I'll cite one recent instance of fair trading with the A's that elicited some typical phony howling from Frank Lane. Lane hollered when we got Roger Maris from Kansas City last year. The fact remains—Maris was a big question mark, and Lane himself had traded him away from Cleveland because he had a tendency to slump and get hurt, a pattern he continued at Kansas City. At one point, Johnson almost got Groat, Virdon and Kline from Pittsburgh for him but, luckily for us, the Pirates balked at the last minute—we could never have matched their offer. I took a chance on bidding for Maris because we desperately needed his sort of pull hitting in the Stadium—it wasn't as much of a problem in other parks. We offered Bauer, Larsen, Throne-berry and Siebern; I didn't like to give up Siebern, but he was a disappointed player in New York and couldn't play regularly in left field there. We also got Hadley and DeMaestri, who helped us; but Maris, an imponderable at the time of the trade, happily turned out to be a key man in the pennant drive and, I think, rated his award as the league's Most Valuable Player. (I cannot resist the temptation to ask if we should return Roger Maris to K.C. to satisfy the objections mentioned previously.)
In my opinion, the death of Arnold Johnson was a tragic loss for baseball because he was a real leader, a take-charge guy who always thought and planned ahead wisely, both for the good of his team and of the game. Baseball needs more men like him. The even more recent tragic passing of my good friend Parke Carroll, who came up through the Yankee system and was Johnson's right-hand man, removed another dedicated baseball man from the scene. His loss can ill be afforded in these times.
These two men exemplified the sort of leadership I remember from my early days. When I attended my first American League meeting, 30 years ago, I recall how impressed I was by the owners there—Jacob Ruppert, Clark Griffith, Bob Quinn, Charley Comiskey, Frank Navin, Alva Bradley, Phil Ball and the Shibes. Baseball was their lifework, an end in itself, with considerations of its own that transcended the dollar.
For good publicity
I've got nothing against good promotion, mind you—I learned its value back in my days at New Haven. Several times I've suggested that the Commissioner hire a knowledgeable baseball publicist and create a publicity department to present baseball's side of several important issues that have come up in recent years. But I don't like helter-skelter, get-rich-quick personal publicity. On many questions I held no brief for Commissioner Landis—I think he often assumed too much power and made authoritarian, capricious decisions about what was "detrimental to baseball"—but I do think he would have properly put his foot down on some of the irresponsible talk that regularly goes on now. With all his bluster, some of it directed against me, Frank Lane hasn't won a pennant yet, has he? I have an old-fashioned idea that this is an important objective in baseball. Now that the private ante has been raised, he's shifted again, from Cleveland to Kansas City, and his chances of a flag still aren't very good. Men like Lane would rather flit about, make speeches and catch headlines than stay in one place and build up a farm system and work out a scheme to save the minors. Larry MacPhail did a lot of talking, too, in his stormy days, and he had a terrible temper and little patience, but he was a sound baseball man who knew how to build up a club. I remember how he and I and Branch Rickey used to get together each year—when I was still at Newark, Larry was at Cincinnati and Branch at St. Louis—to discuss the intricacies and problems of our farm operations and to try to formulate some rules. We were the only three executives back then who believed in such systems and rules, and our job, incidentally, wasn't made any easier in view of Commissioner Landis' disapproval.
Some of the ideas presented nowadays for the supposed welfare of baseball would be laughable if they weren't so potentially destructive. Take the one for interleague games that almost went through this year and that undoubtedly will be brought up again some time. It's a ridiculous proposition, per se. What's the backbone of baseball? Records, of course. Interleague play would kill traditional records and record-keeping. Secondly, it would destroy the All-Star Game and impair if not destroy the World Series. And, most seriously, it would raise grave questions about the honesty of baseball competition. In a close race in the American League, say, with New York and Boston fighting for the flag in the last week or so, suppose Pittsburgh, leading the National League, is scheduled to play in both AL cities. New York might win fair and square, and the Series would go to its much bigger stadium with consequent much higher Series cut—but the roar of the cynic would be audible from coast to coast. No situation that can possibly invite distrust in the integrity of play should ever be permitted to arise in baseball.
Now that expansion has already been pushed through by both major leagues, there isn't much point to my repeating what I've said all along—that more time should have been taken to study the matter carefully from all angles instead of rushing ahead in what must seem to many a dollar sweepstakes. I believe in expansion, and for a long time I've said it was inevitable. But what have we got now for all the uproar and fast shifting? This year the American League is going to Minneapolis, and next year the National League goes to Houston. Those are the only two new cities; New York, Los Angeles and Washington already have baseball, and putting new or different teams there is not expansion into fresh areas where big-time baseball ought to be made available.
A lone voice
In my opinion, the whole expansion situation flared up too quickly because of the panic that set in over possible antitrust legislation. The next big mistake came when Commissioner Frick declared New York open territory. I was a lone voice in insisting that this contravened Rule One, that the question of a new team coming into New York still had to be voted on and approved unanimously by all major league teams, and that the Yankees accordingly did not have to accept another team. Though the rule on unanimity has now been altered, the effect of Frick's earlier statement was to start the Continental League ball rolling, and that in turn forced the majors' hands on expansion. Frick did try to slow things down later, but the ball was rolling too fast by then. At any rate, if Frick had not made his open-territory statement any projected New York team would have had to get our permission to start up.
I don't know if we would have said yes or no. If we had agreed, we would certainly have demanded some major concessions and adjustments on TV and rent for the Stadium, etc. Personally, I think New York rates a second team, but I won't say it needs it. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen another club in Brooklyn, but having the city build a new park in Flushing that won't pay off and will create a deficit is, I believe, unfair to the public that will have to foot the bill and to the Yankees, who go on paying the city $200,000 a year in taxes and get no municipal help in solving their parking problem. I've always felt it would have been better to have the city improve the Stadium instead of building what's bound to be a white elephant.