Recently, I became aware of a most interesting article by fellow SABR member Gordon Hylton that is especially topical given the current Milwaukee at St. Louis series. The subject is the potential risk of Major League Baseball losing its antitrust exemption within the context of the sale of the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1953 season.
Specifically, at least one set of interested buyers from Milwaukee, Hylton’s current home, actually outbid August Busch in their attempt to purchase the Cardinals from Fred Saigh (pictured). That group, also led by a beer baron, Fredrick C. Miller of the Miller Brewing Company, appeared to have won at one point during the early months of 1953.
The Cardinals owner had been convicted of tax evasion in Federal court and sentenced to prison time. As such, he was being forced to divest his 90 percent interest in the team, but when push came to shove, Saigh took $450,000 less to keep the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Though history has painted Saigh positively due to his willingness to take less money to avoid moving the Cards, Hylton suggests there may have been another motive – the move to Milwaukee may have been turned down by the other owners. A possible by-product could have been a court test of Major League Baseball’s important antitrust exemption.
At the same time, Bill Veeck’s St. Louis Browns were in serious financial difficulty. Hylton considers how the baseball landscape might have looked had the Browns stayed, the Cardinals left and the Braves didn’t leave Boston for Milwaukee. The impact may have been wide-spread, including how baseball eventually annexed the West Coast.
The article ends with the open question of whether the Milwaukee Cardinals would have moved to Atlanta in 1966 as the Braves did.
For all the fascinating details, check out the link below.
Milwaukee Cardinals Baseball Team v. Major League Baseball (1953): The Antitrust Case That Might Have Changed the Face of the National Pastime
As an aside, Hylton taught at Washington University in the early 1990s and became hooked on the Cardinals during the Joe Torre era. He is now on the faculty of Marquette University’s law school.