SI Vault
Edited by Craig Neff
May 15, 1989
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May 15, 1989


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Larry Fleisher was a man of modesty and quiet self-assurance. When he died last week of an apparent heart attack, he left a legacy that labor leaders of greater ego and less brilliance might only dream of. In 27 years as head of the NBA Players Association, Fleisher not only won formal recognition for the union but also negotiated agreements that created a large measure of free agency, cut the draft to only two rounds, established a model antidrug program and improved average player salaries from less than $10,000 to more than $600,000, the highest in any pro sport. What's more, he achieved all this without ever calling a players' strike.

Fleisher thrived on late-night negotiating sessions, going at knotty issues with sleeves rolled up. He was rarely strident, though as former NBA guard and player rep Dave Wohl recalled last week, "he knew when to drop a terse public hint of what could happen if demands were not met." For a sports labor leader, Fleisher could be unusually statesmanlike, exhibiting concern for the economic health of the league as a whole. To help financially weak franchises, he accepted a cap on player salaries in 1983, but linked the cap to a proviso guaranteeing players 53% of league-wide revenues.

Fleisher was deservedly criticized for representing individual players (among them, John Havlicek. Jerry West and Bob Lanier) while he led the union. This conflict of interest may have prompted Fleisher on occasion to act in the best interests of his big-name clients instead of those of the rank and file. By the same token, the reported $500,000, four-year deal Fleisher negotiated for Bill Bradley in 1967 helped open the door to today's huge salaries.

Fleisher deserves a fair measure of credit for the NBA's current prosperity. "He took vast amounts of money out of the owners' pockets for the players at the bargaining table," said Wohl, "but never so much that they were unwilling to sit back down across from him the next time. He knew the league had to survive for the players to reap the benefits."


To celebrate Professional Secretaries Week, radio station WMGX in Portland, Maine, sponsored a four-event competition called the Office Olympics. More than 100 local office workers gathered downtown to compete in the typewriter heave (Richard Sobocinski of the Bath Iron Works won by shot-putting a 15-pound Smith-Corona portable an impressive 36'6"), the floppy discus throw (Charlene Jordan, who works for a real estate appraiser, flung a computer disk 47 feet, Frisbee-style), speed filing (Gloria Barnes, who's employed at a law firm, filed 24 folders alphabetically in 67 seconds) and telephone lying, in which each competitor was asked to concoct an excuse as to why the boss couldn't come to the phone. The winning entry in that final event came from Sonya Roach, who works for a sheet-metal manufacturer: "I'm sorry, the boss can't take your call because we have only one line in operation and the boss's wife is having a baby and we're expecting a call from the hospital any minute."

For that fine fabrication, Roach, like the other winners, received a paid day off from work.

Someone has painted a line of graffiti at the Van Cortlandt Park riding stables in New York City. It reads: MAY THE HORSE BE WITH YOU.


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