Yawkey in, Ruppert and Kauffman Out

I truly love baseball. I think it’s a great and grand game and wouldn’t trade it for all the World Cup moments in history. But there are times I despair over the game. Some things that happen make no sense to me (maybe I’m just too dense and am missing something). Here’s an example. Why is Tom Yawkey in the Hall of Fame and Jacob Ruppert and Ewing Kauffman not?

Jacob Ruppert was born in 1867. His dad was a brewer but the son went into politics. He served for a while in the New York National Guard (hence the nickname “Colonel”) He ran as a Democrat for the US Congress from New York and served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1899 to 1907, then went into the brewing business with his dad. He rose to become President of the United States Brewers Association between 1911 and 1914. That latter year he became one of two joint owners of the New York Yankees. In 1922 he became sole owner and held the position until his death in 1939. During that period Ruppert, along with Ed Barrow (the general manager), created the Yankees Dynasty. He bought Babe Ruth, brought up Lou Gehrig, hired both Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy, signed Joe DiMaggio and Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon and Bill Dickey and…well, you get the idea. The team won pennants in 1921, 1923, 1926, and the World Series in 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, and in Ruppert’s death year, 1939.

Ewing Kauffman was born in 1916, fought in World War II (US Navy), then opened a pharmaceuticals business in 1950. He made a ton of money and merged his company with Merrill Dow in 1989. In the 1970s he brought baseball back to Kansas City. He founded the Royals, named in honor of the old Negro League team the Monarchs. His Royals Academy was innovative, if not overly successful, but it did get us Frank White. He brought George Brett to the big leagues, made his team relevant in a small market and won a pennant in 1980 and a World Series in 1985. The Royals also made the playoffs a slew of times. He built Royals Stadium, a truly state-of-the-art ballpark when it came on-line.  He died in 1993. The Royals were still relevant and had a winning record that season.

Tom Yawkey was born in 1903 in Detroit, adopted by an uncle and inherited a fortune when the uncle died. Yawkey attended Yale, graduated, and purchased the Boston Red Sox in 1933. He owned them until his death in 1976. During that period the Sox won three pennants (1946, 1967, and 1975) and lost all three World Series’, each in seven games. He also passed on integrating baseball when he decided the Sox couldn’t use Jackie Robinson and later couldn’t use Willie Mays. In 1980 Yawkey was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the first non-player, non-manager, non-general manager team owner chosen for Cooperstown.

All this brings me back to my original question: “Why is Yawkey a Hall of Famer and the other two aren’t?” Forget for a moment the racism involved in Yawkey’s refusal to integrate his team. I know nothing about Ruppert’s views on race so I don’t know how we should look at him on the issue. Maybe he felt the same way, maybe he ddn’t. And by Kauffman’s  era the idea of a lily white ball team was ludicrous whatever he thought of the possibility. Take a simple look at the three men’s record as championship owners and tell me who you like. Bet you like Ruppert a lot, right? He is arguably the most successful owner in baseball history. And Kauffman isn’t bad either. Consider how small a market Kansas City really is then consider how well the team did with Kauffman at the helm. OK, it isn’t the Yankees, but neither is anyone else. Through good ownership, wonderful hiring policies, great talent, the Royals go from neophytes to champs in less than 10 years (a little more to actually win the World Series). I figure that’s pretty good, especially when you consider what’s happened to KC since Kauffman died. And what do we get under Yawkey in 40 years? Three pennants and zero World Series victories despite having some truly great players. In some ways I think Kauffman did the best because he won with less available than Ruppert, but you can’t push aside Ruppert’s contributions.

I was unable to find the Veteran’s Committee membership list for 1980, the year Yawkey was elected. Maybe the committee was stacked with ex-Red Sox that liked and lobbied for the old man (if anyone finds the list, publish it in the comments section, please). Maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know. Although I would not have voted for Yawkey had I been on the committee, I’m not even sure it was a total mistake to elect him. What I know is a mistake is that neither Colonel Ruppert nor Ewing Kauffman have plaques alongside Yawkey’s.

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One Response to “Yawkey in, Ruppert and Kauffman Out”

  1. sportsphd Says:

    Excellent points. Yawkey’s election makes no sense in context. Compared with other owners, he is unremarkable. His legacy, from Robinson to Pumpsie Green is abysmal, and he doesn’t have the external arguments to overcome it.

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