Richie Phillips, umpire association leader, dies at 72

June 4, 2013 at 3:27 PM
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CAPE MAY, N.J., June 4 (UPI) -- Richie Phillips, lawyer and head of the Major League Umpires Association for two decades, died of cardiac arrest in Cape May, N.J., at age 72.

Phillips, who died Friday, was a Villanova University law school graduate who negotiated a multimillion-dollar contract in 1970 for friend Howard Porter, a future NBA star, opening the door to player contracts negotiated by lawyers instead of agents, the Philadelphia Inquirer said Tuesday.

He organized NBA referees as a collective-bargaining unit in 1976 and in 1978 became executive director of the Major League umpires Association.

Phillips' work produced gains for umpires in several contracts, until 1999, when he urged umpires to resign in a fight over restructuring of their assignments and working conditions. The tactic backfired, with Major League Baseball accepting 42 of the 50 resignations, and insurgent umpires sacked Phillips and organized a new union, the newspaper said.

Phillips later became chairman of Pilot Air Freight in Lima, Pa.

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