Episode 45 — Chapter 51
This contract is insane, Fensley Hammaker thought to himself as he studied the rough draft. No ball player in his right mind would ever propose these conditions, even if the compensation were a hundred billion! This guy must be totally bonkers. Well, I suppose if he claims to be Ty Cobb, risen from the grave, we shouldn’t exactly expect rational thought.
Hammaker was the senior partner of the prestigious Atlanta law firm of Lee, Hammaker & Adams, a medium-size firm that represented a number of well-known sports and entertainment figures from the south as well as other geographical areas. Cannon Cain had retained their services when he had been first granted free agency and Hammaker had hammered out a contract which had placed Cain, for a time, at the pinnacle of baseball’s professionals.
Bolt’s lawyers worked through the night in order to have the proposed contract completed by 3:00 p.m. the following day. Forty-five minutes later, Hammaker began his review. He was a master of sculpting clauses on protective conditions, liquidated damages, covenants of good faith and the like, to insure that the Atlanta baseball club would be unable to manipulate playing time or otherwise interfere to adversely influence Cobb’s performance criteria. For example, if Cobb were batting close to .400 at or near the end of the season, the manager could not arbitrarily bench Cobb without obtaining his witnessed, voluntary consent in writing; nor could subsequent amendments to the collective bargaining agreement, such as invalidation of the newly-enacted provision authorizing incentive bonuses based on player statistical performance, disenfranchise Cobb from collecting his compensation. Hammaker did his job, but he felt like he was wasting his time protecting his client’s right to compensation for events that would never happen in a million years.
It wasn’t until nearly midnight, following several joint sessions between attorneys, that the final draft had been approved. Amid little fanfare, Cobb, the Cains and Hammaker sat in Bolt’s office awaiting the printing of the final draft. Cobb, Calvin and Savannah were exhausted from the mental strain of the back-and-forth contract tug-of-war, but Hammaker, on the other hand, seemed to be in rare form. The finished product was hastily delivered to Bolt’s office just after midnight. After careful scrutiny by both sides to insure that the final draft included the precise language approved by both lawyers, the signing took place at half past twelve.
Bolt had champagne on ice and he proposed a toast. “I would like to offer a toast to the second coming of Ty Cobb… and to the Atlanta Braves for having the foresight to reclaim the South’s greatest hero since General Robert E. Lee.” Bolt announced that he had scheduled a press conference the following morning and requested that the Cains be in attendance along with the newest member of the Atlanta Braves.
Bolt had some unfinished business to transact, prior to leaving for the press conference the following morning. Bolt had learned, over the years, the wisdom of securing insurance even for events that were extremely remote. On special matters, he dealt with an off-shore broker whose guarantee was impeccable and trust unquestioned. It was no concern of his that some of the broker’s subsidiary re-insurers didn’t carry the same unblemished credentials; five billion dollars in equity backing up the lead insurer, Fidelity National, provided all the protection he needed.
The policy premium of $250,000 rankled Bolt, though when added to the minimum player’s salary, it still kept the cost of signing Cobb under one million dollars—a bargain for what he had been prepared to pay; but he had expected to pay no more than $100,000 to cover the incredibly remote risk, though he understood that the reinsuring and ceding of premium among layers of companies would filter the net benefit of premium considerably to any one source. After he finished the call, Bolt questioned his own sanity for taking out the coverage for Cobb’s contract. But after all, wasn’t his own rise to eminence in the business world from humble beginnings on par with the billion to one odds Cobb was faced with?