The night before opening day of the 1987 season, the Hamburg Stealers shocked the world by announcing the team had been sold to an unknown in the baseball world, Craig Puckett from the United States.
Fans were up in arms over the move as Puckett announced immediately that the Hamburg Stealers was a stupid name and that the team would be relocating to a nicer city, where they could get a better deal. Rumors also began to swirl that Puckett had worked with an unnamed Austrian man to sabotage a local owner’s bid to buy the team and keep them in Hamburg.
Things did not get easier for Puckett as he learned the ropes of the CEB. In a particularly ugly incident on his first day on the job, Puckett couldn’t figure out how to get into his new office as the instructions posted to access team files appeared to be in a foreign language and left him dumbfounded. Unable to access team facilities Puckett was left to piss in the bushes as he waited for help. Unfortunately for him one of Hamburg’s finest just happened to be passing by at the time and happily locked up the man stealing the city’s team.
Puckett reached out to fellow owners for help and was told, “give me a break bro, you gotta be kidding me, I don’t think you’re a good fit for this league.”
After posting bail, Puckett was asked if his time running a CEB team was over before it started. “Hell no, I’m not quitting, I’m kicking these guy’s asses, we’re winning a title this year, it’s going to be huge.”
By the time Puckett’s legal troubles were over the team was a disaster, off to a 1-6 start with no clear direction. Many were once again laughing off the new owner and his grand plans to take the Stealers away. Especially frustrating to the locals was Puckett almost completely ignoring the International Amateur FA Pool. When asked why the team wasn’t signing anyone Puckett replied “These guys suck, they aren’t worth the money being thrown at them. Let others blow their money, it’s going to be a disaster. I want winners, not bonus babies.” ***Note, FNN has since learned Puckett didn’t know what an international amateur FA was at the time of this interview.
Late in May, Puckett announced a deal had been reached to relocate the team to Salzburg, to become the Salzburg Sonatas. “Our stadium is going to be HUGE”, said Puckett “We’re looking at drawing maybe a million people.” **Note despite free tickets the team average 3,050 fans per night. Most in CEB3…..but falling just short of the 1 Million projection.
After the move Puckett went to work. With deep pockets thanks to the money saved not signing overrated kids, Puckett hit the FA market. Over the next month Puckett signed:
SS Lecomte 5 Years (super utility played 4 different positions)
P Sharpe 4 Years (2.15 ERA)
SS Miller 5 Years (CEB3 batting title, 18 SB)
CP Mendes 4 Years (best closer in the league, pitcher of the year finalist)
P Hahn 5 Years (2.63 ERA as RP)
2B Chiappo 5 years (.290 BA 11 HR)
1B Carnossi 5 Years (.280 BA 18 SB)
The results were instant. With his winners in place and a new home in Salzburg, the team that started the season 1-6 finished the season 57-24 establishing the greatest record in franchise history while winning the CEB3 regular season title. Still not satisfied, Salzburg would cruise through the playoffs, earning the CEB3 Cup by sweeping the extremely talented Man City BC.
Now, Puckett looks ahead and sees the daunting task of competing in the top tier of European Baseball with a group of outcasts no one else wanted. When asked if he was concerned about the CEB1 Puckett simply replied, “winners win, and I’m not done kicking these guys asses.”
Author Craig Puckett GM Salzburg