The four-month Paul Wright saga finally ended last night, when the Baltimore Blast and San Diego Sockers completed a deal to send Wright back to the Sockers for an estimated $10,000 in cash and a third-round selection in the 1992 Major Soccer League draft.
The Sockers also agreed to pay Wright the $12,500 in back salary that arbitrator George Nicolau ordered Baltimore to pay the midfielder last Wednesday.
Nicolau also had ruled that Wright was the property of the Blast and Baltimore must send Wright a ticket for a flight to Baltimore by Friday night if it had not completed a trade by that time.
The Blast did not have to send Wright the ticket, because it came close to completing the deal late Friday night.
Blast vice president of soccer operations Drew Forrester said last night that one of the final details holding up the trade involved San Diego's request that Wright be allowed to play in last night's Sockers home opener against the St. Louis Storm.
vTC Forrester said San Diego was granted that request by the MSL, and Wright was scheduled to play in the game.
"We're real disappointed at the way the whole thing unraveled," said Forrester. "We don't feel like we lost Paul Wright, because we never had him."
Blast coach Kenny Cooper said the Wright situation was "eating away at me.
"We did all the right things, and we still don't have Paul Wright," said Cooper. "It proves that life isn't fair. The ruling by the arbitrator stinks.
"Our attorney, Jim Gast, did a great job. He found out that Wright was working for the Sockers even though he was our property. Wright testified that he was making appearances and doing telethons for San Diego. That's why we were shocked by his decision."
Cooper charged that San Diego coach Ron Newman talked Wright into not reporting to the Blast.
"San Diego has used Paul Wright twice now, and they still have him," said Cooper. "They traded him to Cleveland [two years ago] and got him back, and now they put him on waivers and still get him back."
Newman said the only reason Wright was placed on waivers was that outgoing Sockers owners Ron Fowler and Ron Cady wanted to unload him in order not to get stuck with his contract.
"Ron Newman knew what was going on," said Cooper. "I can't believe he wasn't in on the decision."
Newman said he saved room and money on his roster for Wright, and expressed surprise that the Blast didn't do the same thing.
Baltimore claimed Wright on waivers from the Sockers in late June, but the speedy midfielder never reported to the Blast, even though his contract began July 1.
Wright said his mother was ill in San Diego, and he didn't want to leave her. When Wright wouldn't report for a physical and make personal appearances in July, August and early September, the Blast refused to pay him.
Wright, 22, said his $60,000 contract with San Diego didn't require him to make personal appearances in the off-season, and he wouldn't report to training camp in Sept. 17 until Baltimore paid him.