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'Life on the Run'

October 20, 1985|PETER V. UEBERROTH | Ueberroth is Commissioner of Baseball.

As the son of a traveling salesman, I became accustomed to life on the run at an early age. I vividly remember my father planning business trips at our dining room table. He'd lay out old, worn road maps, notes and suggestions from colleagues about inns and restaurants along the way. In the 1940s, travel was no small feat. In those days the best travel advice came by word of mouth.

There were no such things as late check-ins or guaranteed reservations and few credit cards or traveler's checks. A businessman carried cash, lots of it. And if he arrived at his destination late, his only guarantee was an uncomfortable night's sleep in his car.

My father frequently took me along on his trips. He sold aluminum-siding products in several areas of the country. Once, in Iowa, he got so carried away while pitching his product to a farmer that we arrived at the local motel long after it had closed down for the night--9 p.m. He got the back seat; I got the front. To my father, that was an adventure.

"Every day is different," he told me once. "I meet farmers, bankers, cooks, clerks and other salesmen all the time. Everyone has a different point of view; if you listen closely, you can learn a lot about our country and what people care about."

These many years later, I remember his words, vividly. As for a vacation preference, the answer is easy: It is Laguna Beach. For me, Laguna Beach provides surcease from the pressures and offers holidays that remain memorable.

In many respects, I've followed in my father's footsteps and have carried his words with me. Ever since 1961, when I started my first travel business, I've been on the road, either seeking new business opportunities around the world or making friends, first as president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) and now as commissioner of baseball. Person-to-person contact was instrumental in my company--First Travel--growing into the second largest travel corporation in North America by the time I sold it in 1979.

I brought that same philosophy to the organizing of the 1984 Olympic Games, and I bring it now to America's pastime--major league baseball.

As president of the LAOOC, I traveled the globe to put across the message that our small, private organizing committee had the ability to stage a safe, profitable and hospitable Olympics. I listened to the advice of those who had been involved in sports and to world leaders who cared about the Games and integrated their input into our planning.

Through word of mouth, we created credibility for the organizing committee and helped alert the American people--particularly those in Southern California--that the Games were on the way. The message was simple: Play a part in history. The response was spectacular. Americans welcomed the Games with open arms, and Southern Californians turned out in droves--72,000--to participate as staff and volunteers.

As commissioner of baseball, I must feel at home in each of major league baseball's 24 cities in order to strengthen the fabric of the game and bring creative solutions to such general problems as economic instability and drug abuse, as well as problems that are unique to each franchise city.

Fortunately, travel is not as difficult as it was during my father's day. Then, arrangements were made on the run. Today, one telephone call is all that's necessary for air travel, ground transportation and accommodations. A friendly travel agent is essential to a corporation. A good travel agent becomes an extension of the staff. And when schedules need to be molded to rapidly changing demands, computers do it instantly.

The demands of a life on the run have come at an opportune time for my wife, Ginny, and me. Our four children are grown, and each is attending school or working in a different part of the country. My family is anchored on both coasts--New York, where baseball maintains its headquarters, and Southern California, where we have established our roots. This experiment in a bicoastal life style has given me the opportunity to appreciate two diverse cities and the flexibility to keep a firm grip on baseball.

New York offers us an energetic life style we hadn't experienced in Southern California. It isn't enough just to "be" in Manhattan; the pace of the city encourages Ginny and me to go out and seek adventures on a daily basis. While largely dependent on a car in Southern California, we've become Olympic pedestrians in New York. Our apartment on the upper East Side is ideally suited to exploring neighborhood restaurants, the finest museums, Broadway and the beauty of Central Park.

With her own special touch, Ginny has created a home in the heart of the city that accentuates both the excitement of the city and the warmth of our family when we are together.

When we travel toward Los Angeles, we frequently visit one of baseball's cities. In each city, we try to visit areas that we hadn't seen before and meet the people responsible for the vitality of the city and the team.

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