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William B. Cox (1910-1989) was an Americanmarker businessman and sports executive.

New York Yankees (AFL III)

A Yale Universitymarker alumnus and wealthy lumber broker, Cox first entered the sports world when he headed a group that bought the New York Yankees of the third American Football League in 1941. After changing the team's name to the New York Americans, Cox's first major splash was signing Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon and complete a backfield tandem with John Kimbrough. Soon afterward, Cox was named league president as well. He had ambitious plans for the Yankees, but the outbreak of World War II forced the league to shut down. As it turned out, it never returned. He also supplied the pilings used to reinforce the Panama Canalmarker during the war.

Philadelphia Phillies

In , Cox bought the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball's National League. Financially strapped owner Gerald Nugent had been forced to sell the franchise back to the league after needing an advance from the league just to go to spring training in . The league then sold the franchise to Cox. At only 33 years, he was the youngest owner in baseball.

Rumors have long abounded that Bill Veeck was ready to buy the Phillies from Nugent, but Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and National League President Ford Frick derailed those plans when they heard Veeck wanted to stock the Phillies with stars from the Negro Leagues. According to this story, Landis and Frick forced Nugent to give up control of the franchise to the National League, which then sold it to Cox. However, this account is arguably false based on evidence of the time; notably, Philadelphia's black press never mentioned anything about a sale to Veeck.

At the time Cox took over, the Phillies had been the dregs of the National League for a quarter century; they had finished above .500 only once since . This was at least in part because the team's owners had been unwilling or unable to spend the money necessary to build a winner. Cox, however, was not afraid to spend what it took to get the Phillies out of the cellar. He significantly increased the team's payroll, and devoted significant resources to player development (including the farm system) for the first time in the history of the franchise. He also hired Bucky Harris, who had won two pennants and one World Series with the Washington Senators, as manager.

However, Cox was a very hands-on owner. He'd played baseball at Yale, and still thought of himself as a star athlete. Believing the team needed to be better conditioned, he hired his high school track coach, Harold Bruce, as team trainer. Cox even suited up for workouts, and frequently showed up at the clubhouse before and after games. All of this grated on Harris, and when he protested against Cox's interference, Cox fired him on July 27 at a press conference--without bothering to tell Harris first. The players threatened to go on strike in protest, but Harris urged them to drop those plans. However, the next day, Harris dropped a bombshell at his hotel room in Philadelphia--he had evidence that Cox was betting on his own team. When Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis got wind of Harris' charges, he launched an immediate investigation. Despite this, the Phillies showed signs of respectability for the first time in years. They finished 64-90--a healthy 22-game improvement from 1942--and got out of the cellar for the first time in five years. The long-beleaguered Phillies fans appreciated what Cox was trying to do; the Phillies had their best attendance since . At the time of Harris' firing, the Phillies had already won 38 games--just four fewer than they had won all of the previous season.

Initially, Cox denied any wrongdoing, but conceded that some of his business associates bet on the Phillies. As the investigation progressed, Cox changed his story and admitted making some "sentimental" bets on the Phillies. He claimed, however, that he didn't know it was against the rules. This made no difference to Landis, who suspended Cox indefinitely on November 23. Cox immediately resigned as team president, but appealed Landis' ruling two weeks later. At a December 4 hearing, Harris testified that he'd heard Cox's secretary asking about the odds for a game between the Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers. When Harris asked, "Do you mean to tell me Mr. Cox is betting on baseball?" the secretary replied that it was common knowledge in the Phillies office. On the basis of this and other evidence, Landis made the suspension permanent--thus making Cox the first non-player to be banned from baseball by Landis.

Cox retired to other business interests and died in Mount Kisco, New Yorkmarker in 1989.

References/external links



References

  1. http://www.sabr.org/cmsFiles/Files/Bill_Veeck_and_the_1943_sale_of_the_Phillies.pdf



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