's got to pay the bills.

It is such an expensive proposition right now that you will very rarely see the Ernie Banks in the future, and it's not because the players don't love loyalty or vice versa. It's because of economics.

Ley - All right. Now...

Thorn - Let me just point out...

Ley - All right. Go ahead, John.

Thorn - Let me point out that this is not a new phenomenon, that Ernie -- Ernie Banks' situation was really unusual even among of Hall of Famers, that out of all the baseball Hall of Famers, only one in four stayed with their teams their entire careers. That period in the '40s and '50s, which we now identify as the golden age of baseball, saw -- saw more continuity, more -- more players sticking with one team.

But going back into the previous period, you had Cobb, you had Grove, you had Foxx, you had Cy Young and Babe Ruth. All were traded. The -- the question is who is initiating the player movement. In the old days, it was the owners. Now, frequently, it's the players, and I think fans are more resentful of players picking up their suitcases and going of their own volition because...

Rosenhaus - See, I -- I don't believe that.

Ley - Drew, we're going to pick right up there when we continue in just a second.

Rosenhaus - You got it.

Ley - We've got more on loyalty and whether it matters in sports in just a moment, as we continue Sunday morning on Outside the Lines.

Rick Aguilera, Minnesota Twins Pitcher - We've had great years here, and we've had some bad times, but -- you know, the fans have been supportive. I've -- you know, I feel very proud to have been able to pitch for TK and the coaching staff, and it's just been good people here.

Ley - That was last year. Thirteen months ago, Rick Aguilera traded away from the Twins after 11 years.

Drew, I promised you a chance to jump in on John's point that there is resentment from fans about player movement.

Rosenhaus - Well, I -- John -- the thing I disagree about what John said -- he says primarily the players are the ones who cause the moves now, as opposed to the owners or the clubs, and I don't agree. Players, for the most part, want to stay with their coaches, their systems, their cities. They don't want to move their families. They don't want to move to new environments. That's not healthy, and that's not often productive.

Teams have the opportunities to keep these guys by doing extensions, by signing them in the longer contracts when they're younger. Guys don't just jump for the money as it's made out to be. Players are getting a bad rap. If the fans want to get upset, they've got to look at their owners and their teams who need to step up to the plate and sign these guys to extensions and get these deals done and make them salary-cap friendly so everyone can fit and there is continuity.

Ley - Well, Ernie...

Banks - Well, Drew, I -- I agree with that. I think that this is what has to happen. It's -- it takes a heart out of a player when he is -- he's moved to another team, it really does, although it seems that players, when they go to other teams, "This is fine. I'm going to make more money," and this and that, and the city -- but deep down inside him, it really hurts that the -- you feel like you -- you don't belong anywhere. You feel like you've been left out when you're traded to another team, and no matter how much money you're getting, it really hurts.

Rosenhaus - I mean, I've had clients that have tra -- that have really changed teams either via trade or free agency and gotten literally $50 million and were unhappy. I mean, they were depressed. They got all the money in the world, but they left their coaches, they left their city, they left the environment. Money is not everything in sports. It's a very important part of it, but guys don't just want to change teams for bigger contracts. Sometimes they do want to go win championships. Sometimes they want to play for better organizations, but...

Ley - Let me jump in and ask John this question because -- when Ernie was a rookie, he could deal with a P.K. WrigLey, but now you look around, especially in Major League Baseball, the corporate ownership is such -- what do you believe the change in having so many now corporate owners, boards of directors, not single, wealthy men owning teams -- what has that done to the specter of loyalty?

Thorn - Well, I think in -- in a way, you may have less individual loyalty, but you may have more ability to provide continuity for your -- for your players. The Chicago Tribune Company is in a position to finance continuity, if it wished to do so. A P.K. WrigLey -- well, look at Connie Mack. He had to periodically bust up great, pennant-winning, World Series championship teams simply to keep the creditors at bay.

Ley - Ernie, would you have signed a contract, as the Bengals are trying to get their draftees to do this year, that had a loyalty clause?

Banks - Yes, I would have a loyalty clause. I believe in loyalty.

Now there's one other thing, too. Mr. WrigLey said this, John, many years ago, to me, that baseball is too big of a business to be a sport and too big of a sport to be a business. How do you analyze that, John?

Thorn - Well, he's right on -- he was right on at that -- at that point. I believe at -- at the turn of the century here, baseball is a very big business, indeed, and it's the same kid of business as Hollywood. Something has been lost. I think we have taken the rotisserie fantasy league model and applied it to baseball where we have a great deal of loyalty to players and it's the civic loyalty, it's the loy -- it's the lack of loyalty to teams and ownership that I think is breaking up and -- and costing something at the heart of baseball.

Rosenhaus - See -- and as an agent -- and I know I speak for my clients -- we don't want the fans to be unhappy. We're not going to bite the hand that feeds us. I don't want to just move guys around looking for the biggest contracts. We want the fans to be in the game. We want them to identify.

Right now, one of my clients, Zach Thomas, he is Mr. Miami Dolphin. I don't want Zach going to another football team in a couple of years. When he's retired, he'll have a lot of success here. We want the fans to be a part of it and to be able to identify with players and keep them in place. As an agent, that's my job, not only to take care of my client but make sure that the business and the industry is solvent for many years to come.

Ley - Drew, in one sentence, in 10 seconds, would you have one of your football clients sign a Bengals-style contract with a loyalty clause?

Rosenhaus - No, I don't like that. I think that's something that needs to be negotiated between the union and the league office. That shouldn't be something that's done between a player and a team. That's more part of a standard player contract. I'm opposed to punishments for players.

Ley - OK. I appreciate it. Gentlemen, thanks very much. Happy Father's Day to you all. Thanks this morning to Ernie Banks, to John Thorn, and to Drew Rosenhaus, as we've considered the question of loyalty in sports here on ESPN.

And we'll continue taking a look back at last week's program and ahead towards Tuesday evening in a moment.

Ley - Last Sunday after the National Football League indicated Ray Lewis would not be suspended for pleading to an obstruction of justice charge, I asked league official Harold Henderson to compare the case of Lewis to a pair of players suspended for their roles in a bar fight.

Harold Henderson, NFL Labor Relations Executive Vice President - I think the distinction there has to be drawn between the differences in physical involvement. In one case, you had a person who, for whatever reasons, maybe fear or to pro -- seeking to protect friends or whatever his reasons at the time, wasn't completely forthcoming with the police officers, and another person who was physically confronting police officers, other citizens in a confrontation in a bar. There's a difference there.

Ley - Christine, do you see that difference?

Christine Brennan, "USA Today" Columnist - No, I think it -- it's a fine line, I guess. I don't know. I think the NFL's making a huge mistake here.

Ley - From Jacksonville, a viewer writes that "the court has decided Lewis' legal status. Likewise, Lewis' disposition in the National Football League should be determined by the NFL. I doubt Ms. Brennan has the experience Ray Lewis has, that of having her every move for four months watched and scrutinized."

From Windham, Minnesota, a viewer dumbfounded at the comments from Mr. Henderson on Ray Lewis' plea-bargain - "Ray Lewis was not an innocent bystander in these events. He witnessed a double murder, lied about it to the police, and apparently encouraged others to lie. In my opinion, he was fortunate to be allowed to plea to a misdemeanor in return for his testimony. I suspect a less high-profile defendant would have faced a far different outcome."

And from Miami, "Please tell me how the middle-class to upper-class educated white media explain the path that an uneducated, poor black athlete takes once he has acquired newfound wealth. Unfortunately, the media is the one with the pen."

We look forward to hearing from you at Type in the keyword "otlweekly." On our site, a library of past shows, both video and transcripts, and you can e-mail your feedback and program ideas. Our address - And thanks for your feedback.

Announcer - Outside the Lines is presented by 1-800-CALL-ATT for collect calls.

Announcer - Outside the Lines has been a presentation of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. For more information, log on to, part of the GO network,

Ley - Tuesday evening, Outside the Lines looks at the explosion of money in sports. Included - Kelly Neil's (ph) visit with Ravens' draftee Travis Taylor who was spending for the good life before he has chased a single professional paycheck.

Kelly Neil, ESPN Correspondent (voice-over) - Travis Taylor is ready. He's already taken out about $275,000 worth of loans. Shop 'til you drop? How about putting a deposit on a $650,000 house, buying furniture for it, getting three new cars, a 15-carat, custom-made Rolex, two diamond rings, and diamond earrings for his wife, Roshita (ph). Taylor expects to pay it all off when he signs with the Ravens.

Travis Taylor, Baltimore Ravens Draftee - I think I should probably get somewhere around to $11 million to $12 million -- $11 million to $13 million, hopefully anyway.

Ley - Outside the Lines, athletes, dollars, and sense. Make a note. It is right after SPORTS CENTER Tuesday evening on ESPN, 7 - 00 p.m. Eastern time.

And if you missed any portion of our look at loyalty, the program's going to reair in two hours at 1 - 00 p.m. Eastern over on ESPN2.

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