The Baseball Hall of Fame got it right this week. Ruppert, the Yankee owner who set the foundation for many dynasties, finally will get his due in Cooperstown with his selection by the pre-Integration committee.
“We were surprised to learn he wasn’t in,” said former Yankees player and executive Bob Watson, who was a member of the 16-person election committee.
Ruppert was Steinbrenner long before Steinbrenner. When he bought the Yankees in 1915, they were a terrible team languishing deep in the shadow of John McGraw’s New York Giants. All he did was purchase a player named Babe Ruth from the Red Sox; build sports’ greatest stadium; and set the Yankees on a course to become the most successful franchise in sports.
Dave Anderson writes about him in today’s New York Times.
However, Ruppert wasn’t a complete visionary. In light of the YES Network being valued at $3.8 billion, it is laughable to note that Ruppert was among the owners who were resistant to the new medium of radio in the 20s and 30s. He thought it was an outrage that teams would broadcast their games for free.
While researching a book I’m doing on Babe Ruth, I found this passage from Marty Appel’s new epic-length book, Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from before the Babe to after the Boss. Here is a Q/A I did with Appel earlier in the year.
Appel noted Ruppert wouldn’t even let visiting teams in Yankee Stadium broadcast games back to their markets. He has this quote from Ruppert:
“All of the clubs in both league have invested heavily in real estate and in construction of modern ball parks. They are, like myself, battling with the times. Some of them must economize, which means reductions in salaries and other overhead expense. Now can you understand why club owners who want to save money are willing to let broadcasters give away their business for nothing?”
William Veeck Sr., the father of the legendary baseball maverick Bill Veeck Jr., had a different perspective. As president of the Cubs, he placed the team on four different stations in Chicago.
Veeck thought by broadcasting the games, fans would form a deeper connection to the team, making them more excited about taking a trip to the park. “Increased attendance, even in Depression times, reflect its value,” he said.
Guess we know who was right. I’m sure if he still were around, Ruppert would have had 3.8 billion reasons to change his mind about putting games on radio.