8 People Who Were Banned from Baseball
By Ethan Trex
In a welcome development for Yankee haters, sanctimonious steroid hand-wringers, and Riley Cooper, Alex Rodriguez is dominating the sports news cycle again today. Not only is the much maligned infielder wrapped up in another performance-enhancing drug mess, he's also reportedly facing a lifetime ban from baseball.
Recent rumors indicate that Rodriguez may be negotiating a deal with Major League Baseball to avoid a permanent blacklisting. But if A-Rod does end up on the wrong end of a ban, at least he'll be in good, if shady, company. Plenty of other stars have gotten the permanent heave-ho from the big leagues. You probably know why Pete Rose, the "Black Sox" who threw the 1919 World Series, and countless other gamblers and fixers got the boot, but they're hardly lonely in their baseball exile. Here are a few more bans that don't get quite as much attention.
1. Jack O'Connor: Rigging the 1910 Batting Title
Ty Cobb was a jerk. Truly great at baseball, but really a loathsome individual. O'Connor, the former player-manager of the St. Louis Browns, hated Cobb so much that he couldn't let the Georgia Peach win the 1910 American League batting title on his watch. When Cobb entered the final day of the season locked in a tight duel with Nap Lajoie for the crown, O'Connor decided to intervene on Lajoie's behalf to spite Cobb.
O'Connor's Browns team was squaring off against Lajoie's Cleveland squad in a doubleheader to end the season. O'Connor gave his third baseman, Red Corriden, an odd order: to go stand in shallow left field whenever Lajoie came up to bat. With no one covering third base, Lajoie could easily bunt down the line for singles. He wound up with eight hits over the course of the day. This late surge gave Lajoie the batting title by virtue of a slight edge over Cobb.
Supposedly even Cobb's teammates sent Lajoie telegrams congratulating him for his triumph, but baseball officials weren't so amused. O'Connor was chased from the majors for rigging the batting crown race.
2. Horace Fogel: Crying Foul
Some fans think it's silly to see players and coaches get slapped with fines for criticizing the officiating after heated games, but the punishments could be considerably more draconian. Just ask Horace Fogel. Fogel served as the Philadelphia Phillies' owner and president from 1909 to 1912, but he ran afoul of the National League when he publicly claimed that the umpires preferred to see the New York Giants win and made biased calls against the Phils to ensure Giants victories. The league tired of Fogel's bombastic claims that the pennant race was fixed, so it banned him for life in 1912.
3. Benny Kauff: Possibly Selling Stolen Cars
Kauff, an outfielder, was a rare talent. In 1914 and 1915, he won the Federal League's batting titles and stolen base crowns, and in 1914 he also led the league in runs and doubles. His combination of batting eye, speed, and power earned him the nickname, "The Ty Cobb of the Feds," but he quickly got in more trouble than the actual Ty Cobb ever did.
For much of big league baseball's history, most players didn't scratch out enough money to live on playing the game, so they held offseason jobs. In Kauff's case, he owned a used car dealership with his half-brother, which is where he got into hot water. In 1919 the police found a stolen car they'd been searching for, and the driver told the cops he'd picked up his new wheels at Kauff's dealership. Kauff was arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property, and Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis didn't even wait to see what happened in the trial. He gave Kauff the permanent heave-ho from baseball just for being indicted.
As it turned out, Kauff might not have even known about the stolen cars, and he was acquitted on the charges following his trial. In 1922 Kauff applied to Landis for reinstatement on the grounds that he wasn't actually guilty of anything. Landis, a former federal judge, balked at the idea of letting a jury trial establish guilt and flatly refused, commenting that, "That acquittal was one of the worst miscarriages of justice that ever came under my observation."
4. Ray Fisher: Coaching College Baseball
Fisher, a starting pitcher, racked up a 100-94 record with a 2.82 ERA over his career with the Yankees and Reds. As the 1921 season was starting, the Reds offered Fisher a new contract, but it would require that he take a pay cut of $1000. Instead of stomaching the lowered salary, Fisher left the Reds to take a job that seemed to offer more security, coaching the University of Michigan's baseball team.
Fisher hoped the Reds would release him, but instead Landis stuck him on the ineligible-to-play list. Later on that summer, Fisher started mulling the idea of playing again. Branch Rickey of the Cardinals and an "outlaw" team from Franklin, Pennsylvania, tried to secure his services. Fisher wanted to play right by the Reds, though, so he wrote the team a letter asking what exactly his contract situation was and offering them first crack at him. To Commissioner Landis this query smacked of Fisher trying to weasel out of his contract with the Reds, which earned the pitcher a lifetime ban.
Things ended up okay for Fisher, though. He spent 38 very successful seasons as Michigan's baseball coach. In 1980 then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn reinvestigated Fisher's ban by Landis and overturned the ruling, which meant the 82-year-old hurler was once again a retired MLBer in good standing.
5. Phil Douglas: Writing Drunken Notes
Douglas had a pretty good career as a pitcher, and he even won two games in the 1921 World Series for the New York Giants. However, he didn't get along with hot-tempered Giants manager John McGraw. Douglas looked to be on his way to an ERA title in 1922 when he and McGraw got into an argument that ended with a suspension and a hundred-dollar fine for Douglas.
Like any reasonable person would do, Douglas went out and got sloshed to take the edge off of his anger. He then sat down to write some letters. Douglas didn't see how he could help someone he disliked as much as McGraw win a pennant, so he decided he'd just skip out on the team. He drunkenly wrote this letter to his buddy Les Mann of the St. Louis Cardinals: "I want to leave here but I want some inducement. I don't want this guy to win the pennant and I feel if I stay here I will win it for him. If you want to send a man over here with the goods, I will leave for home on next train. I will go down to fishing camp and stay there."
The letter eventually ended up on Commissioner Landis' desk, and the old hanging judge came out with his customary punishment: a lifetime ban for Douglas.
6 & 7. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays: Hanging Around Casinos
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn wasn't having any of it, though. He felt that baseball legends shouldn't be hanging around casinos, so he banned both men from working for baseball teams in any capacity. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and Kuhn's successor, Peter Uberroth, overturned the bans.
8. George Steinbrenner: Stalking Dave Winfield
It was easy to criticize George Steinbrenner for his rampant spending on free agents, but really, wouldn't every fan love for their team's owner to open his wallet so freely? It's much easier and more sensible to deride Steinbrenner for what he did to Dave Winfield. After signing Winfield to a massive free-agent deal in 1980, Steinbrenner quit getting along with the future Hall of Fame outfielder. When Steinbrenner refused to make a contractually guaranteed $300,000 donation to Winfield's charitable foundation, Winfield sued the owner. Instead of simply making the donation, Steinbrenner paid Howard Spira, a self-described gambler, $40,000 to "dig up dirt" on Winfield.
Since consorting with gamblers is MLB's one unforgivable sin, and since running a smear campaign against a player isn't exactly classy, Commissioner Fay Vincent slapped Steinbrenner with a ban in 1990. Vincent gradually lightened his stance, though, and in the summer of 1992 he agreed to let Steinbrenner have a full reinstatement at the beginning of the 1993 season.