Angelo Bartlett Giamatti
Seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Peter Ueberroth's resignation as baseball commissioner was effective on September 30, 1988. On October 8, 1988, the 26 major league baseball owners unanimously elected A. Bartlett Giamatti to a five-year term as the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Giamatti's term of office would begin on April 1, 1989.
• Born in Boston in 1938, A. Bartlett Giamatti attended Yale University, where, in 1960, he received a bachelor's degree in English, graduating magna cum laude. Four years later, he earned his Ph.D in literature from Yale.
• Professor Giamatti, subsequent to service in a series of impressive teaching positions at Princeton and Yale, became president of Yale University in 1978. He served with distinction as president until 1986, when he became the twelfth president of baseball's National League.
• During his two years as National League president, Giamatti earned a solid reputation for preserving baseball's traditions, value, and integrity.
After his election as commissioner, Giamatti created the first-ever deputy commissioner position, appointing Francis T. (Fay) Vincent Jr. to the post.
Giamatti's first real challenge as commissioner involved an investigation (begun by Ueberroth) into gambling allegations against baseball legend and all-time hits leader Pete Rose. Based upon evidence compiled by a special counsel, Giamatti concluded that Rose had violated the game's most sacred rule by gambling on baseball. After a high-profile court battle, Giamatti, determined to maintain the integrity of the game, entered into an agreement with Rose (on August 23, 1989) that was tantamount to a lifetime baseball suspension.
In a moving and powerful statement concerning Rose's banishment, Giamatti said, "I intend to use every lawful and ethical means to defend and protect the game. I say this so that there may be no doubt about where I stand or why I stand there. I believe baseball is a beautiful game loved by millions, I among them, and I believe that baseball is an important, enduring American institution. It must assert and aspire to the highest principles of integrity, professionalism of performance, and fair play within its rules."
Shockingly, on September 1, 1989, Giamatti died of a heart attack at his summer home in Martha's Vineyard. He was 51 years of age.
In retrospect, one can only speculate on the degree of loss suffered by major league baseball when Bart Giamatti died. This brilliant, compassionate, moral, and ethical leader may have well developed into the best commissioner of all time.
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