Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10, 1951: J. Edgar Hoover turns down the opportunity to become the commissioner of Major League Baseball

On March 10, 1951, the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover turned down a $65,000 a year offer to become the third commissioner of Major League Baseball. Hoover served as the nation's top cop from 1924 to 1972 and he came very close to being the man that led all of baseball.

The commissioner job opened up early in 1951 after the owners decided that they would not renew Happy Chandler's contract. Chandler had held the post since 1945, he fell out of favor with the owners by becoming known as the "players commissioner", Chandler helped establish a pension fund for the players and he also helped integrate the game. While his tenure was a short one he made an indelible mark in the history of baseball and he is recognized in the Baseball Hall of Fame because of his contributions.

Hoover was considered to be the leading candidate for the commissioner's post after he had given a speech in 1945 that talked about the importance of baseball during wartime. Hoover had always been a fan of the game, he even went as far as sending Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer a letter to congratulate him after he had tossed back to back no hitters in 1938. The owners looked at Hoover as a natural fit for the job, but they just couldn't lure him away from the FBI.

It wasn't anything new for the owners to look toward a prominent public figure to lead the way. The first two commissioners had political backgrounds, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a federal judge before he took the job and Happy Chandler had served as a Senator and as the Governor of Kentucky. When Hoover turned down the position the owners went in a different direction by hiring Ford C. Frick, he was a former sportswriter who had served as President of the National League since 1934.  Frick was the commissioner of baseball from 1951 to 1965, he was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport.

If Hoover would have made a different decision it would have not only changed the history of sports it would have changed the history of the United States of America. It is a pretty interesting thing to think about.

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