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  • Writer's pictureMaine Baseball HOF

Woolf, Robert (Bob) (1994)

When he died suddenly on November 30, 1993, Bob Woolf, 65, was nationally and internationally recognized for negotiating more than 2,000 contracts in the field of sports and entertainment.

A pioneer in the role of sports agent, Woolf was also the author of two books, “Behind Closed Doors" and “Friendly Persuasion".

Named one of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential Attorneys in America by the National Law Journal and one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Sports by the Sporting News, Woolf's experiences took him from weekends with Prince Charles and Prince Rainier to informal meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev and collaborative efforts with Armand Hammer.

Yet, for ell his high-profile activities, Woolf never forgot his roots on Munjoy Hill in Portland.

On a visit to his home city to receive an award from the Alumni Association of the Boys and Girls Club of America, he visited the local club on Cumberland Avenue.

The club has photographs taken that day of Woolf shooting baskets with children.

Woolf was a dues-paying member of the association and a generous contributor.

Humble about his success, Woolf seemed genuinely surprised by what he had achieved.

"Who would've thought a kid from Munjoy Hill could be sitting here, saying this," said Woolf during an interview when he was in Portland.

The first major league baseball player represented by Woolf was Earl Wilson, who pitched a no-hit game for the Red Sox in 1962.

Hie subsequently represented baseball players Luis Tiant, Carl Yastrzemski, Ken Harrelson, Thurman Munson, Bob Stanley and Mark Fidrych.

Also basketball players Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Robert Parish.

Also football players Raghib “Rocket* Ismail, Jim Plunkett, Dexter Manley and Mike Buck, the former UMaine quarterback until recently with the New Orleans Saints.

Some athletes, including Erving, fired Woolf for his refusal to re-negotiate for more money in the middle of their contracts.

"He created a set of ethical standards that very few of his colleagues in the business were adhering to, “said Richard Lapchick, director of the Center for Sport in Society at Northeastern University.

"He really was a lover of sports, as opposed to simply using it to gain his livelihood.

The son of Jewish immigrants, Woolf attended Boston College on a basketball scholarship. He earned his law degree at Boston University.

Woolf, however, never forgot delivering newspapers up and down Congress Street in his native city or walking to the (then) Boys Club or Setting pins.

In his book "Behind Closed Doors," Woolf said this about Portland, where he grew up in the 1940's: “This is the kind of small, dry, unhurried town so basic to the heritage of Maine, the kind that is so ripe for jokes.

But I loved it, and still do, and go back as often as I can, maybe six or seven times a year.

It helps cleanse my mind of the latest crisis or legal tangle involving one of my athletes.”

"There is something encouraging about a place that never changes, where the air and the streams are still pure and no one forces himself on you. There is, always will be, a lot of Portland in me."

From Fold 3 Legacy pages

Yaz 1969 Topps all star

One of his first major clients was Yastrzemski, the Red Sox slugger, who also became a close and generous friend. When he retired, Yastrzemski gave Mr. Woolf a wealth of his personal baseball memorabilia, which Mr. Woolf displayed proudly in his office on what became known as the Yaz wall. Office Overlooks Fenway Park

It was no accident that Mr. Woolf's office in the John Hancock building overlooked Fenway Park. Visitors who wondered whether the sports agent was a true sports fan had only to take a look through the telescope at his office window to find out: It was permanently aimed and focused on the Fenway mound and batter's box.

As his fame spread and his client list grew, Mr. Woolf, who estimated that he had negotiated more than 20,000 contracts by 1992, grew increasingly concerned by the spendthrift ways of young clients who didn't know the value of a million dollars.

Accordingly he often insisted on becoming the personal manager of the players he represented, overseeing their investments to make sure they would live comfortably after their peak earning years. He even went so far as to put his clients on allowances, or tried to. First-Class Allowance

"Professional ethics would never permit Woolf to say, “No, that's too much,” to some club owner's offers, yet he is not out after the employer's last dime or even his last dollar. “I like to leave something on the table for the other guy,” he says. “I feel we're all in this together. I want the owner to make a profit and I feel strongly that he must have some protection for his investment. It's important to all of us that the game prospers.”

Woolf, Robert (Bob) (94) MEBBHOF

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