SBJ/June 12 - 18, 2000/Labor Agents

Bench pitches again for Fifth Third after getting bank to back union

MLB hall of famer Johnny Bench is a hero to the Screen Actors Guild for refusing to shoot a commercial until the company involved agreed to support the union's demands, said guild spokesman Greg Krizman.

SAG has been on strike since May 1 in a dispute over compensation and payment of residuals for commercials that run on cable television channels.

The former Cincinnati Reds catcher got Fifth Third Bank to sign an agreement supporting SAG before he would shoot a commercial promoting the Fifth Third Celebrity Golf Tournament, which will be held in Cincinnati this summer.

Bench did what SAG wants celebrities to do during the labor action, Krizman said.

"We want them to use their power and influence to [get companies to] sign the ... agreements," he said.

Colleen Kavish, executive administrator for Johnny Bench Enterprises, said the agreement allowed Bench to solve a dilemma: how to please a longtime sponsor and yet honor the union's wishes.

"Johnny is and has been a spokesman for Fifth Third Bank for 27 years," Kavish said. "And so Johnny was asked to do this spot promoting the tournament, and of course he didn't want to do anything that would cause any problems with SAG."

Bench was able to film the commercial, which will air only in Cincinnati, only after a lot of "back and forth" between lawyers, Kavish said.

TOP MLB PICK MAY HAVE PICK OF SPONSORS: John Boggs, agent for Adrian Gonzalez, the No. 1 pick in last week's Major League Baseball draft, said he has already had discussions with companies interested in marketing deals with the 18-year-old first baseman.

"We have a couple of proposals and we will be meeting this week with everything from athletic companies to shoe companies to bat companies to fielding glove companies to baseball card companies," Boggs said.

Gonzalez, a senior at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., signed a six-year rookie contract, which includes a $3 million signing bonus, with the Florida Marlins.

He was signed amid speculation that the Marlins picked him because, unlike other players, they could agree on a contract.

"Economics always plays a role," said Boggs. "I think [the Marlins] felt he was the best pure hitter in the draft and they see a bright future ahead of him."

Boggs noted that Gonzalez was originally projected to be drafted as the No. 25 or No. 26 pick but worked his way up with his play this season. If he had been selected late in the first round, instead of at No. 1, he would have gotten just a $1.5 million signing bonus, Boggs said.

YASHIN DECISION LOOMING: Look for a decision on what some are saying could be a landmark sports labor case — the Alexi Yashin holdout — within the month.

Arbitrator Lawrence Holden will decide in the next few weeks whether Yashin, who sat out the last year of his five-year contract, owes the Ottawa Senators for that year, as the league contends.

The NHL Players' Association and Yashin maintain he can be a free agent this summer. The last day of testimony was May 30. Holden has 30 days to make a decision.

Some industry experts say a ruling in favor of the league could essentially end holdouts, at least in the NHL.

GRANT WANTS PAY, BUT NOT IN L.A.: Agent Mark Bartelstein said Portland Trail Blazers power forward Brian Grant could opt out of his contract this summer but added that there have been no discussions about moving him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Grant might exercise his option and sign with the Lakers for less money.

Bartelstein said he will sit down with Grant and the Blazers this summer to discuss his options. Grant's seven-year contract includes the option after year three, which ended last week with a loss to the Lakers.

But there is "nothing to" any story about him moving to the Lakers or taking a pay cut, Bartelstein said.

"There have been no conversations at all in regards to the Lakers," Bartelstein said. "His only thought of the Lakers [recently] is trying to beat them."

Liz Mullen can be reached at

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