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PCL reluctant to OK Beavers rebel operator

Colorful leader Mike Veeck may step aside to resolve the issue

A half-century ago, Bill Veeck's reputation affected his efforts to operate within the baseball establishment. Today, his son, Mike Veeck, is encountering the same problem in Portland.

The Pacific Coast League, in which the Triple-A Portland Beavers play, is balking at approving the Goldklang Group as the troubled franchise's new operator.

As a result, Veeck may be forced to step back from a leading role in the firm's Portland operations.

Veeck, the Goldklang Group's president, acknowledged that Goldklang's inability to earn the league's operating approval stems in part from his own battles with baseball's ruling class.

Known, like his late father, for his unconventional promotions, Veeck operated a Northern League Single-A independent team that has successfully competed for years with the major-league Minnesota Twins.

In recent years, Mike Veeck has perpetrated such stunts as hiring mimes to re-enact action on the field and arranging an appearance by skating pariah Tonya Harding during a bat giveaway promotion.

Veeck said the management team could earn approval if he stepped back from the Portland operation and Portland Family Entertainment President Mark Schuster became the Beavers' official leader.

PFE, which owns the Beavers, hired the Goldklang Group to manage the team last fall.

'If I don't work for them directly, that could solve all of the problems,' Veeck said. 'That doesn't mean I wouldn't be involved, but it would be more like a consulting position where I'd be involved with advertising and marketing.

'Apparently there's a big difference between management and consulting,' he said.

Veeck recently accepted a similar consulting post with the Detroit Tigers.

The Portland scenario stems from baseball's past battles with the Goldklang Group over independent minor-league teams, such as Veeck's St. Paul Saints, that compete in Major League Baseball markets.

The situation brings to mind the epic battles that Bill Veeck fought with Major League Baseball in the 1940s and 1950s. Bill Veeck, who owned three American League teams, was considered an iconoclast who succeeded despite his unconventional Ñ at times, revolutionary Ñ operating techniques.

Neither Branch Rickey, the Pacific Coast League's president, nor PFE's Schuster would speculate about whether the situation threatens the Beavers' status in the 2002 season.

Scott Thomason, the auto magnate and lead PFE investor, acknowledged that the group has devised alternatives should the Goldklang Group be rejected as PFE's operator, but he didn't disclose them.

'I don't want to talk about them because I don't think we'll have to resort to them,' he said. 'I think we're well on the way to getting (league) approval.'

In the meantime, city officials this week will consider approving the Goldklang Group as the operator of the Beavers and the Single-A Portland Timbers soccer team, also owned by PFE.

The city expects 'a finalized turnaround plan that will include their marketing program, their anticipated expenses and their anticipated revenues from ticket sales and sponsorships and suite sales,' said Sam Adams, Mayor Vera Katz's chief of staff.

'Once we get that, we'll analyze it and review it with our turnaround team, and that will serve as a basis for completing negotiations for the second season for PGE Park,' Adams said.

Schuster said he would decide later this week whether he'd work full time with the Portland franchise.

Schuster, who also is Goldklang's chief operating officer, oversees money matters for the company's eight minor-league teams.

The Goldklang Group, owned by New Jersey banker Marvin Goldklang, operates independent teams, or teams with no major league affiliations, in major-league markets such as Minneapolis, Boston and Miami.

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