PRODIGIES FOR PENNIES
Weiss has always had plenty of cash behind him, but it is to his credit that he has gathered his greatest players for very little. Phil Rizzuto cost pennies, Yogi Berra came off the sand lots for $500 and Gil McDougald was signed for $1,500. What Weiss considers his greatest outfield represented an investment of $31,000. He got Joe DiMaggio for $25,000 when no one would take a chance on Joe's trick leg; he signed Charley Keller at the University of Maryland for $5,000; Mickey Mantle got an initial bonus of $1,000. A fourth great Yankee outfielder, Tommy Henrich, cost $20,000.
Mantle is still playing, but none of the other three outfield stars is any longer with the Yankee organization. On this score again, Weiss has been criticized for harsh dealing. But, except for Henrich's case, the criticism would appear to be unjustified. Both Keller and DiMaggio parted with the Yankees voluntarily. Henrich, on the other hand, after having done poorly in a coaching job, wanted to change over to TV to replace DiMaggio after the latter allowed his contract to go by default. Weiss indicated that Henrich's private brewery business might interfere with his getting the contract, since regular game broadcasts are sponsored by a big beer company, but Henrich still insists this could have been adjusted.
It's as a buyer and trader that Weiss has been most unfairly maligned. He has, in fact, that very rare ability to look far ahead and at the same time regard a sagging situation at hand. Weiss's patching has been brilliant, but never more so than in his purchase of Johnny Mize and Johnny Sain, both of whom were waived out of the National League. Mize became a World Series hitting hero in 1949 and was a key man in the 1950 pennant drive. Sain has been a great relief pitcher for several seasons.
Weiss's shrewdest trade, for which he was initially pilloried, has saved Casey Stengel some aspirins this year. Outfielder Jackie Jensen and Pitcher Spec Shea went to Washington two years ago for Outfielder Irv Noren, a left-handed hitter. Jensen did pretty well for the Senators and Shea regained, briefly, his early Yankee form, while Noren was hitting a miserable .237 his first season in New York. But today he's among the leading hitters in the league and one reason why the Yankees managed to stay in the race at all.
MISTAKES AND SLIP-UPS
Weiss has made mistakes, bad ones. His purchase of Pitcher Fred Sanford from the Browns for $100,000 and three players in 1948 was among the worst. Sanford had won 21 games in three years for the lowly Browns, but won only 12 in three years for the Yanks. Weiss himself regrets giving up on young Bob Porterfield, who won 22 for the second-division Senators last year. Bob Keegan, currently boasting a 15-8 record with the third-place Chicago White Sox, is another pitcher who slipped out of the Yanks' hands.
Weiss was born in New Haven in 1895, the son of a grocery-store owner. He got interested in baseball at Hill-house High School, where he wasn't much of a player but showed an early ability as an administrator. It was a good team?Joe Dugan, later a great Yankee third baseman, was on it?and Weiss banded them together as the semipro Colonials, quickly establishing himself as something of a promotional genius. A local ordinance forbade Sunday baseball in New Haven, but Weiss booked the Colonials to play at Lighthouse Point, an amusement park in East Haven, outside the city limits. No Sunday ball was allowed in New York or Boston then either, so Weiss brought in top major leaguers for exhibition. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Herb Pennock, Duffy Lewis, among others, came down.
The Eastern League, which had a team at New Haven, had no love for Weiss as a superior competitor at the gate but after fighting him for four years decided it was more sensible to offer him the New Haven franchise for $5,000. As head of the renamed New Haven Profs, Weiss became the youngest club owner in professional baseball. In eight years his teams won three pennants and never finished out of the first division. More importantly, over a six-year period he sold the majors 26 men for $200,000, more than the rest of the league combined.
SUCCESSES AND SALES