Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Why MLB Owners Support the Prez


They didn’t think he was good enough to be their baseball commissioner and follow in the immortal footsteps of people like Bowie Kuhn and Ford Frick, but the Major Leagues’ cabal of billionaire owners is ponying up the dough to keep George W. Bush in the White House.

A recent Associated Press review found that the former Texas Rangers owner has had his palm greased by over half of the 30 Major League Teams. Seven owners even hold the distinction of being “Bush Rangers”, meaning they raised at least $200,000 each, and six are “Bush Pioneers” signifying $100,000 a piece.

Bush’s most ardent supporters in the owners box are a rogue’s gallery of right wing ideologues with the bucks to back it up. There is Detroit Tigers owner with his own Republican electoral ambitions Michael Ilitch, San Francisco Giants owner and Safeway union buster Peter Magowan, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, best known for trying to contract his own team, and another figurehead of a decaying empire, George Steinbrenner.

Owners love Bush for a more complex reason than the usual ardor billionaires exhibit toward their tax cutter in chief. Baseball owners all yearn the same brass ring: they want to extort municipalities and tax payers to pay the tab for new state of the art stadiums ñ and no one ever fronted a stadium swindle better than George W. Bush.

Stadium deals are the modern day ëhealth tonics’ once sold a century ago to carnival attendees as cure-alls for everything from gout to syphilis. Stadiums are exalted as the difference between a cutting edge city ready for the globalized world of tomorrow, and a sleepy town left behind in the dust. The Stadium pushers ask the question: “Do you want to be nostalgia or the future? Do you want to exist calcified in a Thornton Wilder play or be featured in InStyle magazine?”

When the Twins’ Pohlad failed to fleece the locals in a stadium referendum, one of his minions bemoaned that the Twin Cities would become (heaven forfend) “another Bizmark, North Dakota”. Even though report after report from the right wing Cato Institute to the more centrist Brookings, dismiss stadium funding as an utter financial flop, owners and cities still dream of getting working people to pay for play pens they could barely afford to enter themselves.

The sad dreams of billionaires are projected onto Bush who set the standard for large-scale extortion, when his ownership group got the state of Texas to pay for The Ballpark in Arlington. Dubya after an adult life of incompetence and failed business ventures finally got his dream job, as managing partner of the Rangers. For an initial investment of $600,000 ñ borrowed of course – the then President’s son had to endure the toil of attending home baseball games and smiling a lot for the cameras.

But while Bush smirked his forties away, the owners behind him (think a dozen Dick Cheney’s in ten-gallon hats) threatened to move the team if the city of Arlington did not foot the bill for a new park. The local government caved and in the fall of 1990, they guaranteed that the city would pay $135 million out of an estimated cost of $190 million. The remainder was raised through a ticket surcharge. In other words, local taxpayers and baseball fans footed the entire bill This plan was sold to Arlington voters with Bush’s glad-handing help. At the end of the day, the owners of the Rangers, including Bush, got a stadium worth nearly $200 million without putting down a penny of their own money. But the scam did not end there. As part of the deal, the Rangers’ ownership was granted a chunk of land in addition to the stadium. The land, of course, increased in value as a result of the stadium’s construction. To make this happen, Democratic Governor Ann Richards, signed into law an extraordinary measure that set up the Arlington Sports Facilities Development Authority (ASFDA), which had the power to seize privately owned land deemed necessary for stadium construction. As Joe Conason has written, “Never before had a municipal authority in Texas been given license to seize the property of a private citizen for the benefit of other private citizens… On November 8, 1993, with the stadium being readied to open the following spring, Bush announced that he would be running for governor. He didn’t blush when he proclaimed that his campaign theme would demand self-reliance and personal responsibility rather than dependence on government.”

Bush held onto his stake of the team as governor and by the time he cashed out in 1998, Bush’s return on his original $600,000 investment in the Rangers was 2,400 percent to a cool $15 million.

The next time someone complains about the “greediness” of pro athletes, tell them that if they are that bent out of shape about someone’s undeserved wealth, they should a detour to the upper deck and boo outside the owner’s box.

DAVE ZIRIN has a book coming out, What’s My Name, Fool: sports and resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books) comes out in spring 2005. To have his column sent to you every week, just e-mail

Contact the author at


DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future