American boys are supposed to want to grow up to be President but this, as
everyone knows, is only a popular fallacy. They really want to grow up to be
major league batting champions. However, most American males philosophically
abandon this early ambition sometime before reaching maturity.
Yet the dream
lingers on, and its inevitable progression is familiar to thousands of
middle-aged citizens of a sports-loving nation: since it is no longer possible
to play on a major league baseball team, wouldn't it be wonderful to own one?
This is basically what happened to a 43-year-old ex-sandlot ballplayer,
ex-piano player and ex-disc jockey named Frederick August Knorr. The 11-man
syndicate which he headed bought the Detroit Tigers for $5� million, the
biggest price in all baseball.
Fred Knorr laughs
at any suggestion that the new owners bought the ball club as a $5� million
toy, but admits: "I guess everyone who ever played the game, or ever loved
it as a fan, must sometimes think he would like to own a ball club. I know I
always did—although never too seriously." But although Fred Knorr has a
tremendous amount of pride in ownership and confidently believes that owning
the Tigers really will be fun, he is quite emphatic that neither of these is
the primary reason behind the deal. "Our aim," he says, "is to
return a profit on our investment. The Detroit baseball club, to each of us, is
a business venture."
Knorr, who put up
one-third of the purchase price along with his two Detroit associates, Harvey
R. Hansen and William H. McCoy, owns and operates four radio stations in
Dearborn, Flint, Saginaw and Jackson. He has an application for a television
facility in or near Jackson. He is president of the Fred A. Knorr Insurance
Agency. He is also vice-president of Michigan Spot Sales, a radio and
television station representative.
John E. Fetzer of
Kalamazoo, who heads the second group of new owners, is the operating head of
six corporations and was one of radio's real pioneers. He also owned one of the
first 100 television stations in the country, served as an adviser to the OWI
during World War II and later, at General Eisenhower's request, engaged in
postwar rehabilitation studies to help clean up the communications problems of
a war-ravaged Europe. His partners and fellow one-third contributors are Carl
E. Lee, vice-president of the Fetzer Broadcasting Company, and Paul A. O'Bryan,
a Washington attorney.
The third group
is composed of a Texan named Kenyon Brown, a radio-TV-theater-advertising man
from Wichita Falls; George L. Coleman, president of a bank—and a lot of other
things involving automobiles and radio stations—from Miami, Okla.; Joseph A.
Thomas, senior partner in the New York investment firm of Lehman Brothers; R.
F. Woolworth of the dime store family; and a man named Harry Lillis Crosby Jr.,
"None of the
men in this group," says Knorr, "has ever been associated with failure.
We have money to spend and the desire to work. That will be a tough combination
has more of his own money in the venture (an estimated $1 million) than anyone
else, and he has been called the strong man of the syndicate—a brilliant
executive and planner with a personal philosophy that there is more than one
way to do things right. In the table of organization of the new Tiger Baseball
Company (see page 12) John Fetzer is chairman of the board—and, aware of the
financial hazards involved in recouping $5� million, an unusually active one at
that. But he is the first to point out that Knorr, because of his temperament
and personality and boundless energy, "is the Grover Whelan of this
organization." There is one other reason why Fred Knorr is the president of
the Detroit Tigers: the whole thing was his idea in the first place.
The new president
of the Tigers is a big man (6 feet 1 inch, 185 pounds) with wavy brown hair
which he parts just to the left of center and combs straight back. At the
temples there are a few faint locks of gray. Knorr has light green eyes, a
deep, resonant radio voice, a ready smile and a rock-hard handshake; in manner,
he is affable almost to the point of ebullience.
He was born in
Detroit on July 9, 1913 and has been a Tiger fan as long as he can remember
("My father used to take me to see games when I was 6 years old"). He
played baseball himself at Central High and as a sandlotter at Northwestern
Field, a catcher who by his own admission "couldn't hit much" but liked
the activity behind the plate. He still proudly displays a stumpy right thumb
which is a memento of a foul tip in his 14th year, and he can be pardoned if he
feels there is a certain symbolism attached to the fact that the new Tiger
manager, Jack Tighe, and Fetzer (who has a broken nose as evidence of his
schoolboy days behind the bat) were catchers, too, and that the fate of this
ball club is somehow bound up with men who wear masks. The only four Detroit
teams to win pennants in the last 47 years were managed by catchers (Mickey
Cochrane in 1934-35, Del Baker in 1940 and Steve O'Neill in 1945).