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Breadon among deserving Hall of Fame candidates

In addition to the managers/umpires, there is a second Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot to be voted upon over the next three weeks for 2010 induction. It covers the most under-represented group in the Hall – baseball executives. The ten eligible executives include one very important figure in St. Louis Cardinals history, former owner Sam Breadon.

Two others have ties to the club including former first baseman Bill White, nominated for his term as National League president and ex-general manager Bob Howsam, who made his fame as the architect of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

The other seven are also very qualified: Gene Autry, John Fetzer, Ewing Kauffman, John McHale, Marvin Miller, Gabe Paul and Jacob Ruppert. I could build a case that most all of the ten should be enshrined, but that isn’t going to happen.

The voting is a similar process as for the managers, but with fewer voters. A candidate must receive 75% approval from 12 voters (as opposed to 16) who are given up to four votes each.

While already-enshrined Branch Rickey receives proper credit for turning the Cardinals from a weak also-ran into a perennial powerhouse, as an active owner, Breadon deserves a large share of credit as well.

Self-made through ownership of automobile dealerships, Breadon purchased his initial investment in the club in 1917 and became the majority owner in 1920. In the 28-year history of the National League to-date, not only had the Cardinals never won, they had only three finishes in the first division, none as high as second place.

Breadon (shown here on the right with Dizzy Dean and Frankie Frisch left and center in spring training 1935) bankrolled Rickey’s idea to purchase minority and later majority interest in their minor league affiliates. The Cardinals were at the forefront of the movement, which gave them a huge competitive advantage for over 25 years.

By the start of World War II, the Cardinals’ empire had grown to 32 minor league clubs, of which at least 15 were 100 percent owned by the organization. Amazingly, there were 20 Class D leagues in the US in 1940 and the Cardinals had a team in every one of them.

The Cardinals used their system to not only fill their own player pipeline, but also accumulated an estimated $2 million in cash between 1922 and 1942 by selling their excess players to other organizations.

By the time a cancer-stricken Breadon sold the club in late 1947 for a then-record price of $4 million, the Cardinals had accumulated their first nine NL pennants and six World Championships.

I firmly believe Sam Breadon belongs alongside Rickey in Cooperstown.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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