Dreyfuss draws game's highest honor
Former Pirates owner, NL president tabbed for Hall of Fame
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Barney Dreyfuss lived out the American dream.
He was an innovator, a pioneer, a mediator and architect at the turn of the 20th century and 30 years following.
Now, his name will no longer be lost in obscurity, as it was announced Monday that Dreyfuss would become the 13th member of the Pirates family to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
"The Pirates are extremely thrilled that Barney Dreyfuss was elected to the Hall of Fame today by the Veterans Committee," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "It is gratifying to see that Mr. Dreyfuss' accomplishments have finally been recognized by the Hall of Fame."
Dreyfuss was one of three former baseball executives to be elected into the Hall of Fame by a newly formed Veterans Committee. There were a total of 10 executives considered. Votes were cast Sunday by a 12-member panel of current and former executives, Hall of Fame members and veteran media members.
Dreyfuss' name appeared on 10 of the 12 ballots (83.3 percent). Also receiving the necessary 75 percent of the vote from committee members were former Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley (10 votes) and Bowie Kuhn (nine votes), the second-longest tenured commissioner in baseball history.
Joining those three executives as part of the 2008 Hall of Fame class are former managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams, both of whom were elected by a separate Veterans Committee.
For Dreyfuss, national recognition is a fitting way to recognize a man whose contributions to the game have been vast and instrumental in its development.
A German-born citizen, Dreyfuss set sail for America in 1885 at the age of 19, only to later become a key player during a critical time period for professional baseball. His legacy is still undoubtedly left on the game. But even more specifically, his mark is left on the Pittsburgh franchise.
That mark is in the walls of the famous Forbes Field. And his fingerprints were over the franchise during its formative years.
"Mr. Dreyfuss was a dynamic, innovative and extraordinarily competitive owner who built the Pirates into the dominant National League club at the turn of the century," Coonelly said. "Mr. Dreyfuss began the culture of excellence in Pittsburgh that we are working hard to restore."
Dreyfuss is the first member of the Pirates family since Bill Mazeroski, in 2001, to be elected into the Hall. Among the other 12 are 11 Pirates players, as well as long-time manager Fred Clarke, who spent 15 years managing during Dreyfuss' tenure as Pittsburgh's owner.
Dreyfuss passed away in Pittsburgh in 1932 at the age of 66, serving as the team's president up until his death. He created the tradition of the World Series, became the National League's first vice president and helped direct the erection of one of baseball's storied ballparks and own a Major League franchise.
Dreyfuss' most widely known association with professional baseball came from the 32 years he spent as the president and general manager of the Pirates.
He arrived in Pittsburgh after investing in the American Association's Louisville Colonels and working his way up to full ownership of the team by 1899. But with baseball enduring a period of restructuring, Dreyfuss decided to prevent the Colonels from folding by merging the club with the Pirates. Dreyfuss purchased half ownership of the Pittsburgh club in 1900 and would assume full ownership very shortly after.
After beginning his association with the Pirates, Dreyfuss ushered in a group of players that included Hall of Famer Honus Wagner, Rube Waddell and Clarke, all of whom left Louisville to join the Pirates. With a total of 14 players moving in that particular transaction, Dreyfuss' move still remains the largest transaction in Pirates history.
As an owner of the Pirates, Dreyfuss watched his club win two World Series championships (1909 and 1925), claim six pennants and finish second or higher in the National League 13 times. Though Dreyfuss and the Pirates organization endured a string of frustrating seasons from 1914-1920, he was still always widely recognized as one of the best talent evaluators in the game.
He also remained a shrewd businessman, protecting his players from being claimed by expansion teams and negotiating the structure for the first modern World Series in 1903.
The Pirates lost that first World Series to the Boston Pilgrims, but the tradition became a yearly fixture from that point onward. Dreyfuss also spent the 1903 season successfully mending a growing fraction between the American and National Leagues, something that became one of his most pivotal accomplishments.
Dreyfuss was also instrumental in the Pirates' move out of playing in Exposition Park. He enlisted the help of Andrew Carnegie to find a plot of land on which to build what would become Forbes Field, the home of the Pirates from 1909 to 1970.
Baseball innovator Branch Rickey once called Dreyfuss "the best judge of players" that he had ever seen. John Heydler, one of the earliest presidents of the National League, told a New York Times writer that Dreyfuss "discovered more great players than any man in the game, and his advice and counsel always were sought by his associates."
Dreyfuss' significance during baseball's developmental years made him one of the most important baseball figures during his lifetime. That importance was reiterated in Dreyfuss' New York Times obituary, which read that he had "the distinction of being the most thoroughly schooled baseball man to be found among club owners."
He's no longer a household name because his contributions came so many generations ago. But the impressions and ideology of Dreyfuss continue to affect the game as people know it today and will now be recognized with baseball's most prestigious honor.
Former Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh was among 10 managers being considered for election. However, Murtaugh, who managed the Pirates for 15 seasons, received just six votes among a 16-member electorate.
"We are deeply disappointed that Danny Murtaugh was not elected to the Hall this year," Coonelly said. "Danny was one of the most successful managers in Major League Baseball history and we continue to believe that he will ultimately be recognized as such by the Hall of Fame."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.