|Birth: ||Jan. 5, 1864|
|Death: ||Mar. 28, 1931|
St. Louis County
Ban Johnson, controversial American baseball organizer, founder of the American League which skyrocketed baseball's popularity and renown under his Presidency. He played baseball at Oberlin College, but was kicked out of school. As a Cincinnati sports editor, his attacks on Reds owner John Brush led to Ban becoming Western League President in 1894. The league grew lucrative, while the National League, the sole major league 1892-1900, drove away fans. The Western League became the American League, whose request for major league status was rebuffed by the NL, so Johnson invaded 4 cities abandoned by the NL. His key owners were conquered player/leaders of the 1890 Players' Rebellion: Philadelphia's Connie Mack and Chicago's Charles Comiskey. The AL debuted as a major league in 1901. Declining NL salaries and his owners' war chest attracted Hall of Famers Napoleon Lajoie, Gorgeous George Davis, and Cy Young to the AL. Johnson won fans' support with better umpiring and cleaner play. He moved the Baltimore Orioles to New York, where, as the Yankees, they became the premiere sports franchise. Immediate AL success led the NL to sue for peace in 1903, and the first modern World Series, but Johnson's enemy, John Brush, now owner of the New York Giants, backed out of the 1904 series. The peace treaty created a National Commission to rule baseball: Johnson, the NL President, and Johnson's friend, new Cincinnati owner Garry Herrmann. Johnson's grudges caught up with him. He blocked Players' Rebellion mastermind, attorney John Montgomery Ward from the NL presidency, but Ward won a libel suit versus Johnson. In 1912, Johnson suspended AL star Ty Cobb, at the time, a leader in the movement to revive unionism in baseball, over Cobb's beating of a fan. After the beating, despite Ward's battles with Johnson, and Ward's support of unionism, Ward's highly influential Congressional testimony supported Johnson's actions, and berated Cobb. The National Commission wiped out a third major league and a player union, but favoritism towards the AL eroded the Commission's support, then Johnson alienated AL owners too, who alleged he held Cleveland and Boston stock.
When 8 Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, Johnson dismissed Comiskey's suspicions as "the yelp of a beaten cur." The "Black Sox" were acquitted in September 1920, but baseball's newly-appointed first Commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Landis, banned them for life, to the relief of owners, who feared Federal intervention. The all-powerful Commissioner system supplanted the National Commission, ending Johnson's reign as "Baseball Czar." In 1926, Johnson arranged retirements for stars Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb over allegations of throwing games, but Landis undid Johnson's actions. In 1927, Johnson suffered a nervous breakdown, and resigned under fire from AL owners 6 months later. He went into seclusion for the rest of his life. His 1937 Baseball Hall of Fame induction honors his immense contributions. The house he lived in at the end of his life still stands, nearby the cemetery where his huge monument lies.
Encyclopedia Americana entry by David Stevens (bio by: David Stevens)
Sarah Jane Laymon Johnson (1868 - 1941)*
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Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1578
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