This article was written by Chris Jones
This article was published in the
Rochester, New York, played host to the 1962 baseball winter meetings, which saw discussion of issues including the pace of play, player travel, and a healthy amount of player movement. The largest issue on the agenda, however, concerned the reorganization of the minor-league system.
Minor League Overhaul
The most extensive action taken during the winter meetings involved a reorganization of what some considered the “rapidly deteriorating minor league structure.”1 Minor-league attendance had declined each year since 1949, going from a high of more than 41 million that year to just over 10 million in 1962.2 The proposed plan to overhaul the system, known as the “Player Development Plan,” provided for a reclassification and realignment of the minor-league system in exchange for monetary support by the major-league clubs.3
Specifically, the proposed plan called for reducing the then-current six classifications to three — AAA, AA, and A — with each big-league club (except for the four newest ones, the Mets, Colt .45’s, Angels, and Senators) underwriting five minor-league teams. The major-league clubs would further “provide the bulk of players and managers, pay all expenses and salaries over a stipulated amount ($800 monthly in AAA, $150 in AA, and $50 in A4), and reimburse the minors for all losses.” The major-league clubs would in turn have the right to purchase players from their affiliated clubs for a fixed price.5
One of the primary points of contention involving the plan was that “the major-league clubs had decided to extend working agreements to only 20 Triple-A entries for the 1963 season. Unfortunately, there were 22 clubs in the three top circuits — eight in the International, eight in the Coast, and six in the Association.”6 This led to what was described as a “jungle-like atmosphere” at the minor-league convention held from November 26-29, 1962, as the minor-league clubs fought for their survival. The Sporting News further described the heated nature of the discussions:
Any schoolboy knows that eight plus six plus six equals 20 and that ten plus ten equals 20, but eight plus eight plus six equals 22. Yet inability to come to grips with this simple arithmetic created a chaotic condition without compare at the National Association convention here, November 26-29. 7
In the end, “it took the entire four days of the confab and the combined efforts of major and minor league officials to figure out finally what takes what to make twenty.”8 In sum, the International League and the Pacific Coast League absorbed the American Association and became two 10-club leagues. The teams that had previously constituted the American Association were divided, with Dallas-Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, and Denver heading to the Pacific Coast League and Little Rock9 and Indianapolis moving to the International League.10 The International League initially rejected the merger, but a resolution was reached upon the major league’s agreement to absorb additional travel costs.11 Following the minor leagues’ agreement to the player development program, it was officially adopted by major-league owners.12
The two casualties of the merger were Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League and Omaha of the American Association.13 While the surviving Triple-A clubs undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief, fear of additional contraction remained: “This is just like death row,” said one baseball official, “with many minor league clubs and their backers waiting to see who is next to be tapped to walk that last mile.”14
Attempt to Shorten Games
The American and National Leagues each voted in their opening sessions to put new restrictions on pitchers in an effort to shorten “those marathon ball games that frequently run 3 hours and more.” Specifically, the leagues focused on warm-up pitches, mound visits, and the on-deck circle.
The National League voted to limit pitchers to five warm-ups per inning instead of the usual eight. The American League also limited pitchers to five warm-up pitches per inning, save for the first 30 days of the season, when the usual eight pitchers would be permitted.
In addition, both leagues agreed that a pitcher awaiting his turn as the next batter must do so from the on-deck circle. Previously, the batter following the pitcher would “keep the on-deck spot warm while the pitcher rests on the bench until he has to bat.” The American League went even further and required catchers to remove all protective gear while waiting in the on-deck circle.15
Finally, the National League decided that a manager could visit the mound only once per inning. A second mound visit would result in the mandatory removal of the pitcher. The American League already had an even more restrictive rule in place, mandating that a manager could go to the mound to talk to the same pitcher only once in the entire game.16
Players voiced a number of complaints during the meetings over issues ranging from travel to ballpark lavatories.
With respect to travel, players wanted direct flights from city to city. National League player representative Bob Friend of the Pirates reported that “one team stopped three times from one city to another last season and later made a four-stop trip, both on commercial planes, to save money.”17
Additional player requests included:
- Eliminating any day-night, two-admission games except in cases of emergency or long-standing tradition, such as the Memorial Day games in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
- An increase in the minimum salary from $7,000 to $8,000.
- Inclusion of the official scorer’s name in the program along with those of the umpires.
- A ban on exhibition games with minor-league teams during the season.
- Better mounds in the Yankee Stadium bullpens, and better backgrounds in the visiting bullpens at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
- The installation of phones connecting the bullpen to the dugout in all big-league ballparks.
- More lights in the Houston ballpark and better bullpen lavatory conditions.18
No official action was taken with respect to any of these issues.
1963 All Star Game
Players agreed to a proposal from 20 National and American league owners returning the All-Star Game to a one-game format. Under the deal, the owners would give the players 95 percent of the gate, TV, and radio receipts in exchange for returning to a single game.19 Players had demanded a two-game format since 1959.
Of primary concern to the players was the amount of money allocated to the player pension fund; the loss of a second game reportedly would cost the fund $50,000 per year. Previously, 60 percent of all receipts for the two games were put into the pension fund, totaling an aggregate of $450,000. The higher percentage of receipts for a single game helped to offset the loss of the second game, and would yield an estimated $395,000.20
Major-league baseball awarded the 1963 All-Star Game to Cleveland, departing from the procedure that would have awarded the game to a National League city. The change guaranteed the 1964 game to the New York Mets to coincide with crowds in town for the World’s Fair.21
Yankees Send Skowron to Dodgers
Perhaps the most noteworthy player transaction to be consummated during the winter meetings was the Yankees’ trade of their longtime slugger, first baseman Bill Skowron, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for veteran right-handed pitcher Stan Williams. In Williams, the Yankees acquired “the pitcher they so badly needed last season and couldn’t get,” and one whom some considered “one of the finest pitchers” on a Dodgers staff consisting of names like Koufax, Drysdale, and Podres.22 Williams’s final appearance with the Dodgers was walking in the winning run during the 1962 National League playoff against the San Francisco Giants.23
The Dodgers’ acquisition of Skowron, on the other hand, was immediately second-guessed, with the general reaction being, “What does a team with so much talent need Skowron for?” It was rumored that the Dodgers would use Skowron in an additional trade with the Kansas City Athletics for sought-after second baseman Jerry Lumpe, but team officials quickly shot down such speculation.24 Before being sent to the West Coast, Skowron was rumored to be on his way to Boston. The Yankees reportedly asked for either Bill Monbouqette or Gene Conley in the deal, however, but the Red Sox were not interested in parting with either All-Star right-hander.25
Major and Minor League Drafts
Records were set in the major- and minor-league drafts when a total of 116 players were selected. As Edward Prell wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “(i)n the first ‘game,’ the majors selected 56 players at a cost of $696,000.” The old record had been set just the year before, in Louisville, when the major-league clubs selected 35 players for $680,000. The minor leagues at the Triple-A, Double-A, A, and B levels spent a collective $483,000 on 60 players. The Orioles were deemed the “biggest losers” in the draft process, as “(18) of their chattels were claimed at the various levels.”26
Additional Player Transactions:
- The first trade of the Winter Meetings saw the Cleveland Indians send third baseman-outfielder Bubba Phillips to the Detroit Tigers for rookie pitchers Ron Nischwitz (a lefty) and right-hander Gordon Seyfried.27
- The Detroit Tigers pulled off a second trade within eight hours of acquiring Phillips when they obtained catcher Gus Triandos and outfielder Whitey Herzog from the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Dick Brown.28
- The Red Sox and Houston Colt .45’s traded premium hitters; Boston obtained Roman Mejias, an outfielder coming off a 24-home-run season, for infielder Pete Runnels, the American League batting champion in 1960 and 1962.29
- The Cincinnati Reds acquired journeyman infielder Harry Bright from the Washington Senators for first baseman Rogelio Alvarez.30
- The Cleveland Indians sent right-handed pitcher Frank Funk, outfielder Don Dillard, and a player to be named later (outfielder Ty Cline) to the Milwaukee Braves for first baseman Joe Adcock and left-handed pitcher Jack Curtis.31
- The New York Mets purchased right-handed pitcher Wynn Hawkins from the Cleveland Indians for $25,000. Hawkins had spent much of the 1962 season in the Army, but managed to pitch on the weekends in Jacksonville. 32
- The Philadelphia Phillies acquired infielder Cookie Rojas from Cincinnati in exchange for Jim Owens, a “28-year-old right-hander whose problems outweighed his promise.”33 Owens reportedly had “jumped the club on more than one occasion and was suspended by the club during spring training of 1960 after he and some teammates were fined for staying out after curfew.”34 Phillies general manager John Quinn said that “Owens simply outlived his usefulness for us” and that “it was either make any deal we could for him or sell him for what we could get.”35
- The Detroit Tigers traded third baseman Steve Boros to the Chicago Cubs for right-handed pitcher Bob Anderson. Boros had hit .270 in his rookie year and had been named the Most Valuable Player of the American Association in 1960.36
- The Houston Colt .45’s traded first baseman Norm Larker to the Milwaukee Braves for two minor leaguers, right-handed pitcher Connie Grob and outfielder Jim Bolger. Houston also acquired pitcher Don Nottebart from the Milwaukee Braves in a cash transaction.37 The Colt .45’s also acquired left-handed pitcher Dick Lemay and outfielder (and future pinch-hitter supreme) Manny Mota for second baseman Joe Amalfitano.38
- The Mets traded right-handed pitcher Bob Miller to the Dodgers for second baseman Larry Burright and first baseman Tim Harkness. The Mets purchased right-handed pitcher Howard Reed from the Dodgers in a separate cash transaction.39
- The National League re-elected President Warren Giles for another four-year term.40
- The American and National Leagues agreed that no further expansion would occur without “full discussions between both leagues in a joint executive session.”41
- The major leagues voted against a proposal that would have allowed for interleague trading each June. Commissioner Frick also opposed the proposal, stating that “when you start trading like that in the middle of the season you leave yourself open to considerable criticism,” as “you might even find pennant contenders in one league getting help from low-ranked clubs in the other league and that doesn’t make sense.”42
1 “Minors to Be Overhauled With Big League Money,” Hartford Courant, November 25, 1962: 4C1.
2 “Int-AA Merger Bid Pinpoints Plunge by Minors Since 1949,” The Sporting News, December 1, 1962: 4.
3 “Minors Doomed Unless Majors Act,” The Sporting News, December 8, 1962: 1-2.
4 “Two Clubs Added to International,” New York Times, November 30, 1962: 37.
5 “Minors to be Overhauled.”
6 “Minors Doomed Unless Majors Act.”
7 ”22 Clubs, Only 20 Tieups, Add Up to Headache,” The Sporting News, December 8, 1962: 2.
9 Little Rock was an expansion team that effectively replaced Louisville, which dissolved following the 1962 season.
10 “Majors to Foot Bill for Revamped Minors,” Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1962: B1.
11 “Two Clubs Added to International.”
12 “Cleveland Awarded 1963 All-Star Game,” Washington Post and Times Herald, December 2, 1962: C4.
13 “3 Top Minor Leagues Re-Organized,” Washington Post and Times Herald, November 30, 1962: B9.
14 “Minors Doomed Unless Majors Act.”
15 “Major Leagues Take Steps to Shorten Games,” Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1962: A3.
16 “Majors Move to Speed Game by Pitching Rule Change,” New York Times, December 1, 1962: 43.
17 “Players Toss Travel Gripes at Owners,” The Sporting News, December 1, 1962: 1.
19 “Major League Baseball Returns to One All-Star Game for 1963,” Chicago Tribune, November 30, 1962: C1.
21 “Cleveland Awarded 1963 All-Star Game.”
22 “Yanks Trade Skowron,” Boston Globe, November 27, 1962: 22.
23 “Nats Send Bright to Cincinnati; Skowron Traded for Stan Williams,” Washington Post and Times Herald, November 27, 1962: A17.
24 “Yanks Trade Skowron.”
25 “Yanks Trade Skowron”: 24.
26 Edward Prell, “Major and Minor Leagues Draft 116 for $1,178,000,” Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1962: 3, 1.
27 “Indians Trade Phillips to Tigers for Pitchers,” Hartford Courant, November 26, 1962: 18.
28 “Boston Acquires Mejias from Houston for Runnels,” Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1962: C1.
30 “Yanks Trade Skowron.”
31 “Indians Get Adcock in 5-Player Swap,” Boston Globe, November 28, 1962: 34.
32 “Mets Purchase Hawkins, Hurler,” New York Times, November 28, 1962: 47.
33 “Mets Buy Pitcher Hawkins From Indians,” Hartford Courant, November 2, 1962: 21.
36 “Steve Boros, Joe Adcock Highlight Major Trades,” Los Angeles Times, November 28, 1962: B1.
37 “Majors Move to Speed Game by Pitching Rule Change.”
39 “Mets Trade Bob Miller to Dodgers,” Washington Post and Times Herald, December 2, 1962: C8.
40 “Major Leagues Take Steps to Shorten Games.”
41 “Cleveland Awarded 1963 All-Star Game.”