By TOM WEIR Sports Welter
Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California
Thursday, February 9, 1978
Agent Abdul Jalil, and one of the benefits that goes with negotiating $3.3 million contracts
Lyman Bostock was frantic. The bids the free agent had anticipated all season finally were rolling in. A couple of million from the California Angels. A few hundred grand more from the Yankees. A higher bid from San Diego.
Another phone call. The Angels upped the bid to $2.5 million!
“Stop it. Stop it, pleaded Bostock, sounding like a gambler who wants to pull his winnings from the table before the dice roll again”.
The $2 million Bostock wanted had been offered by the Angels, the team the Southern Californian wanted to join.
“Let me sign,” Bostock begged his agent. Somebody else is going to offer me another million and I’ll look like a fool if I don’t take it!”
The agent smiled. With his client’s best interests in mind, he decided not to listen to the man for whom he worked.
Days later, Bostock sat down with the Cowboy, Gene Autry, and wrote his name on a contract with the Angels. For five years of baseball, Bostock would be paid $195,000 annually through 1994. It added up to $3.3 million, the biggest baseball contract ever. The agent, Abdul Jalil, was still smiling.
A dreary weekday morning in downtown Oakland. The young man standing outside the Tribune Building is clad in Levi’s and a leather jacket. He is neat, but his look is not terribly unlike the men who will stand outside bars later tonight, a couple of blocks away, keeping an eye on the girls who work the night shift.
“Agents aren’t our downfall. If anything we’re our own downfall. We can’t blame it on anyone else.”
He could fit in there.
He offers a handshake. Not a soul shake. No shuffling of wrists and palms, just a handshake. The leather jacket falls open, revealing a $4 T- shirt with the R-R symbol of Rolls-Royce painted on. It matches the silver emblem on the $50,000 vehicle parked at the curb. There is another one at home in the garage, for when this one is tied up at the garage.
Abdul Jalil climbs in, ignoring the gawkers. The powder blue machine swings into motion, gliding with the silence of a swinging third strike.
Jalil’s genius includes interest free loans and other innovative ways to avoid income taxes in his contracts to get which figure works out best on the 1040 form without letting Uncle Sam in on too much of the action. Yes, those 5 and 10 percent commissions on million dollar contracts do add up in a hurry.
“I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I was 30,” says the 28-year-old, blank-faced. “I think I’ll get that by next year.
Abdul Jalil used to be Randy Wallace, back when he was a three-sport athlete at El Cerrito High School. Three sports, that is, as a junior. As a senior he spent a lot of time in the bleachers, watching the teams he had been kicked off.
“I was uncoachable,” he explains, cruising down Telegraph Avenue. “I know it was my fault now”
He was a good athlete, he says, often lamenting that his personality kept him from ever showing it in pro sports. A year later, Wallace entered the University of California and played freshman basketball on a squad that included Phil Chenier. He was mad over not getting enough playing time. Eventually, a choice developed between going to practice or poetry class. Jalil chose to study Homer instead of hoops.
At the same time, Wallace started thinking about a career based around professional sports. Oddly, the one sport he continued to compete in was track, where every four years one guy like Bruce Jenner cashes in while the rest of the stars sneak under the bleachers to accept a free pair of spikes.
His coach at Cal, Dave Maggard, doesn’t remember Jalil’s form in the hurdles as anything special. He has to think twice, three times, before saying he really can’t think of much to say either way about Jalil the athlete.
“But I’ll tell you this,” says Maggard, struck more by the memory of Jalil in street clothes then in sweats. “He was very personable. The guys were attracted to him.
“He has a flare for that kind of thing,” said Maggard, referring to Jalil’s work as an agent. “He’s not afraid to ask. He’s confident. I can see him asking for anything.”
Jalil’s passenger fumbles with the door of the Rolls. The locking mechanism isn’t exactly as familiar as the one on the Ford back at the office.
“Forget it,” says Jalil, also ignoring the fire hydrant he’s pulled up in front of, outside a bank. Inside, a woman executive girds for his approach.
They get down to business. “And I’ve got to have the date for that $100,000 check Denver sent Brian Taylor, And I need $12,000 for Lyman.”
The woman keeps scribbling notes, her eyes rolling as if she’s allergic to zeroes in gangs of three or more. Jalil pockets a wad of bills from a third transaction. The cash and a couple of cashiers checks are treated with the same disregard as the unlocked Rolls outside.
A desk away, the bank president fails at keeping his sideways glance as casual.
“It’s all psychological,” says Jalil, explaining his negotiating style. “Once I figure out the person I’m dealing with, the rest is easy. Sometimes they even give you things you haven’t asked for just because they’ve heard you’re going to ask for them.”
The people he deals with must hate him, or at least be filled with suspicion, right?
Gabe Paul the former New York Yankee general manager who now holds the same post with the Cleveland Indians, has dealt with Jalil. His first reaction is not to speak of outrageous demands or endless sessions at the negotiating table.
“Jalil? He’s a darn good cook.”
Paul enjoys Jalil’s culinary abilities so much he’s arranged for a West Coast business trip just so he can visit the agent’s dinner table again.
The agents aren’t our downfall,” says Paul of baseball’s old guard. “If anything, we’re our own downfall. We can’t blame it on anyone else, We’ve got to recognize the modern era.”
Cedrick Tallows, the new Yankee GM, agrees with his predecessor.
“Jalil leveled with me and I leveled with him”
“Jalil is very intelligent, pleasant and extremely prepared. He knows he is representing the best, and ALL of his players are getting those extraordinary salaries”
Buzzy Bavasi, who completed the dealing for Bostock at California after Harry Dalton was fired as GM, says simply, “He told me what be wanted. We consummated the deal in five minutes. We shook hands and that was it. Everything was aboveboard. The agents know what they want, and the teams know what they can afford.”
And so does Jalil.
Jalil was quick to recognize the approach of that modern era that Paul, Tallows and Bavasi mention. He prepared for it six years ago, when he enlisted Isaac Curtis as his first client, while both ran track at Cal. When Curtis left Cal for San Diego State, Jalil stepped up his own training, earning a master’s degree in business after graduating at Berkeley.
The days on The Farm were not happy ones.
“I just wanted to get that piece of paper and get out of there,” says Jalil, still bothered by the social structure at Stanford. “Everybody wanted to know everybody for the future, so they could use you later. I didn’t need that. I knew I wouldn’t need them.”
An Atlanta sportswriter once wrote that Junior Moore’s negotiations with the Braves were clouded because the young ballplayer was under the influence of black militancy, through his agent, Abdul Jalil.
Junior, before he played his first major league game, won a contract that allowed him to be a free agent after his rookie season. The Players Association, after a decade of negotiations, won the same right for its members – only after six seasons of major league play. A year later, Moore has a two-year contract for $300,000.
It’s the name explains Jalil, all too aware. I am not a Black Muslim, nor follower of the Nation of Islam, or Elijah Muhammed, I don’t hate white people.”
To back up the statement, he merely walks into his Superstars Management office in San Francisco. There are no statuettes of clenched fists, no memorials to Huey Newton or Malcolm X. There aren’t even any black people, nor is his name on the door.
The offices belong principally to an investments firm to which he directs a lot of the business of his clients. The people in the office all have one thing in common. They are white.
“A lot of people say a lot of that kind of thing about him, or that he’s trying to wreck the game.” rages Bostock. “Just because you’re an orthodox Muslim doesn’t mean you’re racist or militant. Why don’t they ever say Jerry Kapstein and the Jews are trying to wreck the game?”
Lunch at Burnett’s in Oakland, Jalil unquestionably has an ego, and it starts to show itself here.
As his omelette, fried zucchini, milk and orange juice are delivered, he surveys the array of men in three-piece suits, “I think every lawyer in town must come here,” he says, not too impressed. Lawyers seem kind of silly to Jalil. He possesses power of attorney for many of his clients, yet has never attended a day of law school.
He wolfs down the food, relaying biographical information between bites. He talks about his problems with women bothering him, sounding a little too egotistical.
Just then a model-gorgeous woman walks by and hears her name. She pivots on a spiked heel, admits she remembers Jalil’s face, but not his name. It’s a nice act, but loses a little when she asks for his phone number. Twice.
Jalil complies. Then the near-millionaire calls for a doggy bag for his leftover zucchini. Maybe he’s not so egotistical after all.
The day winds up in Jalil’s Oakland apartment, his temporary living quarters while re- modeling work is completed on a home in the Oakland hills.
Before the day is over Junior Moore will call, as will a couple of college players who want advice about transferring schools.
Fritzic V. Allen, a member of the Richmond City Council, will bring by drawings of his city’s marina plan, with hopes Jalil might pass the investment information on to his clients. Eddie Miller, the Harry Ells graduate now with the Braves, and Cleo Smith, when just signed with the Chicago White Sox, drop by to use the sauna.
“How much was the White Sox’ first offer?” Jalil asks Smith, “About $2,900 a month. the rookie answers sheepishly, admitting he wanted to sign for that amount. “And what did the total one-year package end up amounting to?”
Smith seems to get dizzy just thinking about it. He takes a breath and admits he will earn about $95,000 for joining Bill Veeck’s payroll this year.
There are people who don’t like Jalil, make no mistake about that.
Galvin Griffith, owner of the Minnesota Twins, has called Jalil and his ilk a menace to the game. In Denver, where Brian Taylor declared himself a free agent in mid-season under Jalil’s guidance, the Nuggets management doesn’t speak too fondly of the agent.
But they also don’t speak too loudly about him. They are like Bill Lucas, the No. 3 man on the Atlanta Braves’ organizational chart. Lucas was a key man in accepting the history-setting terms of Moore’s contract. He has been hearing about it ever since.