Tag Archives: William J. O'Connor

“The Chief Menace to Baseball”

5 Feb

“To my mind the chief menace to baseball, under its present handicaps, is the presence of so much big money behind certain clubs.”

So said Robert Hedges to John E. Wray of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch after he sold the St. Louis Browns in December of 1915.

“There are in the game today certain capitalists financially able to force a winner.”

Frank Menke of the National News Association asked:

“Is Hedges right—or wrong?”

Hedges

Menke said the “greatest team ever welded together in American League history was Connie Mack’s Athletics.”

Mack, he said, “didn’t pay much more for his stars than the ordinary man pays in one year for cigars.”

In the National League he said the Giants were “supposed to be backed by wealth…and unlimited bank roll was at the command of John McGraw in 1915,” but the Giants had finished last.

Charles Comiskey, he said “spent more than $100,000 in trying to ‘buy’ a pennant winner. He failed.”

The National League pennant winning Phillies, he said, “are not wealthy yet they breezed in under the wire a winner,” and did so with “a bunch of misfits making u the club.”

Menke concluded:

“Money can’t make ‘em win a pennant.”

Hedges might have been carrying a grudge about other owners who, he alleged, refused to make deals with him.

Sid Keener of The St. Louis Times claimed Indians owner Charles Somers “Lied” to Hedges and told him Joe Jackson was not available before trading him to the White Sox for three players and $31,500 in August of 1915 (The $31,500 price is according the Baseball Reference; contemporaneous accounts in the Chicago and Cleveland papers reported the sale price between $15,000 and $25,000, while The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the sale price as $30,000).

Jackson

Hedges said he offered $20,000 but was told by Somers, “Jackson is not for sale at any price.”

The Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the sale seems to refute the claim that Hedges was misled about Jackson’s availability, implying that the Browns “bid $20,000,” for Jackson and were simply outbid by Comiskey’s offer which included three players.

The Cleveland News said that early in the negotiations for Jackson, Comiskey offered only $20,000:

“Friday, (the day before the deal was finalized) Clark Griffith offered $20,000 for Jackson and later tendered a proposition which carried $12,500 in cash and infielder Ray Morgan. Hedges might have landed the Indians’ slugger for $15,000 and a couple of players.”

Hedges apparently ended up making quite a haul on his investment in the Browns. When he sold the club to Philip De Catesby Ball, who owned the Federal league St. Louis Terriers in 1914-15, Keener said in The Times:

“Hedges, long dubbed “Tail-End Bob” by his fellow magnates, is quitting the game with $500,00, quite an increase over the $30,000 he had when he came in with the American League with the first baseball raid, investing that amount with the Milwaukee franchise. Although the Browns have been the joke team of the circuit, and although Hedges has been panned time and time again for seemingly inexcusable errors, no one doubts his business ability.”

Keener estimated that Hedges walked away with $252,000 from the sale alone.

The Post-Dispatch was less sure of Hedges’ business acumen. The paper had reported on the day of the sale, December 24, the same figure as Keener—that Hedges made $225,000 from the sale—however, on Christmas Day, Post-Dispatch reporter William J. O’Connor told a different story:

“That Col. R.L. Hedges was only a spectator during the final days of negotiations for the sale of the Browns and that he didn’t realize fully on the profits made on the stock of the minority shareholders who sold to a Cincinnati syndicate for $500 the share, are the latest developments in the local baseball plot.”

O’Connor claimed Hedges “lost control of stock” in the club before the sale and the majority of the estimated $400,000 sale price—Ball told the paper $400,000 wasn’t “near the real price,” but he was “pledged to secrecy” regarding the actual amount—went to the Cincinnati syndicate that bought out the minority stockholders.

Lynn Carlisle “L.C.” Davis of The Post-Dispatch concluded that Hedges did not make the amount originally reported, but:

“While Col. Hedges may have received the hot end of the poker in disposing of the Browns stock, it is though that the Colonel will have enough to tide him over the winter and discourage the wolf from hanging around the portcullis next winter.”

Davis, on another occasion, told readers about the “peculiar case’ of the Browns owner being called “Colonel” Hedges:

“His title was not earned on either the field of battle or politics. It just grew on him and stuck.”

Hedges, who was rumored to be interested in purchasing another club—most notably the Cincinnati Reds, never returned to baseball.

He died in 1932.