SI Vault
Gerald Holland
December 22, 1958
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 22, 1958

Commissioner Fels Napier's Plan To Save Baseball

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

At last, near dawn, a middle western club owner asked for the floor. He told his weary colleagues that he had had a sudden inspiration and then proceeded to electrify them with a proposal that was destined to make baseball history. (The writer is reconstructing the following scene from information given him by an unimpeachable source, a waiter who was in the room at the time.)

"Gentlemen," said the middle western club owner, "I am comparatively new in baseball and I ask your indulgence if what I am about to say is out of order. I am going to speak frankly and I ask you to bear with me. Gentlemen, I don't have to remind you that we are on the spot here. Just look back over the last year. Attendance off, the press riding us hard everywhere, players demanding more money, Congress getting tougher and tougher, and I think you'll agree that although Casey Stengel did a great job for us before the Senate committee he has won us nothing more than a reprieve. The publication of the Furlong Air Vent Papers was damaging and this talk of an outlaw league is definitely capturing the public fancy in the face of the Warren Giles Pooh-Pooh Doctrine."

The middle western club owner (according to the writer's waiter informant) stopped and let that sink in. Then he went on:

"You and I know, gentlemen, that if enough money is put behind an outlaw league, they can take us to court and blow the reserve clause sky-high. Or maybe they won't even have to take us to court. Maybe the very creation of a third league will give those crackpot legislators in Washington all the ammunition they need to finish us off."

There was an ominous murmur growing in the room. The middle western club owner raised his voice as he continued:

"We're vulnerable, gentlemen, vulnerable as hell! Although I'm comparatively new in the game, I know something about its history. We, as baseball men, have a long record of fighting progress. There was a time when we refused to put numbers on the players' uniforms. There was a time when we refused to permit a hit or error sign on the scoreboard. We resisted modern plumbing fixtures and paper towels in the rest rooms. We resisted night baseball, we resisted radio, we resisted television—and then we did an about-face and overdid all three!"

The murmur had died away now. The owners sat in shocked silence. The speaker took a kindlier tone:

"What I am getting at, gentlemen, is the fact that, in my view, we must come up with a strong commissioner whose very appointment, whose very name will make it clear that we're forward-looking and progressive, that we mean business in dealing with the many problems confronting the national game, the grand old game of baseball!"

The speaker, a faint smile playing on his lips, looked at the owners, one after the other. Then raising both hands high above his head, he shouted:

"I nominate Fels Napier!"

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21