Barney Dreyfuss at Exposition Park in 1903.
|Born: February 23, 1865|
Freiburg, Baden, German Confederation
|Died: February 5, 1932 (aged 66)|
New York, New York, United States
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election Method||Veteran's Committee|
He is often credited with the creation of the modern baseball World Series. He also built one of baseball's first modern steel and concrete baseball parks, Forbes Field, in 1909. During his period of ownership, the Pirates won six National League pennants and World Series titles in 1909 and 1925; only the New York Giants won more NL championships (10) during the same period.
Dreyfuss was born in Freiburg, Grand Duchy of Baden in 1865. He attended school in Freiburg and later worked in a bank in nearby Karlsruhe. At the age of 16, he emigrated in 1881 to the US to escape conscription into the German Army. At the time, his prospects of being drafted into the military was high, and as a young Jew, his potential for advancement there was low. Dreyfuss's father, Samuel Dreyfuss (1832–1896), was actually an American citizen since 1861, who had returned to Germany at the outbreak of the Civil War. Samuel Dreyfuss had made a fortune selling spirits to the Native Americans.
Once in America, Barney Dreyfuss lived and worked with the Bernheim family in Paducah, Kentucky. The Bernheims were relatives of his grandfather, Leon Bernheim. In 1888, he moved with the Bernheim family to Louisville, Kentucky. Dreyfuss arrived knowing little English, but he became a quick learner. In just a few years, he rose from being a clerk to an officer of Bernheim Brothers, the creator of I. W. Harper bourbon.
Dreyfuss enjoyed the game of baseball. He fueled his interest by organizing amateur baseball teams first for the distillery workers, then semi-pro clubs around Louisville. In 1889 the distillery expanded into larger quarters of Louisville. Dreyfuss quickly used the increased profits to buy a piece of the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. The team won the league pennant in 1890 against the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (today's Los Angeles Dodgers). However, the American Association fell apart in 1891. As a result, Dreyfuss moved the Colonels into the National League.
One of his best decisions was hiring a local city editor and educated lawyer, Harry Clay Pulliam, to serve as his club secretary; he later appointed Pulliam president. When Dreyfuss immigrated to America, it was Pulliam who taught him how to speak English (though to the day he died, he spoke with a marked German accent). However Pulliam's greatest contribution to Colonels occurred when he convinced Dreyfuss to sign future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner to the team.
For much of the 1890s, the Colonels were in last place in the National League. In 1899, Dreyfuss paid $50,000 to acquire full ownership of the Colonels. By this time, however, the National League contracted several teams after the 1899 season and Dreyfuss purchased a half-interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates. As part of the deal, he negotiated the transfer of the best Louisville players, namely Wagner, Fred Clarke, Tommy Leach, Deacon Phillippe, and Rube Waddell to Pittsburgh. To pull off this deal, Dreyfuss accepted an option to purchase an interest in the Pirates, then traded the best of the Colonel's players to the Pirates; he then used this leverage to buy out his partners. The Colonels' president, Harry Pulliam, also left for the Pirates with Dreyfuss and became the team's president.
In Pittsburgh, Honus Wagner soon emerged as the National League's biggest star. The Pirates then won NL pennants in 1901, 1902, and 1903.
However a bidding war was taking place between the National League and the upstart American League. Dreyfuss was victorious in attempt to keep the new league out of Pittsburgh. However, he knew that the bidding war needed to end for the leagues to be prosperous. In 1903, Dreyfuss brokered the peace treaty that recognized two major leagues. It also instituted a single set of rules, established agreements with the minor leagues, set up cooperative scheduling, and recognized each league's rights to its own players. To cash in on the peace between the leagues, an agreement with terms was created by Dreyfuss and Boston Americans' (today's Boston Red Sox) owner Henry Killilea to create the modern World Series. Although his Pirates would lose to the Boston Americans 5 games to 3, the games proved to be a success. Dreyfuss further cemented his reputation by adding his own share of the gate receipts to the players' winnings.
At the end of the 1908 season, Dreyfuss decided it was time that Pittsburgh had a new, larger stadium for its growing fan base and winning team. The team's current field, Exposition Park, was made of wood and so close to the banks of the Allegheny River that the outfield regularly flooded after heavy rains. Meanwhile, across the state in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Athletics owners Ben Shibe and Connie Mack had decided to build a steel and concrete venue for their team. Dreyfuss, with no intention of being one-upped, began the construction of Forbes Field.
The new stadium was built in the city's Oakland district and was named after John Forbes, the French and Indian War general who captured Fort Duquesne in 1758 and renamed it Fort Pitt. Dreyfuss purchased seven acres of land near the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, adjacent to Schenley Park, with assistance from his friend, industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The low-priced land was selected so Dreyfuss could spend more on the stadium itself. Dreyfuss signed a contract that he would "make the ballpark ... of a design that would harmonize with the other structures in the Schenley Park district." The site was initially labeled "Dreyfuss's Folly" due to its long distance—a 10-minute trolley ride—from downtown Pittsburgh; however, the land around the park developed and criticisms were dropped. Official Pirates' records show that Forbes Field cost US$1 million for site acquisition and construction, but some estimates place the cost at twice that amount.
The new park opened on June 30, 1909, and Dreyfuss shook hands with the fans as they entered through the gates. The crowd for the stadium's inaugural game included Pittsburgh Mayor William A. Magee, Harry Pulliam (now the National League President), and Congressman John K. Tener, a former Major League player who was soon to become the Governor of Pennsylvania. While Pirates did lose their first game at Forbes to the Chicago Cubs, they did go on to win the 1909 World Series later that year, over the Detroit Tigers.
1910 to 1932
In 1912, Dreyfuss became one of the major stockholders of Welte & Sons Inc. However, he was still involved in every decision made involving the Pirates. Under his leadership, the Pirates won two more National League pennants and the 1925 World Series over the Washington Senators. He successfully helped fight off the Federal League in 1914 and 1915, and then helped form the commission that investigated the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. He also worked to abolish the three-man commission that ran the National League in favor of appointing a baseball commissioner, a post to be occupied by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. He also worked to outlaw "freak" pitches such as the spitball, and he was a force in ridding the game of gambling.
In 1902, Dreyfuss and Pittsburgh Pirates minority owner William Chase Temple were suspected of being the secret owners to the Pittsburgh Stars, a professional American football team in the first National Football League. Both men denied any connection to the Stars' finances, as well as being the team's true owners. While the team's owner on paper, David Berry, insisted that he was the team's sole owner, it was impossible for him to afford the money to finance the team without the backing of Temple or Dreyfuss. The Stars would go on to win the 1902 NFL championship.
Dreyfuss died on February 5, 1932, at age 66 in New York City. He was buried in West View Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death, he was vice president of the National League. Landis, the presidents of both the National and American Leagues, club executives from competing teams, and players such as Honus Wagner and Deacon Phillippe, served as honorary pallbearers at his funeral.
A small stone monument to Dreyfuss was eventually installed in straightaway center field at Forbes Field. When the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, the monument was brought along and displayed in the stadium concourse. The monument has since been moved to the Pirates' current field, PNC Park, located on the concourse behind home plate.
Dreyfuss had groomed his son, Samuel, to inherit the Pirates upon his death. However, Samuel died in 1931, a year before his father. Dreyfuss' widow, Florence, urged her son-in-law, William Benswanger, to take over as president and operating head of the franchise. Benswanger ran the team until it was sold in 1946, ending the Dreyfuss-Benswanger family's half-century in baseball.
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