Blog Entry

No Rangers, but scouts' honor for Dennis Gilbert

Posted on: January 13, 2010 5:57 pm
 

Dennis Gilbert, man of many hats, was on the move again one morning earlier this week even if the route wasn't taking him exactly where he hoped to go.

A licensed magician, nevertheless, he still couldn't pull owning the Texas Rangers out of one of those hats.

Gilbert -- special advisor to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, life insurance guru, philanthropist, former agent, former professional ballplayer and part-time Houdini -- was zipping through Los Angeles en route to an early morning meeting. Then he was set to spend the afternoon in another meeting planning Saturday's Seventh Annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation awards dinner and charity auction.

The dinner has become a must-stop on baseball's off-season circuit, a great cause that raises money for old scouts who are down on their luck, a huge event that last year attracted more than 1,000 people.

Among those scheduled to attend Saturday's In the Spirit of the Game at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles are Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Bob Feller and Robin Roberts, manager Tony LaRussa, the Manny Mota family and Commissioner Bud Selig.

This is Gilbert's baby, and he throws himself into it with the gusto of a vintage Feller fastball.

It's just that, well ... by the time they open the auction of sports and entertainment memorabilia (a few years ago, one of Marilyn Monroe's dresses was up, by the way), Gilbert had also hoped to be standing in the on-deck circle for ownership of the Rangers.

But alas, while his group made the cut down to the final two, it was the other group -- led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg -- that was granted an exclusive window to negotiate with Rangers owner Tom Hicks. That window expires Thursday, incidentally.

So for Gilbert, a process that started last March is close to ending in utter disappointment and exhaustion. He likens it to a guy in high school whose girlfriend cuts bait.

"The hardest part was that it started out with 11 groups and we got down to the final two," Gilbert says. "But I don't regret a second of it."

From that perspective, though, it's been a difficult year. The whisper campaign against him turned ugly -- that he would fire Texas legend and Rangers president Nolan Ryan (not true), among other things -- and while Gilbert refuses to delve into it, it's clear he was hurt.

Once Ryan aligned himself with Greenberg's group, essentially it was game over.

"I even got a letter from the mayor of Fort Worth telling me how important Nolan Ryan is to Texas baseball and to the community," says Gilbert, who, after a lifetime in the game as a player, agent and front-office man and who once represented such luminaries as Hall of Famer George Brett, Barry Bonds, Bret Saberhagen and Danny Tartabull, maybe had a pretty good idea of that already. "I'd describe that letter as over the top.

"I've been in baseball since the '60s. I certainly know Nolan Ryan and what he means. But, whatever."

Gilbert is passionate, clearly loves the game and could be great fun as an owner. It's telling how he's successfully transitioned from a flamboyant agent into an executive who is widely respected in the industry.

"I must have had a couple hundred e-mails from scouts and baseball executives wishing me well," he says of his quest to purchase the Rangers. "The journey really opened my eyes.

"It's interesting how the baseball community seemed to give me an awful lot of support."

A former Red Sox and Mets farmhand -- he earned his nickname "Go Go" because of his hustle on the diamond -- Gilbert went on to build a highly successful life insurance business. From there, he developed into a superagent in a business he started with the late Tony Conigliaro.

He retired from that gig in '99 and joined the White Sox as special advisor to Reinsdorf the following year. The two men are very close, and Reinsdorf was especially helpful during Gilbert's run at the Rangers.

"He was outstanding," Gilbert says. "I'm supposed to be his advisor, and he was mine."

Most likely, that won't be the last of Reinsdorf's advising. Though Gilbert is licking his wounds now after coming so close to the Rangers, he isn't discounting another run at owning a ballclub.

"I guess it's like going to the Super Bowl and losing maybe by a touchdown, or you miss a field goal with a few seconds to go in the game," Gilbert says. "So, sure, I feel like I'll regroup and take a look at what's out there."

For now, this minute, what's out there is a gala of a fundraiser that combines the best parts of Gilbert: Fun, passion, showmanship and, most importantly, a reverence for the game and, especially, for the people who help make it what it is.

"There have been quite a few people who have come up to me at the event saying things like, 'Thank you, you saved our house,'" Gilbert says. "Keeping people's health insurance has been very important.

"One fellow had been in hospice for four or five months, and when he passed away we took care of the expenses and gave the rest of the money to his widow to give her a new start."

CNN's Larry King is a co-host of the event and comedian Joe Piscopo will be the master of ceremonies. For tickets, call 310-996-1188.

Comments

Since: Oct 7, 2008
Posted on: January 15, 2010 10:56 am
 

No Rangers, but scouts' honor for Dennis Gilbert

Rumors were that if Gilbert bought the Rangers then Nolan Ryan was gonna quit, if those rumors were true then i'm glad that his bid wasn't acctepted. the rangers have finally got the looks of a contender again and i believe it is because of the time and effort of Nolan Ryan. So if he quit the team that would have put the rangers right back where they started...at the bottom of the division. we need all the help we can get from Ryan. glad he will still be around.


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