NEW YORK - Donald Fehr announced his retirement yesterday as head of the baseball players' association after a quarter-century marked by a strike that canceled the World Series, record salaries and finally 14 years of labor peace.
Fehr, who turns 61 next month, said he would leave the powerful union no later than the end of March. Fehr recommended that he be succeeded by union general counsel Michael Weiner, the No. 3 official and his longtime heir apparent. The move is subject to approval by the union's executive board and possible ratification by all players.
The 47-year-old Weiner will lead negotiations for the next contract; the current labor agreement expires in December 2011.
Weiner and Steve Fehr, the union leader's brother, were the primary day-to-day negotiators of labor contracts in 2002 and 2006, baseball's first since 1970 that were achieved without a work stoppage.
Fehr headed negotiations for five labor contracts plus a divisive August 2002 drug agreement that was revised three times under congressional pressure. He decided he didn't want to negotiate the next labor contract in two years and wanted to give Weiner lead time.
"After a while, it wears you down," Fehr said. "I think it will be good for everybody."
Weiner has been with the players' association since September 1988 and has been its general counsel since February 2004. The No. 2 official is 62-year-old Gene Orza, the chief operating officer.
A clerk to a federal judge who became the top lawyer for union chief Marvin Miller in August 1977, Fehr took over as acting executive director on Dec. 8, 1983. That was 21/2 weeks after players fired Kenneth Moffett, the former mediator who had succeeded Miller following a 50-day strike in 1981.
Fehr led players through a two-day strike in 1985, then became executive director on a full-time basis the following January. His early years were defined by collusion. The union successfully charged management with conspiring against free agents following the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons in violation of the labor contract and settled the cases for $280 million.
"He's done so many good things for the game, even more so for the players," Mets reliever and union representative J.J. Putz said. "But you know, he said enough was enough, and that he was tired."
Baseball's average salary was $289,000 when Fehr took over 26 years ago, and it rose to $2.9 million by last year.
Fehr presided over the strike in 1985 followed by a 32-day lockout in 1990 and a 71/2-month strike in 1994-95 that wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years.