MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Einhorn's smile, vision will be missed

Broadcasting pioneer became part of White Sox ownership group in 1981

Einhorn's smile, vision will be missed

The smile. The laugh.

The inevitably good story that was certain to be delivered almost as quickly as the smile and the laugh. And the institutional memory.

Oh, man, the institutional memory.

Didn't matter whether it was baseball, basketball or the Lobber versus the Libber -- Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King, for those too young to remember it -- there was very little on the sports landscape that Eddie Einhorn missed.

Now it's our turn to miss him.

Celebrating the life of Einhorn

Einhorn, who was Jerry Reinsdorf's partner in buying the White Sox in 1981, passed away on Tuesday night in New Jersey from the complications that followed a stroke. He had turned 80 in January.

His loss will be felt throughout baseball, as he was involved one way or another in just about every progressive move that Major League Baseball made since he and Reinsdorf helped revitalize the Sox.

"Eddie was a creative whirlwind whose ideas -- many of them far ahead of their time -- changed the landscape of sports, and sports on television, forever," Reinsdorf said. "He was a man of many interests, projects, ideas and opinions, and we all will miss him dearly.

"It is exceedingly rare in this day and age to have enjoyed a friendship and a working partnership that lasted our lifetimes. We celebrated many great moments together."

Einhorn, who grew up in Paterson, N.J., saw the future of televised sports when Dizzy Dean was broadcasting the Game of the Week. Einhorn did more than anyone else to turn the NCAA basketball tournament into the three-week festival of televised games known as March Madness. But he's a lot like Reinsdorf.

As much fun and rewarding as the run of six NBA championships with the Bulls was, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers that made the Chairman fall in love with sports in the first place. Nothing thrilled either Reinsdorf or Einhorn as much as the White Sox 11-1 run through the postseason in 2005, and the trip to the White House that followed.

Cigars have never been sweeter.

Life itself seemed sweet to Einhorn, who is credited as being the architect of MLB's first billion-dollar television package.

I can't remember the last time I saw Eddie. That's because I bumped into him everywhere.

He based himself in the New York area, so there was a real good chance I'd bump into him at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field when covering games in New York. Or I'd bump into him at a team hotel or restaurant there. But those times aren't how I measure the depth of his love for baseball.

I'd bump into him in Miami, for the opening of Marlins Park. Or in St. Louis, when the Cardinals were honoring Tony La Russa. I'd see him at the Winter Meetings or in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he was as giddy as a teenaged boy surrounded by the greats of the game.

Every time I saw Eddie, he'd ask how I was doing or what I thought about something the White Sox had done. I would rush through my answers so I could try to get to a few kernels of the knowledge he carried with him. But he didn't often answer my questions.

He'd start to answer, mention somebody's name -- could have been Boog Powell, could have been Walter O'Malley, could have been anyone, I think -- and he'd laugh. Then he'd ask if he ever told me about the time that he got his rental car switched with somebody else's car, or the time somebody ordered fried chicken at the Carnegie Deli, and away we'd go.

You always had the feeling that he had someplace else he could have been -- a board meeting, maybe -- but saw there was a baseball event he'd could go to instead. He worked as a vendor at Comiskey Park when he was attending Northwestern Law School, where he and Reinsdorf became close as classmates.

Einhorn and Reinsdorf didn't get off to a great start with White Sox fans because of this idea that was quite provocative in the early 1980s: pay cable. They switched the Sox games from their over-the-air carrier to a start-up cable venture, and it was like they had outlawed deep-dish pizza.

In fairness to Chicago fans, this was about the same time that then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth was warning owners and the media that the biggest threat to the future of baseball was the oversaturation of games on television. Few people -- outside of maybe Reinsdorf and Einhorn, that is -- had figured out how important it was for a sports team to maximize its television revenue.

Einhorn was always ahead of the curve. He was a great asset to owners when they launched MLB Network on cable.

Like most of his recent endeavors, it's hard to say how heavily Einhorn was involved. He didn't take many positions that came with titles and direct responsibilities. But he always knew a guy who knew another guy, and Einhorn had the vision to explain how things would fit. He could take something complicated and make it seem simple.

Einhorn, who was the White Sox president and chief operating officer from 1981-90, hasn't had a role with the team for a long time, but is still listed as vice chairman. The team will honor his passing by wearing a uniform patch this season.

It would be fitting if the White Sox could make it in the shape of a smile.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.