Wolff the Fan
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| By cvkevin on Monday, June 20, 2005 - 12:12 pm:|
Wolff quickly is becoming a fan
Lew Wolff sat in his front-row seat behind the A's dugout during a recent game. His 7-year-old grandson sat on his lap, eating ice cream. The new A's owner shut his eyes as the opposing team threatened to load the bases.
"I can't look, Arthur," he said to the boy. "Tell me what happens."
We know little about the new A's owner but you can learn a lot about somebody while watching a ballgame together. We know, for example, where Wolff stands on big issues such as relocating the team (not his intention) a new ballpark (a top priority) and the team's payroll (expect it remain consistent but he may be more willing to splurge than former owner Steve Schott was).
What we don't know, however, is where he stands on the smaller issues, like peanuts or popcorn? (peanuts) Imported or domestic? ("I can't tell the difference between vodkas, let alone beer") Hot dog or hot link? (hot dog).
You can learn a lot about somebody while watching a ballgame, all right, and what you can learn about Wolff is while he has made a fortune investing in luxury hotels (his holdings exceed $1.4 billion) he's a lot like the people who stop by his seat to say hello. He's a fan, pure and simple. In fact, he's a more avid fan than he ever thought he would be when he bought the team in March.
"I didn't think it would be this much fun and I'd be so into it -- not just every game but every pitch," he said. "My wife thinks I'm crazy."
His respect and admiration for general manager Billy Beane and president Mike Crowley means he doesn't have to concern himself with the day-to-day minutia of running a baseball team, which gives him more time to focus on the pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning emotional swings of his rookie season.
Take his recent vacation to Europe, for example. His daughter said he would often contact her in the middle of the night to check the A's score.
"He's obsessed with the A's," Kari Wolff said.
This obsession started when he was a boy in St. Louis. He worked in a club where St. Louis native Yogi Berra, Cardinals legend Stan Musial and other ballplayers worked out and even joined them in a game of basketball or handball. Tickets to see the St. Louis Browns were so cheap that he did his homework in the grandstand. He saw Satchel Paige and Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder.
He and Bud Selig were buddies at the University of Wisconsin but unlike Selig, his passion waned during his college days. "I was more interested in seeing if I could get a date without my mother setting it up," Wolff said.
He was a Little League dad and took in 20 or so Los Angeles Dodgers games per year while raising his family, building his real estate empire and at various times owning pieces of the Warriors and St. Louis Blues.
The baseball bug has bitten him again. He is still based in Los Angeles and doesn't make it up for every game but is forever checking scores.
Wolff, 69, even took batting practice before a recent game.
"The game has enveloped him more than he thought," Crowley said. "Like a true fan, he lives and dies by these 162 games."
Being a fan doesn't mean he's a romantic. This is a business and he is a businessman. Kari has long been an A's fan and Lew enjoys spending an afternoon at the ballpark with his grandson but he didn't buy the team for them.
It's an investment but it's an investment that's also a lot of fun, even when the team is struggling. In other words, George Steinbrenner he ain't.
"My problem with losing is I feel sorry for the team," he said. "I'm not mad at anybody. I just hope it doesn't hurt the spirit of the guys we have."
Players jogging in and out of the dugout between innings don't realize that the white-haired man sitting just a few feet away is the new owner. Wolff has spent more time talking to the ushers than he has to the players.
But if they were to spend a few innings with him they would learn that he is for the designated hitter ("It extends the life of players who wouldn't otherwise be around and makes interleague games interesting") and against instant replay ("In a sport where you have a time clock a bad play can cost you because you don't have time to make it up"). They would learn that he prefers a pitching duel to a slugfest (unless it's the A's who are scoring the runs) and envisions a new ballpark divided into "neighborhoods."
They would learn that he always keeps one eye on the game even while answering questions unless those eyes are closed and Arthur is watching for him.
That's how we left him, leaning against the top of the dugout, his chin resting on the back of his hands, immersed in the unfolding drama.
what is the source of this column?
| By cvkevin on Monday, June 20, 2005 - 02:29 pm:|
Contra Costa Times via ESPN Insider.
Didn't we get periodic feel-good stories like this about Schott too, like when his grandkids were crying over Tejada leaving?
Wolff could sit there in the first row with headphones over his cap like Steve Bartman as far as I care. He'll still be Mr. Contraction, until he demonstrates otherwise.
| By oaktownfan on Monday, June 20, 2005 - 06:29 pm:|
Mr Contraction or Mr Vegas.
I agree finleyshero, this guy still hasn't said concretely that Oakland is his very first choice and that'll he do that's needed to get a park built somewhere in the city of Oakland.
I got high hopes with Wolff but I'm not fully trusting him. I feel like I could get stabbed in the back. If we sign Kotsay for a 3-4 year deal he will be making progress with me. SHOW ME YOU WANT TO WIN...spend a little more cash. HOW ABOUT AN UPDATE every month for us A's fans on the stadium project...from his mouth. He scares me still.
| By jeffreyb on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 08:43 am:|
you make a good point about updates. That news blip about the estuary site was all Ignatz. Wolf's silence is deafening.
...and another thing. What the hell drama is he watching unfold anyway? I can honestly say, this A's team is one of the most uninspiring in recent memory. It's great they are on a nice little run, but I'd hardly call trying to claw your way out of last place in the AL West high drama.
Next we'll be reading he's healing lepers between innings. Good grief, what a puff piece.
| By sactodavey on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 09:42 am:|
good call f-hero ditto that on the A's man are they boring if they wern't wearing the green n gold they would be one of the most boring ass teams to watch in baseball , i don't see how they get the attendance they do i mean what do they do that is exciting baseballl? can anyone name anything worth watching? we used to have exciting big stars now we got minor league guys and a little of nothing i know i will get the stupid droid A's fan who will chastise me about "how great it is to be an pure A's fan and winning is exciting", bull shit this is so boring this type of baseballl and this team period ,god the Giant series over 1 month ago put me to sleep and i was there.
Rickey Henderson where are you??????
the 76 A's that sole 350 bases where are you?
the Bash brothers where are you?
Miggy where are you?
the only other team that is just as boring to me is the LA Dodgers.
ha... you guys are really something...
actually I really have to agree with 'finley' here...when I read that puff piece, I actually felt it was somewhat melodramatic and even condescending to many of us A's fans who have seen so many glorious years of the Oakland A's.