Ford Frick

Position: National League President

As president of the National League, Ford Frick used the power of his office to guarantee that Jackie Robinson would be able to break the color line in 1947. Frick also furthered the idea behind the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and administered baseball’s expansion.

Born in Indiana, Ford Christopher Frick (1894-1978) worked as a sportswriter in the 1910s to pay his way through DePauw University. After graduation, he moved to Colorado, continuing as a sportswriter. Some of his clippings were sent to the publisher of the New York American, who hired Frick to become a baseball writer, and he covered the Giants and Yankees from 1922 to 1934. He was Babe Ruth’s ghostwriter from 1924 to 1932. He also became a prominent figure in sportscasting in the 1920s.

In 1934, Frick became a publicist for the National League. He was elevated to circuit president only nine months later. As NL president for 17 years, Frick was a prime mover in the creation of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

At the start of his tenure, Frick was not a force behind the National League’s moving toward integration. He had said that “baseball is biding its time and waiting for the social change which is inevitable.” Later, he was far more instrumental in making integration stick. Perhaps his finest hour arrived when word came to him that the Cardinals were organizing a boycott of games that Jackie Robinson participated in. Frick told St. Louis owner Sam Breadon, “If you do this you will be suspended from the league. I do not care if half the league strikes. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another.”

In 1951, Happy Chandler was removed as commissioner, and the field for a successor was wide open. After 16 votes, Frick was named, beating out, among others, General Douglas MacArthur. Frick served two seven-year terms. He oversaw the expansion or movement of many franchises, starting with the Boston Braves to Milwaukee in 1953 and the Dodgers and Giants to California. He was active during the end of the reserve clause and the birth of free agency. He also predicted the death of baseball from excessive TV broadcasting (he later negotiated a $13 million deal with ABC).

Frick may be best remembered for trying to hang an asterisk on Roger Maris’s single-­season home run record because Maris needed more games than Ruth had the opportunity to play in to break the record; the ruling was never enforced. Frick was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.

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