Lean Years, 1931–1932
AWEEK AND A HALF after George Earnshaw throttled the Cardinals to close out the World Series, Joe McCarthy succeeded Bob Shawkey as manager of the New York Yankees, as he'd been expected to do since his firing by William Wrigley Jr. the previous month. McCarthy and “Colonel” Jacob Ruppert staged the signing ceremony in Ruppert's paneled office suite in his Third Avenue brewery (which, like many other breweries in the Prohibition years, had been producing near beer and other legal malt beverages). As he took the fountain pen to sign his $25,000-per-year contract, a nervous McCarthy confused Ruppert with Colonel T. L. Huston, who'd co-owned the Yankees with Ruppert until they quarreled and Ruppert bought Huston's holdings late in 1922. “Ruppert. Ruppert,” prompted the honorary colonel. “Oh yes, my mistake,” McCarthy said quickly. Then McCarthy beamed into the camera flashes and said, “I am the happiest man in the world. … If I could beat the Cubs with my new team, I would be willing to jump off the Brooklyn bridge.” 1 In another year McCarthy would get just that chance.
McCarthy's signing with the Yankees got more press attention, but of far greater import for Organized Baseball as a whole were the doings at the annual winter meetings of the major and minor leagues. Under a new National Agreement, all the minors, including those that had opted out of the process in 1921, accepted a return to an annual universal draft in exchange for increases in prices for drafted players (up to a maximum of $7,500 for a player taken from Class AA). Moreover, each big-league club could now option fifteen players to the minor leagues, an increase of seven