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Vintage Copy of a 1920 Memorandum Rejecting the "Lasker Plan" for the Reorganization of Major League Baseball
Starting Bid - $100, Sold For - $480
Vintage copy of a four-page typed document, dated October 29, 1920, signed by Ban Johnson (American League President), Philip D. Ball (owner of the St. Louis Browns), Frank Navin (owner of the Detroit Tigers), Clark Griffith (owner of the Washington Senators) and Thomas Shibe (Vice President of the Philadelphia Athletics). This is an extremely significant document, as it deals directly with the rejection of the "Lasker Plan" by the five signers, a veto which led directly to the owners' ultimate approval of a Commissioner of Baseball to oversee the game. At the time this document was written, the scandal that took place in the 1919 World Series, where eight White Sox players had conspired with gamblers to "throw" the Series, had been made fully public, resulting in a backlash of negative feelings toward the game. Fans now questioned the very integrity of the game and the owners hastily convened to confront the problem. All agreed that a major reorganization was needed, but, as one might expect, there was no consensus among the sixteen league owners and two league presidents as to how it should be done. Eventually, a plan put forward by Albert Lasker, a shareholder in the Chicago Cubs, gained acceptance. Known as the "Lasker Plan," it recommended that a three-person committee, drawn from individuals not officially associated with organized baseball, be formed to govern the game. National League president John Heydler, supported the plan, as did all eight National League owners and three American owners (Ruppert of the Yankees, Frazee of the Red Sox, and Comiskey of the White Sox). However, as seen in this letter, American League President Ban Johnson and the other four American League owners who signed it did not support the plan (although his signature does not appear on this document, Cleveland ownerJames Dunn was aligned with Johnson's group). The schism was so great that Ruppert, Frazee, and Comiskey stated that they would leave the American League and join the other National League clubs to form an entirely new league governed by the three-panel committee proposed in the Lasker Plan. In this letter, which is addressed to Heydler and all of the other owners in support of the Lasker Plan, the dissenting group proposes an alternative plan that would include the National Association (the governing body of minor-league baseball) as having a voice in any new governing committee. Their plan, as detailed here, would consist of a nine-person committee made up of three members of the American League, three members of the National League, and three members of the National Association. As we know, that plan was rejected and a modified version of the Lasker Plan was agreed upon that called for just one person, with no connection to organized baseball, be appointed Commissioner of Baseball. That man turned out to be federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who accepted the position on November 12th, just two weeks after the drafting of the offered document. This piece comes with the special provenance of having once resided in the fabled Barry Halper Collection. The four pages of this document, which have been trimmed to their current dimensions, have been affixed together, one beneath the other, upon a heavy cardboard backing, with the piece now measuring 7.5 x 31.5 inches. The pages are lightly toned and the first page displays two tears that have been effectively ameliorated by the mounting process. Excellent condition overall, without reference to the trimming and mounting. Framed to total dimensions of 9 x 33 inches. Reserve $100. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $480
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