Nov 12, 1920: Baseball's 1st Commissioner

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – In the song Won’t get fooled again by The Who, Pete Townsend wrote, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” That’s an apt description of what happened with the hierarchy of Major League Baseball on this date in 1920. baseball-commissioner-kenesaw-mountain-landis-yankee-stadium-1923MLB owners gave in to Federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis and named him the game's first Commissioner.

With the public relations nightmare of the 1919 Black Sox scandal coming to light owners were pursuing a more independent 3-member commission to rule the game. A favorite of the owners to be one of the commissioners was Landis, but he would only serve if he was sole Commissioner. That's how a single baseball Commissioner came to be.

According to Leonard Koppett, author of Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball, Judge Landis negotiated a pretty good deal to help major league baseball "come clean." He got an annual salary of $50,000 for seven years. He would remain on the federal bench, but his $7,500 judge salary would be deducted from his baseball salary

Koppett suspects Landis was named commissioner as payback for bailing out major league baseball when he was the presiding judge over an antitrust lawsuit in 1915.

While the antitrust litigation had a more lasting effect, Kennesaw Mountain Landis is most remembered for banning eight members of the Chicago White Sox for life in 1921 for throwing the 1919 World Series. A jury had found the players not guilty of throwing the series - partly because confessions they made were lost - but Judge Landis didn't care about the acquittals. His view was they confessed to accepting bribes, so they were forbidden to ever play major league baseball again.

Kennesaw Mountain Landis was Commissioner for 24 years - the longest of any baseball commissioner.

Contributing sources:
Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball
, by Leonard Koppett, 2004

Nov 11, 1981 - Fernando-mania

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORINIA – Los Angeles Dodger phenom pitcher Fernando Valenzuela became the first rookie to win the Cy Young award on this date in 1981. The award goes to the best pitcher in either league, as determined by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Valenzuela took Southern California and the entire baseball world by storm that summer with his composure (he was just a few days past his 21st birthday), enthusiasm and ability.

He finished the ’81 season 13 - 7, with a 2.48 ERA (earned run average). Valenzuela beat out Tom SeaverSteve Carlton and Nolan Ryan for the award. Valenzuela played 17 years in the major leagues, winning 173 and losing 153.

Contributing Sources:
“Fairy Tale Ending to Fairy Tale season,” by Mike Littwin, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1981
1981 Post-season awards 

Nov 08, 2007: Name change does wonders

It's the Shirts!

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - The Tampa Bay Devil Rays' road to the 2008 World Series started on this date in 2007. More than 7,000 fans showed up at Straub Park in St. Petersburg on a Thursday in November to usher in the new age of the Rays, no longer named for a sea creature, but for the ever present bright light in the sky.


The Devil Rays struggled to get 7,000 fans in the stands for some games, but this was a new day.

According to the St. Petersburg Times 18 current and former Rays players showed off new uniforms with a new logo and a new name. The players, the manager and the fans were impressed. Veteran Devil Ray Carl Crawford (later traded to the Boston Red Sox and then the Los Angeles Dodgers) told the Times, "It feels like a fresh start." Manager Joe Maddon (now managing the Cubs) said, "[They] have a classic look to them... you're always looking for that symbolic moment to really move on to that next area... getting to the playoffs, et cetera."

Et cetera ended up being the 2008 World Series. The "Devil Rays" won just 66 games in 2007 and came in last in the American League East. The following year the "Rays" won 97, knocked the White Sox and Red Sox out of the playoffs to get to the World Series, which they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 4 games to 1.

St. Petersburg Times, November 8, 2007

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Nov 4, 1889: New Major League is born

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - On this date in 1889 a group of fed up National League ballplayers met in New York to form a competing major league (the American League had not yet been established). It would be called the Players' League.

The players' major gripe with the National League was a salary classification system imposed in 1888.

According to Leonard Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball about three dozen players met on the 4th and 5th of November to line up financial backers and discuss other arrangements. The plan had quietly been in the works for over a year, precipitated by the owners having sole discretion to decide which "class" each player belonged, and therefore what his salary would be:

  • Class A - $2,500
  • Class B - $2,250
  • Class C - $2,000
  • Class D - $1,750
  • Class E - $1,500

The players were led by John Montgomery Ward, a 25-year old infielder for the New York Gothams (today's San Francisco Giants) just out of Columbia University Law School. The Players League was launched the next season:

  • The League would be in 8 cities, 7 of which already had National League teams
  • There would be no reserve clause tying a player to one team
  • Gate receipts would be shared 50-50 with the visiting team
  • Players could purchase stock in their own teams

What was essentially a job action by the players didn't last. After one season, 1890, many of the financial backers got cold feet. In 1891 the players who were good enough went back to the National League where the reserve clause was still intact and would be for decades to come.

This baseball history story about the Players' League is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

Nov 02, 1964: CBS buys Yankees

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - CBS, the broadcasting company, became principle owner of the New York Yankees on this date in 1964. It paid $11.2 million for the privilege. That much wouldn't pay for the restrooms in today's Yankee Stadium.

According to Forbes magazine, as of March 2016, the Yankee franchise is worth $3.4 Billion (that's Billion with a "B"), an increase of over 300-fold from what CBS paid for the team in 1964.

Acording to Forbes valuations of MLB teams, 17 of them are now worth more than a Billion dollars:

1   New York Yankees.....$3.4 Billion
2   Los Angeles Dodgers.....$2.5 Billion
3   Boston Red Sox.....$2.3 Billion
4   San Francisco Giants.....$2.25 Billion
5   Chicago Cubs.....$2.2 Billion
6   New York Mets.....$1.65 Billion
St. Louis Cardinals.....$1.6 Billion
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.....$1.34 Billion
Washington Nationals.....$1.3 Billion
10 Philadelphia Phillies.....$1.24 Billion
Texas Rangers.....$1.23 Billion
Seattle Mariners.....$1.2 Billion 
13 Atlanta Braves.....$1.75 Billion
14 Detroit Tigers.....$1.5 Billion
15 Houston Astros.....$1.1 Billion
16 Chicago White Sox.....$1.05 Billion
17 Baltimore Orioles.....$1 Billion 
Pittsburgh Pirates.....$975 million
19 Arizona Diamondbacks.....$925 million
20 Minnesota Twins.....$910 million
21 Cincinnati Reds.....$905 million
22 Toronto Blue Jays.....$900 million
23 San Diego Padres.....$890 million
24 Milwaukee Brewers.....$875 million 
25 Kansas City Royals.....$865 million
26 Colorado Rockies.....$860 million
27 Cleveland Indians.....$800 million
28 Oakland Athletics.....$725 million
29 Florida Marlins.....$675 million 
30 Tampa Bay Rays.....$650 million

Here is a facinating interactive graphic published by Bloomberg in 2013 which shows, among other things, which teams got the most for their money and how valuable TV and radio contracts are, especially in big cities.

The New York Times, November 3, 1964, by Leonard Koppett 
Forbes, "Baseball's Most valuable Teams," March 23, 2016  

This baseball history story about team value is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

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