Welcome to First Draft Follies, an ongoing series here at the blog. The material is presented “as is” from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets — [like this] — for clarification. The excerpt is long, so I’m breaking it into manageable bits and posting those bits over the next few days.
This edition of the Follies concerns Gus Busch and the fallout from his purchase of the St. Louis Cardinals. _____________________________
A Senate subcommittee opened hearings into the matter in March. Johnson’s cause was lost almost the moment the gavel landed.
The first witness was Stanley W. Barnes, speaking on behalf of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. Barnes got right to the point: as far as the Attorney General was concerned, Senate Joint Resolution 133 appeared to be a “discriminatory” and virtually unenforceable proposal and Justice planned to oppose any effort to enact said resolution. (*9)
Johnson gamely carried on, accusing August A. Busch, Jr. of tax fraud, condemning Busch’s “lavish and vulgar display of beer wealth and beer opulence,” and attacking the company’s decision to parade the “magnificent” Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales at Busch Stadium and at the Cardinal’s spring training park in St. Petersburg, Florida. (*10) Anheuser-Busch, Johnson also told his audience, had recently snatched the number one rank away from Schlitz Brewing, and “the reason for it is the ownership of the Cardinal Baseball Club.” (*11)
Joseph H. Garagiola, catcher for the Chicago Cubs, showed up at the hearings, although it was not immediately clear to him or to anyone else why he’d been called. Perhaps it was because he’d played for the Cards back in the forties and had lived in St. Louis his entire life.
In any case, Senator William Langer, the North Dakota Republican who presided over the hearings, quizzed Garagiola about his baseball history, the shoulder injury that had caused him to rethink his career in sports, and his current plan, which was to exit baseball and go into sports broadcasting.
After a long series of often confusing questions (and even more confusing answers that may have led the audience to wonder if Joe had injured his head rather than his shoulder), Garagiola’s (tenuous) connection to the Anheuser-Busch matter finally came out: The catcher had talked to one Harry Renfro about switching from baseball to radio or TV. Renfro worked for d’Arcy Advertising, and d’Arcy handled the advertising for Anheuser-Busch.
Therefore, announced a triumphant Senator Johnson, Harry Renfro was actually “doing a fancy bit of tampering with [Garagiola’s] contract,” and Garagiola himself had come close to violating one of baseball’s sacred rules. (*12)
“Could I say what my thinking is,?” the frustrated ballplayer asked after Johnson finally wound up his confusing and wholly inaccurate assessment of the conversation between Garagiola and Renfro. (*13)
Oh, Johnson replied, “[y]ou could not be held in anyway to blame for anything that may have happened, but I cannot say that for Mr. Renfro, I cannot say that for the Anheuser-Busch people because they knew very well what they were doing.” (*14)
The obviously baffled Garagiola kept trying to persuade Johnson otherwise, but finally gave up and let Johnson ramble on.
“I am still confused,” said Joe as he prepared to leave the witness chair. (*15) “You do not know whether you are on the air or up in the air,” replied Senator Harley Kilgore (D-West Virginia). “Joe, we want to thank you very much,” added Senator Langer. (*16)
“I am thoroughly confused,” replied Garagioloa. (*17)
*9: Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary, Subjecting Professional Baseball Clubs to the Antitrust Laws, 83d Cong., 2d sess., 1954, 4.
*10: Ibid., 18.
*11: Ibid., 24.
*12: Ibid., 55.
*15: Ibid., 65.