Hank Greenberg - Off The Field: Management and Ownership

Off The Field: Management and Ownership

After the 1947 season, Greenberg retired from the field to become the Cleveland Indians' farm system director and two years later, their general manager and part-owner along with Bill Veeck. During his tenure, he sponsored more African American players than any other major league executive. Greenberg's contributions to the Cleveland farm system led to the team's successes throughout the 1950s, although Bill James once wrote that the Indians' late 1950s collapse should also be attributed to him. In 1949, Larry Doby also recommended Greenberg scout three players Doby used to play with in the Negro leagues: Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Willie Mays. The next offseason Doby asked what Indians' scouts said about his recommendations. Said Greendberg, "Our guys checked 'em out and their reports were not good. They said that Aaron has a hitch in his swing and will never hit good pitching. Banks is too slow and didn't have enough range, and Mays can't hit a curveball." When Veeck sold his interest, Greenberg remained as general manager and part-owner until 1957. He was the mastermind behind a potential move of the club to Minneapolis that was vetoed by the rest of ownership at the last minute.

Greenberg was furious and sold his share soon afterwards. In 1959, Greenberg and Veeck teamed up for a second time when their syndicate purchased the Chicago White Sox; Veeck served as team president with Greenberg as vice president and general manager. During Veeck and Greenberg's first season, the White Sox won their first AL pennant since 1919. Veeck would sell his shares in the White Sox in 1961, and Greenberg stepped down as general manager on August 26 of that season.

After the 1960 season, the American League announced plans to put a team in Los Angeles. Greenberg immediately became the favorite to become the new team's first owner and persuaded Veeck to join him as his partner. However, when Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley got wind of these developments, he threatened to scuttle the whole deal by invoking his exclusive rights to operate a major league team in southern California. In truth, O'Malley wanted no part of competing against an expansion team owned by a master promoter such as Veeck, even if he was only a minority partner. Greenberg wouldn't budge and pulled out of the running for what became the Los Angeles Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). Greenberg later became a successful investment banker, briefly returning to baseball as a minority partner with Veeck when the latter repurchased the White Sox in 1975.

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