River Cats owner dies at 58

Savage brought baseball back to Sacramento in 2000

November 22, 2009 6:09 PM ET

Sacramento River Cats owner Art Savage, who brought baseball back to California's capital city a decade ago, died Saturday. He was 58.

Savage's son, Jeff, told the Associated Press that his father collapsed at his Sacramento home and died on the way to the hospital.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Savage was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007 but underwent two months of treatment and was pronounced cancer-free by the start of the 2008 season.

"The entire River Cats family is shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of Art Savage," the team said in a statement. "Art was an extraordinary person whose dedication to his community was only surpassed by his commitment to his own family. All those who were lucky enough to have had their lives touched by Art were far better because of it. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Savage family during this incredibly difficult time."

Savage bought the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers in 1998 and moved them for one season to Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2000, he relocated to Sacramento, which had not had a Minor League team since the 1970s.

Under his ownership, the River Cats have been the premier team in the Pacific Coast League, winning eight division titles and back-to-back championships in 2003-04 and 2007-08. In 2007 and 2008, Sacramento was crowned Triple-A champion after capturing the Bricktown Showdown.

The team also enjoyed success off the field, leading the Minor Leagues in attendance for seven consecutive seasons. And as the top Minor League affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, Sacramento has sent more than 100 players to the Major Leagues, including 2002 American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito and 2004 AL Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby.

"[Art] had a great vision and passion and level of perseverance, unlike anybody I've worked for before. That's what made the River Cats and Raley Field possible," River Cats president, general manager and COO Alan Ledford told the Sacramento Bee. "He did it with such humility. He never sought the spotlight."

Savage graduated with a degree in accounting from Texas Tech University and in the late 1970s oversaw the personal financial holdings of Cleveland Cavaliers owner George Gund. Savage later went to work for Gund as president and CEO of the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks.

"He was a wonderful person for all who had the pleasure to know him. Professionally, it was Art's progressive thinking that helped bring the Sharks and major league sports to San Jose," Sharks president and CEO Greg Jamison said. "His innovative approach as the Sharks' first president is what allowed the club to thrive from the moment it was conceived. We will miss him greatly and send our best wishes to his family."

Savage's involvement in baseball began in 1997 as vice chairman of the Fresno Diamond Group, the parent company of the PCL's Fresno Grizzlies. In 2001, after overseeing construction of privately financed Raley Field, he was named PCL Executive of the Year. Three years later, the River Cats won the Bob Freitas Award for excellence in Minor League Baseball.

Daren Smith is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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