Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, 1927: Rogers Hornsby Sells His Stock In The Birds

     On April 8, 1927, Rogers Hornsby sold 1,167 shares of stock in the team back to Cardinals President Sam Breadon for an estimated $116,700. The former Cardinal who had been traded to the New York Giants just months after leading the team to their first championship was prohibited by rule to own stock in a team while playing for another. While many speculated that the transaction would be quick and painless, the negotiations came to a stalemate, until the Commissioner of Baseball Kennesaw Mountain Landis stepped in along with a group of National League Presidents to resolve the issue.

     Hornsby and his attorney met the group of National League executives, along with the commissioner at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The commissioner had appointed a neutral committee to come up with a number that was fair for both sides. Hornsby was hardly willing to budge on the issue, and he had the control. There had been talk of the Giants organization selling the stock on the open market, but Breadon had an option in the original deal that stated he had the first opportunity to purchase it if it was sold; Breadon wanted it back in his hands.

     When the two parties met in Pittsburgh they spent two hours behind closed doors before an agreement had been reached. This statement by National League President John Heydler followed. "An agreement has been reached for the purchase of Hornsby's stock in the St. Louis club at a price satisfactory to all concerned. In bringing about this solution concessions were made by Hornsby, the St. Louis and New York clubs and the National League. The stock will revert to Samuel Breadon, President of the Cardinals, for the benefits of the St. Louis club."

     The concessions that Heydler spoke of were in large part on the side of the Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and the Giants club as well. Breadon paid $87,000, the Giants contributed $12,000, and each owner of a National League club contributed $2,000. After it was all said and done Breadon simply stated that he was happy to put it behind him. Hornsby did return to the Cardinals in 1933, but played just 46 games before being released by the club in July of that season. Hornsby stayed in St.Louis though he just changed uniforms as he signed with the Browns on the same day he was released.

     This story about Hornsby's relationship with the Cardinals is one of money and business. If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture you will quickly realize it is just one chapter in a book that ended with a plaque in Cooperstown. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players to step on the field as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Over thirteen years with the club, Hornsby hit .359, knocked in more than a 1,000 runs. From 1920 to 1925 he did not bat under .370, during that span he won two triple crowns. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what he accomplished with a Cardinals uniform on, as he is at or near the top in many offensive categories still today.

You can view those stats here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/STL/leaders_bat.shtml

Here is a story I did about the trade in December of '26 that sent Hornsby to New York. While I was researching this fact I ran across other articles that revealed Breadon had issues with Hornsby's attitude on the field, as well as gambling allegations. Albeit, Hornsby was betting on horses, yet it still caused great dissention between him and the Cardinals owner which led to the trade. There were also investigations into Hornsby's off-field activities that I will sure to be cover in great detail on another day.

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