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Digging up nuggets from the past
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03/08/2004  8:28 AM ET
Digging up nuggets from the past
Some interesting moments in ownership history
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
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 Jerome Holtzman

Jan. 19 2004--Major League Baseball owners approved the transfer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of its most cherished franchises, from the Fox Entertainment Group to Frank McCourt, a Boston real estate developer, and his wife, Jamie. The price was $430 million, for 52 percent of the franchise, Dodger Stadium, the baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and a lease on their Vero Beach, Fla. Spring Training complex. Fox retains the other 48 percent.

Other miscellany related to club ownership:

Jan. 5, 2003--George Steinbrenner, 72, of the New York Yankees is the only one from 1973 still on the job. The other teams have since had a total of 71 owners or ownership groups. Steinbrenner paid the Columbia Broadcasting System a total $10 million which included several adjacent parking lots that he sold to the city for $1.2 million, bringing the net cost to $8.8 million.

1926, from the Reach Guide:

Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pittsburgh club, said in Freiburg, Baden, while visiting his birthplace, that he sees no chance of the Germans ever taking a liking to the American national game without amending the amenities of German etiquette.

"Whether a man pays two dollars or twenty five cents for a seat at a ball game," Mr. Dreyfuss said, "he buys the democratic right of talking to his neighbor without the formality of rising, clicking his heels, lifting his hat and shaking hands. That's how baseball promotes democracy."

From Ring Lardner, 1914:

"Players who jump for the dough.
Bandits and crooks every one
Baseball's pleasures, you know
Players should play for the fun.

Magnates don't care for the mon'
They can't be tempted with gold,
They're in the game for fun.
That is why Collins was sold.

Feb. 16, 1993--Bill Bartholomay, chairman, Atlanta Braves:

"I may be the only one who has known all nine commissioners. Mr. Philip Wrigley used to invite my father to his Lake Geneva (Wis.) estate usually on summer Sundays when the children played softball. Judge Landis was among the guests. I've seen a photograph of myself and the judge. I was in white knickers. I think there was a grass stain from a diving catch. My mother may have it in the family album."

Feb. 27, 1993--The 11-room Baltimore-area home of Eli S. Jacobs, the financially troubled owner of the Baltimore Orioles, was sold at a court-ordered auction. The sale of the house for $900,000, less than Jacobs paid for it in 1990, is tangible evidence of the venture capitalist's tumble into debt.

Nov. 12, 1936--Donald L. Barnes is the new president of the St. Louis Browns. The sale price is reported to have been $325,000. The new owners asked and were granted the privilege of playing night games with such clubs in the league as were agreeable. The move made to change the nickname of the club was squelched by popular vote, as well as it should be. The club has been known as the "Browns" since almost the beginning of baseball. One good move that was made was the signing of Rogers Hornsby as manager.

August 9, 1993--Ewing Kauffman's dedication to producing a winning ball club is reflected in the six championship flags that flew half-mast in the stadium that bears his name. Kauffman, a self-made billionaire who brought the Kansas City Royals into the American League in 1969, died in his sleep early Sunday. He was 76.

General manager Herk Robinson said he called Kauffman the night he died to inform him of a trade. He was listening to the broadcast of the game. His last words to Robinson: "Get some runs."

February, 1996--No, this isn't a punchline: The California Angels are a Mickey Mouse ball club. If Major League owners grant their approval, the Walt Disney Co. will be running the Angels. Disney agreed to buy 25 percent of the club from Gene and Jackie Autry for a reported $30 million.

Jan. 27, 1949--Bob Hannegan sold his interest in the St. Louis Cardinals to his partner, Fred Saigh Jr. Saigh gained 70 percent control with an $80,000 down payment. Saigh recouped in record time. He sold pitcher Murry Dickson to Pittsburgh for $75,000 the day after the sale was announced and two days later sold the Cardinals' broadcasting rights for $300,000 for three years.

Jan. 2, 1996--The Kansas City Royals are worth more than $100 million. That's how much former Royals' third baseman George Brett offered to buy the team, only to be turned down. The proposed ownership group reportedly included conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Oct. 13, 1986--According to lore, baseball was invented in 1839 by a chap named Abner Doubleday. One hundred and forty seven years later the New York Mets breezed to the National League East title. For the last seven seasons they have been the property of Doubleday & Co., the publishing firm founded by Frank Doubleday, Abner's nephew.

Feb. 14, 1981--An hour prior to the vote approving the sale of the Seattle Mariners to George Argyros, Argyros told a reporter he owned race horses. An American League owner, overhearing this remark, told Argyros, "Don't say that. It will only stir up trouble."

Oct. 9, 1995--For the last 15 years the Walter Haas family has been the flip side of George Steinbrenner: a shining model of altruistic, self-effacing, and successful sports franchise ownership. Now the Oakland A's have been sold to a couple of businessmen, Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman.

On the final home weekend of the A's season a crowd of 30,112 fans said goodbye to a tenor of baseball enjoyment that had been set by the shy and smiling Walter A. Haas, Jr., who bought the club in 1981 as a means of doing something positive for the economy and the spirits of the city.

The A's won a World Series and three league pennants during Haas' stewardship, but with him, pleasure in the day always outranked winning, and this game (against Minnesota) had the atmosphere of a company picnic. The players sat on folded chairs in the infield, with their wives beside them and their younger children on their laps. In the bleachers and outer stands, there were a half-dozen hand-lettered signs thanking the Haas family: "THANKS FOR HAASPITALITY," "HAASTA LAVISTA," "HAAS #1," and the like.

Haas, who had been in declining health for months was not present but the name "Haas" was spelled out on the green grass and brought the crowd to its feet in a spontaneous roar. The players stood and cheered, too -- and in an instant, it seemed, everyone was up again for Mark McGwire's second-inning 465-foot home run into the left-field bleachers: a shining meteor sent up, everyone knew, for Walter Haas. Three days later he died.

Jerome Holtzman is the official historian for Major League Baseball. He has been the national president of the Baseball Writer's Association of America and in 1989 was elected to the writer's wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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