Commissioner Landis frees 74 Cardinals farmhands
Many took the ruling as a direct attack on Branch Rickey, the Cardinals’ vice president and father of the modern farm system. The Cardinals were said to control multiple teams in the same leagues, which was in violation of the rules. It was also said that these unofficially affiliated teams would sell players to officially affiliated Cardinal farm teams only to get the money immediately back. Landis described these transactions as gentlemen’s agreements.
“(The) investigation establishes beyond doubt or question that the Cedar Rapids (team) and its affiliates in 1936 and 1937 were merely adjuncts to the St. Louis system,” said Landis. “St. Louis controlled the players in two clubs in each of the three Class D leagues in 1936 and in each of four Class D leagues in 1937.”
Sam Breadon, the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals, denied that his team had any connection to these allegations. He also sympathized with the minor league players who were released because he was unsure whether they would be able to secure work after their unexpected release.
Breadon also added in another statement that, “Rickey should be praised as the savior of the minor leagues through his development of the farm systems which has had, as everyone knows, the constant opposition of the Commissioner’s office.”
Only one released player, Jimmy Webb, was given an invite to the Cardinals for a tryout. The majority of the players re-signed with their former clubs, so the majority of the penalty was the $1,000 fine invoked on the Springfield team as well as the $588 fine given to Cedar Rapids and Sacramento.
The two clashing men, Rickey and Landis, were headed for baseball immortality as they would both later be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Landis was famous for his “absolute power” granted to him as he became the first commissioner of baseball on Nov. 12, 1920, after spending several years as a federal judge. He helped restore public confidence in baseball following the scandal of the 1919 Black Sox. He banned eight Chicago White Sox players for life, despite their acquittal in a court of law.
Rickey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.
Kevin Stiner was the spring 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum