Late Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1945-1972

By Dean A. Sullivan | Go to book overview
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Baseball in the Post-Landis Era

The death of Kenesaw Mountain Landis in November 1944 ended a quarter- century of autocratic rule during which the owners had little say in baseball affairs. Within a month of his passing, the owners weakened the powers of the commissioner's office and, soon after, hired as their new commissioner a man who, they believed, understood that his role was to enforce the owners' will. To their surprise, Albert "Happy” Chandler demonstrated his independence on numerous occasions, especially when he supported Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey's decision to sign Jackie Robinson and acted behind the scenes to protect his right to play in the majors. On other issues, such as the suspension of Mexican League jumpers and their subsequent reinstatement three years later, Chandler carried out the owners' wishes.

Chandler was not responsible for the increase in popularity of the game in both the major and minor leagues immediately following World War II. Helping baseball's resurgence was a succession of exciting pennant races, starting with the first playoff games in major league history in 1946 and culminating in down-to-the-last-day finishes in 1948 and 1949. Many of these games were telecast nationwide as people fell victim to the television craze which, some argued, threatened the prosperity of the minor leagues. Another factor in the attendance surge—the slow integration of the sport— had a devastating effect on the Negro Leagues, which started to collapse as its fans changed allegiance to follow pathbreakers like Robinson, Larry Doby, and Don Newcombe in all levels of organized baseball. Major league officials had every reason to be optimistic about the immediate future of their sport.

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