There were no
outstretched arms awaiting the prodigals in their native land. Organized
Baseball had imposed a five-year suspension on all the
"contract-jumpers" except Stephens, who had returned to the Browns
before opening day. With the collapse of Pasquel's league, the 18 suspended
players sought jobs outside of Organized Baseball. They played in Cuba during
the winter and in Canada during the summer. In 1948 they formed a team called
the Max Lanier All-Stars and barnstormed across the United States. Barred from
stadiums owned by teams in Organized Baseball and able to play only against
semipros, the All-Stars won all of their 81 games but arrived home broke.
Gardella, who had a family and no savings, were in trouble. "On Sundays I
plied my trade with a team on Staten Island," Gardella says. "One day a
wire came from the Commissioner's office informing our opponents, a Negro team
called the Cleveland Buckeyes, that none of their players would be allowed into
Organized Baseball if they played against me. I was an outlaw!
have me. God invests himself in every atom of the universe, but I was cast out.
Finally a friend of mine sent me to his dentist's brother, who was a lawyer. I
gave him earnest ear."
The lawyer was
Frederic A. Johnson, who had been a baseball fan since childhood, a classmate
of Happy Chandler at Harvard Law School and the author of an unfavorable
treatise on baseball's reserve clause. Johnson and Gardella sued Organized
Baseball for $300,000 in damages. Shortly afterward, Lanier and Fred Martin,
having retained their own lawyer, sued baseball for $2,500,000, charging that
it was in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
With its sacred
reserve clause under fire, baseball grew jittery. Branch Rickey, speaking
before an advertising club, charged that the clause was opposed by persons of
"avowed Communist tendencies." But for the first time communication
lines were opened between baseball and the outcasts. They were made to
understand that if they dropped their lawsuits, their applications for
reinstatement would be given, in the Gardellian phrase, "earnest
Owen and several
other players visited Gardella at his home in Yonkers in an effort to persuade
him to drop his suit. On the advice of his attorney, Danny declined. "I
hope Gardella loses his suit," Owen told reporters. "Baseball didn't
force us to go to Mexico. We went because of our own weaknesses."
In June 1949 the
courts refused to compel Organized Baseball to reinstate the suspended players
before their cases had been tried. Baseball was now free to move without losing
face. The players were welcomed back and guaranteed fair trials with their old
teams. At least four of the players were paid off secretly to drop their
fellow who had set off the uproar three years earlier, remained the lone
holdout. He refused to drop his suit, threatening to carry it all the way to
the Supreme Court. In the fall of 1949 Danny finally came to terms with
Organized Baseball, at a figure astronomically higher than the few hundred
dollars that the Giants had denied him in 1946 when they pushed him toward
Baseball chose to
make the announcement under the protective hubbub of the World Series, the
traditional period for firing beloved managers and consummating other moves
club owners are ashamed of. All parties insisted that Danny's sole reward for
dropping the suit was a contract to play with St. Louis. Lanier, Martin and
Klein had been reinstated in time to take part in their unsuccessful pennant
drive that year, and apparently the Cardinals showed their gratitude by
At any rate, the
suit was settled and an audible sigh of relief escaped baseball headquarters in
Cincinnati. "If I was a drinking man," Happy Chandler said, "I'd go
out and get drunk."