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Tom Watson Joins Bid To Buy Royals

August 28, 1998

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Golfer Tom Watson, one of Kansas City’s most famous baseball fans, has joined Miles Prentice’s group in its bid to buy the Royals.

A Kansas City native, Watson said Friday he decided to invest when he heard last week that the franchise could leave town if Prentice, a New York lawyer and the only bidder left in the process, does not secure at least 50 percent of his money from local people.

``I was listening to the radio ... and one thing that stuck in my mind was (Royals president) Mike Herman said if we don’t get 50 percent ownership in Kansas City, we might end up losing the team,″ Watson said. ``I love the game of baseball. I love the Royals. I want them to stay here.″

Last week when he announced that the Royals’ board of directors had declared Prentice to have ``the superior bid,″ Herman disclosed for the first time publicly that any owner would have to have at least half his money coming from Kansas City.

Prentice, who said he had only been told of that condition a few weeks earlier, vowed to keep working toward that goal.

A few days later, Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and the head of the only group bidding against Prentice, dropped out of the process.

Prentice said then, and repeated on Friday, that he was ``getting close″ to meeting the 50 percent goal.

He declined to say how close he was, and Watson refused to say how much he had invested.

The Royals have been in ownership limbo since the death of team founder Ewing Kauffman in 1993. According to conditions of Kauffman’s will, all proceeds from the sale of the team will go to Kansas City charities.

Attendance has declined at Kauffman Stadium, which regularly drew more than 2 million during the glory years from the late 1970s through the 1980s. The team has finished in the AL Central cellar the past two seasons.

``I want to see the Royals stay in Kansas City and I want to be a part of the team. I will be part of the team,″ Watson said.

One of golf’s most dominant players throughout the 1980s, Watson, 48, has long been a popular figure in Kansas City, where he grew up playing junior golf. He disclosed that his baseball career ended about 1958 when he was cut by his midget team.

``But then I started playing another game and ended up doing pretty good,″ he said.

Prentice, who also tried to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, would be the managing general partner in his group. He has lined up investments from some of Kansas City’s most prominent families, including bankers James B. Nutter Jr. and R. Crosby Kemper, and the adopted daughter and daughter-in-law of Ewing Kauffman.

Negro Leagues baseball legend Buck O’Neil, who has also joined the group, appeared with Prentice and Watson at the news conference Friday at the Negro Leagues Museum.

Watson, whose family was prominent in Kansas City even before he became a famous golfer, said he was working to help Prentice meet the 50 percent requirement.

``What I like about Miles is, he loves baseball. He has enthusiasm. I know he’s going to work hard on behalf of the Royals, getting people involved in the game and involved in the team,″ Watson said.

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