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Why didn't the Browns ....?

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  • Why didn't the Browns ....?

    If the Browns were forever short of money, does anyone know why they didn't:
    1. Try to jack the Cardinals rent up or at least make a rent formula that included Cards gate receipts
    2. Try some sort of creative financing deal by which the Cardinals would "rent-to-own" the stadium so that the Browns would have received more cash each year than rent. In that scenario, the Cards would own the stadium in 20-years but hopefully after 20 years the Browns could have replenished their player stock and been competitive enough to pay the Cards rent.

    Usually the landlord has an upper hand over a tenant, but for some reason with the Browns, this was not the case. It was ridiculous for them to be selling players every year while the Cardinals were living high on the hog with a modest rent. If the Browns jacked up the rent, what were the Cardinals going to do? Build another stadium and leave all those WS memories to the Browns fans? City real estate was tight, tight, tight. Doubt the Cardinals were going to move to St. Charles in 1935.

    Anyway, I've never read anything about what the rent charged even was. All I have read is that the Cards selling their stadium in '20 and renting from the Browns is what saved the Cards franchise. Bully for them. Why wasn't it - as usual - better to be the landlord than the tenant? Mel Brooks said, "it's good to be the king"

  • #2
    I don't know all the particulars but in 1949 or 1950 the DeWitts (Bill and Charley after they bought the team from Richard Muckerman) brought a lawsuit against the Cardinals in an attempt to get more money in rent. I think the suit was dismissed and they weren't able to raise the rent. I've read about it before but I don't have the newspaper articles on the issue. I think it went on for several weeks and I think there was an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court but I'm pretty sure it was dismissed. I think the suit had some origin with the Browns trying to get a better deal for themselves when the Cardinals wanted to re-sign their lease (see below).

    In November 1947, Fred Saigh and Robert Hannegan bought controlling interest in the Cardinals from Sam Breadon. At the time there was talk of Saigh trying to buy Sportsman's Park as part of the deal. Saigh wanted to pay $700,000 to $750,000 for the stadium but Richard Muckerman said he had $1.2 million invested in the park (there were rennovations in the 1946-47 off season) and he didn't consider Saigh's offer a serious one. At the time, it was reported that the Cardinals had three years left on their lease of paying $35,000 a year. The Cards had a ten year renewal option when the lease expired and I think that is what triggered the court battle between the DeWitts and the Cardinals mentioned above.

    At the time when Saigh and Hannegan bought the Cardinals another issue was that Sam Breadon had plans to build a new ballpark for the Cardinals on piece of land that Breadon bought the 1930s at the corner of Spring and Chouteau. When Breadon got out of the baseball business he supposedly had saved approximately $1 million dollars in a new ballpark fund. This amount was well short of the estimated cost of the new park of $3.6 million for a 40,000 seat facility (I do not have the information in front of me but I think there were some legal issues that came up when Breadon sold out since he had amassed the $1 million in the ballpark building fund).

    Another footnote to all this is that when the Browns rennovated the park in 1947, the estimate was $300,000 but the job ended up costing $720,000.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
      Why wasn't it - as usual - better to be the landlord than the tenant? Mel Brooks said, "it's good to be the king"
      Fascinating question. I'd love to know.

      It's not always better to be the landlord, though - especially with an aging building. Landlords are responsible for all sorts of upkeep costs that they can only partially recoup from tenants (especially when they themselves are a tenant).


      • #4
        what years are you exactly talking about here...?

        you must remember that phil ball owned the team and sportsman park from 1916 until he died in 1933...

        breadon asked ball in 1920 to share the park with the we're looking at only 13 years here where the browns/ball could've cashed in. the only hard numbers that i have read was that he was charging the cardinals between only $20,000-25,000 to rent. for how long? who knows? to donald barnes this ownership thing was a hobby and not a business. if you take in that the cards really didn't take off til the '25-'26 campaign that leaves only an eight year window. was it mistake? yes!

        after donald barnes bought the browns from the ball estate in 1935. (phil ball died in 1933.) the ballpark did not come with it!!! the property was still being held and owned by the phil ball estate until 1945 when richard muckerman bought the team from barnes and then his first move was to purchase sportsman park from the ball estate! he did the renovation in 1946 to improve the park. likewise with barnes, muckerman was just in it for "fun" a "hobby" and wasted money just like barnes did and eventually sold the browns and the park to the dewitts in 1949 for one million dollars! so now only a 4 year window here to put it to the cards...and at this time in the cardinals history...a bigger mistake than before!!!

        the dewitt brothers failed just like the previous owners did on running their hobby of baseball. by 1950 even they were looking for a suitable buyer. the thing here is that bill and charley basically had cardinal ties going way back to 1917 with branch rickey! okay 2 more years of "rent free" cardinal tenants.

        june 1951 bill veeck bought the browns. still no savior for this team. with all the gimmicks circus tricks by '53 gone. poof! 2 more years.

        so maybe a total of 16 years where the browns might've put it to the cardinals for financial gain.

        but taking all of these things in consideration...

        1. bad brownie teams
        2. cardinals were simply the better team
        3. the list of wasteful bad ownership
        4. the connections of browns-cardinals via the dewitts
        5. the city of st. louis gravitating towards a winner and apathy for a team losing with a terrible disposition owner ala the 1987 cardinal nfl team that moved to arizona.
        6. was the cardinal rent at the very least possible price asking from all brown owners?
        Last edited by ghostofelvis; 07-27-2008, 10:52 PM.


        • #5
          Good reminder about Barnes not owning the stadium. And it may have been not until ‘36 rather than ‘35 that he even took over the team. The Browns Fan Club has an archive article from TSN with the headline “Ball Estate ran St. Louis Americans for three years”. There is a case to be made that it was those three (3) years that really set the ship towards the 1953 iceberg. (I may start a separate thread on that because I have crunched some interesting numbers on this.)

          You can certainly add to the list of the Ball Estate's sins, not pursuing a Cardinals’ rent increase. There is also a possibility that since they had to lease to the Barnes-owned Browns as well (they were a third party) that there may have been an anti-trust problem if the Cardinals rent was way higher than the Browns. There may have also been estate tax reasons for setting the rent at certain levels. Also, the trustee of an estate has to be more conservative than a regular business owner would (e.g. not jeopardizing a "bird in the hand" lease with aggressive maneuvers, eschewing litigation, etc. ) They may not have wanted to tempt Breadon to sue. [All of this argues in favor of what we preach here at our law firm: estate planning, estate planning! Whether it is a baseball team or a family business, if an asset is at all precious to you, it pays to think ahead and have an explicit plan for how that asset is to be handled after your death].

          The rest of your points are all valid and well-taken. I would add that selling the stadium for cash on the nail to the Cardinals and, as part of the deal, extracting a low rent for the Browns would have been an even better way to infuse cash and replenish the Browns’ player stock ...if you could have found a Cards owner liquid enough. Breadon had sunk $5 million in a fund to build a new park. That was money right there that could have been used to buy Sportsman's. In 1947 Breadon was facing the end of a five-year deadline to either build a park or pay taxes on the money in the fund. "Tax expert" Fred Saigh told him he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it. This "advice" was part of Saigh's pitch to Breadon to sell the team to Saigh. I do not know what happened to that $5 million, but I infer from Wikipedia that it might have been at least one count of the tax indictment against Saigh [need to research this]. If I had been Muckerman, I would have had my lawyers there with an opinion for Breadon that buying rather than building a stadium would have qualified as a fulfillment of the purpose of the fund.

          The park was eventually sold while the Browns were still in St. Louis … by Bill Veeck. But of course the Browns farm system never saw any of this money because Veeck simply pocketed it for his next big league team purchase.

          You're right, ghostofelvis, that the critical years to have gotten aggressive with the Cardinals lease were the Ball years. But even if they had had an influx of money c. 1950, it might have made it at least interesting in the mid-50s for the Browns (or the Orioles). Even with a stump of a farm system, the Browns were finding a lot of good players during this period, including two ROYs (Sievers and Courtney). Jim Russo was among the Browns scouts at that time. If they had had that influx of cash, it might have enabled them to keep the good players (Garver, Larsen, Sievers, Courtney, Trucks, Turley, Rivera, Wertz, Billy Hunter, Duren, Francona) make a few modest pick-ups through trade or purchase (?Pete Runnels, Hector Lopez, Vic Power) … and ... who knows what would have happened by, say, 1955 or '56?. Especially if you want to go as far as saying that an influx of cash might have caused the Browns to pay for Mantle's bus ticket from Oklahoma rather than tell him "No" … But that is probably a subject for another thread. (-:

          Originally posted by ghostofelvis View Post
          what years are you exactly talking about here...?

          you must remember that phil ball owned the team and sportsman park from 1916 until he died in 1933...


          • #6
            very interesting valid thoughts and points brownie45's...!!!

            1. yes with the park in the ball estate until 1945 there might have been the third party clause attachment in there...along with the trustee looking after the legal/fair market property of the ball's...

            2. i still get the feeling of the multiple owners from '35-'53 of basically mis-owning/running a franchise that even an influx of cash from selling sportsman's park (well '45-'53) would've changed their expenditures...scouting...sales...a larger radio network...and yes not until a liquid buyer/owner come along would it did in '53 and they bought the cardinals ab that put the nail in the browns and the suitcase on the plane to baltimore...

            lets face it...the browns were the second team in a city that could not support two teams...!!!

            3. bill veeck says on page 297 in the st. louis baseball reader that was published in 2006 by richard peterson..."the cardinals were our tenants at sportsman's field at a ridiculously low rent."

            no figure is given so i assume even then the cardinals still are renting there cheap...

            also bill veeck knew that st. louis was only a one team city...he tried to run the cardinals/saigh out of town by buying some of the older cardinal players as coaches managers...hornsby marion brecheen to jump ship(jerseys)...and even this didn't work in the long run...signing a falstaff radio deal...however attendance did rise for veeck for the first time since the '44-'45 years...

            4. yes the browns did sign some decent ball players in the '40's...

            i don't think the browns could've landed mantle anyways. once he signed that contract to play for the kansas city blues which was a lot closer to oklahoma than st.louis he wanted to be as close to home as possible he was a yankee...!!! yes please post that thread question...!

            5. my big question is...

            what might have happened if saigh did not get in legal income tax issues? would he flat out buy sportsman's park...? builds the new stadium...? he does not sell the cardinals and would gussie busch(ab) then try to one up the cardinals and purchase bill veeck's browns instead..? then there would be the eventual liquid ownersthe browns so desperately needed...

            what if...?


            • #7
              These are all good points, ghost. And yes the big question is what if Busch buys the stadium and the Browns. Then, I think there is a rent increase gonna happen!

              Even though the common logic is that St. Louis was too small to support two teams, I like to think that we are the best baseball town in America ... from Von der Ahe's Browns in the 1880s to Tony's Tigers of today. Thus we may have been able to support two teams. The factor that Philly and Boston did not have was the shared ballpark. As any theater-owner will tell you, it's the dark nights that kill you. Having a team play in a park 162-nights/year makes economic sense. (I still don't know how they find vendors and ushers who need a 81-day job.) The only problem is that it is hard on the turf. But that just gives you a nice home-team advantage.

              The reason this did not work out was the darn fortuity that the particular park in question was in a neighborhood that was becoming increasingly bad. This factor depreciated the Browns' #1 asset ... or at least stunted its appreciation. If the park had been on the Southside .. or better yet, centrally-located at Grand and West Pine where the Federal League park had been, I think the two-team solution would have been able to last until the early 70s at which time I think the City of St. Louis would have handed the Cards/Browns a new park. Of course that is all assuming that the Browns get a cash influx somehow to get some players ... whether it is rent, or brewery bucks.

              Even better... if the park just happwened to have been built in a nice neighborhood. Say, if Chris Von Der Ahe's saloon was at Skinker and Clayton and he builds his park where Concordia Seminary is and CBC was. Then the Browns sell the property for huge bucks for development and build their own cheap stadium downtown.
              Last edited by Brownieand45sfan; 07-28-2008, 03:20 PM.


              • #8
                i concur that st. louis is the best baseball town in the world...knowledge is all powerful...!!!

                do you really think a stadium and a team could've flourished that far west(at the time) on the other side of forest park...say 1880's thru the '20's-'30' god that would have been rural area...i like saigh's initial plan of chouteau and spring street...or how about grand at i-44 or jefferson at i-44...? for that day and time anyways...

                also the large radio deal that eluded the browns for years would haunt them until they left town...they only aired on a handful of stations in 2 states while the cardinals had 80 station outlets in what? 8 states if not more further west...!!!

                the browns simply could not compete playing second fiddle in their radio coverage...the scouting system compared to branch rickey's instilled cardinal plan...and the ballplayers they signed as well as managers...

                i don't know if the two team mlb in st. louis would've lasted until the '70's...unless gussie did buy the browns but first up on his agenda like bill veecks try to get rid of the other baseball team and then in this case the cardinals just might be in milwaukee...houston...minneapolis...!!!


                • #9
                  I agree that the big question is, "What if Fred Saigh hadn't got in tax trouble?"

                  Would he have moved the team to Houston or Milwaukee and Bill Veeck and the Browns been the victor in the fight to drive the other team out of St. Louis?

                  I have read of the St Louis problem (two teams and a small population compared to other metropolitan areas) as early as after the defeat of the Federal League. Sam Breadon looked at moving the Cards to Montreal in the early 1930s but that deal fell through. In 1947 there was a rumor of moving the Cards to Chicago so the Cards and Cubs could have an inter-city rivalry like the Dodgers and Giants.

                  Realistically, while the above arguments are interesting, I don't see how St Louis could have supported two teams much longer than it did.


                  • #10
                    Well... I'm an Oriole fan, so I'm incredibly grateful and biased that it didn't work out for the Browns.

                    Anyway, I was just thinking about the Cardinals-being-the-better-team thing: it doesn't necessarily mean much in the long run. Consider the Philadelphia teams. The Athletics had more success than the Phillies and Connie Mack owned the stadium, but look who left. Of course, by 1954, the Phillies had more recent success and Mack was dead.

                    Just a thought...
                    Last edited by bryanac625; 11-14-2008, 07:04 PM.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
                      Why wasn't it - as usual - better to be the landlord than the tenant? Mel Brooks said, "it's good to be the king"
                      Tell that to Louis XVI.
                      Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by bryanac625 View Post
                        Well... I'm an Oriole fan, so I'm incredibly grateful and biased that it didn't work out for the Browns.

                        Anyway, I was just thinking about the Cardinals-being-the-better-team thing: it doesn't necessarily mean much in the long run. Consider the Philadelphia teams. The Athletics had more success than the Phillies and Connie Mack owned the stadium, but look who left. Of course, by 1954, the Phillies had more recent success and Mack was dead.

                        Just a thought...
                        Yeah, I was just reading about the Philadelphia situation recently. Dick Hagan's Breakin' Down Fences discusses this. It's sort of the opposite of what happened in St Louis with the Browns and the Cardinals, although there are some similarities.


                        • #13
                          It's interesting that of the three longer instances of regular-season stadium-sharing (not brief or WS), all the host teams eventually ended up leaving town and the guest teams stayed: Polo Grounds, Shibe Park, Sportsman's Park.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
                            It's interesting that of the three longer instances of regular-season stadium-sharing (not brief or WS), all the host teams eventually ended up leaving town and the guest teams stayed: Polo Grounds, Shibe Park, Sportsman's Park.
                            Yes, you would think the teams that owned the ballparks would have been the wealthier teams and that they would have been the teams with the capital to keep them in their home cities. In these cases, it was definitely better to rent than to own.