While paging through the job listings in the L.A. Daily Journal, Tellem stumbles upon an ad: WANTED: SPORTS ATTORNEY. The employer is the Clippers.
I happen to drop by Tellem's office that day. He hands me a letter opener and asks me to slit a hole in a basketball. "I'm sending out a resume," he more or less explains. The idea is to jam his curriculum vitae inside the ball before having it messengered off to the Clippers' offices.
The ruse piques the interest of team owner Donald Sterling, who asks Tellem to come in for an interview. What intrigues Sterling most is the summer job Tellem took after his freshman year of college: selling appliances at a discount department store. "My strategy for selling air conditioners fascinated Sterling," says Tellem, who got the Clip job on the spot and added it to his duties at Manatt, Phelps. "Other salesmen just wanted to get purchases over with, but I spent time talking to customers, and they not only bought more expensive units but went away happier." Tellem was the store's top air conditioner salesman that year.
I'm walking through the terminal on my way to a flight when I run smack into Tellem. Manacled to his left wrist is an attach� case. "What's inside?" I ask.
"Stats," he says. The stats are from Tellem's Super League, made up of the best cards from nearly every edition of APBA Baseball. An APBA junkie since age eight, he has about as much control over his habit as a knuckleballer has over his pitch on a windy day. When Arn and Nancy are out of their house at night, he leaves the case open, so burglars can see that it contains nothing of value. "They can have the TV, they can have the money, they can have our lives, just please leave the records."
It gets worse. On his wedding night Tellem propped his treasured 1938 Greenberg card on the nightstand next to the conjugal bed. Nancy asked what he was up to. "I always sleep with Hank next to my bed at night," Arn said.
"Not anymore," said Nancy.
A compromise was reached—sort of. "I moved Hank," Arn reveals, "to a drawer where she couldn't see him."
Tellem is almost as nutty about his 12-team baseball fantasy league. In '82 Tellem decided his team needed speed, and he became fixated on acquiring Omar Moreno, the National League's leading base stealer. Alas, Jeff Wernick, a fellow lawyer with the rights to the Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder, refused to trade him. "Arn began a relendess pursuit of Omar," Wernick, who now works for Tellem, recalls. "He'd phone me every waking hour, offering endless permutations of the same transaction. Arn's concentration, his unwillingness to walk away without proposing yet another variation, was staggering. After three weeks I just caved. Arn got what he wanted." Amazingly, Tellem labored just as hard on a fantasy league deal as he does now on a $120 million free-agent pact.