A baseball angel from way out of left field?
Records indicate that promoter's biography pinch-hits for the truth
Big-league baseball supporters say they're skeptical about a Florida man who thinks he can find investors for a privately funded Portland baseball stadium.
Among the issues: Craig Marquardo, owner of Fathom Motion Picture Co. in Hollywood, Fla., boasts of a colorful past packed with tough-to-verify claims.
Specifically, he says he played minor-league baseball in 1990, sang backup with the pop singer Sting at the age of 15 and was wounded in Iraq on an assignment after the Persian Gulf War.
Marquardo's past comes under question as he prepares a package that he says would privately finance a new stadium (cost: at least $450 million, with a roof) and the purchase of a team (asking price for the Montreal Expos is somewhere between $150 million and $200 million).
'It's obvious that Mr. Marquardo isn't all that he claims to be,' said David Kahn, the Oregon Stadium Campaign's president. 'Having spoken to him on a couple of occasions, it's obvious also that he has no understanding of transactions of this kind in the sports arena.'
Marquardo emerged as state legislators consider a bill that would fund $150 million of a new stadium's cost by using income taxes from team employees.
Worked on film financing
Before opening Fathom Motion Picture Co., described on his Web site as a film production company, Marquardo said he worked as a 'fixer,' or someone who finds financing for films that go over budget. Such positions often remain uncredited because studios don't want word to leak when a picture exceeds its budget.
A Florida Division of Corporations spokeswoman said Fathom has been inactive as a corporation since September 2001.
Marquardo said he was involved with such films as 'Die Hard 2: Die Harder,' 'Indecent Proposal,' 'Stepmom' and 'End of Days.'
As a 17-year-old, Marquardo said he signed in 1990 as a free-agent pitcher with the New York Yankees out of high school in Malden, Mass. He said that after spending most of the season with a Class A team in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he was traded to the Houston Astros organization and joined the Triple-A Tucson Toros.
The Yankees, Astros and Tucson organizations could not verify that Marquardo ever played in their systems.
Marquardo said he cannot remember the name of the Tucson manager or any players for whom he was traded (the trade involved players at the major league level, he said). He said his manager at Fort Lauderdale was Corky Palmer; a spokeswoman at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Palmer is head baseball coach, said Palmer never managed or coached in the Yankee organization.
Toros media guides from the early 1990s with historical statistics of Toros players show no record of Marquardo playing. Astros media guides show no trades between the team and the Yankees between 1988 and 1993.
Navy service, backup singer
Marquardo said he hurt his arm after joining Tucson and left baseball for two years. During that time, he said, he served in the U.S. Navy in Iraq after the Gulf War. He said he was wounded there and spent eight months in a military hospital. He posted, on the stadium campaign's Web site, information on his ship (the 'now decommissioned USS Orion in La Maddalena, Sardinia') and his 40 percent veteran's disability rating.
A Navy spokesman said a records check found no evidence that Marquardo served in that branch. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, confirmed that Marquardo receives benefits for serving in the Navy from September 1991 until October 1992.
Marquardo also said in 1988, at the age of 15, he sang backup on a tour with pop singer Sting.
Jeanne Marquardo, who identified herself as Craig's aunt, said she knew nothing of his singing career, adding that Marquardo played no baseball in high school.
'He was in the band,' she said in a telephone interview from Malden. 'He was a really good trumpet player.'
Craig Marquardo said he's had little contact with his aunt Ñ his father's brother's wife Ñ since graduating from high school. He said he comes from a broken home and has had no contact with his father since joining the Navy. He didn't mention his mother.
Marquardo also said he sued, then settled with, the New Times weekly newspaper group for libel related to a profile written on him in July 2000. Chuck Strouse, editor of the paper's Broward-Palm Beach (Fla.) edition, said Marquardo never filed charges.
Marquardo, on posts to the Oregon Stadium Campaign's Web site, further said he is building a $600 million studio complex in Hollywood, Fla., that will include a theme park, a five-star hotel and a country club with 18 golf holes. He said he has raised money for the endeavor through private investors.
Marquardo said he will address all questions regarding his past when his group unveils its funding proposals later this year.
A different approach
At least one top-level state official seems to be taking Marquardo's bid at face value.
Asked last weekend about his latest take on Major League Baseball moving the Expos to Portland, Gov. Ted Kulongoski smiled and responded, 'I guess we'll just have to see what this new guy from Florida's all about.'
Marquardo said he contacted Kulongoski, Portland Mayor Vera Katz and various state legislators to discuss his intentions. While offering no details about funding mechanisms or his investing partners, Marquardo told the Oregon Stadium Campaign's Web forum that his group is 'financially sound and experienced in baseball matters.'
One probable strategy: Marquardo told the Tribune his group would seek majority Ñ rather than full Ñ ownership of a team, thereby freeing the investors' other dollars for a stadium.
'My (group's) attorneys and baseball's attorneys talk on a regular basis,' he said. 'My main money guy is a large real-estate construction guy who's worth more money than I can count.'
MLB mum on Marquardo
Corey Busch, who heads baseball's relocation committee, wouldn't confirm whether the league has spoken with Marquardo.
Major League Baseball, which owns the Expos, has said it wants to sell and relocate the team by at least the 2005 season. The league has said it probably will relocate one other team.
Rep. Dan Doyle, the Salem Republican who, as House Rules Committee chairman, voted for the stadium bill, said Marquardo's plans could affect the bill.
'Those who oppose baseball in Portland are looking at any reason to oppose it, and they're looking into this individual without really looking into any of the facts,' Doyle said.