Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chandler scuttled shady Snider-to-Cubs deal


Duke Snider's baseball cards in 1952 might
have had an entirely different look if baseball
commissioner Happy Chandler hadn't
investigated a 1951 Cubs-Dodgers deal.

             In the lead story on Page 1 of the June 27, 1951, issue, The Sporting News publisher J.G. Taylor Spink wrote, ‘The startling Chicago-Brooklyn four-for-four player trade, which created a storm of discussion June 15, is expected to have an even more sensational sequel next season.
            “In 1952, it is learned from a reliable source, the Cubs will receive Outfielder Duke Snider in exchange for $200,000 in cash, as the finale of the multi-player swap arranged just before the trading deadline this year.
            “No trade in recent years aroused as much comment as the transaction that sent Outfielder Andy Pafko, Pitcher Johnny Schmitz, Catcher Al Walker and Second Baseman Wayne Terwilliger to Brooklyn for Pitcher Joe Hatten, Catcher Bruce Edwards, Infielder Eddie Miksis and Outfielder Gene Hermanski.
            “The almost unanimous opinion was that the acquisition of Pafko clinched the flag for the Dodgers."
            Actually, the Dodgers ended the 1951 season in a tie with the N.Y. Giants, who won the pennant in a one-game playoff on Bobby Thomson's walk-off home run.
            Spink's scoop continued, “So far as the Brooklyn club is concerned, the trade was negotiated with the 1951 pennant in view. The Dodgers received in 30-year-old Pafko a player that other clubs in the league eagerly sought, while apparently offering more than Brooklyn did. The whole transaction mystified many, because of its seeming one-sidedness, but the Cubs’ officials were not as na├»ve as they have been made to appear. Each club achieved what it sought—the Dodgers practically assuring themselves of the 1951 pennant by rounding out the hardest-hitting team in the league, while the Cubs get the promised nucleus for rebuilding that will place them among the strongest teams in 1952.”
            Spink made sure the sporting world recognized the exclusiveness of his scoop by taking the unusual step of adding a “(copyright, 1951, by The Sporting News)” notice at the bottom of the story.
            Lame duck commissioner Happy Chandler was quick to respond to the situation reeking of at least the perception of impropriety, sent investigator Dick butler to Brooklyn to quiz team officials and those writers regularly covering the club.
            Dodgers’ vice president Buzzie Bavasi, who had engineered the trade for Brooklyn, assured the commissioner’s inquisitor that the trade with Chicago “had been completed without any 1952 involvements.” He assured Butler that the Dodgers had no intention of breaking up “the greatest outfield in the history of Brooklyn baseball,” (Carl Furillo in left, Snider in center and Pafko in right).     
            Accepting those protestations, Chandler closed the investigation, apparently without making formal inquiry of Cubs’ officials.
            New York baseball writer Dan Daniel summed up the incident by saying, “Any chance that Snider might go to the Cubs, as a delayed part of the recent deal, now seems ended as a result of the Chandler inquiry . . . despite the fact that the original story in The Sporting News came from a source regarded as well-informed.”

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