"Come to New York as my guest," urged Short. "Talk to your lawyers. Then let's get together. I'm sure we can work something out that won't hurt your case but will put a lot of money into your pocket and help my ball club."
It all sounded unrealistic to me, but I could not resist a free trip to New York. I cabled Marvin Miller and took off. At worst, I'd learn at closer hand about the suit. God, I wanted to play baseball again.
It was late October. Justice Goldberg was in the thick of his campaign as Democratic candidate for governor of New York. Yet he took time to meet with Miller and me. He knew about my business reverses. He told me what I wanted to hear:
"By remaining out of baseball and giving up more than $100,000 income last season, you suffered real damages which go to the heart of your dispute with the reserve system. I think that you could play in 1971 without hurting the case in the higher courts."
When he, Miller, Moss, Max Gitter (a Goldberg associate) and I met with Short, we handed him a list of written proposals. In effect, these suggested that he give me a contract from which the key provisions of the reserve clause were eliminated. We asked him to agree a) not to trade me without my consent, b) to pay me the full year's salary even if I were cut from the team before the end of the season and c) to release me unconditionally if he and I were unable to agree on terms for a 1972 renewal of the contract. We also demanded agreement that the owners would not argue in court that my presence on the playing field invalidated my suit.
Short agreed to all of our demands. Goldberg and Gitter returned to their offices to draw up a memorandum embodying this agreement. Short and I were about to sign the first equitable player's contract in the history of major league baseball! The precedent would be tremendously important—the first step toward modification of the reserve system.
Three hours later we reconvened. Short, usually a bluff, outgoing man, was now curiously subdued. He explained that he was obliged to offer some second thoughts. For example, he no longer could agree to modify the standard reserve provisions in my contract.
"Commissioner Kuhn will not permit it," he said.
Short had been given the word in a telephone conversation with Alexander (Sandy) Hadden, former counsel to the American League and now counsel to Kuhn. Hadden was still on the line. Short consulted him frequently while talking to us. The owner of the Senators was empowered to agree that the contract could contain a covenant in which both parties stipulated that my playing was not prejudicial to the issues under dispute in court. And, if I insisted, Short also could grant me the veto power over one kind of trade.
"If you want, I can agree not to trade you to Philadelphia without your consent," he said.