It could reasonably be argued that some owners of professional sports teams in this country are like the world's most dangerous criminals, minus the charm and good intentions. A few of these guys don't compare well to the cheapest of harlots, who at least make no pretense of loving their customers before screwing them out of money. They are in effect politicians, filling the ears of their constituents with words of civic pride, courage and commitment-- all while having the pockets of their Louis Vuitton pants resized to hold a bigger percentage of the people's budgets.
No, not all owners are repugnant villains. But the worst of them cannot even remember the last time a word of truth escaped their own lips. They sell excrement and have mouthfuls of samples. In honor of the millions of decent fans who have paid their hard-earned money in support of a team, only to be treated like roaches in a pantry, we present ten of the most rancid, devoid-of-dignity millionaires who ever despoiled a city through their ownership of one of its teams.
10 Judge Emil Fuchs - Boston Braves, 1922-1935
To be fair, Fuchs gets an assist from Yankee owners Jacob Ruppert and Cap Huston for achieving his place on this list.
It's possible you might have heard of a baseball player named Babe Ruth. He was pretty good. All he accomplished was to make a dubious public nearly forget that the games it had been witnessing were being sold to gamblers on a vast scale. Then the Big Bam went on to make a shambles of the baseball record book, gaining a level of popularity and fame henceforth unknown to the American people. For a finishing touch, he was instrumental in turning the New York Yankees into the signature sports franchise in the country.
9 Jerry Jones - Dallas Cowboys, 1989-Present
It is so tempting to put him near the top. He does not make this list for his recent involvement in the NFL relocation process but anyone who paid attention to the details of his and Roger Goodell's virtual sodomy of three separate fan bases knows that he is a reptile who emits a very specific viscosity of slime.
Still, it is instead for Jones' unceremonious dismissal of Tom Landry upon buying the team in 1989 that he is placed somewhere below Bernie Madoff on the classiness scale. Landry was a legend in Dallas, of course, for his turning the expansion Cowboys into a perennial contender and Super Bowl Champion. He had been with the team for nearly 30 years and while his teams had been sliding down the standings in recent seasons, he still could have outpointed J. R. Ewing as the most recognizable character in Dallas. So when Jerry Jones and club president Tex Schramm told Landry he was no longer the team's coach, it was an understandably uneasy conversation.
8 Horace Stoneham - N.Y. Giants, 1936-1957
If you read a lot of baseball history, you will come across a good deal more former Brooklyn Dodger fans lamenting and condemning Walter O'Malley moving the team to Los Angeles than you will Giants fans speaking their hatred of Horace Stoneham. This is likely due to the time frame in which the moves occurred. The Giants were the class of the National League and the darling team of New York from the turn of the century through the 1930s. Then John McGraw retired, the Yankees established their dominance and the Dodgers began winning. So when O'Malley packed up his club and moved, it crushed a lot of younger fans, many of whom grew up to be authors, broadcasters and celebrities.
7 Frank Robison - Cleveland Spiders, 1887-1899
If you've ever heard of the Cleveland Spiders it is likely because in 1899 they fielded one of the worst baseball teams in professional history. The reason why is an interesting tale of selfish aggrandizement to which modern fans will have a difficult time relating.
In its earlier days, there was no rule in Major League Baseball against an owner buying more than one team. It was called "syndicate baseball" and it wasn't uncommon. At one time the owner of the NY Giants also had an interest in the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn and Baltimore Clubs were owned by the same group of men. The Robison brothers, Stanley and Frank, owned both the St. Louis franchise and the Cleveland Spiders.
6 James Dolan - New York Knicks, 1999-Present
5 Stan Kroenke - St. Louis Rams, 1995-2015
If you were a St. Louis Rams fan and were to have dreamed the most cynical, vitriolic, emotionless scenario for your team to be taken from you, it likely wouldn't have come close to the way Stan Kroenke and his cronies actually did it. Kroenke is unfathomably wealthy. His money was accumulated through his family connection with Wal-Mart as well as a myriad of real estate investments. So, one might think it would be a good thing to have a team owner so economically solid. It would be a good thing--if that owner hadn't sold his eternal soul to Beelzebub.
Attested to by facts which have come out after the deal, Kroenke hadn't owned 100% of the team for 30 seconds before he started planning how he could cash it out and roll into the gold mines of Los Angeles. At the press conference when he bought the Rams, he claimed to have no plans to move it out of St. Louis. And then he said nothing for four years as he and his team worked on doing exactly that.
4 Robert Irsay - Baltimore Colts, 1972-1997
3 Donald Sterling - Los Angeles Clippers, 1981-2014
Donald Sterling is a rarity amongst dumb millionaires. He actually seems to hate his customers. It would only be a surprise to people who have no eyes or ears that the NBA has a large African American fan base. In 2014, Sterling was recorded making what can only be described as irrational statements about black people who attended Clippers games to his girlfriend. He was actually upset that African Americans were being brought to his games. And Sterling was no novice at this type of bias.
2 Art Modell - Cleveland Browns, 1961-1995
Art Modell did to Cleveland what lake-effect snows, recessions and aging infrastructure never could. The Browns owner took a city which had supported him for over 30 years and ripped its guts out. Cleveland is not Los Angeles or New York. It doesn't have world famous night life or movie premiers to occupy the entertainment sections of local news rags. Blue collar communities like Cleveland don't just use their sports teams as a pleasant diversion. They bond with them and see them as part of their identity. That's the reason the teams with the best fan attendance for road games are usually teams like the Packers, Steelers and Browns.
1 Bill Wirtz - Chicago Blackhawks, 1966-2007
When your hometown tags you with the nickname "Dollar Bill" you probably won't be presented with a key to the city anytime soon. Bill Wirtz is the poster child for owners who do more harm than good by trying to squeeze every nickel out of a team. He alienated Blackhawks fans, launched a failed pay-per-view system and ran a historic franchise like a bargain bin at the dollar store. The team, which had always been supported well, lost attendance in the late 90s and early 2000s by the bushel.
Wirtz built his own arena and kept control of all the parking and concessions. Then he raised ticket prices and eliminated free home game broadcasts by starting his subscription "Hawkvision" system. What's not to love, right? The Blackhawks were a mismanaged mess, playing lousy hockey in front of almost nobody.
After Bill's death, his son Rocky took over the team and almost instantly changed it into the best organization in hockey, winning multiple Stanley Cups and leading the league in attendance. What a difference a generation makes.
Sources: FoxSports.com, si.com, sbnation.com, sportsonearth.com, time.com
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