Wednesday, April 12, 2006
A Family and Their Sports
By Rick Wright
Of the Journal
Back in February, when Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman bought 20 percent of the NBA Development League's Thunderbirds, no one was happier than his father.
"The games are great fun," says Stan Bregman, a retired Washington, D.C., lawyer and politician, of his adopted hometown's pro basketball team. "It's good family entertainment."
The elder Bregman was even more thrilled, though, to see his son pick up the torch of what now becomes a three-generation family history of sports stewardship.
The tradition began with Samuel "Bo" Bregman, a Russian Jewish immigrant who came with his family to the nation's capital near the turn of the century.
Bo, Stan says with no hesitation, began his professional sports career as a bookie. But he later became a boxing promoter a transition that began after little Stan came home from elementary school one afternoon, seeking information for career day.
"I said to my mother, 'They want to know what my daddy's occupation is,' '' Stan says. "Well, they realized they couldn't say 'bookmaker', so he went out and became a fight promoter.''
Bo Bregman staged fight cards featuring the likes of Joe Louis, Billy Conn and later Albuquerque's Bob Foster igniting a passion for sports among the Bregmans that survives and thrives.
Meanwhile, young Stan became a regular customer at Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators. As a 10-year-old in 1941, he watched Joe DiMaggio break George Sisler's modern record for base hits in consecutive games.
"I can remember vividly the hit," he says. "It was a rope over the shortstop's head."
Stan, rather than follow his father into boxing, studied law at Georgetown University and entered politics as a gopher in the office of Senator Hubert Humphrey. He rose through the ranks, and by 1968, as Humphrey waged a spirited but unsuccessful presidential campaign against Richard Nixon, Bregman directed the Democratic candidate's campaign in several states.
It was the winding road of that campaign that led him back into sports.
Bob Short, a dynamic, hot-tempered Irishman, had owned the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers, engineered the team's move to Los Angeles and sold the franchise to Jack Kent Cooke for a huge profit in 1965.
In '68, Stan Bregman recalls, Short was treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. He and Bregman, in his role as a Humphrey campaign director, engaged in heated arguments about money.
As a peace offering, Bregman who had read the Senators were for sale urged Short to make a bid for the team. Ultimately, with Bregman greasing the wheels, that bid was successful. For the next three years, he served as the Senators' general counsel and troubleshooter.
"It was a tumultuous negotiation," he says. "With Bob Short, everything was tumultuous. But it was a great time in my life, being with the ballclub."
It was a great time, too, for Sam Bregman and his older brother, Ben.
"I used to go into the dugout and the clubhouse after games, and (then Senators manager) Ted Williams would be there handing me brownies and saying, 'How're you doing, Sammy?' '' he says. "I mean, there's the greatest hitter who ever lived.
"I had an unbelievably lucky childhood in that sense."
In 1971, Short sold the Senators to a group that moved the team to Texas. The Bregmans' involvement in sports didn't end there, though; in fact, it was baseball that brought them to Albuquerque.
In 1978, Ben Bregman enrolled at UNM to play ball. Later, younger brother Sam followed suit.
"I found out quickly I wasn't any good at the college level, especially when it came to hitting a curveball," Sam Bregman says.
"But sports has always been part of my life, ever since I was a kid, and it's been part of my dad's life and it was part of my grandfather's life. Now it's a huge part of my children's life, too."
It was with that in mind, Sam Bregman says, that he bought into the Thunderbirds.
"I want to make money like everybody else, but I knew this was going to afford a tremendous amount of fun for my family and my children," he says.
"I like to think it will create childhood memories that they'll never forget, just like I've never forgotten mine."
Catch Rick Wright's column at www.abqjournal.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org