Tom Reich, Who Negotiated Big Deals for Baseball Stars, Dies at 82
Following the 1979 season, Mr. Reich persuaded Tal Smith, the Astros’ general manager, to give Richard a new five-year contract with a base salary of $200,000 a year, plus incentives.
But a few weeks later, another prominent agent, Dick Moss, induced the Astros’ owner, John McMullen, to give the Los Angeles Angels’ Nolan Ryan, the future Hall of Famer and baseball’s most intimidating pitcher, a free-agent three-year deal with the Astros at a guaranteed $1 million a year.
“The moment Reich heard about the Ryan deal, he called Smith, began screaming at him and didn’t stop until the GM agreed to renegotiate J.R. Richard,” John Helyar wrote in “Lords of the Realm” (1994), his history of baseball’s business side.
A few weeks after the Richard deal was presumably done, Mr. Reich and the Astros’ Smith met with McMullen, who agreed to give Richard a guaranteed $800,000 a year for four years. Richard had a stroke in July 1980 and never pitched again. But the money was his.
In February 1982, Mr. Reich negotiated George Foster’s five-year deal with the Mets worth at least $10 million, an annual average sum second only to that of the Yankees’ Dave Winfield. Mr. Reich’s other clients included Sammy Sosa, Mo Vaughn and Jack Clark.
Mr. Reich, an instantly recognizable figure in baseball circles for his curly beard reaching around his face to his curly hair, branched out into hockey as well in the late 1980s. His most renowned N.H.L. client was Mario Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ star, whom he represented as a player and later guided on his path to part owner of the team, with the businessman Ron Burkle, saving the financially reeling franchise.
Mr. Reich’s brother, Sam, argued many cases that went to arbitration, the still-existing arrangement adopted in the 1973-74 off-season in which players not yet eligible for free agency can exchange salary proposals with management after a specified number of years in the major leagues. An arbitrator chooses between the two figures. In many an arbitration case, Sam Reich drew on data provided by Bill James, the pioneering baseball analyst, to buoy his case on behalf of a player.
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