In Some Commodity Pits Baseball Players Are 'Traded'
Apr. 08, 1989
CHICAGO (AP) _ Commodity traders deal in such futures as frozen pork bellies and Eurodollars, but a few are involved in Strawberry - New York Mets baseball star Darryl Strawberry, that is.
More than a dozen traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange belong to a shadow baseball league that tracks player's performance for fun and profit.
''We're just a bunch of baseball fans,'' said Fred Leinweber, who runs the Chicago Merc Baseball League. ''It's a lot of fun for us.''
Leinweber said the ''team owners'' involved in the league mainly are from the Merc's Eurodollar, Treasury bills or Standard & Poors 500 trading pits.
When there's a break in trading they're often checking the agate section of the sports pages.
''It's a break from the grind of the hectic floor trading. You pick up a newspaper and see how your players are doing,'' said Leinweber, who knows of at least one other similar league of Merc traders.
Two days before the major-league season began on Monday, the owners of the 10 teams in Leinweber's league met in a church basement for more than eight hours, auctioning off baseball players, whose performance they'll be tracking throughout the major-league baseball season.
As the auction continues, acquired players are tabulated on big cardboard posters taped up on the church wall, probably much like the Big Board must have been in the early days of the Merc.
Points are awarded to Merc traders based on their picked players' performance in 10 hitting, pitching and fielding categories during the season. The trader with the most points at the end of the season can cash in on his or her baseball savvy.
Standings are send out each week from a Pennsylvania company.
''Most teams have two guys, but a few have just one,'' said Leinweber, who has been playing since 1983.
With a $200 pool for each team, bidding can be fierce for the top players.
''I got Strawberry for $32,'' said Lance Feis, a T-bill trader.
''That was the high bid,'' said Leinweber. ''I stopped at $30. He outbid me.''
The record price was $70 for Eddie Murray, first baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers and formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, Leinweber explained.
''That was four or five years ago,'' he said. ''You can own any player you want depending on how much you want to spend.''
The team names can be colorful.
''My team is the Chosen Ones after the New York Mets being God's chosen team,'' said Feis, an avid Mets fan. ''There's also the Fast Breakers and Mixed Nuts.''
Actually the Mixed Nuts are the All Nuts this season.
Neither Feis or Leinweber thinks his experience as Merc traders makes them better wheelers and dealers in the private baseball wars.
''It's strictly for fun. Nobody cares about money. You just want to beat the next guy,'' said Leinweber.
End adv for weekend editions April 8-9