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The Commissioner Series: William "Spike" Eckert

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  • The Commissioner Series: William "Spike" Eckert

    William Dole "Spike" Eckert (1909-1971)

    4th commissioner of baseball.

    Tenure: (November 1965 - December 1968)

    William Eckert was not a politician. He wasn't a judge, nor was he a baseball man. Willam Eckert was a soldier and a darn good one. He also had the shortest term as MLB Commissioner of all the previous candidates.

    Eckert graduated from the US Military Academy in June of 1930. It was here, while playing football, that he earned his nickname "Spike." After graduating from the Academy, he attended the Air Corps Flying Schools in San Antonio, Texas, graduating in October 1931. In 1938, he was chosen as one of two officers for further education at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and graduated with a Master's Degree in June 1940.

    In 1957, at the age of 48, Eckert became the youngest three-star officer in the US Armed Forces when he was commissioned lieutenant general. He continued his work in the military until his retirement in 1961 when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for an outstanding career in the Air Force.

    Prior to becoming the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Eckert worked as a management consultant to the aviation industry. During this period, he served on the boards of directors of several corporations.

    The owners looked at the landscape that was MLB and decided that the new Commissioner should gave a strong business background to deal with the problems then confronting the game. The owners vote was unanimous. Of the 156 candidates considered for the job, William Eckert rose to the top. Eckert's election caught the news media by surprise. Although his corporate experience made him an attractive candidate he was never mentioned publicly.

    The media rather quickly gave him the moniker, "Unknown Soldier".

    Despite the fact that he had not seen a baseball game in 10 years, Eckert tried hard to deal with a game he knew so very little about. His beginning was not auspicious. According to Sports Illustrated, Eckhert kept notes on index cards. In his first public meeting, Eckert reached into his pocket and produced some index cards on which he had written a few reminders. Unfortunately, he welcomed the baseball writers and managers by reading from the wrong set of notes. He thanked them for helping the airline industry so much and spoke of technological advances being made in aviation. Managers looked at writers and writers at managers, until finally Lee MacPhail figured out what had gone wrong and went to the commissioner's aid. General Eckert was scheduled to give a speech that evening at a United Airlines cocktail party. It was not a brilliant beginning.

    Eckert tried hard to succeed. He made a goal of visiting every team, never refusing an invite. The players seemed to like him as much as the owners seemed to have buyers remorse.

    Some of the highlights of William Eckerts brief career:

    Due to fan requests, Eckert announced that the Cy Young Award would be given out both in the AL and the NL.
    Eckert believed in the active promotion of the game of baseball around the world and worked hard at building a strong relationship with Japanese baseball officials. In 1966, he arranged for a goodwill trip to Japan with the Los Angeles Dodgers that opened the door for the cross-promotion and trading of players.
    He developed more effective committee actions, streamlined business methods and helped stabilize franchises with bigger stadiums and long-term leases.

    He incurred the public's wrath by refusing to cancel games after the assassinations of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King.

    The breaking point came when the Major League Players' Association, under its director, Marvin Miller, threatened to strike before spring training unless the players got a larger share of the game's $50 million television contract.
    Angered, the owners went to a cocktail party and dinner on the next-to-last night of the winter meetings. Eckert was summoned before the owners and was shocked to receive his walking papers. He was forced to meet the press and announce his "resignation" so a baseball man could help MLB navigate these rough waters. The humiliation was only softened by the $250,000 he was paid for the remainder of his contract.

    Eckert left office in December 1968. He died on April 16, 1971. He was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

  • #2
    I don't know if there is any truth to it, but one story says some of the owners thought they were electing Eugene Zuckert, former Secretary of the Navy.


    • #3
      I never came across that but the last name is very similar!


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