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Article:Judge Fuchs Wanted Dog Racing at Braves Field

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by Harold Friend

Emil Fuchs purchased the Boston Braves in 1923 for $450,000. He formed a syndicate with Christy Mathewson, who became club president and ran the team until his untimely death in 1925. Fuchs took over complete control and made Dave Bancroft manager. The Braves floundered badly until, in 1929, the inexperienced Fuchs took over as manager. The result was sad and funny.

Emil Fuchs Manages the Braves

After spending a few weeks in first place, normalcy returned as the Braves plummeted to the cellar, where they remained. Fuchs became a joke. Although he had Johnny Evers run the club on an every day basis, Fuchs was still in charge. He didn't know the game and the players didn't respect him. He hired Bill McKechnie to manage in 1929.

A Bizarre Plan

By 1934, Fuchs was in dire financial straits and wanted the National League to bail him out, but it would be difficult to get the other club owners to provide help. Just before the December winter meetings, Fuchs put a bizarre plan into action.

Tom Yawkey Didn't Mince Words

The Braves' owner announced that there would be greyhound dog racing at Braves Field. Fuchs had applied to the Massachusetts Racing Commission for a license to conduct dog racing at his ballpark. Since gambling and baseball do not mix, Fuchs wanted the Braves to play home games at Fenway Park. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey;s response was brief. "Over my dead body."

Ford Frick,who had just succeeded the retired John Heydler as National League president, thought the proposal was "absolutely preposterous." Pirates' president Bill Benswanger response was milder. "Dog racing is not a proper sport for a baseball field."

A Politician's Truth

The issue was not discussed at the winter meetings, which was surprising, but Judge Fuchs, who was referred to as "Judge" because he has served briefly as a magistrate in New York, announced that he would not conduct dog racing. It was the truth, but it was the truth told by a politician.

"Nothing will be done by me which will embarrass baseball or the National League. Under the constitution of the National League, betting, legal or otherwise, is prohibited in its ballparks. I have abided and always will abide by the constitution of the National League."

The Boston Kennel Club

A few days later, the trustees for the James J. Gaffney estate, acting as landlords for Braves Field, announced that the Boston Kennel Club had been granted a license to operate dog racing at the ballpark. The Braves no longer had a place to play.

The Real Agenda

Another meeting was held, and it was confirmed that Judge Fuchs' proposal was simply a ploy to get the National League owners to help him meet his financial obligations. The National League's Board of Directors and league president Ford Frick met with Fuchs for over 13 hours. Some owners didn't want to rescue Fuchs, but it was finally decided that the National League would guarantee the rental of Brave Field and give Fuchs a loan to meet spring training costs. Dog racing at Braves Field was no longer an issue.

References:

Kaese, Harold. The Boston Braves, 1871-1953. Boston: May 5, 2004.

By JOHN DREBINGER.. (1934, December 13). Night Baseball on Limited Scale Adopted Unanimously by National League. New York Times (1857-Current file),31. Retrieved July 21, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 93659318).

By JOHN DREBINGER. (1935, January 15). National League Meeting Called to Decide on Future of Homeless Braves :LOSS OF FRANCHISE FEARED BY BRAVES Home Field Leased for Dog Racing, Yawkey Bars Their Use of Fenway Park. FRICK AND FUCHS CONFER National League Head Calls a Meeting of Club Owners Here to Seek Solution.. New York Times (1857-Current file),24. Retrieved July 21, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 93441061).


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