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Walter Haas

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Walter Haas
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Saturday, May 24, 2003 - 08:00 pm:

I happened to run across this article that I saved from the Chronicle in 1995. Somehow I don't think anything similar will be written about Steve Schott when his time comes...

PAGE ONE -- Blue and Gold Farewell to Walter Haas
Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, September 25, 1995
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback


The Cal band blasted out the recessional and at least one mourner wore Levis to say good-by yesterday to philanthropist, pants patriarch and baseball team owner Walter A. Haas Jr.

Few eyes remained dry inside a packed Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco when the band began playing ``Sons of California'' beside the casket of the devoted, dyed-in-the-denim alum.

Haas, longtime chairman of the Levi Strauss clothing company and managing partner of the Oakland Athletics, was remembered from the pulpit for his generosity, his hands-off management style, his sense of humor and his inconsolableness on the Monday morning after a University of California at Berkeley football defeat.

``Walter loved a great turnout,'' said Ira Hirschfield, president of the Haas Fund, surveying the nearly 1,000 mourners who included politicians, business leaders, athletes, professors and pants cutters. ``His only regret is that we did not get together for a tailgate party beforehand.''

``Whether he was serving meals, selling Christmas trees, starting a boys' club at Hunters Point, working on community development in the Mission or encouraging others to pitch in with their hands or their pocketbooks, Walter's heart was the motivation for everything he did,'' Hirschfield said.

Professor Earl Cheit, dean emeritus of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, recalled how Haas reacted when a department store clerk ran out of Levis to sell his wife, Evelyn, and tried to substitute another brand.

``The clerk said, `There's some fellow sitting up there in San Francisco running the company who doesn't know what he's doing.' The

next morning, Walter appeared at the counter. He handed the clerk his card and asked how could he help. The clerk stammered, `You've got a lovely wife.' Walter solved the inventory problem, and he agreed with the clerk about Evie.''

Haas, who died Wednesday of cancer in San Francisco at the age of 79, was an unconventional baseball team owner, one who hatched a plan to give free tickets to kids in exchange for reading books and who defied the conventional wisdom by becoming friends with the players who worked for him.

Several of them, including Dave Stewart and Reggie Jackson, were among the mourners. Other mourners included mayors Frank Jordan of San Francisco and Elihu Harris of Oakland, former Secretary of State George Shultz, Cal athletic director John Kasser, basketball coach Todd Bozeman and former football coach Joe Kapp.

``He had a strong preference for winning over losing,'' said Cheit, ``but he never micromanaged from the owners' box.''

Haas, said the Cal professor, loved to tie fishing lures in the Cal colors of blue and gold and give them as presents to Stanford friends. He had a soft spot for whiskey sours and Francesco's specials -- the high-test mountain of eggs, spinach, hamburger, onions and mushrooms served up at a restaurant near the Coliseum -- that seemed to make A's losses easier to take.

Cheit recalled how Haas set off metal detectors at the White House by arriving to pick up an award with his pockets full of A's pins. Hirschfield recalled how he kept the president waiting while he stuffed his pockets with souvenir White House matchbooks and note pads to give to Levi Strauss employees back home.

Uri Herscher, executive vice president of Hebrew Union College, said Haas was the ``most humble powerful person'' he knew, one who would ask permission before taking a baseball from the playing field or helping himself to a clubhouse meal.

``He was charitable for the right reasons and had no personal agenda,'' Herscher said. ``He was the living, breathing example of business ethics.

Herscher likened his friend's life to the brightly woven fabric -- perhaps a piece of Levis denim -- a ``large, durable, colorful and playful tapestry.''

Haas' casket was bedecked in green and gold flowers in the colors of the Oakland A's and a Cal Class of '37 blanket. As it was borne from the synagogue, the Cal band suddenly marched from behind the pulpit to drown out the somber notes of an organ dirge with a dozen football fight songs.

The appearance of the young musicians in straw hats brought smiles, sobs and hankies throughout the giant hall, and several mourners mouthed the words to the songs.

``Up with the blue and gold, down with the red, California's out for a victory,'' played the band as Haas' casket was driven south on Arguello Boulevard for private interment in Colma.

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