SI Vault
Robert Shaplen
September 20, 1954
He is a shrewd, practical businessman named George Weiss who would like to win the pennant but won't be too disturbed if his team loses this year
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September 20, 1954

The Yankees' Real Boss

He is a shrewd, practical businessman named George Weiss who would like to win the pennant but won't be too disturbed if his team loses this year

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Weiss had the same kind of success with the Baltimore Orioles, which he took over in 1929. Baltimore had sold all its old stars to the majors and the team was in the doldrums. Using players he had imported from the Eastern League, Weiss brought the revamped Orioles in third and in three years he sold $242,000 worth of ballplayers.

The success of the young general manager caught the eye of Colonel Jacob Ruppert, who in February, 1932 placed Weiss in charge of the Yankee farm system. His record was extraordinary. Newark, the chief farm team, won seven pennants, including their first in 19 years, in the next 12 seasons. When Kansas City became part of the new Yankee chain, the Blues won three in four years. Weiss's great talent for developing and selling players meanwhile brought New York a fortune in player sales. Over a 14-year period, Weiss sold 86 players for $1.4 million and received, in addition, players worth $400,000. In the meantime he spent only a fraction of that on new Yankee players.


Some of Weiss's early deals are still talked about. Once he parlayed $500 into $92,500. It started with a $500 bonus paid to Willard Hershberger, a fair catcher. Weiss sold Hershberger to Cincinnati for $20,000 and talked the Reds into throwing in kid Shortstop Eddie Miller. Miller blossomed and went to the Boston Braves for $12,500 and five players?Vince DiMaggio, Johnny Riddle, Gil English, Tommy Reis and Johnny Babich. For them Weiss got a total of $60,000. A similar parlay involving an initial outlay of $3,000 for First Baseman Buddy Hassett eventually netted Weiss $105,000 and Hassett back to play first for the Yanks!

Weiss became general manager of the Yankees after the 1947 World Series against Brooklyn, when the tempestuous Larry MacPhail, who bought a part interest in the Yankees when Ruppert died, appointed and fired him in the same evening. Showing more emotion than he has before or since, Weiss cried. Hardly had the tears dried, however, than he was general manager again, this time appointed by Dan Topping and Del Webb, who had bought out MacPhail's one-third share the next morning. The job now pays him at least $60,000 a year.


His first year was no overwhelming success. The team finished a close third, but there was friction between him and Manager Bucky Harris, whom Weiss describes as an old-style, "book" manager who couldn't fit in with the many experiments the Yankees wanted to make with new young players. He fired Harris and brought in Casey Stengel, an earlier managerial flop at Brooklyn and Boston. No one can deny the wizardry of Stengel, and Weiss has basked in its magic glow. But when Casey waved his wand over the 25 players who won the pennant and the World Series in four straight in 1950, 17 of them were Weiss farm grads.

Each morning, looking like a corporation executive whose company has not missed paying a dividend in 50 years and has no intention of missing one in the next 50, Weiss climbs into his car at his fine old house in Greenwich, Conn. and drives to his office at 745 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Here he answers his mail, talks steadily on the phone, studies countless detailed reports on the farm system and meticulously goes over every phase of Yankee finances, down to the amount taken in for each type of souvenir. About noon, if the Yanks are home, Weiss will drive up to the Stadium. After a bit of lunch he'll retire to a smaller office on the ground floor and work some more, meanwhile watching the start of the game on TV. About the third or fourth inning he will go up to his spacious box to the right of home plate in the mezzanine, from where he regards the diamond with an almost troglodytic stare. The field seems to encompass the man and he it; one has the feeling that Weiss sees everything, from the way a pitcher's curve breaks or hangs to the number of buttons on his shirt.

If the Yanks are ahead at the top of the ninth, Weiss will follow an old superstition and leave. Back downstairs, he will watch the rest of the game on TV, take in Red Barber's post-game show and then walk across to the players' dressing room and through it to Stengel's private room, where he and Casey and sometimes the coaches will talk over the day's contest and anything else that may come up.

On a busy day Weiss may not leave the Stadium until eight o'clock, and a night game may keep him in town at a hotel. His wife, Hazel, whom he married in 1937, relies on last-minute calls for her cooking schedules. When he does go home, Weiss always carries a sheaf of papers, including minor-league box scores. In his large study in Greenwich, where he has a remarkable collection of trophies and awards, he may study the averages of Yankee potentials far into the night. If the team is on the road, he is apt to have a nocturnal telephone talk with Stengel. When he finally rolls into bed his head is filled with statistics, and if he has any trouble sleeping, which is rare, he probably counts, instead of sheep, the number of .300 hitters in the farm system or the week's attendance figures. A dedicated champion is often a lonely man. Weiss often is one?but the compensatory factor is great: he remains respected and admired, if not always revered. And it's as Dan Topping, George Weiss's tough boss, says, "How can you argue with success? It's like trying to tell off an umpire."

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