Sporting heroes: Woolf tipped balance in players’ favour

 

Before IMG, WMG and Octogon, there was Bob Woolf, the world’s first sports agent. Woolf, born in 1928 in Portland, Maine to Jewish immigrants, won a basketball scholarship to Boston College and went on to get a law degree from Boston University. He later started his own law practice, Bob Woolf Associates.

The year was 1964 when Boston Red Sox pitcher, Earl Wilson first asked the local attorney to assist him with off field matters. Wilson then made a request to the Sox for Woolf to be present during his contract renewal negotiations to provide assistance. This was unprecedented and as such, a startled management refused. This refusal resulted in Wilson leaving the room multiple times during the negotiations to call Woolf for immediate advice.

Woolf began to represent more clients as athletes began to see the value in having professional negotiators involved in commercial and playing aspects of their career. An avid fan, Woolf had an office in the John Hancock building overlooking the Red Sox’ Fenway Park, with a telescope aimed at the diamond. He represented many of Boston’s sporting heroes over the years including Carl Yastrzemski, Larry Bird and Doug Flutie. At the time of his death, in December 1993, Woolf represented over 150 athletes and entertainment professionals with offices in New York, Hollywood, Boston, LA, Dallas, and even Madrid.

What remains to this day is Woolf’s reputation. He is seen as somebody who genuinely cared about his clients, advising them on everything financially, legally and even personally. The great Larry Bird once described Woolf as like a father. “He told me what was going to happen and it always happened that way, so I always felt prepared”, Bird once wrote.

Woolf passed away whilst watching NFL’s Monday Night Football at his home. A fitting end to a man who changed the sports landscape forever.

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