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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 29, 1979

Purchase of Teams Put Buss in Spotlight

May 29, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Dr. Jerry Buss burst upon the Los Angeles sports landscape, headline writers tried dubbing him "Dr. J."

That didn't stick, but Buss did.

It was announced 20 years ago today that he had bought the Forum, Lakers and Kings for $67.5 million, at the time the largest sports sale ever.

The seller was Jack Kent Cooke, 66, who wanted to move East and devote more time to the Washington Redskins, of which he owned 86%.

He also, friends believed, wanted to leave California after his 1977 divorce from his wife of 42 years, resulting in what was believed to be the largest divorce settlement in history at the time, $50 million.

Another element in the sale was Cooke's 13,000-acre ranch in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Buss, 46, was a Los Angeles real estate investor who with partner Frank Mariani borrowed money to buy a Los Angeles apartment building in 1958. Twenty years later, they owned 5,000 apartment units in Los Angeles, plus 5,000 more in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Sacramento.

Buss, also divorced, enjoyed projecting an almost Hefneresque image of fast cars and women; jeans, cowboy boots and expensive California wines.

There were other Cooke suitors, including an entertainment conglomerate.

But many believed Cooke--whose first job was selling encyclopedias door-to-door in Canada--saw a younger version of himself in Buss, who started out as a pool-room hustler and rodeo hanger-on in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Also on this date: In 1980, the Dodgers' Bob Welch missed a perfect game by one pitch. He gave up a fourth-inning single to Atlanta's Larvell Blanks, but the Dodgers erased him with a double play. Welch faced the minimum 27 batters in a 3-0 victory. . . . In 1990, Oakland's Rickey Henderson broke Ty Cobb's American League record with his 893rd stolen base.

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