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The Commissioner Series: Ford C. Frick

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  • The Commissioner Series: Ford C. Frick

    Ford Christopher Frick (1894-1978)

    3rd commissioner of baseball.

    Tenure: (September 1951 - November 1965)

    English Teacher, newspaperman, ghost writer. Ford Frick was a man who loved the written word. After graduating from university, Ford Frick became an English teacher and a freelance writer. After 2 years of teaching adverbs, adjectives and sentence structure, Frick left the teaching post to become a supervisor of a rehabilitation division of the War Department.

    Writing was in his blood and despite his new job, Frick was feeling the "itch"! In 1922 Frick joined the sports staff of the New York American. In August 1923, he moved to the Evening Journal. While employed there, he covered the Yankees and became a ghostwriter for Babe Ruth. This would have a lasting impact on MLB. In May 1930, Frick expanded his efforts to radio and worked as a sportscaster with WOR. In 1934, he was named the first director of the National League Service Bureau, the publicity outlet for the National League.

    On November 8, 1934, shortly before his 40th birthday, Frick was elected President of the National League. One of Frick's first acts as NL President was an enthusiastic endorsement of the proposed National Baseball Museum and a suggestion to include a Hall of Fame to honor the game's greats. This was a good for the game of baseball and part of the legacy of Ford Frick.

    During his league presidency, he was instrumental in saving the Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Boston franchises from bankruptcy, and also helped place the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh clubs on firmer financial footing. When members of the Cardinals decided to protest Jackie Robinson's inclusion in MLB, Frick threatened any players involved with suspension.

    In 1951 he was the unanimous choice of owners for the role of commissioner of baseball. He was given a second, seven-year contract in 1958.

    In my opinion, Frick was an excellent NL President, he should have stayed in that role. He seemed very much his own man as an NL President. As Commissioner, rumor had it that Walter O'Malley was the real man running the Commissioner office.

    The biggest change during his term as commissioner was the expansion and relocation of MLB. Teams moved from East to West, North to South and all points in between. The biggest blow was to the city of New York which lost the Dodgers and the Giants under Frick's leadership. You would think the numerous franchise moves would be enough of a headache but the changes also included the growth from eight to ten teams in each league. To mollify Congress, which had held anti-trust hearings into the baseball business in 1959, MLB put a new franchise in Washington.

    Other highlights of Ford Frick's tenure included:

    The establishment of multiple national television contracts
    A league draft and college scholarship system
    The introduction of baseball on the international level in countries such as Japan, Central America, Holland, Italy and Africa.

    His most controversial decision came in 1961 when he caved under pressure from the sports writing community (that he had once been a part of) and ruled that Roger Maris' record sixty-one home run season should be recorded with an asterisk due to the fact it transpired over a one-hundred sixty-two game period as opposed to the one-hundred fifty-four that Babe Ruth experienced. This suggestion stood for the next thirty years and would remain as a black eye on an otherwise stellar career.

    He was also criticized for favoring the NL during the period of expansion.

    Frick retired in November 1965 at the age of 71. He died on April 10, 1978, at the age of 83. Frick would later go on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970. In 1978, he became the namesake of the Ford C. Frick Award, given to outstanding Hall of Fame broadcasters

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