George Nicolau, Arbitrator in Baseball’s Collusion Cases, Dies at 94

George Nicolau, a notable arbitrator whose determinations that Important League Baseball groups colluded in the 1980s to limit bidding for free of charge agents led club owners to pay players $280 million in damages, died on Jan. 2 in a medical center in Manhattan. He was 94.

His stepson John Oppenheimer reported the result in was kidney failure.

In 1986, Mr. Nicolau was named baseball’s unbiased arbitrator. He replaced Thomas T. Roberts, whom proprietors had fired as he was hearing the first collusion situation between them and the Major League Baseball Gamers Affiliation.

After the entrepreneurs were ordered to reinstate Mr. Roberts so he could complete hearing the scenario — which the information media arrived to simply call Collusion I — he dominated that proprietors experienced conspired to curtail the free market place for players’ products and services soon after the 1985 time.

Then it was Mr. Nicolau’s turn to enter the caldron of stress. A longtime enthusiast of the Detroit Tigers, he introduced an intensive qualifications as a labor lawyer and an arbitrator for the National Basketball Affiliation and its union, as nicely as in aviation, communications, leisure and other fields.

7 months of hearings in a 2nd collusion situation, identified as Collusion II, made 8,500 pages of testimony from 50 witnesses.

“He’s a quite lively arbitrator, not passive at all,” Barry Rona, the owners’ chief labor negotiator, advised Sports activities Inc., a company magazine, in 1988, in advance of Mr. Nicolau ruled. “He asks more issues than Roberts, and will get in touch with a halt to questioning when items get irrelevant.”

When he ruled that August, Mr. Nicolau declared that the owners’ conspiracy experienced continued soon after the 1986 year, in violation of their collective bargaining agreement with the players.

In his selection, he wrote that a group of 79 gamers — including the long term Baseball Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Jack Morris — experienced not received bids from other golf equipment if their recent groups confirmed desire in re-signing them.

“What transpired in 1986 transpired mainly because everybody ‘understood’ what was to be completed,” Mr. Nicolau wrote in his 81-webpage opinion. “By typical consent, exclusive negotiating rights ended up, in result, ceded to previous clubs.” In describing the breadth of a conspiracy in which “everyone knew there was to be no bidding,” Mr. Nicolau cited crew executives such as John McHale, the president of the Montreal Expos, and Roy Eisenhardt, the president of the Oakland A’s.

Before long immediately after the ruling, Mr. Nicolau allow 14 players impacted by the owners’ conspiracy re-enter the totally free agent market place.

Practically two yrs soon after Mr. Nicolau’s choice, he ruled on a new union grievance: The homeowners, the union reported, experienced devised another way to collude from the players by forming a databank to evaluate income features to free of charge agents.

In his getting versus the homeowners, Mr. Nicolau wrote that the “databank’s information was simple — if we must go into that marketplace and bid, then let us quietly cooperate by telling each individual other what the bids are. If we do that, rates will not get out of line and no club will be hurt far too substantially.”

He subsequently awarded gamers $102.5 million in damages (Mr. Roberts had currently established damages at $10.5 million for the very first collusion situation) attorneys for the gamers and proprietors used these figures when they negotiated a settlement of $280 million 4 months just after Mr. Nicolau’s ruling in the databank scenario, inevitably regarded as Collusion III.

Mr. Nicolau also dominated on a range of other grievances, such as the circumstance of the Yankee aid pitcher Steve Howe. Right after Mr. Howe experienced been suspended seven situations for substance abuse, Fay Vincent, then the baseball commissioner, banned him for existence.

But Mr. Howe appealed, and Mr. Nicolau reinstated him in 1992, partly primarily based on proof that interest deficit dysfunction was an fundamental lead to of his drug dependancy.

George Andrew Nicolau was born in Detroit on Feb. 14, 1925, and moved with his household to Jackson, Mich., about 75 miles west, when he was young. His dad and mom had been Greek immigrants: His father, Andrew, ran a diner, and his mother, Mary (Naoum) Nicolau, was a homemaker who also worked in the cafe.

He volunteered for the Army Air Corps in 1943 and, even though he was serving as a navigator on a B-17, a burst of antiaircraft fire shattered his still left leg in the course of a bombing mission to Leipzig, Germany. The bombardier used a tourniquet and shot him with morphine but the leg could not be saved it was amputated the up coming working day.

Soon after recovering, he entered the University of Michigan, exactly where he attained a bachelor’s diploma in political science and economics in 1948. He then entered Columbia Regulation Faculty, getting now decided that he wanted to function on behalf of labor unions.

After graduating in 1951, he joined a regulation company in Manhattan that released him to arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. 3 decades afterwards he left for a more substantial labor law organization, where by he represented Actors Equity, the Newspaper Guild and the Nationwide Maritime Union.

He turned a deputy director of the Peace Corps in 1962 and a few decades afterwards was hired as deputy regional director of the federal Business of Economic Option right after a small stint there, he grew to become the very first commissioner of the Local community Improvement Agency, an antipoverty corporation in New York Metropolis, a article he held for two a long time. He was the executive director of the nonprofit Fund for the City of New York from 1968 to 1970.

His career then shifted. He spent a decade as government director of the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, a period in the course of which he also began to listen to arbitration conditions. By 1980, he was a complete-time arbitrator.

In an early circumstance as the N.B.A. arbitrator, he dominated in 1980 that Bernard King, then actively playing for the Utah Jazz, could not be suspended with out spend right after being arrested on prices of forcible sexual abuse.

“They did not have to perform him, but they had to pay back him,” Mr. Nicolau claimed in an oral heritage interview for the National Academy of Arbitrators in 2006. “King was then alcohol dependent He went to rehab he grew to become the comeback player of the year” with the Golden Point out Warriors.

Mr. Nicolau was pointed out for the clarity of the creating in his thoughts.

“Some arbitrators just create, ‘Here’s what the gamers say,’ ‘here’s what the owners say’ and ‘here’s what I have to say,’” Gene Orza, the baseball union’s previous main functioning officer, said by mobile phone. “But George told narratives in a quite erudite way.”

The proprietors dismissed Mr. Nicolau following 9 yrs, stating that they wanted someone with a refreshing point of view. He had served lengthier than any of his predecessors.

Tony Clark, the baseball union’s government director, claimed in a statement that Mr. Nicolau experienced “helped protect the integrity of free of charge company.”

In addition to Mr. Oppenheimer, Mr. Nicolau is survived by two sons, Brien and Tony a stepdaughter, Trudy Oppenheimer a further stepson, David Oppenheimer and 6 grandchildren. His spouse, Siobhan (Caffrey) Nicolau, died in 2013. A prior relationship, to Sheila O’Brien, ended in divorce.

John Oppenheimer claimed that his stepfather was functioning on arbitrations until almost the finish.

“He was most very pleased when he could help you save or aid a single human remaining at a enterprise get a reasonable shot,” Mr. Oppenheimer explained by telephone. “In his very last scenario, a person was fired the union brought the situation and reported, ‘You can not do that,’ and George received him his occupation back again.”

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