Born in Tiskilwa, Illinois, Giles served as an infantry officer in France during World War I. Before becoming a full-time baseball executive he worked as a Football and Basketball official in the Missouri Valley Conference, a major U.S. college sports league.
President/GM of Cincinnati Reds
Giles was elected president of the Moline, Illinois, Plowboys baseball club in the Class B Three-I League in 1919 and began a 50-year career in baseball that saw him rise all the way to the presidency of the National League.
After his debut in Moline, Giles joined the St. Louis Cardinals' organization and rose to prominence as the president and business manager of their top-level farm teams, the Syracuse Stars (1926–1927) and Rochester Red Wings (1928–1936) of the International League. As a foreshadowing of his most powerful position in professional baseball Giles spent part of the 1936 season as president of the International League.
He then served as general manager and team president of the Cincinnati Reds from 1937–1951, succeeding Larry MacPhail. While the 1937 Reds won only 56 games and slid into the basement of the National League, the 1938 edition improved by 26 games to finish in the first division, earning Giles the 1938 Major League Executive of the Year award from The Sporting News. Then, in 1939–1940, Cincinnati won back-to-back National League championships. The 1939 Reds won the NL pennant by 4½ games, but fell in four straight games in the World Series to the New York Yankees. Unfazed, the 1940 Reds won 100 games to repeat as NL champions by a 12-game margin, then defeated the Detroit Tigers in a seven-game World Series for the second world title in modern club history.
The Reds boasted .500 or above teams through 1944, but declined beginning in 1945 and during the postwar era finished in the NL's second division with losing records for Giles' last seven seasons as the Reds' top executive.
Nevertheless Giles was a leading candidate to become baseball's third commissioner after Happy Chandler was fired in 1951. He was runner-up in the commissioner balloting to Ford Frick but succeeded Frick as president of the Senior Circuit on October 8, 1951.
National League president
During his 18-year reign as chief executive of the National League (including the full seasons of 1952–1969), Giles presided over several historic events.
The NL opened the West Coast and Southeastern United States territories by approving the transfers of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in 1958, and the Atlanta Braves in 1966. It expanded from eight to 12 teams by adding two clubs in both 1962 and 1969. Although "who says you have to have a team in New York [City]?" was Giles' notorious reply when asked if the NL would seek to replace the Dodgers and Giants in New York, the 1962 expansion, which created the Mets, returned the Senior Circuit to the city. The same expansion brought Major League Baseball to Texas, with the Houston Colt .45s. In 1969, Giles' last year in office, his league expanded into Canada with the Montreal Expos, adopted divisional play, and played the first National League Championship Series, between the Braves and Mets. Between 1952 and 1969, the NL's member clubs, with the exception of the Chicago Cubs, also opened or were planning to open new stadiums.
Giles' presidency also saw the NL widen its advantage over the American League in the signing of African-American and Latin American players, resulting in a three-decade dominance of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. In clubhouse meetings before the midsummer classic, Giles famously would exhort the NL players to uphold their league's honor. During his tenure, the National League won 16 of 22 All-Star games played, with one tie. (Two games were played each year from 1959–1962.) The NL also won ten of 18 World Series during Giles' term.
In addition, Giles worked vigorously to keep premier players in his league. After the advent of interleague trading without waivers in November 1959, he lobbied against the trade of National League superstars to the American League to preserve the NL's hegemony. (He was successful until his former team, the Reds, traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles after the 1965 season.)
Giles, then 73, announced his intention to retire after the 1969 season and on December 5, Giants' executive Chub Feeney was elected to succeed him. Under Feeney, league president through 1986, the NL's All-Star Game dominance would continue, with 14 triumphs in 17 games.
Hall of Fame
Giles was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1979 shortly after his death in Cincinnati at age 82. Giles is interred in Riverside Cemetery in Moline, Illinois.
Awards and honors
Son follows in his footsteps
Giles' son, Bill Giles, served as an executive with the Reds, Houston Colt .45s/Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies, and has been a part-owner and top executive with the Phillies since 1981. He is also Honorary President of the National League.
- "Giles, Warren/ Baseball Hall of Fame". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1963
- United Press International, February 8, 1979
- Jensen, Mike (October 16, 2008). "'Fantastic feeling' for Bill Giles". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
- "History: MiLB Major Award Winners". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
- Avallone, Michael (November 19, 2007). "Minor League Baseball announces top honorees: Annual awards salute outstanding organizations and executives". MLB.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved 2011-10-06. "[Presented] annually to a league president for exceptional service."
- Czerwinski, Kevin T. (December 14, 2006). "McEacharn claims 2006 Warren Giles Award". MinorLeagueBaseball.com. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
|Cincinnati Reds General Manager