A few weeks later the major league meetings were held in Washington and more troubles presented themselves. The players demanded that the salary budget of each club represent at least 20% of a club's gross income. The proposition was unanimously howled down by the owners. Players of the International League, meanwhile, threatened to strike unless their pension demands were met.
At the same time, the owners were dismayed to hear William Harridge, 72, respected president of the American League, offer his resignation on the ground that a younger man might be better able to deal with the growing baseball crises. Joseph Cronin, general manager of the Boston Red Sox, was fingered as Harridge's successor, to be so designated officially after a decent interval had elapsed.
Two committees were named, one by each league, to study baseball's expansion in the future. On motion of Phil Wrigley of Chicago, who said the question was getting too big for committees, the National League agreed to engage a national research organization to study the subject.
But all these vexing problems were as nothing compared to the bombshell that burst on New Year's Day 1959. It was then that Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick called a press conference at the St. Andrews Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. and read the following statement:
"What I am about to say is not the result of a sudden decision. It has nothing to do with any of the events of recent months. I have been thinking about this matter for some years. I have now come to the considered conclusion that I can no longer defer giving my whole attention to a project which has been occupying me at odd moments for a long time. This project is the writing of a book on the game of curling. As most of you gentlemen of press, radio and television know, I have been playing this grand old Scottish game here at the St. Andrews Club for many, many years. Baseball has always been my first love, true, but curling is a game to which I am also deeply devoted. In this book of mine, I think I may have something to say. Therefore, effective immediately, I am resigning as baseball commissioner to give all my time to the completion of my manuscript. Thank you, one and all.
"And now, fellows, I think there are some refreshments and light luncheon snacks waiting for us in the club bar."
The baseball world was shocked by Frick's resignation. A network television program of farewell was arranged and, as those who viewed it will recall, it was one of the most poignant ever telecast. Sportscaster Mel Allen read a poem entitled A Game Guy's Prayer. Sportscaster Red Barber explained the game of curling, pointing out that it was something like bowling on ice and "really rugged." Sportscaster Howard Cosell wished Frick well with his book on curling and added, "I will go out on a limb with the prediction that this book will make a truly great, a truly magnificent motion picture, one which will not offend any member of the family, young or old." The program closed with a quartet representing the Baseball Writers' Association of America singing Fordy Boy, a sentimental parody of Danny Boy written by Sportswriter Arthur Mann.
Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of club owners was called at once to select Frick's successor.
Quite naturally, Charles Segar, Frick's assistant, was a strong candidate. His supporters pointed out that with his white hair he was beginning to resemble Judge Landis. However, there was equally strong sentiment in favor of William O. DeWitt of St. Louis, administrator of the $500,000 fund set up by the majors to aid minor leagues. DeWitt, who began his career as a peanut salesman in the St. Louis ball park, had risen to be co-owner of the St. Louis Browns, then had served as assistant general manager of the New York Yankees. He was widely respected among club owners as an extremely close man with a buck.
But as vote after vote was taken, neither Segar nor DeWitt could muster a majority. A desperate attempt was made to agree on a compromise candidate. Bing Crosby, stockholder in the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Bob Hope, stockholder in the Cleveland Indians, were nominated, along with Harold Stassen, former special assistant to President Eisenhower. None could get enough support.