No announcement yet.

The Cannons

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The Cannons

    Raymond J. Cannon

    Raymond Cannon was born on August 26, 1892 (per his WWI Registration card though most references cite 1894 – which really doesn’t jive with the fact that Raymond was listed as a teacher in 1910) in Ironwood, Michigan. His parents died when he was six months old. Cannon and his brother Earl, two years older, were placed in an orphanage where they remained for much of their formative years.

    By 1905 (per the Wisconsin Census), the brothers were taken in by their Aunt Margaret Kenneley, born in February 1871, who lived with her sister Sarah, Sarah’s husband William Small and family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Kenneleys were born in Wisconsin, though their parents hailed from Ireland.

    By 1910, Kenneley and her nephews had moved to their own residence. She was a teacher at a local grade school. Raymond and Earl were also listed as teachers in the 1910. Raymond taught in Minocqua, Wisconsin from 1910-11 before entering Marquette Law School. He graduated from Marquette and was admitted to the Wisconsin bar in 1914.

    Cannon was described as an aggressive lawyer who helped form and was a partner in Cannon & Waldron from 1914 until 1929. He was also a semi-pro pitcher who played off and on from 1908-22. While at Marquette he pitched in the Class-C Wisconsin-Illinois League.

    Cannon landed Jack Dempsey as a client after initially being hired by boxing promoter Tom Andrews to assist with the upcoming Dempsey-Fred Fulton precursor match (with the winner to face Jess Willard) set for Milwaukee in 1918. Cannon drew up the contracts for the Willard and Carpentier matches and also successfully represented Dempsey in a lawsuit to nullify his contract with boxing manager John Reisler. Cannon would later sue Dempsey for his lawyer fees in the latter matter, settling for $20,000.

    In the aftermath of the thrown 1919 World Series Cannon was hired by Milwaukee native Happy Felsch to regain back pay, un-remitted World Series earnings and damages for termination of his major league career from Charles Comiskey and the White Sox. He was subsequently hired by Buck Weaver, Joe Jackson and Swede Risberg for the same purpose. Jackson was also potentially due his 1921 salary as part of a three-year deal signed in 1919.

    Cannon thus became involved in baseball politics in 1922. He vehemently detested the U.S. Supreme Court decision that year which essentially gave baseball executives an anti-trust exemption, claiming that the sport was not involved in interstate commerce. He was also honestly put off by ownerships virtual control over each player’s destiny via the reserve clause, the one-sided 10-day release clause and the low salary of the average baseball player. The latter issue became a hot topic after the Black Sox incident came to light in late 1920.

    In 1922 Cannon formally formed the National Baseball Players Association and gained, at least initially, considerable support of ballplayers from both the National and American Leagues.

    Cannon proceeded to trial in the Jackson matter, filing suit for $119,000 (later reduced to $18,200) in early 1923. It was eventually heard before a Milwaukee (the White Sox were incorporated in Wisconsin) jury beginning on January 28, 1924. Cannon basically argued that Chicago officials, particularly Harry Grabiner, treated the illiterate Jackson unfairly during contract and other legal discussions (for further reading consult Black Sox researcher Gene Carney’s writings). The jury granted Jackson a $16,711.04 verdict, but it was set aside by the judge. The two sides eventually settled (in Comiskey’s favor).

    Cannon had gathered some negative press due to the fact that he was representing the discredited Black Sox ballplayers. He was also indicted in February 1923 for “bribing” the local district attorney with a case of champagne. The preceding two issues basically ruined his credibility with baseball fans and the active players. As a result, the Players Association quickly folded after the negative press of the 1924 trial. Cannon though continued to represent Jackson for years to come. His law license was suspended for two years beginning in 1928 for "ambulance chasing." (That's when he ran for a spot on the State Supreme Court, because they had suspended him.)

    In 1932 Cannon was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 4th Wisconsin district. He served as a congressman from 1933-39. (He was also defeated in an attempt to join the Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1930, and two runs each for governor, 1938 and ’42, and again for congressman in 1940 and ’42.) After losing his office D.C. in 1939, Cannon returned to Milwaukee and practiced law until his passing on November 25, 1951.

    Congressman Cannon made repeated attempts in 1937 to challenge baseball’s anti-trust exemption, specifically latching onto the “obvious” fact that the sport engages in interstate commerce. He sent multiple letters to the U.S. Attorney General requesting that he reevaluate Major League Baseball’s status. If not, he threatened congressional action. All this bluster went to no avail.

    Robert C. Cannon

    Raymond and Alice Cannon were married in 1915. Their oldest child Robert was born in 1917 or 1918 in Milwaukee. The Cannons moved to Washington D.C. during Raymond’s tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. There, Robert attended Catholic University and Georgetown. After graduation, Robert entered his father’s alma mater Marquette University, graduating with a law degree in 1941.

    Cannon then joined the bar in Wisconsin and landed a job as special assistant to the U.S. District Attorney. He kept that position until being elected judge in the Milwaukee civil court in 1946. At the time Cannon was the youngest elected judge in the United States (perhaps in history). In 1954 he was elected to the Wisconsin 2nd Circuit Court where he served for the next 25 years.

    In 1959 J. Norman Lewis, a New York lawyer, was fired as lead counsel by the Players Association (another version). Lewis was originally hired in August 1953 to help player representatives on the pension committee, Allie Reynolds and Ralph Kiner, negotiate a better deal. The pension plan was created in 1946 but the players had made little progress after the initial concessions. The players also found that grievances were falling on deaf ears. Lewis reached his first agreement in April 1954, tying funding for the pension to All-Star game receipts and radio and television money from the World Series.

    The Players Association already had director and secretary Frank Scott, the first universal player agent. He oversaw financial matters involving the Players Association, such as, product sponsorship and personal appearances.

    Scott was born Oct. 17, 1917, in Pittsburgh and grew up there. At the University of Pittsburgh, he was a student manager for the 1937 football team, which won the Rose Bowl. When Pittsburgh's coach, Jock Sutherland, became coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National Football League, the Dodgers' owner, Dan Topping, at Sutherland's urging, hired Scott as traveling secretary.

    Scott held the job from 1940 to 1942, then served in the Navy. After World War II, when Topping owned the Yankees, Scott became their traveling secretary from 1947 to 1950. In 1948, Scott and his wife-to-be eloped in DiMaggio's car.

    When George Weiss, the Yankee general manager, thought Scott had become too close to the players (His first clients were Berra, Mantle and Maris. Later baseball clients included Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Whitey Ford, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Larry Doby, Walter Alston, Ralph Branca, Bob Feller and Roy Campanella. He also represented Vince Lombardi, Frank Gifford and Y. A. Tittle from football and Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy from basketball.) Weiss forced him out of his job. Scott started representing players, and as Shirley Povich wrote in 1957 in The Saturday Evening Post:

    ''Scott knew an agent's place. He was too smart to meddle in the players' salary debates with the ball club. He knew, too, that there had to be rigid respect for the rule that the players' first obligation was to the ball club.''
    After Lewis was fired, the players felt a need to have a central office to “make it feasible for ballplayers to register their views and opinions on any matters pertaining to association policy or player welfare.” In 1959 the players amassed a list of ten lawyers to interview to replace Lewis as legal counsel.
    Bob Friend, National League player rep, and American League rep Harvey Kuenn pushed the players to hire Cannon. He was hired on December 4, 1959, initially to protect the pension fund and handle player grievances; however, Cannon essentially became the association’s de facto director. He did so as a part-time unpaid employee, keeping his position on the circuit court bench.

    In 1959 the major leagues began playing two All-Star Games, thus, increasing the revenue flow into the players’ pension. Cannon negotiated the continuation of the dual game system through 1962. Other issues Cannon involved himself in on a pro bono, part-time basis include:
    -normal player grievances
    -Bonus Baby grievances (centering on the fact that these inexperienced players were often wasting a roster spot, sometimes playing very little – rules required the Bonus Babies to remain on the major league roster for two years)
    -attempting to develop an employment agency helping players find off-season work

    Pension benefits kept rising due in large part to negotiations initiated prior to Cannon taking office, not from any great initiatives he made. Cannon reaped the benefits of this though, gaining a favorable view from most - especially the owners who viewed him as a quasi ally. (Major League Baseball secretary/treasurer Charles Segar actually administered the pension program, since 1951)

    Cannon wasn’t the aggressive lawyer his father was. In fact, hired as the players’ representative, Cannon went beyond the point of being friendly with management; he was downright conciliatory and spent considerable amount of time and effort empathizing with their perspective. Among his many views and conciliatory advice and measures were:
    -He wanted to avoid jeopardizing “the fine relationship existing between the players and the club owners.”
    -He counseled the players against taking their problems to politicians in relation to anti-trust issues.
    -Advised Pirates not to press their grievances over scheduling issues in 1962.
    -Endorsed the reserve clause.
    -Praised the pension fund as the finest in the world.
    -Told a congressional committee that the players have it good and “don’t know what to ask for next.”
    -When the issue of Pay TV arose, Cannon just ignored the entire topic, lamenting that the owners will surely treat the players fairly.
    - Continually cautioned players about challenging the owners.
    -Told the ballplayers how good they had it with their financial advantages and security.
    -Continually showed deep respect for the owners’ plight and concerns, as if he took an extraordinary amount of time contemplating it. As the Christian Science Monitor stated, Cannon “has a perfectly balanced sense of responsibility in his relations with ballplayer and owner” – as if he was somehow the owners’ representative.
    -Made statements more than once to the effect that owners had “good reason” to oppose such and such proposed measures.

    The above sounds suspiciously like the owners hired a ringer to “work” the players from inside their ranks. They didn’t; he just fell in their laps. It’s no wonder that Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey smiled when thinking about Cannon, calling him “one of the major improvements in baseball in my time.” It’s also no wonder Cannon’s name was being bandied about as early as 1961 as a potential replacement for Commissioner Ford Frick. It was a post he coveted.

    Cannon made sweeping statements, such as, “The relationship today between player and owner is on a very high level. As long as there is mutual understanding and respect, each trying to understand the other’s problems, we will always be able to sit down and talk things over, no matter what our problems might be.” Statements like this show just how out of touch he was. The tense and hard-fought labor battles of the 1970s to present bare this out.

    In late 1965 the players decided they needed a full-time, New York-based director. Cannon wanted the job (he had just lost out on the commissioner’s job, perhaps by as few as one vote). Most favored his candidacy but some wanted to explore their options. Player reps interviewed former Vice President Richard Nixon and labor leader Marvin Miller, among others. Feeling leery about Miller as a “union type,” the player reps offered the job to Cannon.

    On January 27, 1966 Cannon was named as the new full-time leader of the Players Association and given a five-year contract at $50,000 a year. (He made $25,000 a year as a judge.) Frank Scott immediately resigned. The owners were so tickled to have their man leading the union that they immediately committed 35% of the profits from the All-Star game to pay his salary and office expenses. However, a week later Cannon came back at the players with new conditions of employment. He didn’t want to leave his home in Milwaukee and he wanted to maintain his position on the bench. Cannon then inquired what kind of pension the players were offering him. As one player rep later noted, this “pissed” them off. The players withdrew their offer to Cannon. The job as executive director was then offered to New York-native Marvin Miller who accepted on March 5.

    Cannon would maintain ties within the baseball industry. His assistance would be helpful in Bud Selig’s drive to secure a major league franchise for Milwaukee.
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 04-08-2008, 10:08 AM.

  • #2
    There is an argument to be made that Bob Cannon was a plus for the players. His contributions were indeed viewed differently at the time - many considering him an asset to the game.

    In light of Marvin Miller's entry into the game and teaching all what exactly a union was and how to accomplish things, Cannon falls way short in hindsight. He was of course hired as much for his legal expertise as for the fact that he would do it pro bono. It is also obvious that the players didn't want more at the time - they were content to have some guy sitting in Milwaukee doing his full-time job and just popping up every now and again to handle some baseball issue.

    The would "union" could have negative connotations for many. This is part of the reason that players traditionally shied away from unions - especially considering baseball is an industry highly pliable and answerable to the media and public opinion.

    It is also interesting the differences of approach between father and son. In part it represents their career paths - stable judge drawing a salary and plaintiff's attorney always forced to cloaw for his next paycheck.

    I think it is also telling Robert's demand for a pension in 1966. It seems to me he craved stability above all else in life - hence his refusal to rock the boat and confront management on most any subject. From the get-go (in 1959) he was enamored with the players' pension. I think he saw that and believed the owners were the nicest people in the world. He viewed all else in relation to this. When topics like tv money came up, Cannon just blushed at all the money flowing around and ASSUMED the owners would give the players their fair share.

    Bob Cannon also spent way too much time trying to place ballplayers in off-season jobs. Remember he was only doing baseball work on the side - his time could have been much better spent trying to carve extra pieces of the pie for the players.

    Marvin Miller was a godsend. Much of the working class of the country understood the benefits a union could provide but ballplayers just didn't get it - perhaps because they were taken right out of high school and brought into pro ball. maybe it's unfair but Robert cannon just looks like a toady in comparison to Miller. Miller himself never had a kind word for Cannon; in fact, he had nothing but disgust for his positions, advice and efforts.


    Ad Widget