When he is not flying around the circuit spreading goodwill, or attending high-level baseball conferences, Warren Crandall Giles, the president of the National League, sits at a massive oaken desk in Suite 2601 of the Carew Tower in Cincinnati next to a window that commands a broad view of the Ohio River and the Kentucky shore beyond. The desk and the view were once the property of Kentuckian A. B. (Happy) Chandler, who—before his ouster as baseball's high commissioner—was accustomed to lead visitors to the window and declaim: "Friends, look yonder. There, across the beautiful Ohio, lies the Promised Land."
Warren Giles does not indulge in such histrionics. When he looks out old Happy's window it is safe to assume that he is less conscious of the Promised Land than he is of a tall building in the foreground that happens to house the offices of William O. DeWitt, the proprietor of the Cincinnati Reds. As a club owner in the National League, Bill DeWitt is one of Mr. Giles's 10 bosses and, like every other red-blooded organization man, Mr. Giles is ever mindful of the best ways and means to keep his bosses pleased with his work.
Seated at Chandler's great desk (to which he has some claim, since his insistence on a nonbaseball man as commissioner clinched Happy's election in 1945), Mr. Giles is a credit to his bosses just by being there. He looks, at 67, every inch a top baseball executive: well-tailored, well-barbered, well-fed, white-haired, pink-cheeked, portly in a solidly packed executive sort of way. He has other assets. He had a fine combat record as a first lieutenant in World War I. He learned the art of making quick decisions as a football and basketball official in the Missouri Valley Conference; he once worked a game between New York University and Missouri in Yankee Stadium. He designed the first emblem for the National League, a device of ball, eagle, bat, gloves, stars and stripes that he is presently revising. He must squeeze in two more stars to represent the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s.
He knows the major league rules by heart. Although he never played the game professionally, he has been in it as a front-office man since he was 23, starting with the Moline, Ill. club in the old Three-I League and moving steadily upward to St. Joseph, Mo. in the Western League, to Syracuse, N.Y. and Rochester in the International (where he also served a term as league president) and finally to the Cincinnati club as general manager under Owner Powel Crosley Jr.
Mr. Giles, if he is in a mood to look back on his career as he looks out the window, can recall the fall of 1951, when he might have risen to greater heights. It was then that he ran a dead heat with Ford Frick in the voting to select a commissioner to succeed Happy Chandler. As he had with Chandler, Giles cleared the way for Frick by announcing dramatically after 17 ballots: "My first interest in baseball is the welfare of baseball itself. My second is the Cincinnati Reds, and my third is Warren Giles. In the best interests of baseball, I wish to withdraw my name." Thereupon Giles's supporters agreed to go along with Frick on condition that Giles be offered the presidency of the National League. It was done: Frick became commissioner, Giles became league president.
Since then, in striving to please his bosses ( Mr. Giles would prefer to say, "In striving to serve the best interests of baseball and the National League"), he has frequently found himself a target for the most violent kind of criticism. When the sale of the St. Louis Cardinals to Gussie Busch's Anheuser-Busch brewery was decried on the floor of the U.S. Senate, it was Giles who answered, thereby relieving the owners (as on so many other occasions) of saying anything at all. "Plain poppycock!" Giles declared. When he deplored the fact that the players had hired a lawyer to represent them, he was rewarded with the following comment from Red Smith in his syndicated column: " Warren Giles and his fellows...have always regarded ball players as mere chattels...they actually believe it is a privilege for these bondservants to appear cap in hand before their masters and petition for reforms which they do not get."
The New York Times
saw fit to print that Giles's publicly expressed unconcern with the move of the Giants and Dodgers to the West Coast was "pure hog-wash." When Giles sought to prod reluctant Los Angeles voters into approving Chavez Ravine as a site for the new ball park (he said the Dodgers might have to leave Los Angeles if the voters turned down the proposal), he was accused of playing Charley McCarthy to Walter O'Malley's Edgar Bergen. Oliver Kuechle of The Milwaukee Journal wrote: "The O'Malleys, the Gileses and all their intimidating stooges had better keep their mouths shut. They don't do well when they open them. It is inconceivable, regardless of what O'Malley and Giles have threatened, that the Dodgers ever really will be taken out of Los Angeles. Does a hungry dog ever walk away from a juicy bone?"
The man behind the big desk in Cincinnati's Carew Tower was not visibly disturbed. Sportswriters, however gifted, do not elect league presidents. The men who do, when Giles had completed his first seven-year term, took only a minute to re-elect him. He has continued to please. Along with National League owners, he disapproved of a third major league. He continues to issue his annual spring forecasts of a tight National League race. He is regarded by secretaries around the league as a very nice man. He is celebrated as a wonderful host at parties. Cookouts at his suburban Cincinnati home on Mount Lookout, where he lives all alone, are occasions that friends and associates look forward to when in town. He serves prime steaks and good whisky and radiates good humor and never overindulges in spirits to a point where he would hit a policeman, as his predecessor with the Cincinnati ball club, Larry MacPhail, did at least once.
It would seem that such a moderate, amiable, affable, good-humored master of social occasions would have frequent long periods of peaceful coexistence with his critics. But somehow Warren Giles is rarely out of the headlines and hot water. And this spring he stirred up a storm in which he was deluged with disrespectful remarks by managers, players, sportswriters and broadcasters, moving Sportscaster Howard Cosell to shout into the microphone of a New York radio station that "the Giles reign has been the stupidest leadership in the history of sports."
What Mr. Giles did to start it all was to call upon his umpires for strict enforcement of the balk rule as written in the book. (Mr. Giles runs his own staff of umpires, whereas President Joe Cronin of the American League leaves that chore to Supervisor of Umpires Cal Hubbard.) The balk rule, as then written, stated that a pitcher, if he pitches from a position rather than an uninterrupted windup, must bring his motion to a complete stop of at least one second whenever men are on base. By discouraging "quick pitches," strict enforcement of the rule would benefit the base-stealer and one ball club in particular: the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fleet base runners, Maury Wills, Willie Davis, John Roseboro and Jim Gilliam.