While I was reading Rob’s great analysis on the departure of Mark Shapiro as Indians Team President, I got to thinking about past team presidents and what, if any, legacy they left. Team presidents typically oversee the economic side of things—finances, sales and marketing and legal. Just about every team currently leaves the economic side to the president and the baseball operations side to the general manager. Some, like the Orioles, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals and White Sox, have two executive positions of varying titles, one for baseball operations and one for business. Frequently, the team president is also the owner (or one of the owners). Sometimes team presidents come strictly from the business world (e.g., Matt Silverman, president of the Rays, was formerly with Goldman Sachs). One of the things I liked about Shapiro (yes, I liked the guy) was that he rose through the ranks, moving from GM to president. After 24 years in the organization, he was a baseball guy who ran the business end.
Who are some of the more notable past Indians team presidents?
The team president Shapiro probably has the most in common with in terms of longevity with the team and influence would be Gabe Paul, the former batboy who got his start as traveling secretary for the Cincinnati Reds in 1937. Paul had two stints with the Indians, from 1963-1971 and against from 1978-1985. He was part owner as well as president, treasurer, and general manager. Some of his big accomplishments during that time include acquiring Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant and bringing Rocky Colavito back to Cleveland in 1965. Paul ran the team as they began transitioning from competitive to not-so-competitive. He sold his interest in the Indians in 1973 and became part of George Steinbrenner’s syndicate that bought the New York Yankees from CBS. He became president/general manager for the Yankees and came back to Cleveland in 1978.
One of the common assessments of Shapiro’s legacy was that he traded well. In that respect, he’s Gabe Paul’s heir. Paul never met a trade he didn’t like, making more than 500 trades in his career. Some made fans happy, like re-acquiring Rocky Colvatio. Some ticked people off, as when Paul traded third baseman and fan favorite Buddy Bell to the Texas Rangers for Toby Harrah in 1978. (The great side story to the trade is that when Paul was with the Reds, he acquired Gus Bell from the Pirates in 1953. The legend goes that Branch Rickey, then in command of the Pirates, didn’t like Bell’s wife because “she throws diapers away.” At the press conference in Cincinnati, Bell’s wife changed the baby’s diaper and noted that she was using those new-fangled disposable diapers. And the baby was Buddy Bell.)
Bill Veeck only owned and ran the Indians from 1946-1949. He was one of the rare owners whose skills extended from business to baseball. Everybody knows him as the innovator in promotions and marketing. In Cleveland, he put the games on the radio and moved the team from League Park to Municipal Stadium full-time. He also broke the color barrier in the American League, signing Larry Doby three months after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. And he signed Satchel Paige and won the team’s last World Series. Not bad for only three years.
The Indians hired Hank Peters as President/GM in late 1987. If you loved the powerhouse teams of the mid-1990s, Peters is the guy to thank. He traded well—acquiring Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Carlos Baerga—and drafted even better—Charles Nagy, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Brian Giles, Richie Sexson, and Sean Casey.
For now, it sounds as though Paul Dolan will assume the president’s duties. If you look at the current front office structure, the Indians have three Executive Vice-Presidents: Chris Antonetti (General Manager), Dennis Lehman (Business), and Brian Barren (Sales & Marketing). Dolan has been the Chairman/CEO anyway. It would make sense to eliminate the “president” position and have Lehman assume the business duties that Dolan doesn’t want to do. Only the front office knows how this will all shake out (and maybe they don’t even know yet).