When it appeared that the Cleveland Indians had a good chance to win the American League pennant in 1948, Hi Corbett, a lifelong friend and died-in-the-wool baseball nut, and I decided that we saw no reason to break our promise to see the World Series.
Our pact was agreed on one Sunday afternoon while watching a ballgame in Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in the summer of 1944. I was a buck private in the infantry stationed at Camp Roberts, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and had come to L.A. to meet Hi and take in a game between the military all stars and the Pacific Coast League all stars. Joe Dimaggio and other big leaguers were playing for the military team.
Hi and I agreed that, as soon as the war was over, we would start going to the World Series each year as long as the good Lord was willing to cooperate with us. Together we saw over 75 World Series games during the next 15 years, and this was before the expansion program brought big league baseball to the Coast.
The first Series we saw was the Series of 1945 between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs, who haven't played in a Series since then. We saw the ones in '46 and '47 also, but with Cleveland having moved their spring training base to Tucson in 1947, we naturally were excited about "our" Indians having a good chance of playing in the World Series in 1948. They were in a nip-and-tuck race with the Boston Red Sox for the pennant. We decided to go to Boston to see the weekend games scheduled to be played in Boston the last two days of the season between the Red Sox and the Indians.
The Indians won on Sunday to tie the Sox for the pennant. A one-game playoff was played on Monday, which the Indians won, largely due to the heroic efforts of left-handed Gene Bearden and Lou Boudreau, the Indians' manager and shortstop, who blasted two home runs among other things.
Bill Veeck was the owner and president of the Indians and a close friend of mine. He had a home in Tucson even before he acquired the Indians prior to the 1947 season. He had invited us to come to Boston, had arranged our hotel reservations, got us tickets for all the games in both Boston and Cleveland. He even invited us to ride on the World Series special train transporting the teams between Boston and Cleveland.
And the night that the Indians won the pennant in Boston, he threw quite a party at one of the hotels celebrating his first pennant. It was not a large party, but it was first class all the way and lasted into the early morning hours. Hank Greenberg was aboard as one of the officials of the Indians and was one of several former stars and sportswriters who helped make the affair a memorable one.
On Wednesday, after the first game (which was Bob Feller's first World Series appearance and which he lost 1 to 0, if my memory serves me right), four of us Arizonans left the stadium in Boston amid some 35,000 fans seeking ways to get home.
Hi Corbett said to me, "Kid, you're the youngest one, run ahead and get us a cab." I went trotting down the street ahead of most of the throng. I spotted an empty black and red cab, opened the front seat door and slid in next to the driver, who asked, "Where do you want to go?" When I told him to drive straight ahead to find my three friends, he said, "How in the hell are you going to find anybody in this crowd?" He was a tough guy and wanted me to get out so he could find a less complicated fare. But we soon picked up our party.
When we told him we wanted to go downtown to our hotel, he said that the fastest way was longer, and he didn't want us to think he was taking us for a joy ride. We told him that this was our first trip to Boston, and we would like to drive around anyway.
He showed us some of the points of interest. He knew the town well since he was a native. We learned that he owned the cab and that, after all, he was a pretty nice guy. We got to the hotel about 5:30 p. m. and asked him to come up and have a drink with us. He put his cap under the seat and spent a couple of hours drinking and visiting with us. He was a baseball fan, but couldn't get any tickets for the games, so we made a deal with him to pick us up the next day to take us to the game, and we'd have a ticket for him.
In fact, he picked us up the next morning at nine and showed us some of Boston's interesting things, such as the fish market, Peabody Hall where we saw the lovely glass flowers, and some of the historical buildings. His name was Stanley Krinsky and turned out to be good company. After the game, he took us back to the hotel, where we picked up our luggage, and drove us to the railroad station where we were to board the special train for Cleveland. He said if we came back to Boston for the sixth and seventh games, he'd meet us and take us to the hotel and the games.
One of the guys in our party said that he had been disappointed in not finding any steamed clams on the menus while in Boston. When we came back for the sixth game, which the Indians won to clinch the series, Stanley Krinsky not only met us, transported us everywhere, went to the game with us (along with his wife, whom we had invited), but also took us out to his home for dinner where he served us a large bucket of steamed clams.
The next day, he drove us to the station and promised to keep in touch, which he did during the winter with Christmas cards and a couple of letters.
The next year the Yankees and the Red Sox were battling for the pennant and, again, Hi and I made arrangements to go to New York City to see the final pair of games between the Yankees and the Sox on Saturday and Sunday, and then go to Boston if they won, or stay in New York for the World Series.
Boston had been enjoying a slim lead in the standings during the last few weeks of the regular season, and we had been in touch with Stanley, who had made hotel reservations for us and planned to see us. When the Yankees won the pennant on the last day of the season on Sunday, we sent Stanley a telegram expressing regrets for not being able to see him and take him to the games.
The series always starts on Wednesday, and we always went out to the ball yard an hour or so before the game started in order to see the teams work out and watch the crowd, which was usually filled with celebrities and interesting to watch.
About 10:30 that Wednesday morning we were sitting around our rooms waiting to go to the game when the phone rang. It was Stanley Krinsky, our Boston cab driver, and I nearly fainted when he told me he was downstairs in the lobby of our hotel and was ready to take us to the ballgame. He had driven his cab down from Boston during the night and was going to provide us cab service while we were in New York!
We got him a room, arranged for tickets for him and paid him for the special service he was providing, although he wanted us to know that the trip to New York, as far as he was concerned, was a social visit, not a business trip. We were stopped once or twice by the cops who asked questions about an unfamiliar cab on the New York streets, but we all agreed that once a Boston cab driver says he'll take you to a ballgame, he doesn't care where the game is played.
For most of the twenty years that Del Webb and Dan Topping owned the New York Yankees (1945-1965), their ball club either won the pennant or was right up there battling for it. Starting in 1948 I was involved in business with the Del E. Webb Corp. in one capacity or another.
When the Webb company came to Tucson in 1948 to construct a large housing project, L. C. Jacobson, Del's partner and executive vice-president, contacted me, and I sold them the land on which they built the 700 homes in Pueblo Gardens and the Pueblo Plaza Shopping Center. From that time on I was either a consultant on real estate matters for them, a partner in shopping centers, office buildings or motor hotels, or in charge of their shopping center division. It has been a lengthy and most pleasant relationship, and sometimes profitable. I served on their board of directors until mid-1977.
Jake, as L. C. was known, grew up in Tucson, and as a kid was in some kind of mischief most of the time, generally trying to sneak into one of the movie houses I was running. So our friendship went back for many years. I first met Del Webb at golf tournaments back in the thirties. Hi Corbett was also a good friend of both Del and Jake, so it was only natural that when Hi and I went to the World Series that Del would help us get tickets for the games played at the Yankee Stadium.
In 1947 the Yankees won their first pennant under the Webb-Topping regime, although at that time Larry MacPhail was their partner in the ownership of the team. In fact, at that series certain incidents occurred that resulted in the purchase of the MacPhail interest by Webb and Topping.
A big crowd of Phoenicians, and a few of us from Tucson, went to the 1947 series and had a whale of a time. Del Webb arranged for a room in the stadium to be set up where he entertained all of us Arizonans before and after each game with cocktails and buffet lunch, served by the Stevens Brothers catering service, which at that time had the stadium concessions. All of us had passes to the Stadium Club, but the large crowds made the place a madhouse, and besides the prices were better in what became known as the Arizona Room-the booze and food were on Webb.
In 1949, when the Yankees again won the pennant, the room was officially named the Arizona Room. Those of us who went to the series provided some special things to provide the proper decor: We donated Navajo Indian rugs, a couple of Indian baskets, a typical western saddle, and large colored photos of Arizona scenes.
In time Del and Dan invited many notables such as movie people, politicians, business leaders and others to come to the Arizona Room during the series games. After the games we would gather again for more refreshments while the mob cleared out.
Going to the World Series was quite a treat in those days, especially when the Dodgers won the National League Pennant and a "subway series" was played. I was fortunate to be in the stadium when several history-making events took place. I saw Al Gionfriddo rob Joe DiMaggio of his home run by a miraculous catch in 1947. I saw the first series in which Jackie Robinson played. The electricity in the air when he got on base could be felt by everyone present. He nearly drove the Yankee pitchers out of their minds by his antics of the base paths, and he proved that Blacks deserved to play in the big leagues.
I also watched Don Larsen pitch his perfect game, which, without doubt, was the most thrilling ballgame I ever saw. There were so many exciting things that took place in the long string of a Series in which the Yankees were involved that it is utterly impossible to mention all of them. But I saw all the series in which the Yankees participated and many of the other World Series also. Sitting in the Yankee Stadium at a Series game, watching the crowd come in, recognizing the notables, seeing old friends, is just about as nice a way to spend an afternoon as I can imagine.
At one Series game, Bill Becker and I and our wives were sitting in our box when Premier Nehru of India came by heading for his seat back of home plate. In a few minutes Herbert Hoover, our former president, came by, heading for his seat in the same area. About ten minutes later something happened back of the plate which caused everyone to stand up, stretching their necks trying to see what had attracted everyone's attention. Bill Becker said in a very loud voice, "Hoover took a punch at Nehru." This caused a wave of laughter to sweep across the crowd as the remark was repeated. Nothing could be more ridiculous than Hoover and Nehru being embroiled in fisticuffs, and the crowd on the first base side of the stadium enjoyed a good laugh over Bill's remark.
In 1950 the Yankees met the Philadelphia "Whiz Kids" in a four game Series. The Yankees traveled to Philadelphia by special train, to which was added a private car where cocktails and food were served for the Arizona contingent. The Yankees also provided a musical combo and other entertainment for us.
There were several people from Tucson who were seeing their first Series. Two of the wives, who had said at first they didn't want to go to the games in Philadelphia, changed their minds, came down to the train, hoping that tickets would be available. By chance, a friend of Hi Corbett, who was in the produce business in Arizona, was offered four tickets to the games in Philadelphia by a produce man in that city. We told the ladies they could have our tickets, and we would go to the office of the produce company, pick up the tickets, and see them at the game.
The special Series train stopped at a suburban station where everyone, including the ball team, got off, except Hi and me, who stayed on the train to go to the main depot. It was about 11:00, and we had two hours to pick up the tickets and get to the ball park. No sweat, we thought.
However, when we reached the front of the station we found a crowd of over one hundred people waiting for cabs. I offered the starter $10, but he shook his head and said he couldn't help us. He suggested we go to a nearby hotel where we might find a taxi. As we walked towards the hotel entrance we could see a very large crowd also waiting for a ride. We went to a couple of other hotels, with the same dismal result.
Time was flying. Here we were 2,500 miles from home in the city where the Series was being played, and we couldn't get aride for the last five miles. We were getting desperate. We kept walking on the busy streets hoping someone would drive up in a cab, alight and let us have the cab, but no such luck.
Finally, we were standing at a busy corner, when a young man about twenty-years-old drove up and stopped right in front of us for the stoplight. Hi said, "follow me." He suddenly approached the kid's car, opened the door, slid in the seat, with me right on his coattails. Before the young man could say a word, Hi said, "Young fellow, you're going to take us to the ballgame, and I'm going to pay you $10 for the ride."
The signal changed, and we started down the street. We told him what our situation was, and that before we went to the ballgame, we had to go to the produce district and pick up four tickets. Hi told him he could even go to the game with us if he wanted. The kid got excited over the prospect of seeing a World Series game but said he'd have to phone his boss to see if he would give him the afternoon off.
We stopped at a phone booth. The young man made his call and then came back to the car and told us his boss said he could go to the game, providing we came by and picked him up as well. This was great for us.
We picked up the tickets, and the kid's boss, and got to the turnstile at the ball park just as they struck up the Star Spangled Banner. We made it, by just a squeak!
The strange thing about that first World Series game in Philadelphia was that tickets were practically impossible to get for Philadelphians because of the small seating capacity. To make matters worse, someone in the organization of the Phillies goofed and failed to put on sale over 5,000 tickets! It's hard to believe, but one entire section of the grandstand was empty for that first game! A thing like that wouldn't happen with the Yankees; they were pros in handling tickets for such events.
After the game, the Yankees threw a party for their friends at the Warwick Hotel before we boarded the train to return to New York. Those Yankees were champs, off the field as well as on.
After the Series, providing the Yankees won, which they did most of the time, they would have a victory party. A few of the press would be invited, as well as the officials of the club, the players, many of whom showed up with their wives, a very few entertainers and some of us lucky people. I attended three of the parties and they were memorable affairs. Watching Casey Stengel dance with Sophie Tucker to the music of Jimmy Durante isn't something everyone gets to see. There were always a few serious speeches, much champagne, some humorous talks, more champagne, some group singing, more champagne. All this topped off by a late supper.
At one of the Yankees' World Series in the early fifties, the Goldwater tribe from Phoenix showed up in force. Barry and Peggy were there, as were Bob and his wife, Sally. They had several friends from Texas along also. I got involved with them, since we have been friends since Barry attended the University of Arizona in Tucson. I had known Bob through golf for years and years. They are an entertaining group with never a dull moment.
One evening I had tickets for a Broadway show and announced I was looking for someone to go with me. Barry suggested that I take Peggy, since he wanted to take a nap, and would meet us at El Morocco at midnight. We went to Club 21 for an early dinner before the theatre. There were eight of us, and we were immediately seated on the first floor near the entrance.
We sat and sat, waiting for someone to take our order for drinks. Soon Bob Goldwater became impatient and said to his wife, Sally, to whom he had been married but a very short time, "Your old boyfriend, Mac Kriendler, must have told them to ignore us. You're supposed to have influence here, let's see you use it to get us some service." The Kriendlers owned Club 21.
Sally motioned to one of the captains, who came over to her. She whispered something to him, and things began to happen. Soon the waiters, bread boys, and a couple of captains were swarming over us. Sally said to Bob, "Well, is this what you wanted?"
Peggy and I went to the show. At the intermission we went over to the cocktail lounge at the Picadilly Hotel for a drink. Peggy borrowed a quarter from me to go to the ladies' room. In a couple of minutes she came back in hysterics, with the ladies' room attendant following close behind. Peggy said, "You can't do it here for a quarter. It's a half-dollar; so please give the lady another quarter." I joined her in a good laugh over the incident. I promised her I would speak to Freddie Dreier, who owned the Picadilly about his high-priced restroom.
Del Webb was a highly organized man and ran his business that way. His construction company built large office buildings, factories, hotel, veterans' hospitals all over the nation. These jobs ran into millions, and it was essential that there be tight controls over every phase of his company's operations.
When he became involved with major league baseball, he was amazed at the unbusinesslike methods and lack of controls that existed among the big league teams, and the entire structure of baseball. He changed that very soon, as far as the Yankees were concerned.
As the owners of the other teams became acquainted with Webb, many of them were impressed with his suggestions about baseball business. He soon became a man of considerable influence among the owners, and he generally used that influence for things he thought important to the league. But on one occasion he used it to punish a man who did something that was costly to the Yankees.
I was with Del and some of his company officials in the Beverly-Hilton in Beverly Hills when he received a phone call advising him the Yankees' sale of Dick Wakefield was being voided by the office of the commissioner of baseball, Happy Chandler. Del was livid over the decision and said to us, "That does it. That guy's gotta go. We're going to have a new baseball commissioner." Within ten days it was announced that Happy Chandler was being replaced. Del Webb had influence but seldom used it, and generally only when he thought it was for the good of baseball.
The Yankees played several Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers during the Webb-Topping years before the Dodgers won. The last game of that Series was played at the stadium and was a sad one for all of us Yankee rooters. We attended the wake in the Arizona Room after the last game. We waited until the crowd cleared out before getting into our limousines to head for our hotels. As we drove through Harlem, the Black Dodger fans were laying for us. I guess they could tell we were Yankee fans because we were in the black limos. At any rate, they were standing on the street corners with strips of black cloth in their hands offering us "black crepe for our sleeves" so we could mourn the death of the Yankees in the Series. Boy, were they having fun!
Del Webb was the man who brought Casey Stengel into the Yankee organization. Casey had been managing the Oakland team in the Coast League, which Del came close to buying before purchasing the Yankees. Del and Case were old friends, and Del was sure he would do a good job as the field boss of the Yankees.
During the winter before Casey took over the reins of the New York Club, he came through Tucson late one night on the train on his way to report to the Yankee office. Del was in Tucson on business, and he told me we were going to meet the train as he wanted to talk to Casey. We had a visit, and when Casey said goodbye to get on the train I said, "Casey, I go to the World Series every year, and I'd like to see you in New York this fall."
He quipped, "If you want to see the Series this year you'll have to come to New York because that's where it's going to be played." And he was right as rain!
Del Webb in his youth was a pretty fair pitcher, but illness caused him to forget a career in professional baseball and move to Phoenix. He had worked as a carpenter for his father and followed that line of work in his newly adopted hometown. His "break" came when he worked on the Westward Ho Hotel as a carpenter. When the hotel was finished and the grand opening scheduled, the general contractor sought a carpenter to be present the night of the opening to make any emergency repairs which might be necessary that evening. The qualification that Webb met (and that none of the others could) was possession of a dark suit. He was assigned to be present during the opening ceremonies.
During the evening, a man by the name of A. J. Bayless, owner of a small chain of grocery stores, approached Del Webb to ask him if he would be available and willing to take over a construction job on a new store which had been abandoned by a small contractor who had disappeared with the payroll. Webb became the foreman, and completed the construction of the store building.
Bayless then had Webb build another store for him. Soon Webb formed a small construction company and built service stations and other small buildings. His company had grown considerably prior to World War II, but, during the war, the Webb Company grew dramatically, doing millions and millions of dollars of work building defense facilities, hospitals and other structures.
Del Webb told me not too long before his death, on July 4, 1974, that he had invested $20,000 in the A. J. Bayless Company by the purchase of stock. The value of that stock then exceeded $1,000,000. Perhaps the only better investment he ever made was the purchase of the New York Yankees with his two partners, for about $3,000,000. An interesting thing about that purchase was that, after it was completed by acquiring stock of the corporation formerly owned by the Ruppert Estate, it was discovered that the corporation had over a million dollars in cash in the bank, that went with the other assets to the new owners.
How much Webb and Dan Topping made on the Yankees is difficult, if not impossible, to calculate. For many years the ball club netted over a half-million dollars annually. The sale of the ball clubs owned by the farm system brought sizeable amounts. The sale of the property owned by the farm teams in Newark and in Kansas City also brought substantial amounts. I became involved in the sale of the property in Newark when I was employed as a consultant by the Yankees to help determine the highest and best use of the ball park.
When Webb and Topping sold the Yankees to the Columbia Broadcasting Company for something like $14,000,000, they probably topped all previous big league club owners for total profits reaped from such an investment. That, plus the approximate $6,000,000 derived when they sold the stadium to investors and leased it back on a long-term lease, set an all-time record that will be hard to beat.
In 1956, the year of the "perfect game," Burton Jones, a longtime friend, and I decided to go to New York a week before the Series to see the Marciano-Moore heavyweight championship fight in the stadium. We had a suite at the Waldorf, but after the fight he had to go to Florida on some business and I had to go to a meeting in Detroit. Before I left the hotel I saw Miss O'Brien, who used to take care of Waldorf reservations for the Yankee bunch, to tell her we were leaving and wanted to be sure we'd have a suite when we returned in about four days.
She warned us not to check out as we'd have one heck of a time getting back in the day before the Series started. She said, "Leave some clothes on the chairs and beds so the maids will know you're still registered." We took her advice.
I went to Detroit for a meeting of the Urban Land Institute and registered at the Statler. As I began thinking about it, I realized that for those few days I was registered in four hotels at the same time. I was living in the Flamingo in Tucson, had a permanent room at the Flamingo in Phoenix because I was there as much as I was in Tucson, and, of course, was registered at the Waldorf and the Statler in Detroit.
In addition to being close to Del Webb, the ultraconservative, I have had for many years a close relationship with Bill Veeck, the ultraflamboyant man. Bill was always outspoken in his dislike of the Yankees and of his disapproval of many of the things their owners stood for. While he didn't criticize Webb or Topping personally, he walked a narrow line between being critical of their operation of the Yankees and their influence with other owners in the American League, and in baseball generally. Webb, on the other hand, never talked much about Veeck, at least not in my presence. He commented several times about not knowing what Bill Veeck would do next, but a lot of people felt that way about him.
I first met Bill Veeck during the 1945 Series between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs. Bill was just getting out of the service and was suffering from the injury that later cost him his leg. He told me he was moving to Tucson, where the doctors thought the weather might help his limb.
After the Series we got together in Tucson and became close friends. I remember meeting his father at the old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles many, many years ago when he was president of the Los Angeles Angels. Bill had been involved in baseball most of his life. He was great company and a real joy to be around. We spent a lot of time together in Tucson before he bought the Cleveland Indians prior to the 1947 season.
Several times when visiting with Bill, I told him that I couldn't understand why some of the big league teams didn't train in Arizona during the spring. Bill agreed that the weather in Tucson and Phoenix was the equal of that in Florida and Catalina Island where the Cubs trained for many years. He wanted to see some weather charts, which I obtained for him, and we began talking seriously about trying to convince a couple of the teams to move into Arizona for their spring training.
He pointed out that no team would come alone as they must have another big league team against whom to play. He knew Horace Stoneham, who had moved to Phoenix for the winters. By this time Bill was completing his negotiations for the purchase of the Indians.
Bill and I drove to Phoenix to meet with Horace Stoneham to discuss the idea of having the New York Giants and the Indians move their Spring training basis to Arizona. At this time Phoenix and Tucson had reached population levels to support the spring games, and, since both Bill and Horace knew that the weather was dependable and acceptable, it didn't take much of a selling job to get agreement that in 1947 the Indians and Giants would launch big league baseball spring training in Arizona.
Of course, there was much more to be done in both towns in order to accommodate the players, team officials, sportswriters and others who follow the teams. As a member of the city baseball commission, I had no trouble convincing other members of the commission (of which Hi Corbett was chairman) and city parks department officials that we should go all out to meet the requirements of the Indians. The improvements to the ball park were made in time for the team's arrival in February.
Arrangements also had to be made with a hotel to accommodate the party of sixty to seventy people. While I thought this would be easy to do, I found that the hotels were reluctant to commit so many rooms during the peak of the tourist season. However, Nick Hall of the Santa Rita took good care of them that first year and for many seasons thereafter. The Indians still train in Tucson, and, while the Giants spend much of the spring training period at their baseball plant in Casa Grande, they still consider their headquarters to be Phoenix, and play most of their games there. Of course, other big league teams have and are training in Arizona, and many prefer our climate to that of Florida.
When Bill Veeck owned the St. Louis Browns I sold him the idea of bringing them to Yuma for their spring training. They spent one year there before Bill sold the team and it became the Baltimore club. The new owners preferred Florida for spring training and moved their club from Yuma. Since then, however, the San Diego Padres have moved into Yuma for their spring training grind.
With the coming of the Indians came some important baseball names like Roger Hornsby, who was a special batting coach for a spell. Tris Speaker, one of the finest center fielders who ever lived and a Cleveland immortal, spent several spring seasons in Tucson. He was one of the finest men I ever knew, and enjoyed talking baseball with anyone at any time. "Spoke" also was a pretty good golfer and enjoyed playing with local golfers as well as some of the members of the Indian party. Bob Feller, Lou Beaudreau, Joe Gordon, Bob Lemon, and many of the other Indian regulars became fixtures on the Tucson scene and were like hometown boys as far as Tucson fans were concerned.
And that bunch of sportswriters who came out in the early days were real pros at their trade. Gordon Cobbledick was probably the dean of the group, having written many articles for national magazines. However, fellows like Ed McCauley, Whitey Lewis, Frank Gibbons, Jim Schlemmer, Harry Jones, and Ed Liebowitz were tops in their profession also, and did much to give Tucson status as a spring training center.
Later Hank Greenberg became an official of the Indian organization and spent much time in Tucson. Once when we were sitting in the grandstand watching batting practice, Hank said he was going to slip into a uniform and hit some over the fence, which he used to do regularly, one year hitting fifty-eight home runs for Detroit.
Soon he was in the batting cage, swinging away, and connecting on some good shots, but none cleared the fence. When he finished and joined us again in the stands, he said, "I can't figure it out. I hit the ball just as hard as I used to, but none of them went over the wall. " To which Bill McKechnie, former big league manager and then as coach for the Indians, replied, "Old age, Henry, old age will get them all in time." Hank was about 45 then and still couldn't believe he didn't have the timing to rip them as he used to.
After the Indians won the pennant and set an all-time attendance record, Bill Veeck sold his interests in the club and returned to Tucson and his little ranch with the big ranch house. He and his wife, Eleanor, were calling it quits about that time. Bill told me she was leaving the place on a certain day, and asked me to get someone to look after the place for a few days until he could wind up his affairs and return to Tucson.
I went out early the day Mrs. Veeck, the Veeck children and her entourage were leaving. I got there just as they were piling into the station wagons and pickup truck to depart. I asked about the key to the house, which I was told was hanging inside somewhere. I went into the main house and saw nothing but the dirty dishes in the sink. The departing party took everything that was not attached by nail, screw, putty, or cement. Even the lightbulbs were gone. And Bill's marine uniforms. All the windows and doors were open.
I called Bill and reported the situation. He just laughed like hell and said again that he wished I would get someone to move in and act as caretakers until he could get there in a few days. That day I hired a couple, Beth and Sam Smith, a cowboy all his life, and they worked for him for fifteen or twenty years in Arizona and New Mexico. Bill finally got there and began buying things he needed, like a bed to sleep on, a stove for cooking, and other things to replace those taken by his former wife.
Bill had decided that he wanted to marry Mary Frances Ackerman, a publicist for the Ice Follies. However, she was a Catholic and worked at it. Bill had to become a Catholic if he wanted her for his bride. He went to the proper authorities of the Catholic Church and was told that one of the things required of him was that he could not see Mary Frances for six months. That was a tough one for Bill. He spent the entire six months in Tucson at the ranch, fixing it up for his bride-to-be. I spent many, many afternoons and evenings with Bill. He was suffering but never complained once about the ordeal he was going through.
Many visitors came to see him. Traveling baseball scouts, such as Babe Herman, "Sloppy" Thurston, and many other sportswriters, other club owners, Abe Saperstein of the Globe Trotters -- kept him from going completely off his rocker. Since Bill was a prolific reader, he whizzed through dozens of books. He also loved music and installed a commercial-type record player that could play 100 records on each side without repeating. It was piped into every room, every building, even to the pool area.
When the six months period ended, Mary Frances met Bill somewhere in New Mexico where they were married, I believe on April 29, 1950.
While in New Mexico they bought a great amount of beautiful handmade furniture, Indian rugs and other southwestern things to give the place an authentic western ranch decor. I used to spend Sunday afternoon with Bill and Mary Frances, whom I found to be a real delight. They were great for each other from the very start and later, with a housefull of children, they moved to Maryland, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay.
I flew east with Del Webb about that time to visit St. Louis where the Webb Company was starting the construction of a veterans' hospital, and where we had been dealing with the mayor of the city, Joe Darst, for an urban renewal project. One night while we were there, Del and I went to a ballgame with Fred Saigh, the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals. While sitting with him in his box, he told us that the St. Louis Browns were having some financial problems and that he expected that the owners, Bill and Charley DeWitt, would probably sell the team in the near future.
After the game, Del jokingly said to me, "If you and Hi Corbett want to own a ball team why don't you buy the Browns?" At that time Hi Corbett, Hank Lieber, former Giant outfielder, Oliver and I owned the Tucson Cowboys, a lowly class C league team.
When I returned to Tucson a few days later, I went out to see Bill Veeck and told him what Fred Saigh had said about the Browns. Bill listened very attentively and remarked that that was very interesting. A couple of days later he came to my office and asked if he could use one of the vacant offices and the telephone for a couple of days. He was there every day for a week, phoning, arguing, selling and doing all kinds of planning. I never bothered him, but I did ask him how it was going, and he said pretty well.
One afternoon the next week, I got home about five, and my housekeeper said that Mr. Veeck had called, was on his way to pick me up, that I should pack a bag, and that he and I were going to San Diego. I grabbed a bite, and was ready when he showed up about six to leave for San Diego, an eight-hour drive. He had a date for breakfast with a man from St. Louis who held a note from the DeWitt brothers, owners of the Browns. Bill had to see him before he could close his deal for the Browns.
We got to the Del Coronado Hotel about 2 a. m. and grabbed a few hours sleep. We met Bill's friend for breakfast. He said he wanted to make a few phone calls and asked us to meet him at the Del Mar Race Track that afternoon in his box, the number of which he gave Bill.
After lunch we drove up to Del Mar. As everyone knows, Bill Veeck was famous for never wearing a tie; in fact, he doesn't even own one. However, the Del Mar absolutely would not allow us to enter the club area without a necktie. They were adamant, and Bill Veeck, the all-time-champion necktie hater, had to put on a necktie to get through the gate in order to make it possible to close the deal to buy the St. Louis Browns. As soon as we got into the club area the tie came off, but I can testify that Bill did one time in his life wear a necktie.
Bill and some of his investors completed the deal for the purchase of the St. Louis Browns, which for years had been the doormat of the league, both in the standings and at the box office, although in the mid-forties they had won the pennant once.
Bill built a home as part of the improvements he made to the St. Louis ball park. His and Mary Frances' first-born child, Mike, had the biggest fenced yard in America to play in, except when the Browns were playing in it.
I visited Bill and Mary Frances over a long Memorial Day weekend in St. Louis and it happened that the Cleveland Indians were meeting the Browns while I was there. It was great to see again the Indian officials and sportswriters. We had quite a weekend.
I was staying at the Chase Hotel, where Frankie Lane was the featured attraction at the roof garden. Bill, Mary Frances, Harry Jones, one of the Cleveland press crew, and I had dinner there on Saturday night. The place was jumping and, of course, everyone knew Bill, including Frankie Lane who spent most of the evening at our table.
I found out that night that a man can drink a great number of Cherry Heerings, a Danish after-dinner drink, without getting loaded. After our last course, Bill ordered four Cherry Heerings for each of us in little liqueur glasses. It has been a favorite with me for years so I enjoyed the generous servings. In a little while he ordered four more Cherry Heerings for each of us. Bill kept this up for an hour or so; at one time I think I had seven or eight lined up in front of me.
After a while two couples were seated at the table next to ours. They were friends of Bill's from Kansas City, one of the men being an official of the Muelbach Hotel in that city. Shortly after they arrived, Bill left for a few minutes, and, while he was gone, another order of four Cherry Heerings apiece arrived at our table. When Bill returned he noticed them and asked if we had ordered them. When we said we had not, he asked the waiter who had ordered them. He said the newly arrived folks had bought us a drink.
Bill likes to do all the buying of drinks when he is out in the evening and apparently didn't appreciate the hospitality of his friend at the next table. He asked the waiter what they were drinking and was told two were drinking scotch, one bourbon and the other gin. Bill told the waiter to bring a bottle of scotch, a bottle of bourbon and one of gin to the other table with his compliments. Soon the bottles were delivered, and thanks were expressed.
In a few minutes the waiter brought a large punch bowl with a few cubes of ice at the bottom and two bottles of Cherry Heering, which were promptly poured into the bowl. A ladle was added, and we were set for the next three days.
Bill whispered to us, "They want to play a game, huh? Well, I'll show'em!" He softly gave orders to the waiter, who disappeared, but soon returned with a small handcart on which he delivered to Bill's friends a case of scotch, a case of bourbon and a case of gin. That ended the exchanging of hospitality for the rest of that evening.
Bill Veeck was a most imaginative guy and dreamed up the darndest gimics to attract crowds to a ball park. The list of things he did is much too long to discuss; however, while his dad was president of the Los Angeles Angels that club did something that I don't think Bill has ever copied. On the day of a game a man on horseback, in a baseball uniform, would ride through the downtown street of Los Angeles, announcing through a megaphone that there was going to be a ballgame that afternoon between the Angels and their opponents for the day.
During the late twenties and through the thirties, baseball fans in the larger towns in Arizona, and those in Albuquerque, El Paso and Juarez, formed the Arizona-Texas Class D league. I was very much involved, as the official league scorekeeper. I also filed a short press report for the United Press after each game. I never missed a game played in Tucson for several seasons.
Those games got to be terribly important events, and excitement was rampant during the later part of the season especially if the home team was involved in the pennant race. The Bisbee team and Tucson became mortal enemies. The games between the two teams were ding-dong affairs, and many times ended with fisticuffs and near riots.
Many of the later stars in the big leagues started in the Arizona-Texas League. Most of the teams in our league were sponsored by the Coast or Texas League teams, who sent players to the Class D teams, hoping they would ripen into stars of tomorrow.
When World War II interrupted play in the minor leagues, the Arizona-Texas League went out of business, mainly because of the travel restrictions, and because most of the young men were called into service.
The first summer was pretty dull with no baseball games. I had an idea that I tried on the sports editors of the two daily papers. They liked it, so I called a meeting in the office of the Fox Theatre of the managers of the local semipro teams and suggested that we form a city league to play games six nights a week at the municipal park, which by this time had lights for night games.
We started with six teams, the Aztecas, a local social club made up of Mexican-Americans, the Elks, the American Legion, the Southern Pacific, the Davis-Monthan Air Base and the Marana Field, also an air training base. I was elected president of the league.
We began playing to very small crowds, although we charged only a quarter for admission. The newspapers were generous in coverage of the games and within a few days crowds began to build. The games were well played, and the teams, as a whole, were evenly matched.
By the end of the first month of play, sports fans, who had little to do during the war in a town like Tucson, responded to our efforts to keep baseball alive in the Old Pueblo. Crowds of a couple of thousand became commonplace.
The military teams had a few professionals to spark the interest. One player for the Marana Field team made his mark in big league baseball. Gene Mauch, who became manager of the Montreal team in the American League, and was considered one of the game's better managers, played in the infield for his base team and even at that time was a standout. However, despite Mauch's efforts, the Marana team was probably the weakest team in the league.
In one of the most important games, before the largest crowd drawn up to that time, a serious argument between the umpire and the manager of one of the teams got out of hand. The shoving match culminated in the umpire quitting in the middle of the game. He took off his chest protector, shin guards and mask, piled them up neatly on the home plate and walked over to where I was sitting in the stands. He told me he was through and would never umpire another game for the league.
Without an umpire, no game; naturally, as president of the league, I was in a pickle! There was a tall black man by the name of Slim Williams who had umpired many semipro games around town for years, but because of his color was not used by any of the school teams, including the University of Arizona. He had applied to umpire in our league, but the managers vetoed the idea of using him.
I knew he generally came to the games, so I had him paged. He responded, and when I asked him if he had his equipment with him, he said he did. He got it out of his car, and he umpired the rest of that game. He did such an outstanding job that everyone who had opposed him before, readily approved of my hiring him as the regular umpire.
That job led to his umpiring games for all the schools and the U. of A., which eventually employed him as their trainer for all sports. He was an excellent official and very popular with the players and fans.
The city baseball league continued to operate for several years until the war ended and professional baseball could be restored. It provided many evenings of enjoyment for thousands of fans and was another example of how people pitched in during the war to make the best of a bad situation.
Back in the mid-twenties there were three or four local semipro ball teams, the strongest of which usually was the Southern Pacific Rails, managed by a wiley character by the name of Mike Robles, who never donned a uniform, but who scheduled the games and handled what money there was to split among the players.
I was just out of school and was the team's regular shortstop. I and another gringo by the name of Joe Wagner, were the only members of the team who were neither Indian nor Mexican American. We had all grown up together, with the exception of one or two of the players, and played as a team for several years.
We played one unforgettable series in Bisbee on the Fourth of July against a team which included one of the members of the Chicago Black Sox of the infamous 1919 World Series. Buck Weaver played third base, and another famous player, who had been banned from baseball for life for some unsavory acts, Hal Chase, played first base for the Bisbee team in that series. They beat us with ease, but it was exciting to watch these former big leaguers perform.
A pitcher by the name of Tom Seaton, also a former big leaguer, pitched for Bisbee. He did something I had never seen before or since: Between innings, when he was on the bench, he would somehow get hold of the baseballs, and, with a large nail, would mutilate the balls so he could make them do all kinds of tricks. We tried to get the umpires to do something about it, but since they were also from Bisbee, our pleas landed on deaf ears.
Several other of the Black Sox players played in and around the border towns of Arizona and New Mexico, besides Bisbee, also Douglas and Ft. Bayard. What wasted talent those men possessed! Hal Chase lived in Tucson for several years. He used to visit me regularly while I was running the Opera House and the Rialto, generally for the purpose of "borrowing" a dollar or a half-dollar to buy something to eat. He became a pitiful example of a fallen man, who had great talent, great opportunity, but had a crack in his character that led to banishment from baseball, the only thing at which he could make a living. Once he came in to see me and I told him that all I had in my pocket was fifteen cents. We visited for awhile, and when he got up to leave he said, "Roy, can I have that fifteen cents? I can buy a loaf of bread." I gave it to him and couldn't help but think that a man in the position of needing such a pittance was really near the end of the line.
Hal Chase had two sons who came to visit him in Tucson. I became acquainted with them, extremely fine young men at the time attending Santa Clara University in California. Hal used to get his mail at the Opera House, and his sons had to see me in order to find their father who was constantly moving from one shack to another.
Many baseball people have said numerous times that "Prince Hal" was the finest fielding first baseman who ever wore spikes. He was accused of making wagers on games in which he played and of doing things which made him very unpopular with the players of his era. I don't know what crime he committed, but he paid the price in full measure.
The first World Series game I ever saw was in 1945 when Detroit played Chicago. Despite the fact the war had ended by the time the Series was played, there were still transportation restrictions. The first three games were played in Detroit, with the balance of the Series to be played in Chicago. It turned out to be a seven games Series, much to the delight of all of us from Tucson. Hi Corbett, Jack Martin and I were seeing our first Series, and we couldn't get enough in less than seven games!
Jack had sold his ice company in Tucson to a large corporation that owned plants throughout the Midwest, including Chicago and St. Louis. He knew the owner of the St. Louis plant (who happened also to own the St. Louis Browns) Dick Muckerman, member of a well-known family in Missouri. Muckerman invited us to join his group at several parties. We were staying at the same hotel in Detroit and spent most of our time in one of the suites of the Muckerman group, which included the business manager of his team, Bill DeWitt, his attorney, Tom Dunbar, who carried a revolver with him for some strange reason, and quite a few other friends, all very nice folks.
Dick Muckerman carried a small icebox full of ice with him at all times, in his hotel room, on his special railroad car, wherever he went. It provided ice for drinks, or for throwing from his hotel window.
Don Barnes, owner of the Browns before Muckerman and the man who sold the team to him, was also along during the Series. Baseball was the principal subject most of the time, which was great with us as we had never been around club owners, business managers and such big league baseball executives. We were invited and rode in the Muckerman private railroad car from Detroit to Chicago, and once we arrived in Chicago we continued to enjoy their company. We country bumpkins were flying high and liking it!
In Chicago we had reservations to stay at the Ambassador East Hotel, owned then by Ernie Byfield, who also controlled and operated the Ambassador West, the Sherman Hotel, the Pump Room, the College inn and other famous booze and food dispensaries. Ernie had taken over the operation of the Playa Hotel at Guaymas, Mexico, on the Gulf of Lower California. I had served as his agent in Arizona, through which goods and people flowed down the S.P. de Mexico rails to Guaymas. He shipped all kinds of furniture, equipment, foodstuffs addressed to me, and I would trans-ship them into Mexico for him.
He had promised to have rooms for the three of us in Chicago for the Series, but when we arrived we learned that he had forgotten to tell any of his hotel people of his commitment to us. The town was jammed and even he could not get us in with a shoehorn.
He allowed us to occupy his personal suite as his guest no less, during the Series. The place was well supplied with plenty of booze, and, of course, the service to his suite was excellent. We enjoyed ourselves to the fullest-another example of beginners luck at their first World Series.
Ernie told us that one of his sons had just been discharged from the service where he served with the army in Germany. He had been in the first contingent to reach Adolph Hitler's private mountain retreat in Bavaria. Ernie said he had brought back some interesting souvenirs. In Ernie Byfield's suite I notice a silver cigaret box on the coffee table with the initials A. H. on it. I guessed right, it was one of the souvenirs young Byfield had brought back from Hitler's den.
While in Chicago, Ernie arranged for us to be entertained at the Pump Room and the College Inn, where a chorus of lovelies provided campany at our tables between shows.
The Series was a very exciting one. The Cubs hadn't played in a Series in several years, and the town was all excited over their favorite team.
While in Chicago that week, I had spent considerable time with my old friend Irving Phillips, a man of huge proportions and with the nerve of a second-story man. For the seventh game, we arrived at the ball park a couple of hours before its starting time in order to see the warm-ups and the crowds. just a few minutes before the game was to start, Irv Phillips showed up, down on the field in front of the section where our box was. He was calling my name to the top of his voice, and I finally heard him and walked down to the rail where a guard stopped me from going onto the field. Irv told him to step aside and let me through, which he did. Why, I don't know. I still was hesitant as I knew I didn't belong on the field just ten minutes before the seventh game of the Series was to start.
But I stepped through the little gate onto the diamond where there were numerous sportswriters, photographers and other guys like Irv Phillips, who just wanted to be there. He introduced me to Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune and the originator of the baseball All Star Game and the annual College All Star-Pro Champ Football game. He then took me over to where Hank Borowy was completing his warmup as the starting pitcher for the Cubs and introduced me to him. Next we went over to the dugout of the Tigers where Hal Newhouser was sitting quietly after warming up to pitch for the Tigers. I shook hands with him, as Irv introduced us. What nerve that guy had! And what a thrill for a yokel from Arizona, to be down on the field meeting the two pitchers just before they hooked up in the final game of the Series.
I guess it was small wonder that I decided that I should not miss any future World Series. My baptism to the World Series had been awfully nice. Having been discharged in June of that year from the army as a lowly private, it was a little difficult to become accustomed to the bit of high-flying life I enjoyed for ten days.
One of the most famous baseball parks of all time was Ebbets Field in Brooklyn where the Dodgers played for many years.
It was not a very comfortable stadium from the fans' viewpoint but it was a great place to see a game because it was rather small and afforded the fans the feeling of being part of the action. It was torn down many years ago and the site now is occupied by an apartment complex.
One thing I remember about Ebbets Field was the large men's room on the second deck floor of the stadium. It had 32 urinals, a half dozen toilet bowls, and one (1) wash basin! I don't know exactly how to interpret the implications of such a situation, but I do know that usually one didn't have to wait to wash his hands because 98% of the fans were in a hurry to get back to the game and their hotdogs or bags of peanuts.