DANA POINT, Calif. (AP) -Tom Werner, co-owner of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, recalls a time when baseball wasn't being quite so good to him.
``The joy of winning a World Series is magnified after you realize the challenge I had in San Diego. I was the managing partner there for five years in the '90s,'' Werner said Thursday, noting that a San Diego newspaper termed him the most unpopular man in the city.
``I was so unpopular that there was a sign a man held in front of Jack Murphy Stadium that said `Honk if you hate Werner,'' he said. ``Every time I drove in, I'd honk because I didn't want to be recognized.''
He has been considerably more popular in Boston, where he and team co-owner John Henry carried the World Series trophy into Fenway Park last October for the joyous fans' celebration of their second title in four years.
Werner, who helped create such television hits as ``The Cosby Show,'' ``A Different World,'' and ``Roseanne,'' took a break from baseball after his stint with the Padres, then returned with Boston six years ago.
Asked why he came back to the game, Werner smiled and said, ``Free beer?''
He participated in the IMG World Congress of Sports, a two-day conference on sports business, and talked about a variety of subjects, including the Red Sox's chief rival, the New York Yankees.
``We obviously do not focus just on the Yankees, but on all the teams in the American League. But the Yankees are such a dominant competitor,'' he said. ``We have narrowed the gap economically in terms of revenues between us and the Yankees in the last five years.''
But maybe not for long.
Werner noted that the Yankees are having a new stadium built, will have higher ticket prices and said, ``The gap is going to accelerate and it's going to make it more challenging for us to be competitive with them.''
Still, he compares owning the Red Sox with ``owning Tiffanys.''
``Somebody said to me when we were trying to acquire (the team), `If you could own the Red Sox or you could own the Yankees, which would you be involved with?' I always said the Red Sox because of the history,'' Werner said, mentioning that meant the challenge of trying to win Boston's first World Series title since 1918.
``We all felt that the fan base was so strong and so loyal that if we could just turn the franchise around and do a few things such as improve Fenway Park and improve the experience, that we could really create not only a great asset, but obviously something that would be worthy of the fan support.''
He hasn't changed his opinion about the devotion of Boston fans.
``If you go to a Red Sox game in San Diego or a Red Sox game in Baltimore, you'll see as many Red Sox fans as home team fans,'' Werner said. ``I think in some ways, that's kind of irritating to some of the other owners. We do have a fan base that is really nationwide.''
Talking about Bud Selig, Werner said he believes the baseball commissioner sometimes gets a bad rep from the media and, ``If you look at what Bud has done in his tenure, it's been outstanding.''
``I think Bud's turned baseball into a very strong business. I think he was focused on raising the quality of play and we've now achieved the kind of balance and revenue-sharing that was unimaginable when I bought into the Padres,'' Werner said.
``We had 79.5 million in admissions last year, another record-breaking year. I'm sure we'll go over 80 million this year. The owners obviously thought he was doing such a great job that they went to him and asked him to extend his contract.''
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