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Misunderstood?
E.M. Swift
June 30, 1997
Is Jerry Reinsdorf the belligerent union buster he appeared to be during the baseball strike, the turncoat who signed Albert Belle to a $55 million contract to play for the White Sox, the lunatic who might break up the Bulls' dynasty, the malcontent who sued the NBA to protect his own TV revenues? Or is he simply misunderstood? Is he, in fact, one of the smartest owners in pro sports, a businessman whose teams are powerful and profitable and whose employees are deeply loyal?
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June 30, 1997

Misunderstood?

Is Jerry Reinsdorf the belligerent union buster he appeared to be during the baseball strike, the turncoat who signed Albert Belle to a $55 million contract to play for the White Sox, the lunatic who might break up the Bulls' dynasty, the malcontent who sued the NBA to protect his own TV revenues? Or is he simply misunderstood? Is he, in fact, one of the smartest owners in pro sports, a businessman whose teams are powerful and profitable and whose employees are deeply loyal?

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The upper deck of Comiskey Park, steep and yawning, is vacant on this May night. The owner's suite is nearly empty. Reinsdorf is remarking on the game—"I can't believe Albert didn't get to that ball"—while conducting an interview. He still considers himself a fan, though he doesn't enjoy the game as much as he once did. "I'm still not all the way back," he says. "I used to go out to the batting cage and kibbitz with the players. I didn't do that at all in 1995 or '96."

Reinsdorf has instituted a $1 ladies' night—an old Veeck tradition—to try to win back fans, but the truth is, all the excitement these days has been generated by Reinsdorf's other team. The Bulls' season won't end for another month, and until it does, the White Sox won't draw flies. Still, it's at sleepy Comiskey Park that the kid from Brooklyn looks most at home. "The passion will come back," he says, relighting his cigar. "It's such a great game."

Reinsdorf vows that he is finished with labor wars, that after the current basic agreement expires in 2000, he will not let himself be sucked into another black hole of acrimony. But he still has plans, big plans. "I don't feel like selling," he says. "I don't think I'm close to getting out. I still love what I do. It's not the love I had when I was only a fan, but I still love the competition. The payback is when you're standing in Grant Park and see 500,000 people celebrating a championship, people who feel pride to be living in Chicago, and you know you've played a part in that. It's better than a real job."

He seems surprisingly at peace with his niche. God, or perhaps Jerry Reinsdorf himself, may have granted him the serenity after all.

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