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THE GREAT HOLDOUT
Buzzie Bavasi
May 15, 1967
The outspoken general manager of the Dodgers, currently baseball's most successful executive, begins a four-part series on his joys and troubles in the front office with an account of the famous contract hassle in which pitching stars Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale 'came at me as a pair'
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May 15, 1967

The Great Holdout

The outspoken general manager of the Dodgers, currently baseball's most successful executive, begins a four-part series on his joys and troubles in the front office with an account of the famous contract hassle in which pitching stars Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale 'came at me as a pair'

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Now the months rushed by and nobody did any bargaining with anybody (least of all with their agent, Bill Hayes), and finally, just before we all were supposed to take off for spring training, Don and Sandy and I had a third meeting at the same hotel. Now they drop their demands for three-year contracts, and they also begin to hint that maybe they'll take a trifle less than $150,000 per year each. For the first time I see a slight chance to negotiate and I say, "Look, I can give the two of you $190,000, maybe $195,000 to sign, but I am not going to give it to you as a package. I don't want any package deals now or ever. Sandy, you know I am going to give you more money than I am going to give Donald, and if you want to take some of your money and give it to him that's your business—but no package deals."

They said they couldn't think of accepting my offer, and I told them goodby, that I was going south and that I hoped to hear from them when they felt in a more reasonable mood.

Well, the whole spring-training season went by, and let me be the first to admit that Walter O'Malley and I were nowhere near as cool about the missing pitchers as we were letting on. We may be stubborn, but we're not stupid! Sandy and Don had won almost 50 games the year before, and without them we would be in real trouble. Of course, both sides went through the usual rites of spring. Sandy and Don said they would retire from baseball, and I wrote them that the proper way to go about retiring was to send me letters to that effect, which they never did, and I think there was one brief telephone conversation where Walter O'Malley wished them luck in whatever they did outside of baseball, and they went out and signed to make a movie, etc., etc. Nobody takes any of that stuff seriously; it's all standard negotiating procedure.

Nevertheless, spring training was almost over and they still hadn't signed, and I began to get a little itchy. Finally I called Donald long distance at his home in Hidden Valley just outside of Los Angeles and told him I was flying back to try to work something out. I said, "Fun's fun, Donald, but this is getting serious."

The next day I showed up at my office just in time to hear the phone ring. It was Don, and he said, "Buzzie, let's meet at Nicola's." That's a restaurant not far from the ball park.

The place was closed, but the manager let us in and gave us a back room where we could talk. It was just like that opening session with Mr. Koufax years before—I mean there were no wasted words. The Dodgers needed those boys, and they needed the Dodgers. So I said, "All right, Donald, what will it take to sign you boys?"

He said, "I'll sign for $110,000, and Sandy will sign for $125,000."

I said, "How do I know that's O.K. with Sandy?"

He said, "Sandy told me to deal for him."

I said, "All right. It's a deal with me, and I'm sure it'll be a deal with Mr. O'Malley. He's at a game now at Vero Beach, and I'd like to give him the courtesy of telling him we've settled. The game'll be over in about 45 minutes."

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