NEW YORK — Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, his voice cracking with emotion, lost his balance and fell to the stage of Carnegie Hall today during a tribute to his predecessor, A. Bartlett Giamatti.
Vincent, who had just finished an eloquent tribute to his friend, turned from the podium to return to his seat and lost his balance. He was helped to his feet by Joe DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr.
"I apologize," Vincent said to the audience.
Vincent walks with a cane as the result of a vertebra injury during college and the onset of arthritis.
"I feel embarrassed," he said later. "I hope I didn't spoil anything."
Just before he fell, Vincent's voice broke during the final part of what was called "A Celebration of Bart Giamatti and Baseball."
"To me, he was the noblest of them all," he said, using words from Shakespeare. "Brave, noble Bart, and goodby."
Giamatti died of a heart attack on Sept. 1 at his summer home in Edgartown, Mass., just five months after becoming commissioner and eight days after he banned Pete Rose from baseball.
A succession of speakers praised Giamatti during the 90-minute program.
Among the speakers were his son, Marcus Giamatti; Joe Garagiola; writers Claire Smith and Roger Angell, and Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig. Also on stage were American League President Bobby Brown, National League President Bill White and Yale President Benno C. Schmidt Jr.
The audience was a collection of who's who in baseball, filled with owners, general managers, scouts, agents, baseball lawyers, arbitrators, television executives, and the staffs of the commissioner's office and both leagues.
The scene outside Carnegie Hall after the program was one of baseball executives milling about on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, some talking trades and contracts.