“The legend has been spread that the owners hired the Judge off the federal bench. Don't you believe it. They got him right out of Dickens.” - Leo Durocher
In a move widely supported by the press, Kenesaw Mountain Landis takes office as baseball's first commissioner, replacing the three-man National Commission, formerly governed by league presidents Ban Johnson and John Heydler and Reds owner Garry Herrmann. In November, the 55 year-old jurist agreed to take the newly created position for seven years at a salary of $50,000 (minus a $7,500 reduction to reflect his current pay as judge) on the condition he could continue to preside on the federal bench, an arrangement which would come to an end in thirteen months, when he resigns from his judicial responsibilities.
The Indians sign Bob Feller (27-11, 2.61) to a deal worth a reported $30,000, making the 22 year-old farm from Van Meter, Iowa the highest paid hurler in baseball history. Dazzy Vance and Lefty Grove had previously held the distinction when they were paid $27,500 for one season of work.
The BBWAA elects southpaws Carl Hubbell and Lefty Grove, infielder Frank Frisch, and catcher Mickey Cochrane into the Hall of Fame, who will be inducted in July, along with 11 additional individuals, who were selected by the Old-Timers Committee. The large list of new HOFers generated by the Old-Timers Committee in June, that included the names of Tommy McCarthy, Jesse Burkett, Clark Griffith, Joe McGinnity, Jack Chesbro, Eddie Plank, Rube Waddell, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Ed Walsh, will lead to the revision of the procedures used to select candidates for enshrinement.
Cardinal legend Dizzy Dean and outfielder Al Simmons, best known for his years with the A's, are elected to the Hall of Fame, but Joe DiMaggio in his first year of eligibility is not. The Yankee Clipper will have to wait until 1955 when 88.8% of the BBWAA scribes put his name on their ballot.
In an effort to fill the void of National League baseball in New York City, the Phillies agree to televise 78 games in the metropolitan area, which is without a Senior Circuit team for the first time since the league's inception in 1876. The Pirates and Cardinals will also beam games into the Big Apple, but their contests will only feature the departed Dodgers and Giants as opponents.
Stan Musial insists the Cardinals cut his salary from $100,000 to $80,000, believing that he was overpaid in 1957 and 1958, and the reduced salary should be a reflection of his poor production for the team last season. The Redbird 39 year-old All-Star first baseman batted .255 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs in the 115 games he played in last season.
Teams, Inc. meet with National League president Warren Giles to plead their case of keeping the Braves in Milwaukee through the entire upcoming season. The community non-profit organization, headed by future baseball commissioner Bud Selig, successfully prevents the club from marching to Atlanta at the All-Star break, when the league rules the team must honor the final year of their stadium lease.
In his first year of eligibility, Cardinal legend Stan Musial is elected into the Hall of Fame, receiving 93% of the writers' votes. The BBWAA also selects Roy Campanella, the former Dodger catcher who won three National League MVPs before he was permanently disabled in a car accident just prior to the start of spring training in 1958.
No player receives three-fourths of the necessary votes to be elected into the Hall of Fame, with Yogi Berra (67.2%) and Early Wynn (66.7%) coming the closest. Both will be inducted into Cooperstown next season.
Cesar Geronimo is traded by the Reds to the Royals for minor leaguer infielder German Barranca. After a three-year stint in Kansas City, the four-time Gold Glover will retire, compiling a lifetime average of .258 during his 15 seasons in the major leagues.
The Commissioner's office announces lifetime passes to any major or minor league regular season game will given to the returning 52 Iranian hostages and the 14 others who were released earlier during the ordeal. In 1973, MLB made a similar gesture to the hundreds of prisoners of war who were returning from Vietnam.
Free agent Vida Blue comes to terms with the A's, but will surprise the team next month by announcing his retirement. The 37 year-old southpaw, who posted a 10-10 record with San Francisco last season, compiled a 209-161 (.565) record along with an ERA of 3.27 during his 17-year tenure in the major leagues.
In an effort to conserve electricity during California's energy crisis, the Angels turn off Edison International Field's Big A and the Little A signs. The landmark beacons, which are usually illuminated 24 hours a day, will be turned on only for stadium events.
After asking for $22 million in salary arbitration, Roger Clemens agrees to a one-year, $18 million deal with the Astros. The pact makes the ‘Rocket’ the most expensive hurler in major league history.
The Orioles acquire a potential No. 1 starting pitcher as the team trades right-handers Jorge Julio and John Maine to the Mets for Kris Benson (10-8, 4.13). With Jae Seo being dealt to the Dodgers for relievers Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll, it is the second time this month the Mets ship a starter from their pitching rotation in an effort to bolster their bullpen.
Yadier Molina (.275, 6, 40) agrees to a $15.5 million, four-year deal to remain with the Cardinals. The Redbirds catcher, best known for his defensive prowess, nailed 23 of 46 base runners trying to steal a base last season.
Brett Tomko and the Royals agree to a $3 million, one-year deal. Kansas City believes the 34 year-old right-hander has overcome the problems which plagued him with the Dodgers (2-11, 5.80) last season.
In an effort to increase attendance, Washington reduces individual ticket prices on 14,000 seats and does not raise prices on any of the 41,888 seats at Nationals Park. Despite the debut of a brand new stadium in the nation's capital, the club ranked 13th in attendance in the 16-team National League circuit.
The Orioles and Nick Markakis finalize a significant $66.1 million six-year deal, which covers the span the right fielder would have been eligible for arbitration and the first three after he would be eligible to file for free agency. The 25 year-old fly chaser, who had his best offensive season with the team and led the American League in outfield assists last season, was named the team's most valuable player by the local media last season.
Rocco Baldelli, traded to the Red Sox in the offseason, takes out an ad in the St. Petersburg Times to show his appreciation of the support given to him by the Rays fans during his five years with the franchise. In an open letter the outfielder writes,"I will always think of the Tampa Bay area as my second home, and I would like to thank everyone for accepting me and for making my time here as enjoyable as it was".
Avoiding salary arbitration with the Mariners, Erik Bedard agrees to a $7.75 million, one-year contract. The deal gives the left-hander, the team’s Opening Day starter who was obtained last season from Baltimore, a raise of $750,000 from last season.
Jon Lester becomes the 48th recipient of the Hutch Award, and the first to be actually treated by a doctor from the renowned institution named for Seattle baseball legend Fred Hutchinson. The Red Sox hurler, a survivor of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, is honored with the annual award for best exemplifying the spirit and competitive drive of the former major leaguer and skipper, who died of cancer in 1964 at the age of 45.
Avoiding an arbitration hearing, Joe Blanton (2-8, 4.05) and the Phillies come to terms on a $24 million, three-year deal. The 29 year-old right-hander is expected to be the National League champion's number three starter in a rotation which includes Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and J.A. Happ
In an effort to be a closer, Octavio Dotel (3-3, 3.32 ERA) agrees to a $3.5 million, one-year deal with the Pirates, the only team that offered the right-hander the opportunity to save games. The 36 year-old reliever, who hasn't been a closer since 2007 with Kansas City, struck out 75 batters in 62.1 innings in a setup role for the White Sox last season, but didn't record a save.
In a cost-cutting move, the Blue Jays send Vernon Wells to the Angels in exchange for catcher Mike Napoli and fly-chaser Juan Rivera. Toronto still owed the 32 year-old three-time All-Star outfielder $86 million through 2014, but will only have to send $5 million to Los Angeles to complete the trade, giving the team a better opportunity to compete in the AL East.
After picking up his $6 million option in October, the Red Sox trade Marco Scutaro (.299, 7, 54) to the Rockies for right-hander Clayton Mortensen (2-4, 3.86). The unexpected move of the 36 year-old infielder to Colorado may be a signal that Boston is counting on prospect Jose Iglesias to be the starting shortstop on Opening Day.
The Nationals introduce Max Scherzer, the newest member of the team’s already very solid pitching staff. The 29 year-old right-hander, who inked a seven-year, $210 million contract to hurl for Washington, joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez, a fivesome many consider to be the best starting rotation in baseball history.