Salud: A true leader, sportsman

By Nelson Beltran, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 08 2011 07:09 AM | Updated as of Mar 08 2011 03:09 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Atty. Rodrigo “Rudy” Salud left behind a sporting legacy that will be hard to match, being a central figure who steered the country’s pro league to greater heights and the man behind the birth of a world boxing body.

The sports leader who was widely known as the founding secretary general of the World Boxing Council and commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association from 1988 to 1992 passed away yesterday noon at Medical City in Pasig due to heart ailment complications. He was 72.

He carved a niche in sports, having also served as executive director of the Philippine Racing Commission under the late Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut and later under Ambassador Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., and secretary general of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines.

He crafted the PBA by-laws and constitution being its founding legal counsel in 1975. He served the league for 11 years before being appointed deputy commissioner in 1986 and finally commissioner in 1988. He was the third PBA commissioner, next to Leo Prieto and Col. Mariano Yenko.

Many attested to Salud’s leadership and integrity, saying the PBA attained remarkable accomplishments under his watch.

“One of commissioner Rudy Salud’s greatest contributions to the PBA was establishing a fair and honest competitive league by totally eradicating the game-fixing stigma which was slowly destroying the PBA then,” said current PBA board chairman Rene Pardo.

“Commissioner Rudy Salud was a soft spoken and calculated individual. He was very circumspect in his outlook and responses. He will be missed but his legacy continues with his son Chito,” said Alaska Milk team owner Wilfred Steven Uytengsu.

“Atty. Rudy Salud was one of the moving spirits behind the success of the PBA. His legacy on how players should perform on and off the court will continue,” said SMB board representative Ely Capacio.

Not a few also testified to his kindness, an endearing quality that won him countless friends.

“He stood head and shoulder above everybody else. He’s a great, compassionate man,” said Alaska Milk board representative Joaqui Trillo.

“I was fortunate to know Atty. Rudy, feel his warmth and see his integrity, fairness and goodness as PBA commissioner. He’s a real leader,” said Ginebra team manager Samboy Lim.

The PBA was under Salud’s watch when it formed the first all-pro team that bagged the basketball silver medal in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. No team has finished better up to know.

“Commissioner Rudy Salud was a man with high ideals who worked with utmost professionalism. His contributions to Philippine basketball will be remembered and he will be missed by those of us who knew him,” said SMB team manager Hector Calma, the chief playmaker of the 1990 Philippine team.

“I won the 1998 Rookie of the Year, two championships and one MVP crown during his time, so I can say I grew up under him. I saw his good relationship with the media and I observed how he eradicated betting and gambling. When players were summoned, we felt his fatherly demeanor, reminding us on our obligations on and off the court,” said four-time MVP winner Alvin Patrimonio.

Salud was also unselfish, only too willing to share thoughts and inputs to young peers.

“He shared with me, late commissioner Jun Bernardino and late Atty. Butch Cleofe many inputs regarding PBA history as well as taught us how to deal and handle various situations,” said Sonny Barrios, the league’s seventh commissioner.

“He impressed upon us the value of good relations and working partnership with sports media, and looking at watching public interest as primordial,” Barrios added.

“I remember when I became PBA commissioner. He treated me to lunch with his son, now commissioner Chito. He taught me my first lessons on PBA governance,” said another former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on his twitter account. “He was a giant among sports leaders.”

Salud was also bestowed a place in the PBA Hall of Fame. He was among the first batch given the honor.

In 1998, Salud and former PBA commissioners Prieto and Bernardino were also honored with Lifetime Achievement Award by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.

“He was my first commissioner. I always remember him to be plain-talking and straight forward, and he never seemed to have a personal agenda. It was always what’s the best for the league. I liked and respected him greatly just like any of the great players. Salud was one of the greats,” said Alaska coach Tim Cone.

Talk n Text coach Chot Reyes knows Salud personally.

He said: “I’m close to him, practically growing up with his son Ato who’s my schoolmate. As a commissioner, he was very firm and independent, not one to bend to outside influences. As a man, he was gentle, cariñoso, quick to laughter and always carried himself with an air of dignity.”

The legal luminary from San Juan, Batangas was survived by his wife Josephine, children Angelico (Chito, the current PBA commissioner), Renato, Priscilla, Arnold, Christine, Margaret, Annabel and their families.

Viewing will be today and tomorrow at the Sta. Maria Della Strada Parish along Katipunan Road corner Pansol St. in Quezon City. Interment will be on Thursday.