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The Buc Report

What’s going on in the world of sports at Beloit? Find out in The Buc Report, a weekly series on the people and programs that comprise Buccaneer Athletics. A full archive of past entries appears below. 

Inside Buccaneer Sports: Turn-of-the-century Beloiter was baseball pioneer

April 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Leland Stanford MacPhail’s time on the Beloit College athletic fields may have been brief but it definitely helped launch him to greater things throughout an adult life in professional baseball.

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 MacPhail, a member of the class of 1910, was on the Beloit College baseball team for one season – 1907 – a season that saw them finish 9-9 while playing the likes of Purdue, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame in a time when baseball was king at Beloit.

A Michigan native, MacPhail entered the University of Michigan after Beloit College and then moved on to George Washington University Law School. A lawyer, department store executive, and banker, he moved into professional baseball as the 1930’s began.

His first baseball position, President at Columbus (Ohio) of the American Association, lasted from 1930-33, when he was named the General Manager for the Cincinnati Reds. He was the innovator of two major league “firsts” in those four seasons with the Reds.On June 8, 1934, the Reds were the first major league team to travel by plane when they flew into Chicago for a series with the Cubs. The next season he brought night baseball to the major leagues when the Reds defeated the Phillies 2-1 on May 24, 1935, at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

From the Reds he moved to the General Manager position of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938.  And wherever MacPhail went after his stint with the Reds, lights were sure to follow. The Dodgers debuted night baseball on June 15, 1938, against the Reds, which also happened to be the game where the Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer pitched his second consecutive no-hitter. A season later he brought television to the ballpark with the first televised baseball game on August 26, 1939, when the Dodgers hosted the Reds at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.  MacPhail was with the Dodgers until 1942.

After several years away from the game for World War II MacPhail re-emerged as the president, general manager and part-owner of the New Yankees in 1946, having purchased the franchise along with Dan Topping and Del Webb.  Again lights followed, with the first night game at Yankee Stadium occurring on May 28, 1946, with the Washington Senators in town. He also won his first World Series when the Yankees defeated the Dodgers in the 1947.  But his time with the Yankees was short-lived as he resigned his positions on the night of the Series-clinching victory, saying he had promised his wife he would retire if a team of his ever won a world championship. (There are several different versions of the resignation story, many not as sentimental as this one).

After leaving baseball MacPhail was a racehorse owner and breeder. He lived a long life before passing away on October 1, 1975.

MacPhail was a veteran of both World Wars. Shortly after the end of World War I he was one of a group of eight who attempted to abduct the Kaiser from a castle in Holland where he was hiding. During World War II, he was assistant to the Secretary of War.

He was inducted into the Beloit College Hall of Honor in 1967, the fifth class of inductees, and into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in 1978 on a vote of the Veterans Committee.  

What a life--and Beloit College was a large part of it.    

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