Ueberroth was born in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Laura (Larson) and Victor Ueberroth. His father was of German and Austrian descent, and his mother was of Swedish and Irish ancestry. He grew up in northern California. While attending Fremont High School, Ueberroth excelled in football, baseball, and swimming. After graduating from high school, Ueberroth attended San Jose State University on an athletic scholarship. While attending San Jose State he joined Delta Upsilon. He competed in the 1956 United States Olympic water polo trials but failed to make the team. Ueberroth ultimately graduated from San Jose State in 1959 with a degree in business.
Trans International Airlines
After college, Ueberroth became a vice president and shareholder in Trans International Airlines (he was 22 years old at the time). Ueberroth worked at Trans International until 1963, when he founded his own travel company, which would become First Travel Corporation. By the time he sold First Travel in 1980, it was the second largest travel business in North America.
The 1984 Olympics
For five years Ueberroth served as the organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. He was a prominent figure in the games, receiving the Olympic Order in gold at its conclusion. Due to the success of the games, he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1984. Under Ueberroth's leadership and management, the first privately financed Olympic Games resulted in a surplus of nearly $250 million. This was subsequently used to support youth and sports activities throughout the United States. Coincidentally, he was born on the day on which the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, died.
Ueberroth created a committee of over 150 members (mostly business people and entrepreneurs) to generate ideas, opportunities and solve problems. His aggressive recruiting of sponsors for the 1984 Olympics is credited as the genesis for the current Olympic sponsorship program. Due to recruiting competitors between the Los Angeles Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), after 1984 all Olympics in the US had their local organizing committees enter into recruitment agreements with the USOC to jointly recruit sponsors and share revenues.
Ueberroth was elected to succeed Bowie Kuhn on March 3, 1984, and took office on October 1 of that year. As a condition of his hiring, Ueberroth increased the commissioner’s fining ability from $5,000 to $250,000. His salary was raised to a reported $450,000, nearly twice what Kuhn was paid.
Just as Ueberroth was taking office the Major League Umpires Union was threatening to strike the postseason. Ueberroth managed to arbitrate the disagreement and had the umpires back to work before the League Championship Series were over. The next summer, Ueberroth worked behind the scenes to limit a players' strike to one day before a new labor agreement was worked out with the Players Association.
During the course of his stint as commissioner, Ueberroth reinstated two Hall of Famers, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, who had been banned from working for Major League Baseball by Kuhn because of their associations with gambling casinos. Also, Ueberroth suspended numerous players because of cocaine use, negotiated a $1.2 billion television contract with CBS, and initiated the investigation against Pete Rose's betting habits. In 1985, Ueberroth's first full year in office, the League Championship Series expanded from a best-of-five series to a best-of-seven series. At his urging, the Chicago Cubs chose to install lights at Wrigley Field rather than reimburse the leagues for lost night-game revenues. Ueberroth then found a new source of income in the form of persuading large corporations to pay for the privilege of having their products endorsed by Major League Baseball.
However, Ueberroth, with the assistance of the owners, also facilitated collusion between the owners in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players. Players entering free agency in the 1985, 1986 and 1987 offseasons were, with few exceptions, prevented from both signing equitable contracts and joining the teams of their choice during this period. The roots of the collusion lay in Ueberroth's first owners' meeting as commissioner, when he called the owners "damned dumb" for being willing to lose money in order to win a World Series. Later, he told the general managers that it was "not smart" to sign long-term contracts. Former Major League Baseball Players Association president Marvin Miller later described this as "tantamount to fixing, not just games, but entire pennant races, including all post-season series." The MLBPA, under Miller's successor, Don Fehr, filed collusion charges and won each case, resulting in "second look" free agents, and over $280 million in fines.Fay Vincent, who followed Ueberroth's successor in the commissioner's office, laid the crippling labor problems of the early 1990s (including the 1994-95 strike) directly at the feet of Ueberroth and the owners' collusion, holding that the collusion years constituted theft from the players.
Under Ueberroth, Major League Baseball enjoyed increased attendance (record attendance four straight seasons), greater awareness of crowd control and alcohol management within ballparks, a successful and vigilant anti-drug campaign, significant industry-wide improvement in the area of fair employment, and a significantly improved financial picture for the industry. When Ueberroth took office, 21 of the 26 clubs were losing money; in Ueberroth's last full season - 1988 - all clubs either broke even or finished in the black. In 1987, for example, baseball as an industry showed a net profit of $21.3 million, its first profitable year since 1973.
Nonetheless, following the announcement of the first of three large awards to the players following the collusion findings, Ueberroth stepped down as commissioner before the start of the 1989 regular season; his contract was to have run through the end of the season. He was succeeded by National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti.
Ueberroth ran for Governor of California in the 2003 California recall election as an independent, though he was a registered Republican. His campaign focused on California's economic and budget crisis, avoiding social issues. With polls indicating only a low level of support, he pulled out of the race on September 9, 2003, though his name still appeared on the ballot and received a small but significant number of votes. He placed 6th in a field of 135 candidates.
Ueberroth and his wife, Ginny, were two of the founders of Sage Hill School. He additionally served briefly on the school’s Athletic Advisory Council.
In the middle of a Ueberroth speech at Claremont McKenna College in California, the college president accidentally tumbled off the back of the platform. As the fallen academic scrambled back to his seat, Ueberroth quickly flipped over his speech, scrawled "4.5" in big numbers on the back and flashed it to the audience.
Mr. Ueberroth is an investor and Chairman of the Contrarian Group, Inc., a business management company, and has held this position since 1989. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Aircastle Limited and non-executive Co-Chairman of Pebble Beach Company. He previously served as a Director of Adecco SA from 2004 to 2008 and Ambassadors International, Inc. from 2005 to 2008. Aircastle Limited (since 2006). Forbes
"Hardball: Nancy Collins Quizzes Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth". New York Magazine: 52–57, 61. June 9, 1986.
Macur, Juliet (October 2, 2008). "U.S.O.C. Picks Video-Game Executive to Replace Ueberroth". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-03.