Like most bad marriages, the Red Sox partnership came apart gradually. At first there were little things, like Sullivan signing sore-shouldered free-agent Pitcher Skip Lockwood to a costly contract over LeRoux's objections. After on-field disappointments in 1978 and '79, Sullivan and Yawkey resisted the public's and LeRoux's call for Manager Don Zimmer's head. A year later, over many objections, Sullivan hired Ralph Houk, which he says is the best thing he has ever done. Matters eventually reached the point where Yawkey refused to get out of her car at Fenway Park if LeRoux was in the Red Sox office.
In the meantime, through LeRoux's management, parking prices were raised, ticket prices were raised, even the roof was raised. Roof box-seat holders were moved to accommodate 41 luxury boxes, which go for about $35,000 per season. "They said Fenway Park couldn't be changed," says LeRoux, who worked his way up from being the Celtics and Red Sox trainer, "but I changed it. I like to make things happen."
He made things happen, all right. Last year he attempted to buy out Sullivan. This year he tried to sell his and Badgett's 14 shares, held by two corporations called Strike One and Ball One. One prospective purchaser was David Mugar, who owns WNEV-TV in Boston. Mugar was going to bring his old friend Carl Yastrzemski into the deal. The price for the 14 shares and LeRoux's general partnership was $19 million. But a month ago Mugar and Yaz announced they were dropping out of the bidding for now. "We knew this thing was headed for court," says Yastrzemski. "And we didn't want to be mixed up in it."
The partnership agreement clearly states that the other general partners have the right to refuse to let one general partner assign his interest. Either or both also have the right to buy out the third at fair market value as established by three appraisers. The price that Yawkey and Sullivan offered LeRoux is less than $13 million. The price LeRoux and Badgett want is $19 million. That gulf of more than $6 million indicates just how strained the relationship is.
"I say hello to Haywood all the time," says the genial LeRoux. "I say hello to everybody. And, yes, he says hello to me. To anticipate your next question, no, she doesn't."
Until last week the Red Sox hadn't let the squabbles upstairs bother them, which is a tribute to Houk, who's an excellent buffer for his players. Before the open warfare began, the fans were singing the praises of Reliever Bob Stanley, marveling at the solid play of Centerfielder Tony Armas and bidding farewell to Yaz, who will retire at the end of this season. Wade Boggs, whose batting average was as high as .390 at one point, was becoming the stuff of legend. His superstitions had become well documented, and fans started to count how many times he made the Hebrew chai sign in the dirt and to wonder what kind of chicken, the food he eats before virtually every game, he had for lunch.
But then came Black Monday and the palace coup. It was a day meant to honor Tony Conigliaro, the former Red Sox hero who has been hospitalized since 1982 following a heart attack. The proceeds of the game that night were to go toward Tony C's medical expenses, and his teammates from the pennant-winner of 1967 flew in from all over the country to visit him and reune.
LeRoux staged his takeover that afternoon. Before a scheduled general partners' meeting, he informed Sullivan and John Harrington, Yawkey's representative, that he was seizing control. He'd gotten the backing of an additional two shares from Albert Curran, who had resigned as team general counsel to avoid a conflict of interest, and now held sway over 16 of the 30 limited partnership shares. He had drafted an amendment to the partnership agreement making himself "managing general partner."
One of the stranger scenes that day came at 4:30, when the department heads were addressed first by Sullivan and then LeRoux. Sullivan told them he was still in charge, and then LeRoux got up and said he was in charge. Twelve minutes later LeRoux came into the press lounge on the roof of Fenway to inform the media that the Red Sox were his and to hand out a release on plain, not official Red Sox, stationery. Sullivan, who stood by stoically while LeRoux spoke, followed by saying what Buddy had done was invalid and ineffective. He would seek a restraining order the next day.
O'Connell, architect of the '67 team, took it all in with a smile. Retired in Belmont, Mass., he may have been relishing a little revenge. In 1977, after 31 years with the Red Sox, he had been dismissed by Jean Yawkey and the other executors of her husband's estate.