The startling nomination had a delayed impact. At first the owners nodded agreeably as a sort of reflex action. Then, realizing the full import of what had just been said, owners jumped to their feet all over the room and veritable bedlam ensued. Owners and league executives alike shouted and, indeed, almost screamed. Nerves, taut after the tumultuous all-night session, suddenly snapped. In the back of the room two owners started to trade blows and could not be separated until Branch Rickey, 77-year-old elder statesman of baseball, attending in his capacity as chairman of the board of the Pittsburgh Pirates, thrust his walking stick between them and pried them apart.
Owner after owner shouted at the speaker, who folded his arms and waited for the furor to subside.
"Fels Napier is the boy wonder of the soap industry!" an owner shouted. "What does he know about baseball!"
Another owner cried:
"Fels Napier makes $300,000 a year! Even if the whole idea wasn't ridiculous, how are you going to get a man like that to accept the $75,000 we have budgeted for the commissioner?"
A red-faced National League executive ran up to the speaker, shook his fist and roared:
"I call this shameful! The idea of putting a soap peddler into the commissioner's chair is an abomination on the face of it! Sir, I charge you with attempting to make a travesty of the game!"
Slowly, the hysteria spent itself. The owners sank back in their chairs, exhausted. The speaker was about to proceed when Branch Rickey arose at the back of the room and raised his cane aloft for attention.
"May I have a word, young man?" he said.
"Certainly, Mr. Rickey," replied the speaker.