Charles Somers

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Charles Somers in 1903.

Charles W. Somers (born October 13, 1868 - June 29, 1934) was an American executive in Cleveland, Ohio's coal industry who also achieved prominence in Major League Baseball. The financial resources from his business interests allowed Somers to become one of the principal founders of baseball's American League in 1901.

At the insistence of league president Ban Johnson, Somers and Jack Kilfoyl, who owned a popular Cleveland men's furnishings store, became the first owners of the Cleveland franchise. [1]

Kilfoyl was Cleveland's first team president and treasurer, while Somers was its vice president and main financier.

Somers was also the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, a team which had no official nickname until 1908, but was initially sometimes called the "Somersets" in his honor. Residing in Cleveland and traveling to Boston, Somers was also the American League's vice-president during the trade war for independence of and equality with the National League which was won in 1903 with the playing of the first World Series.[2]

Somers' money helped keep some American League teams afloat in their first years, including the St. Louis Browns, Charles Comiskey's Chicago White Sox and Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.[3]

Somers sold his interest in the Boston club in 1903 to Henry Killilea. In 1910 Kilfoyl took ill and sold his interest in Cleveland to Somers.[4]

Somers invested in one of the first baseball minor league farm systems, ultimately controlling teams in Toledo, Ohio; Ironton, Ohio; Waterbury, Connecticut; Portland, Oregon; and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Facing pressure from the newly formed Federal League, in 1914 Somers transferred his Toledo Mud Hens to Cleveland to share League Park. This was done to keep the Federals out of Cleveland by ensuring there was already a ball game in Cleveland virtually every day of the season.

In 1915 the American League team, previously called the Cleveland Naps in reference to player/manager Nap Lajoie, was renamed the Cleveland Indians. Although Somers had kept the Fed at bay, the new league still had its influence, forcing salaries higher. This, combined with poor attendance at League Park, along with other investments that did not work out, put Somers in a precarious financial position.

In 1916, although the Fed had disbanded, it was too late to save Somers financially. He went broke with debts exceeding assets of $1.75 million, and at the insistence of his bank creditors, sold the Indians for $500,000 to a syndicate headed by Jim Dunn. [5] The creditors did allow him to retain ownership of the Pelicans for sentimental reasons. The Mud Hens returned to Toledo in 1916.

After selling the Indians he successfully rebuilt his business investments. At his death in 1934 (at the height of the Great Depression) his estate was worth approximately $3 million.[6]

Somers was married twice. He had a daughter, Dorothy (Mrs. W.W. Clark) from his first marriage. His second wife, Mary Alice Gilbert, survived him. Somers died at Put-in-Bay, OH.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lewis, Franklin (2006). The Cleveland Indians. Kent State University Press reprint from Putnam. pp. 32–40. ISBN 978-0-87338-885-6. 
  2. ^ Quirk, James & Rodney D. Fort (1992). Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports. Princeton University Press. pp. 400–402. ISBN 0-691-01574-0. 
  3. ^ Lewis, op cit, p. 37-43.
  4. ^ Lewis, op cit, p. 63
  5. ^ Lewis, op cit, p. 76-77
  6. ^ Lewis, op cit, p. 77

External links[edit]

Preceded by
None
Owner of the Boston Red Sox
1901 — 1903
Succeeded by
Henry Killilea
Preceded by
None
Owner of the Cleveland Indians
1901 — 1916
Succeeded by
Jim Dunn