#Shortstops: Wings of a Hall of Famer

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Matthew Carter

Warren Giles had a stellar career as a front office executive in Major League Baseball. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 after having served as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 1937-1951 and National League president from 1952-1969.

Before he got his chance in the major leagues, Giles was an executive in the minor leagues. He was still in his twenties when started his executive career in 1919 as president of the Moline (Ill.) Plowboys of the Three I League. He later moved on to front office jobs with the St. Joseph Saints and the Syracuse Stars before landing the job as general manager of the Rochester Red Wings in 1928.

As the top farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Red Wings were one of the best teams in the International League. In his first four years as the general manager, Giles steered the team to four straight IL pennants from 1928-1931, winning 100 or more games in three of those seasons, and won Junior World Series championships in 1930 and 1931.

The 1929 team was the first of those teams to win 100 games, finishing the season with a 103-65 record, 11 games ahead of the second place Toronto Maple Leafs. They went on to lose the Junior World Series that year to the American Association champion Kansas City Blues five games to four.

The 1929 season was also the year the team began playing at Red Wing Stadium. The steel and concrete stadium held a capacity of 19,000 and replaced their old, wooden ballpark: Bay Street Ballpark. A total of 298,803 Red Wing fans showed up to the new ballpark that year, tops in the IL in attendance. Later renamed Silver Stadium, it would host the Red Wings until 1996.

In appreciation of his leadership, the team presented Giles with a trophy commemorating their 1929 championship season. The trophy is preserved in the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Created by the New York jewelry company Dieges & Clust, the trophy has a sterling silver baseball held up by four silver crossed baseball bats on top of a wooden base. The ball’s lettering says, “Presented to Warren C. Giles President By Members of the Rochester Red Wings International League Champions 1929.” The ball also has the Red Wings’ logo on it: a baseball with red wings.

At the trophy’s base are the names of the players, managers, trainer, and secretary of the team. Some notable names on the plaque are George “Specs” Toporcer, who led the IL with 142 runs scored and was named league MVP; and James “Ripper” Collins, who led the IL with 38 home runs and 134 RBIs. Altogether, 18 of the 25 players on the team had previously played or would go on to play Major League Baseball.

The team was led that season by two managers who would later be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Bill McKechnie and Billy Southworth. The year before, McKechnie managed the Cardinals and Southworth managed the Red Wings. Before the start of the 1929 season, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon shook up both clubs by demoting McKechnie to manage Rochester and promoting Southworth to manage St. Louis. By July 23, however, the managers returned to their previous positions.

Giles continued as general manager of the Red Wings until he was hired as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds after the 1936 season, thus starting his career as a Major League executive.

Matthew Carter was a curatorial intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series