Posts Tagged ‘August Hermann’

The 2015 Veteran’s Committee Election: the Contributors

October 16, 2015

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.

Doc Adams

Doc Adams

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.

Samuel Breaden

Samuel Breaden

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 Hermann

August Hermann

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.

the statue on Chris von der Ahe's grave

the statue on Chris von der Ahe’s grave

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.

The Peacemaker

June 5, 2015
August Hermann in 1905

August Hermann in 1905

I want to take the time to introduce you to one of the most important men ever involved in baseball. His name was August Hermann; he owned the Cincinnati Reds. He also brought together the warring sides in 1903 and produced the peace that allowed for the two Major Leagues to work together, to sanction a postseason set of games, and to work out their contract issues. Although Barney Dreyfuss invented the World Series, Hermann is the man who made it annual.

August Hermann was born in 1859 in Cincinnati. He worked a series of odd jobs eventually going into printing. He began the Hamilton County Law Bulletin which got him into politics. He served as court clerk, a member of the Cincinnati school board, and chairman of the city Water Commission. All that made him both well-known and reasonably wealthy. He was also a baseball fan.

In 1902 he joined three other men in purchasing the Reds. He got the job of actually running the team. And it’s here that he began to make his mark on the sport. The Reds were in a dispute with the American League about who owned the rights to future Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Crawford. It was one small problem in a host of difficulties that were tearing up the Major Leagues in 1902. The newly formed American League was putting teams in towns that were National League cities, they were raiding NL rosters for the best quality players, and they were scheduling games opposite NL games that cut into profits for the existing league.

Hermann decided all this was destroying the sport and, as importantly, the profits available from it. So he began his tenure as owner of the Reds by giving up all claim to Crawford. That got the attention of AL President Ban Johnson. He and Hermann knew each other from Johnson’s days as a Cincinnati sports reporter, but were only casual acquaintances. Nevertheless, Johnson determined that he might have an ally in the NL and began corresponding with Hermann. The two men met, talked over the issues pressing baseball, and Hermann then agreed to host a meeting between Johnson, some of his allies, and the NL leadership.

The result was the National Agreement of 10 January 1903. The agreement established a “National Commission” to govern the sport and work out the problems that were currently creating difficulties. Both league presidents were members, but a third member was needed to break any ties. Johnson nominated Hermann as both a member and the President of the Commission and he was elected easily. For the next several years August Hermann, as both the President and the tie breaker on the Commission, was one of the single most significant people in baseball. He held the position into 1920.

One of his first moves was to support Barney Dreyfuss, Pittsburgh owner, in establishing a postseason series of games to be called the World Series between the NL and the AL. His support was critical for renewing the Series after it wasn’t played in 1904. He is sometimes known as “the father of the World Series.” Although Dreyfuss should probably be given more credit than Hermann for inventing the Series, Hermann was instrumental in making sure it continued.

There’s a lot more on Hermann. But I want this to concentrate on his role in establishing peace between the leagues and supporting the creation of a postseason series. He is one of the most overlooked of all the early owners and should be, in my opinion, seriously considered for the Hall of Fame.