Master of his trade
Gabe Paul Built Winning Clubs During a 60-Year Career in Baseball
By CRAIG MUDER
December 3, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Gabe Paul’s daily influence on Major League Baseball was evident in six different decades.
But Paul’s lasting legacy will be five hectic, antic – and winning – years with the New York Yankees.
|Gabe Paul is one of twenty finalists for election to the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
“(Paul) was responsible for our group being able to purchase the Yankees from CBS,” said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner at the time of Paul’s death in 1998. “And he stayed with us as president and general manager to help return the Yankees to prominence.”
Paul, one of baseball’s most successful general managers, is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Veterans Committee executives/pioneers ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Veterans Committee will vote on Dec. 6 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7. The results of the Veterans Committee election for managers/umpires will also be announced on Dec. 7.
The 10 candidates on the executives/pioneers ballot are: Gene Autry, Sam Breadon, John Fetzer, Bob Howsam, Ewing Kauffman, John McHale, Marvin Miller, Jacob Ruppert, Bill White and Paul. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.
Born Jan. 4, 1910, in Rochester, N.Y., Paul became a batboy for the International League’s Rochester Red Wings at the age of 10, and six years later was writing stories for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Warren Giles, a future National League president and Hall of Famer, hired Paul as the Red Wings’ publicity director in 1928 and promoted him to road secretary in 1934.
In 1937, Giles moved to the Cincinnati Reds and took Paul along as publicity director. Paul worked his way up to team general manager – after serving in the Army during World War II – and was named the Reds’ president in 1950 when Giles became NL president.
Paul presided over the Reds for a decade, making 86 trades and winning major league Executive of the Year honors in 1956 when the Reds surged to a third-place finish. He resigned in the fall of 1960 and quickly became the general manager of the expansion Houston Colt 45s, but accepted the job as the Cleveland Indians’ general manager in 1961 before the Colt 45s played a single game.
As president and general manager of the Indians until 1972, Paul made 110 trades – but the Tribe won more games than it lost in only two seasons. In Cleveland, however, Paul met Steinbrenner – and the two created the deal that bought the Yankees from CBS.
Paul quickly went to work rebuilding the Yankees, acquiring All-Stars like Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent and Mickey Rivers through trades and signing Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter as a free agents. Paul was named the major league Executive of the Year again in 1974, and by 1976 the Yankees had captured the American League pennant for the first time in more than a decade.
The following year, the Yankees endured a tumultuous season to repeat as AL champions. This time, the Yankees also won the World Series. But after the season, Paul resigned – returning to the Indians as president.
“Gabe Paul was a dear friend and the most knowledgeable baseball man I ever met,” Steinbrenner said.
In Cleveland, Paul made 68 trades before retiring after the 1984 season. By 1984, only two players in the Indians’ Opening Day lineup belonged to the team as recently as 1982.
“They kid me when I keep saying Cleveland is a sleeping giant,” said Paul in 1979. “Maybe Cleveland is a little slower to react, not having had a winner in so long. But once it does – boom.”
Paul lived to see his prophesy revealed, as the Indians – playing in newly built Jacobs Field – began a record 455 straight sellouts during the 1990s, a decade in which they won two AL pennants.
Paul died on April 26, 1998.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum