Since Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed to the post in 1921, there have been only two other commissioners of baseball—A. B. (Happy) Chandler and Ford C. Frick. Now Frick is about to retire and his successor must be found.
Among Frick's swan-song recommendations to the two league meetings in Phoenix last week was one that baseball's owners restore to the office of commissioner the absolute power that Landis enjoyed. Reports from the closed-door meetings indicated that the owners were looking favorably on the suggestion. Let us consider the implications.
Baseball never enjoyed the confidence of its followers more than when Landis ruled—partly because of his personality, partly because he exercised his powers so firmly. That confidence scarcely diminished when Chandler succeeded him, even though the owners, who had chafed under Landis' dictatorial reign, gave themselves the power to overrule the commissioner. Chandler was tough enough to buck openly some of the owners, sided with the ballplayers against the owners when he thought it right and was fired before his term expired in 1952. Frick, a most amenable fellow, succeeded him.
Now the owners, after making the gesture of restoring full power to the commissioner's office, can appoint either a Landis type or a Frick type—can, in short, make the gesture an honest one or a fake. Which do you think it will be?
THE BRAIN DETERGENT
Very probably the most important financial consideration in the future of professional sport is pay TV, in which a person who wants to see a baseball game, a fight or even an opera, pays for it. Under such an arrangement a good heavyweight championship bout could well gross into the tens of millions one of these years.
Naturally, this represents a threat to the TV networks and to the movie industry, both of which have, by and large, reduced entertainment to its lowest common denominator because that is where the big buck lies. And so it was that, in the recent election, network TV and the movie industry joined forces to combat pay TV in California, where Subscription Television, Inc. had made a small but promising start. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants had arranged to broadcast their games over pay TV via Subscription Television.
But in last week's election California voters were presented with something called Proposition 15, which asked the voters to outlaw pay TV. It seemed most unusual for voters to have to decide on such a matter—quite as much as if Standard Oil could get a ballot proposition that would make it unconstitutional to buy anyone else's gasoline. The voters were brazenly brainwashed in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign which represented that pay TV would drive free TV off the air. There were full-page advertisements showing wistful moppets being told by guilty parents that they could not afford to turn on Captain Danger, or whatever the favorite kids' show might be. The voters wept and outlawed pay TV—at any rate, pro tem.
The allegation was, of course, an untruth. But so was it a fraud when television was rigging quiz shows. Does anyone wonder why the CBS purchase of the New York Yankees seems so ominous?