"Peter came into office encumbered by some historical baggage," says Roy Eisenhardt, president of the Oakland A's. "The fan has no forum, the Players Association views its role as adversarial, and ownership is inexperienced in subordinating self-interest to the overall interest of the game. With these initial handicaps, it's hard for anybody to bring about rapid change. But I think Peter has shown that he's clearly not beholden to ownership. He's taken distinctly different positions on several key issues, labor policies being one. And, personally, I think he's correct. Ultimately, the commissioner's office should be looked upon as an independent authority balancing the competing interests of fans, owners and players." Said another big league executive, "He's been a very positive influence if for no other reason than his willingness to ride roughshod over the owners.... What people like most about him is that he's a doer."
Ueberroth has described himself as "the fans' commissioner," an observation that moved former players union chief Marvin Miller to inquire, "What fans elected him?" And, as one executive said, winning the owners' disapproval can only be a public relations plus because most people hate owners anyway. But then, public relations coups are a specialty of Ueberroth's, along with grand gestures unburdened by details. He's the man, after all, who in his book—No. 14 on The New York Times bestseller list—perpetuates the fiction that the L.A. Olympics didn't cost taxpayers a dime when, in fact, government outlays for security and other purposes came to $65 million. Ueberroth obviously leads a charmed life: He fought in vain against the Soviet-led boycott of those Games and then watched as the boycott resulted in more U.S. victories and higher TV ratings and helped make the event the patriotic and commercial blockbuster it was. No wonder nobody is ruling out the possibility that Ueberroth will eventually get the drug-testing program he wants. And no wonder even the guy who said he didn't want to be stranded with him on a desert island conceded that maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all, because if anybody could find a way out of that predicament, Peter Ueberroth could.