SAN DIEGO — Two-hundred sixty-six days after the Sockers initially called a press conference to announce the signing of Branko Segota, the Socker midfielder actually signed.
On Dec. 16, 1986, Segota phoned the Sockers 55 minutes before a scheduled press conference to say he was not signing a six-year contract worth $1.25 million. There was another close call in early May when Bob Bell, Socker co-managing general partner, said all the numbers in Segota's contract had been agreed upon. Once again, it was a false alarm.
Finally, at Press Conference II, held Tuesday at noon at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, the Sockers announced that earlier in the day Segota signed a three-year, no-trade, no-cut contract plus an option year.
Segota led the Sockers in scoring the past two seasons, has scored 503 regular-season points in six Major Indoor Soccer League seasons and is the team's career leader in playoff goals with 54 and points with 93.
"We believe Branko is the single best indoor soccer player in the MISL," Bell said.
The Sockers also believe in not disclosing financial terms of Segota's contract.
"It was his agent (Hal Kolker) who was tossing figures around last time," Bell said. "It's our policy not to talk about figures."
But . . .
"It's probably the most substantial contract in the history of the league," Bell said. "Beyond that, I won't say."
Is it worth about half of the original $1.25-million offer? "Around that figure," Bell said.
"I think I have the biggest contract (in the league) right now," said Segota, who has been with the Sockers three seasons and would have become a free agent Sept. 30.
He added that the contract "has inched a little higher than Stevie," a reference to his close friend and former teammate, Steve Zungul of the Tacoma Stars. Zungul was reportedly the highest paid player in the MISL at about $200,000 a year.
"Money was never the problem," said Segota, 26, adding that he didn't want to be tied down to a six-year contract. "It was the other little things."
Little things such as getting an excellent insurance policy, the freedom to play with the Canadian National outdoor team and a no-cut, no-trade contract.
"Everything I asked for," said Segota, "Mr. Bell gave to me and made me happy."
Segota's insurance policy by Lloyd's of London guarantees his salary for the length of the contract. And the contract stipulates that he can play outdoor soccer with the Canadian National team during his vacation. Bell said that Hugo Perez and Kevin Crow are the only other Sockers who have stipulations in their contracts stating they also can play on an outdoor national team.
Bell said that Segota--who played on the Canadian National team during the 1986 World Cup--will not be permitted to miss playoff games or key regular-season games to play with an outdoor team, but would be allowed to miss some mid-week late season games if they weren't key games and didn't directly affect the standings. "I think the commissioner will allow it," Bell said.
"The league policy is that a player cannot miss any regular-season game or playoff game to participate with whoever," said James Budish, MISL director of operations. "I'm sure Bill (Kentling, MISL commissioner) will take a close look at the contract."
Kentling was unable to be reached Tuesday.
When asked if he had talked with other MISL clubs during the summer, Segota said: "I don't think you're supposed to. I haven't talked to anyone. Our commissioner is a little touchy with tampering."