Pioneering baseball and hockey agent Tom Reich dies at 82
Thomas M. Reich, a pioneering baseball agent with an exuberant, oversized personality who has helped players earn multi-million dollar salaries in…
Thomas M. Reich, a pioneering baseball agent with an exuberant, oversized personality who helped players earn multi-million dollar salaries in the early years of free agency, died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 82 years old.
Reich was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2019.
“Tom Reich was one of the leading representatives of the players of his time,” the Major League Baseball Players Association said in a statement. “The players and our union have benefited from both his intelligence and his wise counsel for many decades.”
Reich went to the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne Law School, then became a lawyer in Pittsburgh. He started as an agent in 1970 representing pitcher Dock Ellis, who had a salary of $ 13,000 at a time when players were still fighting for free agency.
The first clients included Dave Parker, John Candelaria and Manny Sanguillen of the Pirates. Among his first stars was Joe Morgan, who became a Hall of Famer and has remained a longtime friend.
“The racism factor back then was terrible for the players,” Reich told the Sports Business Journal in 2004. “There were a lot of incidents in Pittsburgh and other places that weren’t melodramatic. They were real. Hispanic players were starting to be a factor back then. Of course, now the infusion of numbers and talent is extraordinary. But there were a lot of issues back then. I was a fiery guy. .
With a beard he sometimes grew, especially after it turned gray, Reich was among the most colorful figures in baseball and became influential as salaries skyrocketed after referee Peter Seitz’s decision in December 1975 which led to free agency.
Reich, Jerry Kapstein and Dick Moss were among the most notable agents who led the free agent market in its early days, courted by owners and general managers who coveted their players.
“Bring them some iron!” Reich liked to say, his Pittsburgh accent fully displayed.
In February 1982, he negotiated the first contract with an average salary of $ 2 million, George Foster’s $ 10.2 million five-year contract with the New York Mets. His other clients included Jack Clark, Sammy Sosa, Mo Vaughn and John Wetteland.
Reich, more than others, had a flair which he displayed in restaurants and bars where baseball officials met. Chili Davis, a customer, called him while he was having dinner at the restaurant and asked him what wines he needed to order.
Reich dated actress Jennifer O’Neill, who after they were no longer involved in a romantic relationship remained a friend.
Living an itinerant life, Reich kept an apartment in New York and a house in the Los Angeles area, while commuting back and forth to Pittsburgh, where he kept ties and returned on several occasions. He kept several televisions in his home so that he could watch several of his clients simultaneously.
Reich became a channel negotiator with his fellow agents Randy Hendricks and Ron Shapiro during the 7 1/2 month baseball strike that began in August 1994, speaking with the owners at a time when the relationship with the executives of the players’ association and Major League Baseball was its most tense.
“The whole war is going to have an apocalypse that will engulf everyone, including the very owners who are trying to break the union,” Reich told The Associated Press.
He got into hockey, where his most accomplished client was Mario Lemieux.
Reich also mentored several young agents who then went their separate ways and went out on their own, including Adam Katz, Craig Landis and Chuck Berry, as well as Rick Shapiro, who became an executive in the players’ association.
He is survived by PK Reich, his third wife; first wife Carole; second wife Judy; daughter Shannon; and brother Sam. A son, David, died of cancer in 2019.
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