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Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

Babe Dahlgren, known best as the player who replaced Lou Gehrig in the Yankees’ lineup, pioneered the use of film to instruct Cardinals batters.

In 1965, the Cardinals hired Dahlgren, 52, to be director of filming. He took 16-millimeter movie film of the Cardinals at spring training and during regular-season games and then worked with manager Red Schoendienst and coaches to analyze swings of the batters.

At the time, everyday use of film to study and instruct players was considered innovative in baseball.

Journeyman career

Ellsworth Dahlgren was born in San Francisco and got the nickname Babe from his stepfather, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Dahlgren debuted in the majors as the Opening Day first baseman for the Red Sox in 1935. In February 1937, he was dealt to the Yankees, but with Lou Gehrig at first base, Dahlgren appeared destined for a backup role.

Dahlgren’s fate changed on May 2, 1939, when Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games ended and Dahlgren replaced him. Boxscore

A right-handed batter, Dahlgren produced 89 RBI for the 1939 Yankees and hit a home run versus the Reds’ Bucky Walters in Game 2 of the World Series. Boxscore

Traded to the Braves after the 1940 season, Dahlgren also went on to play for the Cubs, Browns, Dodgers, Phillies and Pirates.

In 1943, when he was a National League all-star with the Phillies, Dahlgren had five hits in a game against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

The next year, Dahlgren hit .289 with 101 RBI for the 1944 Pirates.

His last season in the majors was 1946 and he finished with 1,056 hits.

Dahlgren said the person who helped him most with hitting was Jimmie Wilson, the former Cardinals catcher who was his manager with the Cubs. “Jim taught me more about hitting in 10 minutes at Chicago in 1941 than I had learned the 10 previous years as a player,” Dahlgren told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Baseball filmmaker

After leaving baseball, Dahlgren sold insurance, but his passion was filming batters. He invested in film equipment and taught himself how to use it.

“I bought my first camera in 1959,” Dahlgren told The Sporting News. “I shelled out $6,000. It was money I saved as a player.”

Dahlgren eventually spent much more on film equipment, including a slow-motion device.

“Babe spent four years perfecting his techniques, all without pay,” The Sporting News reported. “He even worked in a West Coast TV station for two years, minus salary, just so he could learn more about cameras and angles and the art of interviewing.”

Dahlgren went to spring training camps, shot film of batters and interviewed players such as Willie Mays and Ted Williams on camera about their approaches to hitting, according to The Sporting News.

He produced a film on hitting and titled it “Half a Second,” because “that’s how long it takes for a weak hitter to become a good one, that last half-second as the pitch comes to him,” Dahlgren said.

Dahlgren contacted owners of big-league clubs and tried to get them interested in his project. “Some listened and said no,” The Sporting News reported. “Most didn’t even listen.”

Sales job

After the 1963 season, Athletics owner Charlie Finley expressed interest in changing the dimensions of Municipal Stadium in Kansas City. Finley wanted to shorten the foul lines to help pull hitters slug home runs.

In a letter to Finley, Dahlgren wrote, “It is amazing that, in your short tenure in baseball, you have discovered the secret of the game _ hitting down the line.

“When a player hits straightaway, he has the pitcher, shortstop, second baseman and three bunched outfielders in line with a batted ball. When a player hits down the line, he has only the third baseman on the left field line and the first baseman on the right field line. If you design your park for pull hitting, you must have the batters with the know-how to take advantage of the short fences.”

About a month later, at the 1963 baseball winter meetings at Los Angeles, Dahlgren approached Finley, who was scheduled to leave for the airport in 40 minutes.

“We started talking and looking at my film,” Dahlgren said. “He called the airport and canceled his reservation. We spent almost six hours together.”

One and done

Finley hired Dahlgren to be the Athletics’ hitting coach and use film to analyze the swings of batters. According to The Sporting News, Dahlgren and the Athletics became the first in the majors to use film instruction on a full-time basis.

“This is what I’m interested in,” Dahlgren said. “It’s what I like to do. I feel this is my life’s work. I think I can help any hitter who is willing to work.”

Among the players on the Athletics’ 1964 big-league roster at spring training were Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan and Charlie Lau, who later became a hitting coach who relied on the use of video.

In his role with the 1964 Athletics, Dahlgren “started taking pictures in spring training and shot almost every game played during the regular season,” The Sporting News reported. “He had special showings every day for players who wanted to check their batting and pitching forms. Dahlgren also had a large backlog of film he used to demonstrate his theories on hitting.”

Dahlgren’s efforts were exemplary but the results were not. The 1964 Athletics finished in last place in the 10-team American League. They hit .239 and were eighth in the league in runs (621) and hits (1,321).

After the season, Dahlgren wasn’t retained and scout Whitey Herzog was added to the coaching staff.

Cardinals come calling

Dahlgren’s techniques with film intrigued Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam. On March 15, 1965, he hired Dahlgren and named him director of filming.

“I believe I helped some of the boys at Kansas City last year,” Dahlgren said to the Post-Dispatch, “but the expense, they felt, was too great.”

Howsam said, “I wanted Babe because I felt he could help established players to improve and young ones to learn.”

Dahlgren was hired to film Cardinals players and opponents and share the information with manager Red Schoendienst, hitting coach Mickey Vernon and pitching coach Joe Becker.

“One reason they may have been persuaded that this is a useful procedure is that Bill White was in a slump for many weeks last summer,” The Sporting News noted. “No one had a solution to his problems until White found his own answer with the help of home movies in his own basement.”

Unlike the cellar-dwelling Athletics, the Cardinals went to spring training in 1965 as the reigning World Series champions.

“I do believe if use of films of our players and of the opposition will help us win three or four games in a season,” Howsam told the Post-Dispatch, “the expenditure of $20,000 or so will be worthwhile.

“Use of films, on a limited basis, is not new,” Howsam said, “but not until last year has any ballclub made a day to day study of its hitters and pitchers.”

Howsam, who was involved with pro football’s Denver Broncos before joining the Cardinals, said, “Baseball, I’m convinced, has been far behind football in making realistic use of game and individual movies.”

Dahlgren lasted one season with the Cardinals. After hitting .272 in the 1964 championship season, the Cardinals hit .254 in 1965 and didn’t contend. First in the National League in hits (1,531) in 1964, the Cardinals ranked fourth (1,415) in 1965.

Howsam said the Cardinals did not get as much use out of the films as they had hoped.

After leaving the Cardinals, Dahlgren continued to help amateur players. Unfortunately, his films were destroyed in a house fire in 1980.

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In February 2021, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak answered questions submitted to him from members of the United Cardinal Bloggers. Through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of the group, Mozeliak has been accessible to bloggers for many years.

In remembrance of the late Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, I asked Mozeliak if he would share anecdotes about them. Here is his response:

“When I think back to my time with both those individuals _ and, really, you have to throw Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst into that group _ it was so unique for those of us that have been with the organization over the years to be able to say hello or sit down and talk baseball with them.

“The one thing I will say about Lou and Bob was that anytime you talked baseball with them, I would always leave there going, ‘Wow, I just picked up some wisdom about this game.’

“Their baseball IQ was off the charts and they understood the game. And, even though they weren’t necessarily attending our games, they were still watching. If you asked them a question, they were always willing to answer.

“That’s what I admired most about both of them. They genuinely cared about this organization. They understood their place in history and for all of us that were fortunate enough to be around them we should consider ourselves very lucky.”

Here is a link to answers Mozeliak gave to questions from blogger colleague Eugene Tierney: More from Mozeliak.

Here are links to other insights Mozeliak offered in response to questions I got to ask him over the years:

_ On what it is like to be a Cardinals front-office executive.

_ On how he rates the success of player acquisitions.

_ On the Cardinals’ global strategy and international approach.

_ On the special challenges of the 2020 season just before it was learned the Cardinals had an outbreak of CoVid.

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After he was fired from his job as Cardinals manager, Ken Boyer stayed with the organization and worked for his successor, Whitey Herzog.

Forty years ago, in February 1981, Boyer was at Cardinals spring training camp as an instructor, working with players who a year earlier he had managed.

It was one of multiple roles Boyer would fill for the Cardinals in 1981.

Helping hand

Cardinals general manager John Claiborne asked Boyer to stay with the franchise after Herzog replaced Boyer as manager in June 1980.

Boyer, an all-star and Gold Glove Award winner when he was Cardinals third baseman in the 1950s and 1960s, accepted the invitation and was assigned to visit the farm clubs, instructing and evaluating prospects.

In August 1980, Claiborne was fired and Herzog took on the additional role of general manager.

Boyer and Herzog became friends in 1966 when both were with the Mets. Boyer, the third baseman, and Herzog, a coach, shared an apartment in New York with Yankees players Roger Maris and Clete Boyer, Ken’s brother.

After he took over the baseball operations of the Cardinals in 1980, Herzog assigned Boyer to be an advance scout for the 1981 season.

“Whitey told me I’ve got the job that, in the back of his mind, he always thought he’d like to have,” Boyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Boyer’s job was to watch opposing National League teams and file reports on strengths and weaknesses before the Cardinals played them. He also was tasked with watching six American League clubs to rate players the Cardinals might want to acquire.

In addition to the scouting job, Boyer was asked by Herzog to come to training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1981 and help out in early drills.

Boyer agreed and was on the field daily with the Cardinals players in preparation for the Grapefruit League exhibition season.

Staying informed

When he was done helping on the field at training camp, Boyer took on the scouting assignment with gusto. He told the Post-Dispatch two other organizations had made offers to him to be a minor-league manager, but he rejected both in order to stay with the Cardinals.

“I’m really excited about it,” Boyer said of the scouting role. “It really keeps you in touch with all the right people … and it keeps you in touch with the players. You can ask a ballplayer two questions and he might tell you what’s going on with his club and around the whole league.”

In June 1981, while the major-league players were on strike and scouting was curtailed, Boyer stepped in when the Cardinals needed an interim manager at their farm team in Gastonia, N.C., after Joe Rigoli was suspended for bumping an umpire during an argument.

Boyer was back scouting when the players ended their strike in August.

Ol’ Kentucky home

After the 1981 season, the Cardinals’ top farm team relocated from Springfield, Ill., to Louisville. The owner of the Louisville Redbirds, A. Ray Smith, asked the Cardinals for Boyer to be the manager. They’d been together before. When the Cardinals’ Class AAA farm team was at Tulsa, Smith was the owner and Boyer was manager from 1974-76. 

Boyer never had been to Louisville and wasn’t keen on giving up a job scouting major-league teams to return to riding buses in the minors, but he agreed to visit before making up his mind.

Dan Ulmer, co-chairman of a committee to raise funds to refurbish a football stadium into a ballpark for the Redbirds, told the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Boyer didn’t think too much about the idea at first. Before he came here, he probably gave Louisville about a rating of 3 on a scale of 10. When he saw the stadium and the enthusiasm, we quickly moved up to about an 8 in his estimation.”

On Nov. 13, 1981, Boyer was introduced as Redbirds manager at a news conference in Louisville.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Boyer told the Courier-Journal. “I welcome this challenge to get back into managing.”

Noting the widespread support for the return of a Class AAA ballclub to Louisville for the first time since 1972, Boyer said to the Associated Press, “It’s more like moving into a big-league market than a minor-league one.”

Attending the news conference as an observer was resident Pee Wee Reese, the former shortstop of the Dodgers. Reese had been team captain of the Dodgers, just like Boyer had been team captain of the Cardinals.

When Boyer spotted Reese, he said to him, “We’re going to make this Cardinals country, Captain. The Dodger Blue has gone as far as it can go. What do you think of that?”

“Reese shrugged,” Billy Reed of the Courier-Journal noted. “As a lifelong Louisvillan, he’s happy to see Class AAA baseball come back to town.”

Terrible time

Shortly after he was named Louisville manager, Boyer, 50, had a routine physical examination. The doctor ordered a biopsy, which revealed Boyer, a smoker, had inoperable cancer in both lungs and the esophagus, according to the book “Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain.”

Boyer, divorced, initially told only his children about the diagnosis, according to the biography. He began receiving treatment in St. Louis after Thanksgiving Day. Boyer eventually informed Cardinals management, according to the book, but requested no announcement about his condition.

In January 1982, Boyer went to Mexico to receive treatments of the drug laetrile. Extracted from apricot pits, laetrile was not approved in the United States as an effective treatment for cancer.

After Boyer failed to show for a promotional event in Louisville on Jan. 21, 1982, the Courier-Journal reported he was “seriously ill.”

A. Ray Smith confirmed to the newspaper that Boyer had lung cancer, but said, “In my judgment, I think he’ll manage here.”

Joe McDonald, assistant to Whitey Herzog, said, “We expect Ken Boyer to be our manager in Louisville this season.”

A month later, on Feb. 22, 1982, with spring training approaching, Smith said Boyer wouldn’t be able to manage the Louisville club. Boyer’s health problems “are very serious,” Smith told the Associated Press.

Smith wanted former Angels manager Jim Fregosi to replace Boyer, but Fregosi declined, the Courier-Journal reported.

Cardinals scout Joe Frazier, former manager of the Mets, was chosen to manage Louisville in 1982. Frazier and Boyer were Cardinals teammates in 1955 and 1956.

Seven months later, on Sept. 7, 1982, a month before the Cardinals became World Series champions, Boyer, 51, died in St. Louis. 

 

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For Marty Marion, being popular and having success in the big leagues gave him an edge over Johnny Keane in their competition for the Cardinals’ manager job.

Seventy years ago, on Nov. 29, 1950, Marion was chosen by Cardinals owner Fred Saigh to replace manager Eddie Dyer, who resigned. The hiring came two days before Marion turned 33.

Marion, the Cardinals’ shortstop since arriving in the big leagues in 1940, had no managerial experience. The other finalist, Keane, 39, began managing in the Cardinals’ system in 1938 and led their Rochester farm team to a 92-59 record and league championship in 1950, but he had no big-league experience.

Yankees prospect

Dyer, 51, resigned under pressure in October 1950. He had winning records in all five seasons as Cardinals manager and guided them to a World Series title in 1946, but Saigh was looking to make a change after the Cardinals fell to fifth place at 78-75 in 1950.

Saigh screened 25 candidates for the job, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Saigh “came close” to hiring a candidate outside the organization. The Post-Dispatch identified him as Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner. According to the Post-Dispatch, Saigh offered him the job, but Turner turned it down. Asked about it, Saigh declined comment.

Saigh eventually narrowed the field to four candidates. The Globe-Democrat identified Keane, Marion and two minor-league managers with big-league playing experience, Mike Ryba and Dixie Walker.  According to the Post-Dispatch, the four finalists were Keane, Marion, minor-league manager and former big-league catcher Rollie Hemsley and an unidentified “dark horse.”

Keen credentials

Saigh’s search was in its sixth week when the candidate list was pared to two, Keane and Marion.

Keane was well-regarded within the organization and his resume showed conclusively he knew how to manage and how to win. “I can’t try to do a selling job on myself by talking,” Keane told the Post-Dispatch. “My position is, ‘Here I am. You know my record. It’s up to you.’ “

Though Saigh was impressed by Keane’s record, he was concerned about image. Because he’d spent his whole career in the minors, Keane wasn’t well-known among the Cardinals’ fan base, and Saigh was hoping to make a splash with his first managerial hire.

Marion was a candidate who figured to attract attention. As the shortstop on Cardinals clubs that won four National League pennants and three World Series titles, Marion was as well-known among Cardinals fans as Stan Musial. He was popular with players, fans and media, and he was widely respected for his skills as a fielder and timely hitter. In 1944, Marion became the first shortstop to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Before being approached by Saigh, Marion said he hadn’t given a thought to managing, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Keane was “neck-and-neck” with Marion and “might have landed the job if he had the benefit of a rich major-league background,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “No doubt the final factors that influenced Fred Saigh were Marion’s background and popularity, and the fact Keane would be a stranger in the National League.”

Pleasing the public

Saigh told the Post-Dispatch he made the decision to hire Marion the day the announcement was made.

“He can do as good a job as anyone,” Saigh said to The Sporting News.

Marion said, “It’s my ambition to win a pennant, not just be a contender, and we’ll hope to surprise everyone.”

Marion got a one-year contract. He said he planned to continue playing while managing, but he gave up his role as player representative in baseball labor relations. Marion had been active in negotiating a pension plan for players.

Dyer and former Cardinals executive Branch Rickey were among the first to send congratulatory telegrams to Marion, the Post-Dispatch reported. Cardinals players also reacted positively. Musial said Marion “will do well as a manager” and Red Schoendienst predicted “he’ll be a good manager.”

In an editorial, the Post-Dispatch noted, “Marion in the manager’s post is a definite asset. He has the advantage of youth, ability and the wholehearted support of players and fans. His managerial inexperience may be a handicap, but that same inexperience might make him more inclined than a seasoned hand to do experimenting and play the game with the dash which made the Cardinals famous.”

Twists and turns

The Cardinals gave Marion an experienced coaching staff to lend support. The group was Ray Blades, Marion’s first big-league manager; Terry Moore, Marion’s former teammate who had coached for Dyer; Buzzy Wares, a Cardinals coach since 1930; and Mike Ryba, the former Cardinals pitcher who had been a candidate to replace Dyer.

Marion opted not to play in 1950 in order to focus on managing. He was replaced at shortstop by Solly Hemus.

The 1951 Cardinals finished 81-73, getting three more wins than they did the year before under Dyer, but were 15.5 games behind the first-place Giants. Saigh fired Marion and replaced him with Eddie Stanky.

In June 1952, Marion replaced Rogers Hornsby as Browns manager and kept the job through the 1953 season. Marion became manager of the White Sox for the last nine games of 1954 and for all of 1955 and 1956. The 1955 White Sox were 91-63 and the 1956 team was 85-69.

After losing out to Marion for the Cardinals’ big-league job, Johnny Keane continued to manage in their farm system. In 1959, when Solly Hemus became Cardinals manager, Keane got to the majors for the first time as a coach on Hemus’ staff. When Hemus was fired in July 1961, Keane replaced him and he guided the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1964, their first since Dyer was their manager.

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John Claiborne lasted a mere 22 months as Cardinals general manager because he didn’t produce the results club owner Gussie Busch wanted and didn’t connect with Busch the way Whitey Herzog did.

Forty years ago, on Aug. 18, 1980, in what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described as “a surprise move,” Busch fired Claiborne, citing “basic disagreements” between the two “regarding progress of the team in all areas of operation.” Two weeks later, Herzog was promoted from manager to general manager.

Given the authority to rebuild the Cardinals into a club featuring defense, speed and relief pitching, Herzog transformed them from losers in 1980 to World Series champions in 1982.

Front office intrigue

A St. Louis native who worked in the front offices of the Mets, Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox, Claiborne, 39, was hired to replace his mentor, Bing Devine, as Cardinals general manager in October 1978 on the recommendation of Busch’s personal attorney, Lou Susman.

In 1979, the Cardinals finished 86-76, but it was a different story the next year. The 1980 Cardinals were 8-10 in April and 8-18 in May. Claiborne had made a bad trade, acquiring Bobby Bonds to play left field after Lou Brock retired, failed to sign top free agents and didn’t obtain a closer for the bullpen.

On June 8, 1980, with the Cardinals’ record at 18-33, Claiborne fired manager Ken Boyer between games of a doubleheader and Herzog was hired as the replacement.

After a couple of weeks as manager, Herzog was called into Busch’s office and asked to give his assessment of the team. In his book, “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said he told Busch, “Well, Chief, you’ve got a bunch of prima donnas, overpaid SOBs who ain’t ever going to win a goddamned thing. You’ve got a bunch of mean people, some sorry human beings. It’s the first time I’ve ever been scared to walk through my own clubhouse. We’ve got drug problems, we’ve got ego problems and we ain’t ever going anywhere.”

Herzog said, “I’ve never seen such a bunch of misfits. Nobody would run out a ball. Nobody in the bullpen wanted the ball.”

Busch asked, “You really think it’s that bad?”

“I know so,” Herzog responded. “We’ve got to do some housecleaning.”

Personnel flops

Busch began thinking the housecleaning should start with Claiborne.

“Claiborne went to the Cardinals as an innovative thinker,” columnist Bill Conlin wrote in The Sporting News. “He convinced Gussie Busch that the free-agent raffle was a viable shortcut to a pennant. The trouble was, despite St. Louis’ willingness to spend, John couldn’t sign any first-liners.”

The free agents signed by Claiborne were pitchers Darold Knowles and Don Hood, and reserve outfielder Bernie Carbo.

“Claiborne spent too much money for too little talent,” wrote Rick Hummel in the Post-Dispatch.

Top free agents such as outfielder Pete Rose, pitcher Tommy John and closer Mike Marshall rejected Cardinals offers.

“In two or three cases, our offer actually was the best, but the player chose another club,” Claiborne said.

Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg noted Claiborne could have acquired Cubs closer Bruce Sutter for catcher Terry Kennedy, first baseman Leon Durham and second baseman Tommy Herr, but declined. “A sizable request, yes, but there’s an old saw in baseball that if you think you’re only one player away from competing for the top banana, you’ll give more than you can get,” Broeg wrote.

Claiborne “probably hesitated when he should have acted,” Post-Dispatch columnist Tom Barnidge concluded. “This club did, after all, need a relief pitcher like a cripple needs a cane.”

Drinking buddies

As Busch was contemplating what to do, Herzog met for lunch with Bing Devine and told him he was having trouble getting access to Busch. In his book, Herzog said Devine replied, “You’ve got a hell of an advantage. You drink. So does Gussie. Claiborne doesn’t drink. Just call him up and tell him you’re coming out for a few beers.”

Herzog said he followed Devine’s advice. He called Busch and told him, “I’m coming out to have a beer and a braunschweiger sandwich.”

Herzog began meeting regularly at Busch’s home and told him what should be done to improve the team. “Sometimes I’d bring him some fresh fish, which he loved, or some headcheese, which a friend of mine made. We’d sit and eat sandwiches, play gin and drink beer.”

After hearing how Herzog thought the Cardinals should be rebuilt, Busch decided Claiborne wasn’t up to the task and fired him.

Claiborne told the Post-Dispatch, “I was a failure at trying to win quickly. The blame has to be placed on someone and I accept it.”

Though Herzog undercut Claiborne by going directly to Busch with his thoughts rather than working through the general manager, Herzog was taken aback when Busch fired Claiborne, The Sporting News reported. Asked about Busch’s decision, Herzog said, “You wonder why at this time.”

Herzog said he wasn’t interested in being general manager because the job was too time-consuming. “I like to hunt, fish and golf,” Herzog said.

Executive level

Busch put attorney Lou Susman in charge of conducting a search for Claiborne’s replacement.

While Susman was interviewing candidates in New York, Herzog was called to Busch’s home by club vice president Margaret Snyder and told Busch wanted him to be general manager. Herzog asked for time to think about it.

In his book, Herzog said, “I didn’t really want to be a general manager,” but he was concerned someone would be hired who he couldn’t work with. So he called Busch and accepted.

When his promotion to general manager was announced Aug. 29, 1980, Herzog told the Post-Dispatch, “I feel I’m the right guy for the job. I don’t know how anybody can be better qualified for it than me. I decided this is one time I can control my own destiny. I sure as heck didn’t come here to be general manager, but I can do more for the Cardinals as GM than as field manager.”

Former Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst became interim manager.

Herzog wanted to hire Gene Mauch or Dick Williams to be Cardinals manager after the 1980 season but couldn’t work out an arrangement. On Oct. 24, 1980, the Cardinals announced Herzog would have the dual role of general manager and manager. Herzog hired his friend, Joe McDonald, former general manager of the Mets, to be executive assistant/baseball and take care of the administrative and business duties while Herzog focused on baseball matters.

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It took until 1964 for all the teams in the major leagues to have integrated housing for their players at spring training.

On March 4, 1964, the Minnesota Twins became the last club in the big leagues to end segregation of blacks and whites in spring training residences. The move came 99 years after the end of the Civil War and four months before enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Twins owner Calvin Griffith acted only after civil rights groups planned to picket the regular-season home opener in protest of the segregated housing practice.

Racism and inequality

In Orlando, where the Twins trained, their white players, manager, coaching staff and front-office personnel stayed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel on Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.

Because the Cherry Plaza discriminated against blacks, the Twins’ black players stayed at the Hotel Sadler. Located on West Church Street, it was described by the Orlando Sentinel as “the first hotel for blacks in central Florida.”

Most major-league teams training in Florida were slow to end segregated housing. In St. Petersburg, where the Cardinals trained, their black players stayed at a boarding house, and their white players stayed in a waterfront hotel. In 1961, activist Dr. Ralph Wimbish and Cardinals first baseman Bill White led the effort to get Cardinals owner Gussie Busch to end the segregated housing. Unable to find a suitable integrated hotel, the Cardinals leased a St. Petersburg motel and had the entire team and their families stay there.

Three years later, under duress, Calvin Griffith and the Twins did it differently.

High-rise hotel

In 1950, the Eola Plaza apartments opened in Orlando. The nine-story building was one of the tallest in the region, and nearly every room offered a view.

Businessman William Cherry bought the building in the mid-1950s and converted it into a hotel, the Cherry Plaza. It featured a nightclub, the Bamboo Room, and banquet facility, the Egyptian Room.

Calvin Griffith considered the Cherry Plaza to be the best hotel in Orlando. The Twins arranged to make it their spring training headquarters, even though the Cherry Plaza wouldn’t allow blacks to stay there.

Bellman to boss

In 1963, Henry Sadler, who had been a bellman at the San Juan Hotel in downtown Orlando, opened the Hotel Sadler, a two-story turquoise and white structure. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Sadler built the hotel with financial help from Calvin Griffith.

The Hotel Sadler became a mecca for black baseball players and entertainers such as Ray Charles and James Brown, Sadler’s daughter, Paula, told the newspaper.

“I have as good a room at the Sadler as I have anywhere in the American League,” Twins catcher Earl Battey told The Sporting News.

Speaking out

Earl Battey liked the Hotel Sadler, but he and his black teammates objected to being segregated. “Our position was that equal but separate accommodations was still discrimination,” Battey told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Another black Twins player, outfielder Lenny Green, said to The Sporting News, “We wanted to be treated like any other player.”

Minnesota Gov. Karl Rolvaag appointed a three-member review board to investigate charges of discrimination against black Twins players at spring training, The Sporting News reported. Rolvaag appointed the panel after Minnesota’s State Commission Against Discrimination ordered a public hearing.

Minnesota attorney general Walter Mondale, the future vice president of the United States, spoke out against the Twins’ segregated conditions.

Minneapolis mayor Arthur Naftalin was informed the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Congress of Racial Equality planned to picket the Twins’ regular-season home opener unless integrated housing was provided to the team.

Naftalin called Griffith and urged him to “lay down the law” to management of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and insist they admit blacks, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Quality inns

On Feb. 10, 1964, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. The proposal needed approval of the U.S. Senate before President Lyndon Johnson could enact it.

Griffith said he tried to convince Frank Flynn, manager of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, to accept blacks, but Flynn refused. Griffith said he and Twins traveling secretary Howard Fox looked into other Orlando hotels and motels, and all except the Cherry Plaza and the Robert Meyer Motor Inn, which opened on Lake Eola in 1963, were objectionable. Like the Cherry Plaza, the Robert Meyer Motor Inn wasn’t integrated.

“There are two first-class hotels in Orlando and neither will accept Negroes,” Griffith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “That’s all there is to it. Sure, there are places integrated in Orlando, but they’re nothing we would stop at. We’re not going to go to a third- or fourth-rate hotel just to accommodate the civil rights people. If we’re going to integrate, let’s go first class.”

Orlando mayor Robert Carr said it was “ridiculous” to claim good integrated accommodations were unavailable in the city.

With Griffith unwilling to take the team out of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, civil rights groups went ahead with plans for demonstrations to show “our displeasure with the team’s management for not making a strong effort to change the discrimination policy,” said Minneapolis NAACP president Curtis Chivers.

“The Negro members of the team aren’t in a position to do too much and it’s the responsibility of civil rights groups to act in their behalf,” Chivers said.

Making the move

Howard Fox indicated the threat of pickets provided the impetus for Twins management to find integrated housing, The Sporting News reported.

Twins players, coaches and manager Sam Mele were moved to the Downtowner Motor Inn, a chain motel in downtown Orlando. The motel had been integrated since it opened 15 months earlier.

Unmarried players and married players whose wives were not at spring training were moved to the Downtowner. Married players with wives present were allowed to make their own arrangements. Griffith and others in the Twins front office remained in the Cherry Plaza Hotel, The Sporting News reported.

A total of 27 members of the Twins’ team, including a half-dozen blacks, moved to the integrated motel, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

“We had to give up a little in the quality of accommodations,” Griffith told the Minneapolis newspaper. “As a matter of fact, neither the white nor the Negro players will have quite such commodious quarters as when they were separated, but we have accomplished the primary purpose of bringing our players together without discrimination.”

It’s a small world after all

On June 19, 1964, the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act. It was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Three months later, on Oct. 25, 1964, President Johnson visited Orlando and stayed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel, which integrated after passage of the Civil Rights Act.

At spring training in 1965, all of the Twins were housed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel. The Twins went on to win the 1965 American League pennant.

On Nov. 15, 1965, a month after the Dodgers beat the Twins in Game 7 of the World Series, Walt Disney held a news conference in the Egyptian Room of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and announced plans for the creation of Disney World.

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