Marlins president dies after collapse at meeting

December 10, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, KY. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Florida Marlins president Carl Barge collapsed during an owners meeting at the winter meetings yesterday and was pronounced dead three hours later from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Barger, 62, was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation by American League president Bobby Brown at the Galt House Hotel and taken by paramedics to the Humana Hospital University, but he died while doctors attempted to perform emergency surgery.

"His heart had almost stopped by the time of the surgery," said Dr. Robert Fulton, a professor of thoracic surgery at the University of Louisville. "It was probably too late by the time he left the Galt House."

Fulton said that Barger was believed to have several of the risk factors for an aneurysm, which is a weakening of the wall of an artery. Barger was a smoker, and he was being treated for high blood pressure.

Brown said that Barger collapsed as he left the joint ownership meeting to go to the restroom. Brown, a practicing cardiologist before he became AL president, was at his side almost immediately.

"He collapsed outside the door," Brown said. "He was unconscious when we got to him. He was able to breathe a little bit on his own, but we could not get a pulse and the medics who arrived could not get a blood pressure."

The owners canceled the rest of the day's meetings and waited for word of Barger's condition. He was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m. Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.

Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski made the announcement to the winter meetings media, then broke down at the podium. He said minutes later that there had been no outward indication that Barger was in ill health.

"Yesterday [Tuesday] was one of the happiest days of his life," Dombrowski said. "He was jumping up and down. He was a dear friend of all of us. He loved the game of baseball."

Barger joined the Marlins as president and chief operating officer in July 1991 after spending six years in the same capacity for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He generally is credited with keeping the struggling Pirates franchise in Pittsburgh by forming an ownership group to buy the club in 1986.

"Carl Barger had a true love for the game of baseball and especially for his Pittsburgh Pirates and all those involved with them," said Pirates vice president of public relations Rick Cerrone. "His role in preserving the Pirates as a Pittsburgh institution cannot be overstated, nor can his tireless efforts to return them to the top of the standings."

When Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga hired Barger, he became a minority owner and joined the board of directors of Huizenga's Blockbuster Entertainment. The two men had been golfing buddies for more than 20 years, and Barger took the job without a contract.

"People say I'm crazy, and I'm a lawyer," Barger said. "But, in my judgment, [a contract] would almost be an offense to our friendship."

Survivors of Barger, who lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., include his two daughters, Bunny and Betzi.

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