This year the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee is charged with making a decision on the worthiness of four contributors for enshrinement at Cooperstown. Here’s a short look at each.
Daniel “Doc” Adams was a medical doctor who can be legitimately designated as one of the founders of baseball. An early member of the Knickerbockers, he served as club president, later serving (and heading) the committee that drafted a set of rules under which the National Association of Base Ball Players operated. He claimed credit for inventing the shortstop position (although we have no contemporary evidence he did). It is provable that he did help foster a series of rules that made the game work much like the modern game.
Sam Breaden was a successful auto dealer who purchased a part of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1917. In 1920 he took control of the team and the team that had been a perennial loser since the 1880s became a National League powerhouse and arguably the second most successful franchise (behind the New York Yankees) in baseball. While owner his team won nine pennants and picked up a World Series victory six times. He understood and utilized the talents of initial manager Branch Rickey by moving Rickey to the front office. He further understood Rickey’s idea of a “farm system” would benefit the Cardinals, and ultimately all of baseball. He made Rogers Hornsby, the team’s star player, the manager and the Cards won a pennant and a championship. He later moved Hornsby to another team when it became evident the manager was alienating the entire clubhouse (not to mention disagreeing with Breaden over exhibition games). In 1947 he joined NL President Ford Frick in stifling a player revolt in St. Louis over the arrival of Jackie Robinson in the majors. He sold the team in 1947.
August “Gerry” Hermann was a wealthy Cincinnati political figure who purchased part interest in the Cincinnati Reds in 1902. He became chief of baseball operations and team President. In 1903 he helped broker the “Cincinnati Peace Treaty” that ended the war between the National League and the new American League. He was chosen President of the National Commission, the executive group that ran baseball, and remained President until the Commission was dissolved in 1920. He is sometimes, erroneously, called “The Father of the World Series.” He did push for the reinstatement of the World Series after it was not played in 1904 and had backed Barney Dreyfuss in creating the original Series in 1903. He remained owner of the Reds until 1927.
Chris von der Ahe may have been the most colorful man to ever own a Major League team. He ran a grocery and saloon and in 1892, seeing an opportunity to make money on tickets and selling beer, purchased the St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals). Knowing nothing about baseball when he initially purchased the team, he built a successful franchise that won four consecutive American Association pennants in the 1880s by listening to his manager (Charles Comiskey) and having a shrew knowledge of finance. He is alleged to have invented the ballpark hot dog and to have established the first recreational area at a ball park (it was a beer garden). Both of those statements may or may not be true. In 1891 he moved his team to the National League (the American Association folded), but the team was unsuccessful competing in the new league and he was forced out as owner in 1898. The statue accompanying this blurb originally stood in front of the Browns stadium in St. Louis and is currently located above von der Ahe’s grave.
Again, where do I stand on these four? I have personal rule that, as a rule, I don’t like to see more than one contributing non-player elected to the Hall of Fame in a single year. It’s not hard and fast, so I’m quite willing to bend it this time. “Doc” Adams is an easy call for me as one of the true pioneers of the game and Hermann deserves to be in for his handling of the “League War” of 1901-03, his determination to reestablish the World Series, and for his leadership of the National Commission. Although the Black Sox scandal happened on his watch, as the Cincy owner he was more than willing to overlook the innuendos of fixing because he believed his team had genuinely won fairly. I think eventually Breaden ought to go in, but not this time. And as for von der Ahe, frankly I don’t have any idea exactly how to separate a character like him from his baseball achievements (but, heck, how many owners have a stadium statue?). He’s one of the more fun people in baseball to study, but I don’t think that makes him a Hall of Famer.
That concludes this year’s look at the Vets ballot. Fell free to either agree or disagree.