Wednesday, November 3, 2004

D'backs discover financial troubles, arrests in Backman's past

The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX - Arizona Diamondbacks newly named manager Wally Backman's off-the-field background includes numerous tax liens by states and the federal government, a misdemeanor stemming from an altercation at his home and a DUI arrest.

Diamondbacks owners, who said they did not do a financial or criminal background check on Backman, met with him Tuesday after questions arose about his personal problems.

Ken Kendrick, the team's general partner, said Backman would keep his job, although Backman has yet to sign a contract.

Backman filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year in the face of mounting debt and taxes owed to the federal government and the states of Minnesota and Oregon, according to court records.

Known for his fiery on-field persona, Backman also was arrested in 2001 and charged with five misdemeanors over an altercation with a family friend at his Prineville, Ore., home, he said.

The year before, he was arrested for driving under the influence in Washington state, where he was managing a minor league team.

He was convicted of harassment and DUI in the two incidents.

Backman told The Arizona Republic Tuesday that he was extremely sorry for the mistakes he made, and he doesn't believe the problems will affect his relationship with players and fans.

"There is no question mistakes have been made, and I'm sorry," Backman said. "That is the whole truth to the matter. There are some things you want to forget about in your life."

The team has offered him a two-year deal with two, one-year club options.

The first year of the deal will pay him $500,000.

Kendrick said Tuesday the Diamondbacks had asked former employers about Backman but did not do a financial or criminal background check. He and other members of the team's front office met with Backman Tuesday afternoon at Bank One Ballpark.

Kendrick said he came out of the meeting satisfied with answers from Backman, and the team was sticking with him.

Ironically, the team's new ownership group had ousted former Chief Executive Officer Jerry Colangelo, the team's founder, in August after disputes over finances and how Colangelo was spending money.

Records from Oregon's bankruptcy court say Backman owed money to more than 20 creditors, including the IRS. Backman also owed money to a tire store, veterinarian, credit card companies and bill collectors.

Backman said he paid off his tax debts and to creditors in Prineville. He blamed his financial problems on his ex-wife, whom he said managed his finances.

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