Gabe Paul

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Gabe Paul
Gabe Paul.png
Born January 4, 1910
Rochester, New York
Died April 26, 1998(1998-04-26) (aged 88)
Tampa, Florida
Nationality American
Occupation Major League Baseball executive
Religion Judaism

Gabriel Howard Paul (January 4, 1910 – April 26, 1998) was an American executive in Major League Baseball who served as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Colt .45's, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees. He also served as president of the Indians and Yankees.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Rochester, New York, Paul, who was Jewish,[1][2][3] got his start in the game at age 10 as a batboy for the Rochester Tribe of the AA International League and later attended Monroe High School.[4] Eventually, he worked for Warren Giles, who became business manager of the renamed Rochester Red Wings when the St. Louis Cardinals purchased the team in 1928. When Giles took over the front office of the Cincinnati Reds in 1937, Paul became the Reds’ traveling secretary.

After returning from military service during World War II, Paul was promoted to vice president.

Cincinnati Reds general manager[edit]

In October 1951, when Giles was elected president of the National League, Paul took his old mentor's job as Cincinnati general manager. The Reds were then a losing outfit with a weak farm system. Paul rebuilt the minor league department and began to scout and sign African-American and Latin American players. The Reds broke the baseball color line on April 17, 1954, when Chuck Harmon and Nino Escalera made their debuts. They were the seventh of the eight National League clubs to integrate.

In 1956 at age 20, Frank Robinson, the club's first black superstar, had the best rookie season in NL history, hitting 38 home runs, scoring a league-leading 122 runs, and compiling an OPS of .936. In 1958, Cincinnati unveiled another star African-American player, rookie outfielder Vada Pinson, who would enjoy a long MLB career and, with Robinson, help lead the 1961 Reds to the National League pennant. Paul also signed a working agreement with the Havana Sugar Kings of the Triple-A International League, giving the team access to top Cuban talent such as shortstop Leo Cárdenas and future "Big Red Machine" icon Tony Pérez. In addition, the Reds produced Cuban stars such as outfielder Tony González, second baseman Cookie Rojas, and pitcher Mike Cuellar — among many others — who made their mark with other MLB clubs.

The Cincinnati team of the mid-1950s — then temporarily nicknamed the Redlegs because of the anti-communism of the time — captured the country's imagination as a team of sluggers. With a lineup that included Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell, Wally Post and Ed Bailey, the 1956 Redlegs hit 221 home runs and won 91 games to finish third, only two games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers. Paul was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. The following year, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick had to intervene when Cincinnati fans "stuffed" the ballot box and elected a virtually all-Redleg starting lineup to the National League All-Star team.

The Reds failed to improve upon their 1956 mark during Paul's tenure, however, and after a disappointing 1960 season, Paul resigned to become the first general manager of the expansion Houston Colt .45s.[5]

Houston Colt .45s/Cleveland Indians executive[edit]

Paul brought to Houston fellow Cincinnati executives Tal Smith and Bill Giles and began to lay the foundation for the team's 1962 debut, but he did not stay long. He clashed with majority owner Roy Hofheinz and reportedly had a standing offer from the Cleveland Indians to take over their front office, following the resignation of Frank Lane.[6] So in April 1961, Paul returned to Ohio to assume command of the Indians, leaving the Colt .45s almost 12 months before the team ever played an official game.

The Indians of the early 1960s were a middle-echelon team in the American League that had contended for a pennant only twice (1955 and 1959) since its 1954 AL title. It had lost its most popular gate attraction, slugger Rocky Colavito, in a Lane-engineered trade just before the 1960 season and the young players summoned from the team's farm system failed to capture the city's imagination. On November 26, 1962, Paul became a part-owner, as well as president, treasurer and general manager, but the Indians continued to tread water in the standings and struggled badly at the gate. On multiple occasions, the Indians were rumored to be headed elsewhere. In 1964, the club's board of directors authorized Paul to investigate transferring the Indians to one of three cities: Oakland, Dallas or Seattle. But a new stadium lease with the city of Cleveland staved off the move.[6]

On the field, Paul brought to Cleveland pitching stars Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant and, in 1965, reacquired Colavito in a bid to win more games, and more fans. But, after an encouraging 1968 season, the Indians plummeted in the standings. For a while, Paul gave up his general manager title to field manager Alvin Dark in an effort to change the club's fortunes.

New York Yankees club president/general manager[edit]

Finally, in 1973, Paul sold his interest in the Indians and became part of Steinbrenner's Cleveland-based syndicate that purchased the Yankees from CBS.[7] Installed as club president that year after the April departure of minority owner E. Michael Burke and the year-end election of GM/interim president Lee MacPhail to the presidency of the American League, Paul helped Steinbrenner rebuild the once-proud Yankees into a champion. In 1974, Paul was selected MLB Executive of the Year for the second time in his career, as the Yankees finished second in the American League East Division and improved by nine games from the 1973 edition. Then, the Bombers won their first American League pennant in 12 years in 1976 and first world championship since 1962 the following year.

The key to re-building the Yankees was a series of trades that Paul pulled off. He acquired in succession: Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow and Oscar Gamble from his former team, the Indians; Lou Piniella from the Royals; Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa from the Angels; Willie Randolph, Ken Brett and Dock Ellis from the Pirates; and Bucky Dent from the White Sox. He also signed Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson as free agents.

Paul, whose nickname was the "Smiling Cobra" for his expertise in trades,[8] had his enemies, among them influential Cleveland radio host Pete Franklin, who said of Paul, "Gabe was a master at working the room, of getting to know everybody and knowing where all the bodies are. The thing about Gabe was that while he did work for an owner, he always found a way to get a piece of the team himself. Then it became damn near impossible to fire him because he was part-owner. Gabe's greatest gift was the ability to take care of Gabe."[9] The Yankees were able to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series, Paul's only World Series victory.

The 1977 season, however, was Paul's last in the Bronx.

Return to the Cleveland Indians[edit]

After Al Rosen was brought into the Bronx as a senior executive in fall 1977—crowding Paul's authority much as Paul's presence did Mike Burke—Paul returned to Cleveland as president of the Indians in 1978. But he could never rouse the Tribe from their doldrums.

Paul retired in 1984 after almost 60 years in the game. He died at the age of 88 in Tampa, Florida.[10]

Paul was played by actor Kevin Conway in the 2007 ESPN television mini-series The Bronx Is Burning.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes: An Illustrated Compendium of Sports History and The 150 Greatest Jewish Sports Stars. 2007. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  2. ^ October Men: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, and the Yankees' Miraculous Finish in 1978. 2004. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ The integration of Major League Baseball: a team by team history. 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Bob Matthews Sports Article (November 27, 2007)". Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Retrieved November 27, 2007. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b Schneider, Russell, The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, page 350
  7. ^ "Yanks Have New Lineup". Spokane Daily Chronicle. January 11, 1973. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
  8. ^ John Helyar, "The Lords of the Realm"
  9. ^ Terry Pluto, "The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a 30-year slump"
  10. ^ Former Yankees Executive Gabe Paul dies

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Warren Giles
Cincinnati Reds General Manager
1951–1960
Succeeded by
Bill DeWitt
Preceded by
Franchise created
Houston Colt .45s General Manager
1960–1961
Succeeded by
Paul Richards
Preceded by
Frank Lane
Alvin Dark
Cleveland Indians General Manager
1961–1969
1971–1972
Succeeded by
Alvin Dark
Phil Seghi
Preceded by
Myron Wilson
Ted Bonda
Cleveland Indians President
1963–1971
1978–1985
Succeeded by
Nick Mileti
Peter Bavasi
Preceded by
Mike Burke
New York Yankees President
1973–1977
Succeeded by
Al Rosen
Preceded by
Lee MacPhail
New York Yankees General Manager
1974–1977
Succeeded by
Cedric Tallis