Every retrospective on the career of professional sports executive Marvin Milkes invariably starts with the fact that he was the only general manager the Seattle Pilots had (1969), that he served as the first GM of the Pilots’ successors, the Milwaukee Brewers (1970), and that he wound up becoming one of the few men in his business to preside over franchises in three sports: baseball, hockey, and soccer.
During his athletic wanderings, Milkes made two moves he especially came to regret, the first occurring shortly after he became GM of the Pilots.
On Oct. 21, 1968, five months before the Pilots played their first game, Milkes purchased a one-time starter turned knuckleball reliever, Jim Bouton, from the New York Yankees. With that acquisition, Milkes unwittingly provided Bouton with the perfect environment in which to write Ball Four.
Bouton’s diary of the 1969 Pilots season not only changed — for the worse, according to men such as Milkes — how the media covered sports, it also saw fit to immortalize Milkes as the epitome of front-office deviousness. Wrote Bouton:
“As soon as a general manager says ‘Now I want to be honest with you’, check your wallet. It’s like Marvin Milkes telling you, ‘We’ve always had a nice relationship.’ The truth is general managers aren’t honest with their players, and they have no relationship with them except a business one.”
Milkes’ second career rue came just before the launch of the Pilots’ season when he traded injured rookie Lou Piniella, sending him to Kansas City on April 1, 1969, for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker. Piniella, who became that season’s AL Rookie of the Year, provided Milkes with 17 years of anguish as he carved an All-Star-caliber career… read more >