Bob Short as owner of the Washington Senators in 1969 (second from right)
|Born||Robert Earl Short
July 20, 1917
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||November 20, 1982
Hennepin County, Minnesota, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of St. Thomas, Georgetown University Law Center|
|Known for||Owner of the Washington Senators and Texas Rangers|
|Spouse(s)||Marion D. McCann (1948–?)|
Robert Earl Short (July 20, 1917 – November 20, 1982) was an American businessman, sport teams owner and politician.
Short graduated from the College of Saint Thomas (now the University of St. Thomas) in St. Paul, Minnesota before receiving his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II, rising from Ensign in 1942 to commander before he resigned in 1946. He married the former Marion D. McCann in 1948 and they settled in suburban Edina, where they raised 7 children.
Short practiced law for several years and started to invest in business ventures after buying an interest in a small trucking line, Mueller Transportation. He built the company into a major freight carrier known as Admiral Merchants Motor Freight. He later expanded into real estate and the hotel business. From these investments he later purchased two professional sports teams.
Short was a long-time supporter of the University of Notre Dame and served as a member of the school's Law School Advisory Council from 1974 until his death in 1982, when he was succeeded by his wife in both business and at Notre Dame (she also served nine years on the board of trustees of what became the University of Saint Thomas). He endowed the Robert and Marion Short Chair in Law at the Notre Dame Law School, where his son attended.
Short bought the cellar-dwelling Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball Association in the late 1950s and moved the team to Los Angeles in 1960 due to terrible attendance in the-then small Twin Cities, where hockey was favored, and iconic George Mikan had retired in the mid 1950s. The Lakers immediately resumed their winning ways in L.A., resulting from increased attendance & revenue, and Short sold the team in 1965 to Canadian magnate Jack Kent Cooke.
Despite the fact that the original Washington Senators baseball franchise had moved to Minnesota in 1961 due to dwindling attendance (to become the Minnesota Twins), in the fall of 1968 Short outbid comedian Bob Hope for the 2nd (expansion) version of the Senators. The Senators had just finished in the American League basement and were last in the majors in attendance. Short immediately installed himself as the team's general manager and hired Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams—the major leagues' last .400 hitter—as its field manager for 1969.
Miraculously, the '69 Senators improved by 21 games and posted 86 victories en route to the only winning season the expansion-era version of the club would experience in its 11-year lifespan. Williams coaxed career-best batting averages out of a number of Washington hitters. With a winning team, Williams as a drawing card, and the 1969 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, the Senators almost doubled their 1968 attendance, to over 918,000 paid spectators.
But it was a one-year wonder. The 1970 edition won only 70 games and fell into the basement of the American League Eastern Division. Players began to complain about Williams's approach to managing—after the initial success Williams purportedly lost interest. Short dealt his best starting pitcher and the left side of his infield (third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez, shortstop Ed Brinkman and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan) to the Detroit Tigers for former Cy Young award and 30-game-winner Denny McLain, who had spent most of the 1970 campaign suspended because of gambling allegations. The trade helped transform Detroit back into contenders, while McLain lost a league-worst 22 games due to an abused pitching arm that was never the same. It was alleged by onetime Senators broadcaster Shelby Whitfield that the trade was made in order to secure the Tigers' vote in favor of the attendance-starved Senators' eventual move to Texas, but—regardless—Short was unaware of the condition of McLain's arm at the time of the trade.
The Senators' attendance sunk back to near-1968 levels and Short successfully petitioned the AL to move the franchise to Arlington, Texas, where it became the Texas Rangers in 1972.
The Senators' move to Texas would make Short an unpopular figure in Washington sports. During the final Senators game at RFK Stadium on September 30, 1971, the fans let their feelings known about Short, unfurling two giant vertical banners that read "Short Stinks". Fans would later storm the field near the end of the game, resulting in a Senators forfeit.
In Texas, Short is also remembered for drafting high school phenom David Clyde in 1973 and then acceding to Clyde's insistence that he pitch two games with the Rangers before being assigned to the minor leagues. But Clyde pitched well in those two starts and drew huge crowds, so Short unwisely kept Clyde with the Rangers, in an effort to draw crowds for the cellar-dwelling Rangers. But such came at the expense of the development of Clyde, whose career thereafter slowly descended. He injured his arm in 1974, spent some time in the minors, and retired in 1981.
The Rangers went into re-building mode in Texas under young manager Whitey Herzog, but when the Detroit Tigers fired mercurial Billy Martin, Short quickly replaced Herzog with Martin, who immediately turned the Rangers around, piloting them to second place in 1974, the year Short sold the Rangers to a new local ownership group headed by Brad Corbett.
Entering politics in 1946, Short first ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress, and later lost in a run for lieutenant governor in 1966. He also served as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee during Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign, remaining involved in the DNC for a number of years. His best-known campaign was for United States Senate in 1978. Short was a close friend of Humphrey and ran for his seat after HHH's untimely death. He narrowly upset Congressman (later Minneapolis mayor) Donald M. Fraser in the Democratic primary, but lost in the general election to Republican David Durenberger, receiving only 35% of the vote. (Durenberger later pleaded guilty to charges of misuse of public funds while in office, was fined $1,000 and sentenced him to a year of probation. He was also disbarred in 1991, although his license to practice law was reinstated in 2000.)
During the 1978 campaign, Short's positions on a few hot-button issues - abortion, motor-boat usage of the Boundary Waters Canoe ("BWCA") area, and government spending - caused many in the liberal wing of the state Democratic Farmer-Labor Party ("DFL") to cross over and vote for Durenberger. Short went down to defeat along with almost the entire DFL ticket, including "self-appointed" incumbent DFL Senator Wendell Anderson, and the subsequent un-elected incumbent DFL Governor Rudy Perpich.
- Endowed Chairs, Notre Dame Law School, accessed December 17, 2011.
|Washington Senators/Texas Rangers General Manager
|Owner of the
Washington Senators/Texas Rangers