As Von McDanielwas demonstrating at Busch Stadium in St. Louis last week the irresistiblemagic that gives baseball its unique place in the affections of the nation, thegame itself was facing up to the hard facts of life in another arena: aCongressional hearing room in Washington.
There baseball'sprotagonist was no gangling 18-year-old, but a tall, gray, angular man,baseball's Commissioner Ford Frick. Boy and man had one thing in common: bothwere pitching as carefully as they knew how.
Mr. Frick was theweek's principal witness before the House subcommittee investigating baseball'sstatus under the antitrust laws. His generally skillful performance washighlighted by the revelation (a thing traditionally hateful to club owners) ofmore or less exact figures on baseball's profits and losses over the past fiveyears. The financial charts (reprinted in full on pages 14 and 15) provided asmany opportunities for fascinating pencil-chewing as a crossword puzzle.
But even withoutpencil in hand, several hitherto unverifiable truths jumped from the pages.Samples:
1) The Brooklynball club, which has complained most bitterly of non-support and an inadequateball park, never failed to make a tidy profit over the five-year period. It wasthe only National League club to do so.
2) With itsbandbox ball park, the Dodgers made $487,462 last season. With a ball parktwice the size of Ebbets Field, the New York Yankees netted only $301,483.
3) Pittsburghlost more money ($1,537,303) than anybody.
4) The WashingtonSenators, although always in the second division, did not have a money-losingseason over the five-year period.
5) Total profitsfor major league baseball, the National and American leagues combined, amountedto $1,878,993 since 1952.
This last item,comparatively modest, would appear to support the classic definition ofbaseball's real status by Phil Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs. He said:"Baseball is too much of a sport to be a business and too much of abusiness to be a sport."
Another aspect ofthe financial charts that appeared to support baseball's claim to innocence inthe ways of big business was an over-all impression that the clubs favored asystem of horse-and-buggy bookkeeping. Even a statistical ignoramus could nothelp feeling that when an item puzzled the club operators, they buried it undera heading marked "Other" and promptly forgot about it.
Against thissuspicion, however, had to be measured the dazzling performances of individualbaseball men, some of which would bear comparison with the intricate footworkof the ablest of modern corporation raiders. One of these brought up at thehearing was the complicated deal involving Yankee Stadium. It was touched on inthese questions by subcommittee counsel and answers by Commissioner Frick:
Q. Mr.Commissioner, are you familiar with the series of transactions by which theownership of Yankee Stadium was transferred by the Yew York Yankees tofinancier Arnold Johnson [present owner of the Kansas City A's] and then to theKnights of Columbus at a total capital gain profit to the Yankees of severalmillions of dollars?
A. I am familiarwith it, yes.
Q. Could yousummarize those transactions?
A. I couldn't,no. I don't have the figures in front of me. I know what happened. I know therewas a sale of real estate and then a sale of the stadium.
Q. Then, as Iunderstand it, Mr. Johnson leased the stadium back from the Knights of Columbusand then leased it from himself to the New York Yankees?
A. Yes, and hassince sold it.
Q. Under thatarrangement, Mr. Johnson retained interest in the grounds and in the stadiumand also remained a debtor of the Yankees.... Do you know whether Mr. Johnsonpaid off the $2,900,000 debt that he owed to the owners of the Yankees?
A. I know thatMr. Johnson disposed of his interest in the stadium. Whether he got cash forthat, I don't know.
Q. As Iunderstand the transaction, part of the $6.5 million purchase price which hepaid for Yankee Stadium, was paid by a $2,900,000 note which he gave to Messrs.Webb and Topping, with a purchase money mortgage on the property, and you donot know whether he still owes that money? Is that correct?
A. I don't knowhow it was handled.
So it went, untilsomebody must have thought this was a far, far cry from the game that the boy,Von McDaniel, was playing out in St. Louis. Commissioner Frick as much as saidso. The committee counsel was talking, he suggested, not baseball, but realestate.
On the surface,last week's hearings looked like a revival of an old show which had played thesame boards in 1951. Then, a long, drawn-out inquiry led to no definiteconclusions. Now, the same cast had come back, headed by the same subcommitteechairman, Congressman Emanuel Celler of Brooklyn, who was better known for hisbasketball playing than his baseball at Columbia College 50 years ago.
But in most otherrespects, this was a new production with some wholly new dramatic ingredients.For one thing, a recent Supreme Court decision had tacitly invited Congress toconsider baseball legislation. Furthermore, baseball was almost certainly goingnational with the proposed shift of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New YorkGiants to California. Finally, television, merely an interesting newdevelopment in 1951, was now (as the figures on the following pages show) thesine qua non of the game.
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
DOWN BY DER GRAVOIS
After Friday night's game with the Brooklyn Dodgers,the city of St. Louis was broiling under its first acute attack of pennantfever in eight years. Everyone, from the budding industrialists in the RacquetClub on Kingshighway to the braumeisters down by der Gravois, was talking aboutthe Cardinals and their Von McDaniel, a rugged right-handed pitcher from acotton farm near the dusty little town of Hollis, Okla. Only 18, Von was just amonth out of high school, yet on Friday night he had shut out the Dodgers 2-0,allowing but a pair of scratch hits. Adding that to two earlier appearances inrelief, Von has now pitched 17 scoreless innings.
Von is the younger brother of 21-year-old LindyMcDaniel, the ace of this year's Cardinal pitching staff. In its excitement St.Louis could not avoid comparing these reticent and religious farm boys with amore raucous brother act of a generation ago—Dizzy and Paul Dean, who betweenthem won 49 league games in 1934. The parallel ends there, however, for Von andLindy are devout members of the Church of Christ, total abstainers who refuseto take their work lightly. Just before the Dodger game someone asked Von if hehad butterflies in his stomach. "Well, now, I'll tell you," came theanswer. "They may be down there, but I don't feel them. If I'm going to getnervous, I might as well go home and tend a grocery store."—W.B.
VON McDANIEL (LEFT) GETS BROTHER LINDY'S PRAISE AFTER BEATING DODGERS
COMMISSIONER FRICK, LEAGUE PRESIDENTS HARRIDGE AND GILES HUDDLE SOLEMNLY