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The Cronin Papers (Part II) PDF Print E-mail
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Articles & Opinion
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 31 August 2006 05:31

Cronin Papers (Part II)-

Rickey, Expansion Cities Call, Piersall,

& President Kennedy   

The Cronin Papers are a collection of personal documents of Joe Cronin's graciously donated by his grandson, Chris Hayward. Clicking on any of the thumbnail images within any of the series will display a high resolution version.

Past installments have been:

Clicking on any of the thumbnail images within this page will provide a high resolution scan of the original.

In Part I of the Cronin Papers it was the Mays/Chapman Incident 

It's the Bay of Pigs, and Nikita Khrushchev. Williams Borroughs releases Naked Lunch, and Alaska and Hawaii join the Union. It's also just after Walter O'Malley and Horace Stoneham move the Dodgers and Giants from New York to the West Coast.

It's 1959-1961...

Branch Rickey, the Continental League and an Angry Letter

Some may not know this, but there was a third Major League, if only in name. As I wrote in my article for The Hardball Times entitled, The Team That Nearly Wasn't: The Montreal Expos:

In 1958, New York reeled from the vacuum left by the relocation of the Giants and Dodgers. Mayor Robert Wagner put together a task force and placed lawyer William Shea in charge of trying to get the NL back in New York. To add to this, Commissioner Ford Frick was being pressured to expand the League or risk having the anti-trust exemption revoked. The league's direction shifted from just replacing one or two clubs in New York, but to include other markets, as well.

In 1959, Shea needed someone with baseball clout and savvy to help in the effort. That end he brought in Branch Rickey—who, at 78 was the board chairman of the Pirates—to start a third major league, and on July 27, 1959, the American and National Leagues were joined by the Continental League. It was strictly a forced marriage in the eyes of Frick and the American and National Leagues (recall that both leagues were separate, unlike the relationship today). Three was a crowd.

As the Chicago Daily Tribune reported on July 19, 1960, “The National Baseball League ended a lengthy meeting in Chicago Monday with something of an ultimatum to the Continental League in an announcement by Warren Giles which said, in effect, if a new major league cannot get into operation, the National League is ready to expand.”

This new dynamic created a bit of a panic by Frick and the rest of the Lords, as they were being backed into a corner on other fronts, as well. To place further pressure on the National League, the American League proposed that both leagues expand to nine clubs. The deal was, if the NL agreed to expand to nine clubs as well, the American League would delay consideration of expansion into Los Angeles.

Rickey, who now headed up the newly founded league after Shea stepped aside, had five cities in hand at the outset: New York, Denver, Toronto, Houston, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

For the Continental League, there was another problem: signing players. This, after all, was during the age of the reserve clause. Free agency was not available. In March of 1960, Rickey made an attempt to sign a working arrangement with the Class D Western Carolina League. That was immediately blocked by MLB. This left only the worst players available to the fledgling league.

The cities pushing for expansion pushed to get a bill through Congress that would limit the number players that clubs could control to 80. Given the fact that some clubs controlled as many as 400 players, this number would have been significant. The bill was amended and went back into committee in 1960, never to be seen again. With the failure, the Continental League folded in Chicago on August 2, 1960.

Below is a telegram from Rickey outlining his frustration at the plans of expansion by the AL, which proved to indeed, kill the Continental League.

 

San Diego, Montreal, and Los Angeles Request AL Expansion Clubs

As I noted in my article on the Expos, cities were clamoring for teams, and with the move by the Dodgers and Giants, the AL and NL raced into the Expansion Era. Below are three letters from the Los Angeles, Montreal, and San Diego areas. One is from Eugene Klein, the Vice-Chairman of National Theaters and Television, which became National General Corp., the nation's second largest theater chain requesting interest in a franchise for the LA area, one is from Mayor Charles C. Dail of San Diego making a request for his city, and one is from Frank J. Schaughnessy, president of the International League of Professional Baseball Clubs, making a request for Montreal.

"Trader" Frank Lane Chases Jimmy Piersall

Frank Lane was notorious for trading while serving as GM of the White Sox, Cardinals, Indians, and Brewers. Below is a trade offer sheet to the Red Sox for Jimmy Piersall to get him into an Indians uniform. While the players differed (Vic Wertz and Gary Gieger for the Indians), Lane eventually landed the man where Fear Strikes Out.

President Kennedy Letter to The Sporting News

Finally, one of the more interesting documents in the collection provided to me, if for no other reason than the connection to the author of the letter.

Below is a letter sent to J.G. Taylor Spink, then the General Manager of The Sporting News, by then President John Kennedy. Kennedy jokingly talks about how he is happy to hear about an editorial in TSN that approves of his "freshman year" and that he hopes to not have a "sophomore slump" in year two at the White House. If anyone can provide me with any details on this editorial within The Sporting News, it would be greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rod Nelson, SABR's Research Services Manager, we have the TSN Editorial in question.


 

Time to slip the Cronin Papers back into the file... Next time Joe Cronin talks to me it will be 1932, and Rogers Hornsby is under investigation for gambling.

 
 
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