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Reports of Chris Cohan's intent to sell the Warriors seemed too good to be true even before team president Robert Rowell doused them with denial. Still, they got a body to thinking: One, where's the party if such a sale ever comes to pass? And two, what would Cohan's legacy be? How would he stack up against other owners and groups who have bankrolled Bay Area franchises in the four major sports?

There have been two dozen, including the Morabito brothers (who founded the 49ers, the first major league franchise on the West Coast), Charlie Finley (who owned both the A's and the California Golden Seals), and Pat Boone (yes, the crooner, whose Oakland Oaks of the old ABA won the Bay Area's first pro championship).

Every bar stool debate requires criteria. Here's ours: Huge points for championships. Semi-huge points for locating a team here (or saving it from leaving). Large points for reaching the championship game/series, frequent playoff appearances and sustained regular-season success. Points off for long-term ineptitude and chronically ineffectual management. Huge points off for relocating a team outside the Bay Area (or trying to).

Here's how we rank 'em:

1. Eddie DeBartolo (49ers, 1977-2000).

A literal dynasty maker, his tenure here is known for big victories, big personalities, big salaries and big parties. Every sports town should have an Eddie D. at some point.

Highlight: Five Super Bowl championships. Lowlight: The guilty plea to a felony charge that signaled the end to an unforgettable party.

2. Walter Haas (A's, 1980-95).

Understatedly classy, sensibly benevolent, Haas delivered A's fans from the outrageous Finley years and ushered in an era of stability and success.

Highlight: Three consecutive American League pennants from 1988-90. Lowlight: Health problems that forced Haas to sell the team.

3. Charlie Finley (A's, 1968-80).

Part carnival barker, part snake-oil salesman, part grumpy old man, part eccentric genius. There will never be another like him (and probably shouldn't be).

Highlight: Consecutive World Series championships from 1972-74 (by a whisker over his Hot Pants Day promotion). Lowlight: Allowing his best players to become free agents rather than pay them fair market value.

4. Al Davis (Raiders, 1966-present).

Love him, really, really love him, hate him, or really, really hate him, you can't take your eyes off him.

Highlight: An unimaginably entertaining 15-year run of success from 1966-80. Lowlight: The current six-year run of abject failure that threatens to tarnish his legacy as one of sports' great visionaries.

5. Peter Magowan-organized investor group (Giants, 1992-present).

Even if you could imagine the Giants remaining in San Francisco long-term after the 1992 season, it was difficult to imagine them being a very good team. Almost overnight, they were both.

Highlight: Building a gorgeous ballpark for a team that almost moved to Florida. Lowlight: Allowing Barry Bonds to wag the dog.

6. Franklin Mieuli (Warriors, 1962-86).

He brought the team west from Philadelphia, hung an ornate chandelier in the Cow Palace, traded Wilt Chamberlain and won an NBA title, all while wearing a deerstalker cap. We're still waiting for the Warriors owner who can duplicate even one of those feats.

Highlight: The unexpected 1974-75 NBA championship. Lowlight: Allowing Rick Barry to bolt to the ABA.

7. Bob Lurie (Giants, 1975-92).

He saved the Giants from moving to Toronto, then endeavored to pack them off to Florida. Well-meaning, earnest, sincere — history will remember him kindly.

Highlight: The 1989 World Series, at least until the ground started shaking. Lowlight: Four failed ballpark votes leading to his attempt to sell the team to St. Petersburg investors.

8. Horace Stoneham (Giants, 1958-75).

Pretty darned good owner until he started running out of cash.

Highlight: The '60s, featuring five homegrown future Hall of Famers and more wins than any other National League team. Lowlight: Selling parts for money during the early '70s.

9. Tony and Victor Morabito (succeed by widows Josephine [1957] and Elizabeth [1964]) (49ers, 1946-77).

They didn't win championships and rarely made the playoffs. But their 49ers were generally exciting even when they weren't very good.

Highlight: Consecutive playoff appearances from 1970-72. Lowlight: Being eliminated by Dallas on each occasion.

10. San Jose Sports and Entertainment Enterprises (Sharks, 2002-present).

Unwieldy name for the investors who have created a place for hockey in the Bay Area's busy sports landscape.

Highlight: The NHL's second-best record over the past five regular seasons. Lowlight: The playoffs that have followed each of those seasons.

11. Jim Fitzgerald/Dan Finnane (Warriors, 1986-94).

They turned the team into something everyone wanted to watch, and the business into a place everyone wanted to work.

Highlight: Five playoff appearances in eight years. Lowlight: Granting Chris Cohan an option to purchase the team.

12. Steve Schott/Ken Hofmann (A's, 1995-2005).

They had a tough act (in Haas) to follow, and struggled at first. But they grew into the job, rebuilt the A's into a contender and can look with satisfaction upon their time with the team.

Highlight: Four consecutive playoff appearances on a thrifty budget. Lowlight: Four consecutive first-round ousters (all in decisive Game 5s).

13. George and Gordon Gund (Sharks, 1991-2002).

It was only fitting they returned the NHL to the Bay Area, given that George was a minority partner in the group that shipped the California Golden Seals off to Cleveland.

Highlight: Acquiring defenseman Doug Wilson, now the general manager and as ever the face of the franchise. Lowlight: The 17-game losing streak during the team's second season.

14. Pat Boone (Oaks, 1967-69).

He and two partners paid $30,000 for a start-up franchise in the fledgling ABA. Two years later, they sold it for $2.6 million. The stories and memories generated in the interim: Priceless.

Highlight: Filching Rick Barry from the Warriors, and using him to help win the 1968-69 ABA title. Lowlight: Selling the team to a Washington, D.C. investor almost before the championship celebration was over.

15. Denise and John York (49ers, 2000-present).

Call them the anti-Eddies — little intuition for the game, no feel for theatrics, no stomach for largesse. Just gnawing echoes of the way things used to be.

Highlight: Advancing to the second round of the 2002 playoffs. Lowlight: Sacking coach Steve Mariucci four days after losing that game.

16. Barry van Gerbig (Seals, 1966-70).

His background as a goalie at Princeton, stockholder in cash cows Union Carbide and Standard Oil of New Jersey, and socialite whose orbit included the likes of Bing Crosby and John Brodie seemed to make him a perfect candidate to oversee an NHL expansion team.

Highlight: A 14-win improvement from the team's first year to its second. Lowlight: A 13-game winless streak to end the first season.

17. Lew Wolff/John Fisher (A's, 2005-present).

Is it our imagination, or have they spent more on development plans and environmental impact reports than they have on payroll?

Highlight: A trip to the 2006 ALCS (the team's first since 1990). Lowlight: Ham-handed efforts to move the team to ABO (Anywhere But Oakland).

18. Chris Cohan (Warriors, 1994-present).

He compares unfavorably to the aforementioned, but read on — it could be worse.

Highlight: The upset of Dallas in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. Lowlight: Pretty much everything that preceded and has followed that series.

19. Wayne Valley/Ed McGah (Raiders, 1961-66).

Troopers in the fight to make the AFL a legitimate challenger to the NFL.

Highlight: Hiring Al Davis as head coach after the 1962 season. Lowlight: Seasons of 2-12 and 1-13 that made Davis' hiring necessary.

20. Charles Soda partnership (Raiders, 1960).

Hey, the dream had to start somewhere.

Highlight: Establishing Oakland's first major league sports franchise. Lowlight: Franchise-inaugurating 15-point home loss to Houston.

21. Mel Swig (Seals, 1975-76).

The last entrepreneur to take a whack at the Seals before concluding the NHL was a concept that didn't fly in the Bay Area.

Highlight: The "3M" scoring line of Dennis Maruk, Bob Murdoch and Al MacAdam. Lowlight: Bubble-wrapping the team and mailing it to Ohio.

22. Charlie Finley (Seals, 1971-74).

Apparently the care and feeding of World Series champions wasn't enough to satisfy Finley's competitive jones. He believed he could conquer hockey as well, with predictable results and unintentional hilarity all around.

Highlight: First NHL team to put player names on the back of sweaters. Lowlight: Finley sat on his hands while a conga line of his charges jumped to the rival WHA.

23. NHL (Seals, 1974-1975).

When local investors could not be found, the league stepped in and operated the Seals. We didn't say willingly, or well.

Highlight: Retired Finley's white skates (players complained they blended with the ice, especially on TV, making it appear they were skating on stumps). Lowlight: Heralding 18-year-old defenseman Rick Hampton as the next Bobby Orr.

24. Transnational Communications (Seals, 1970).

These folks make Cohan look like Walter O'Malley-times-Google.

Highlight: Having Pat Summerall and Whitey Ford as part-owners. Lowlight: Declaring bankruptcy in the first season of ownership.

Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@bayareanewsgroup.com.