In the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are a total of 28 executives/owners enshrined.
Today, we’ll look at one of them who might have a case for being the 29th.
Welcome to the newest edition of “The Cooperstown case”, and we’ll be looking at a man who was a beloved figure in St. Louis for decades: August Anheuser “Gussie” Busch Jr.
His paternal grandfather was the founder of the iconic Anheuser-Busch beer company that’s been based in St. Louis for over a century. Born on March 28th, 1899, Busch Jr. wasn’t immediately into the baseball business. He was, however, into the brewing business, becoming a superintendent of brewing operations in 1924. Following his brother’s death in 1946, he became President and CEO of the company.
By 1957, Anheuser-Busch was the largest brewing company in the world.
In 1933, “Gussie” Busch began using the famous Clydesdale’s, using them to commemorate the end of Prohibition by having a team, in his words, “haul the first case of Budweiser down Pennsylvania Avenue for delivery to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House.”
During all of this, the St. Louis Cardinals were one of the best teams in baseball, and had a slew of talent at their disposal. However, in 1953, their owner at the time, Fred Saigh, was convicted of tax evasion. As a result, the Cardinals were put up for sale. Facing the risk of the team potentially moving to Houston, “Gussie” Busch convinced the Anheuser-Busch company to enter the bidding to purchase the team.
Using his strong salesman skills and attitude, he was able to persuade Saigh to take less money ($3.75 million) than what he was being offered by out-of-town interests, being able to maintain a sense of civic pride.
It is because of “Gussie” Busch and the Anheuser-Busch company that the Cardinals remained in St. Louis.
While as chairman, president or CEO of the Cardinals from 1953 until his death in 1989, “Gusie” Busch oversaw a team that won six National League pennants (1964, 1967, 1968, 1982, 1985, 1987) and three World Series (1964, 1967 and 1982). His son, August Busch III, ousted him as president of Anheuser-Busch eventually, but despite that, the elder Busch remained as president of the Cardinals until his dying day.
A prominent fixture in St. Louis, “Gussie” Busch was famous for riding around Busch Stadium with the Clydesdale’s, waving to the sellout crowds, and for being an ever-present figure within the organization.
Another instrumental decision “Gussie” Busch was a part of was in regards to the stadium in St. Louis.
The Cardinals never owned Sportsman’s Park, and instead rented it from the St. Louis Browns. Once “Gussie” bought the Cardinals, he renovated the stadium, and named it Busch Stadium.
As recognition for all of his achievements, in 1984, the Cardinals retired a number, 85, in Busch’s honor, which represented his age at the time.
He died of pneumonia in St. Louis on September 28th, 1989. He was 90 years old.
An instrumental figure in the sport of baseball and in the business of brewing, “Gussie” Busch found a way to meld his two best interests and create what both the St. Louis Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch stand for today.
But does he deserve a spot in Cooperstown?
Feel free to discuss. And be sure to tune in next week for yet another edition of “The Cooperstown case”!