Sunday, August 6, 2023

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 38

Now back to your (ir)regularly scheduled programming:  the real Part 38 in this series.

A little over a week ago, Night Owl had a post that referenced cards that featured Comissioner Bowie Kuhn and mentioned how rare it is that any card features MLB commissioners. And guess what card was next up in this post series?

Warren Giles!  Night Owl mentioned a Beckett article that he just finished about commissioner cards.  Alas, I don't read Beckett and when I do read I apparently have comprehension issues as you will see in the comment from NO below.  I've already got books that have been on the nightstand for over year untouched and I always feel a twinge of guilt when I climb into bed and see them sitting there waiting for me.  So, I have no idea whether he mentioned 1960 and 1961 Fleer in that article. Hopefully, he will confirm or deny in the comments {stares in cardboard appreciation.}

Strictly speaking, Giles was never commissioner. Rather he was the NL President from 1951 through 1969. His tenure mostly overlapped with Ford Frick occupying the MLB Commissioners office. Frick will appear in Part 53 of this series, assuming I get there before I shuffle of this mortal coil. In case you are wondering, the AL Commissioner during this time, former HOF player and manager Joe Cronin, does not appear in the set in any form.  Anyways, let's learn a little bit more about Warren.

The last two years of my life have been dominated by career issues and have involved two separate job searches.  One interview question I hate is "Where do you see yourself in five years?"   If you were to parachute into any time during my 35-year post college work life and ask me that question, then drop back in 5 years later, you would find that not only was I not where my 5-year plan said I would be, I was nowhere close.  That is a tortured, and all too long, set-up for how Warren Giles kicked off his baseball career.

After serving as an army officer in France during the First World War, Giles returned to his home in Moline, IL to work as a tradesman with his father, a general contractor. He was involved in running a local football team which led to being invited to a meeting regarding how to save the locally owned minor league team, the Moline Plowboys.  In a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished, speaking out at the meeting led Giles to be appointed to the unpaid position as President of the team.

Ater turning around the Moline club, his career as a baseball executive took off with 4 subsequent stops before assuming his post as NL President:

1922 - 1924 -St Joseph (MO) Saints
1925 -1927 - Syracuse (NY) Stars
1928 - 1936 - Rochester (NY) Red Wings
1938 - 1951 Cincinnati (OH) Red Legs

During his tenure as NL President, he was considered an effective representative of ownership and, thus, not necessarily friendly to a nascent labor movement in organized baseball. However, he had a decent working relationship with the umpires, likely due to his time as a basketball and football referee early in his career. Indeed, the NL umpires unionized during Gile's tenure. He also presided over a period of team moves, including both the Giants and Dodgers moving west, while the Braves vacated Milwaukee for warmer climes.

I could go on, but you would better served reading his SABR biography. I will share one interesting anecdote about Giles, who's s advocacy for ownership was tainted with accusations of undue deference specifically to the Dodger's Walter O'Malley. In 1963, Giles promulgated a directive strictly enforce the balk rule that said a pitcher must stop his windup for one full second while pitching from the stretch.  Why does this show favoritism towards O'Malley?  Well, the rule worked to the advantage of a baserunning oriented team and theprevious season, the Dodgers young phenom Maury Wills won the MVP while stealing 104 bases, the most since Billy Hamilton swiped 111 in 1891.

What I am listening to: Worn Out American Dream by BettySoo


  1. The Beckett article isn't out yet. It's not about commissioner cards, although one particular commissioner-related card is mentioned. ... You're welcome to read books and magazines in any order that you want. They don't have feelings, they won't care.

  2. Wasn't familiar with BettySoo... but she's got a beautiful voice and love the lyrics to that song.

    P.S. Cool Giles card. Can't imagine there are a lot of his autographs floating around out there.

    1. The song was written by Jimmy Lafave.

      BettySoo has been out on tour this year with James McMurtry, who is a wonderful songwriter in his own right. That isn't surprising since his father is Larry McMurtry, the great novelist.

  3. I never knew that a specific rule change played such a large part in Maury's feat that year. Now that I do, it's a lot less impressive.