George Nicolau, arbitrator in major league baseball collusion cases, dead at 94

George Nicolau, who ruled against baseball owners in a pair of collusion cases, died Jan. 2. He was 94.
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George Nicolau, who ruled against baseball owners in a pair of collusion cases, died Jan. 2. He was 94.

George Nicolau, the arbitrator who ruled against major league baseball owners in two collusion cases, died Jan. 2. He was 94.

Nicolau died at a New York City hospital, Gene Orza, the former chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said Friday.

Nicolau became the independent chairman of MLB's arbitration panel in 1986, The Washington Post reported. He ruled that major league owners colluded against free agents after the 1986 and 1987 season, the newspaper reported.

The cases were settled in 1990 when MLB owners agreed to pay the players affected by the collusion $280 million, the newspaper reported.

“Players owe a great deal of gratitude to George Nicolau, who served with dignity and principle during his term as baseball’s neutral arbitrator,” MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark said in a statement.

In 1987, Nicolau ruled to trim a season-long suspension of free-agent pitcher LaMarr Hoyt to 60 days, The Associated Press reported. Hoyt was penalized for his involvement in three illegal drug incidents during 1986.

Nicolau also was the independent arbitrator for the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association from 1979 to 1981, and the NHL and the NHL Players Association from 1993 to 1996, the Post reported.