Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25, 1947: Sam Breadon Sells The Birds

On November 25, 1947, it was announced that Robert Hannegan, Fred Saigh, along a group of local investors would be purchasing the St. Louis Cardinals from longtime owner Sam Breadon. The decision by Breadon to sell came as he was in failing health and did not want to leave his family with a financial burden that the inheritance would leave them with. Breadon had been a part of the organization since 1917 when he invested $200 into Cardinals stock as a civic gesture. Over time the ownership found themselves struggling financially and eventually the automobile dealer turned investor would buy enough shares to become the majority owner by 1920. He was a business man who was tight with his money but would also spend for a winner. Breadon made moves such as sell Robison Field and lease Sportsman's Park, in turn he let Branch Rickey develop a minor league system that would transform the Cardinals from the doormat of the National League into a Championship ballclub. Over the course of his 27 years at the helm of the Redbirds, Breadon saw the team win nine National League Pennants and six World Series Titles. When he was stricken with cancer in his later years he quietly shopped the team in an effort to assure they would stay in the city of St. Louis. The deal with Saigh and Hannegan was estimated close to $4 million a record amount at the time. While he walked away from the game richer than most people could ever dream of walking away from the game was far from easy for the 71 year old Breadon. His press conference alone showed how hard it was for him to sell the team as he announced with tears rolling down cheeks that the team would be sold. He let several longtime members of his staff speak before handing over the keys to Hannegan who would be the new team President. The former Postmaster General from the Truman administration reiterated that he would no longer have any association with politics and his focus would be on the team along with his partner. Before Fred Saigh found himself as a member of the baseball world he was a tax lawyer and an investor who owned several office buildings in downtown St. Louis. Together they came up with a little more than $60,000 in cash and Saigh masterminded a variety of loans to finish the deal. The 44 year old Hannegan had grown up a fan of the Cardinals. He talked about how he used to sell peanuts in the bleachers at Robison Field when he was boy, saying the reason he sold peanuts was simply to watch the Cardinals play. It had to be a dream come true as he stood before the press and announced that he would now own that team he grew up a fan of . There are several unfortunate things that go along with the story of the sale of the team in  '47.  The first one is the former owner Sam Breadon succumbed to cancer in May of 1949. In October of that same year Hannegan passed away after a bout with heart disease that he could not overcome. Just a few months earlier he had sold his shares to Saigh as he could see the writing on the wall. Saigh would have his own share of trouble, luckily for him it wasn't health, but he did find himself in a mess with tax evasion. On January 28, 1953, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison. Although, he served just 5 of those 15 months. He chose not to fight for his right to retain the team, acknowledging that he would not want to embarrass baseball as a whole. Saigh turned down significantly higher offers from investors out of Milwaukee and Houston to make sure the team would remain in St. Louis. Less than a month after his conviction Saigh sold the team to August Busch Jr, the St. Louis beer baron would owned the team until he passed away in 1989. The ownership of Saigh and Breadon might have been short lived but t is a very important part of the history of the organization. Without each of these men mentioned in this piece the Browns might just be the team playing in downtown St. Louis today.

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