Eddie Einhorn, a vendor at Comiskey Park who became a TV broadcasting visionary and then part owner of the White Sox with his former law school friend Jerry Reinsdorf, has died. He was 80.
Einhorn, who was in ill health the last two years of his life, died in Alpine, New Jersey of complications from a stroke.
Though he hadn’t been involved in the team’s day-to-day operations for several years, Einhorn was still listed as the Sox’ vice chairman, a role he had served for 25 years. He was, more so than Reinsdorf, the face of Sox ownership when he served as team president and chief operating officer from 1981-90. He was also on the Chicago Bulls board of directors in his long-standing involvement with Reinsdorf, the Sox chairman.
Einhorn and Reinsdorf joined to buy a controlling interest in the Sox in 1981. He is known as the architect of baseball’s first billion-dollar television contract. Einhorn In 1990, he moved to the vice chairman role and away from day to day operations of the club.
“Eddie was a creative whirlwind whose ideas —many of them far ahead of their time — changed the landscape of sports, and sports on television, forever,” Reinsdorf said in a statement. “He was a man of many interests, projects, ideas and opinions, and we all will miss him dearly. It is exceedingly rare in this day and age to have enjoyed a friendship and a working partnership that lasted our lifetimes. We celebrated many great moments together.”
“We are going to miss him just being around, his energy,” team vice president Ken Williams said. “He’s one of the Top 10 characters that I’ve ever met in my life, and by that I say that in a good way.”
“He was an interesting man and a great man,” Sox long-time trainer Herm Schneider said Thursday morning at the White Sox spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz. “I’ve known him probably since Day 1 since Jerry and Eddie took over, the Sunshine Boys. He was an incredibly brilliant guy.”
Einhorn was part of a large Sox front-office contingent in Houston for Game 4 of the 2005 Word Series, when the White Sox won the team’s first title in 88 years.
“The baseball gods are still smiling on us,” he told reporters. “It’s been worth the wait. We didn’t think it would take this long, but we made it.”
Before the Sox, Einhorn was the founder and chairman of TVS Television Network, a leader of sports programming in the 1970s which telecast of college basketball’s “Game of the Century” between the Houston Cougars and the UCLA Bruins from the Astrodome in 1968. That game is widely credited for a surge in popularity of college basketball on television.
Einhorn put the Sox on pay TV in the early 1980s, a move that didn’t work but was ahead of its time. It prompted broadcaster Harry Caray to move to the Cubs after the 1981 season and paved the way for Ken Harrelson and Don Drysdale in the Sox TV booth.
“He was just a special guy,’’ Ken Harrelson said Thursday. “He was, in essence, the reason Don and myself came to Chicago. He was a genius in his field. He started TVS. He’s the Godfather of college basketball on television. He’s the godfather of March Madness. He was way ahead of his time, and he had [guts] enough to do it. He had character and strength and the stones to get it done.’’
Harrelson reflected on postgame talks about baseball in the Comiskey Park Bards Room with Einhorn, Reinsdorf and Drysdale that would last till 1 or 2 a.m.
“Don and I didn’t realize until about four months into our first year, just what a commitment they had to winning,’’ Harrelson said. “We thought they were just businessmen and then we realized how much they loved the game.’’
Einhorn is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ann, daughter Jennifer (and her husband, Darryl), grandson Meyer, and son Jeff.
Services will be at noon Sunday at Louis Suburban Chapel, 13-01 Broadway, Fair Lawn, N.J. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Einhorn’s name to the Professional Scouts Foundation.
The White Sox will honor Einhorn by wearing a sleeve patch during the regular season.