George Weiss (baseball)
Weiss was one of Major League Baseball's most successful farm system directors and general managers. Working as the head of the New York Yankees' player-development system from 1932 to 1947, he established it as one of the two best in the game, helping the Bombers win nine American League pennants and eight World Series championships over 16 full years. Then, during Weiss' 13-season tenure as the Yankees' general manager from October 1947 to 1960, the team won 10 AL pennants and seven more World Series titles.
Early life and career
Weiss was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended Yale University. In 1915, he founded the New Haven MaxFeds in the independent Colonial League, an "outlaw" minor league associated with the Federal League. In 1919, Weiss borrowed $5,000 to acquire the New Haven franchise in the established Class A Eastern League, which was immediately nicknamed the Weissmen by local baseball writers. He operated the New Haven club, eventually nicknamed the Profs in homage to Yale, for a decade. In 1930, Weiss took over the Baltimore Orioles of the Class AA International League for two seasons.
New York Yankees
In 1932, at 37, he was hired by the Yankees to create a farm system, which had been pioneered in the National League by the St. Louis Cardinals and was the linchpin of the Cardinals' dominance of the senior circuit. Weiss grew the Yankee system from four farm teams in 1931 to 16 by 1939 and 20 by 1947. The Yankee farm system churned out many of the players who would lead the Bronx Bombers to their four consecutive (1936–39) World Series titles in the 1930s, their five straight titles (1949–53), and their six other championship clubs sprinkled throughout the rest of the 1940s and 1950s.
In October 1947, just after the 1947 World Series championship, Weiss was promoted to vice president and general manager of the Yankees, after the team's newly reconstituted ownership tandem of Dan Topping and Del Webb bought out original partner Larry MacPhail, who had also been general manager. For all intents and purposes, Weiss was operating head of the franchise; Topping and Webb largely left day-to-day operations in Weiss' hands. Weiss led the Yankees to 10 AL pennants and seven world titles in 13 seasons. After the Yankees were defeated in the 1960 World Series by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Weiss and his longtime manager, Casey Stengel, were forced to retire.
According to the book Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, Weiss at a cocktail party stated loudly that "he would never allow a black man to wear a Yankee uniform." The Yankees farm-system, which Weiss oversaw, had in place a policy preventing black players from reaching the major league club, according to the book. Elston Howard, eventually the first black Yankee, was switched from an outfielder to a catcher, the position at which it would be least likely to break into the major league club, given Yogi Berra's presence.
New York Mets
In Weiss' five seasons as Mets general manager, the team escaped last place in the NL only in Weiss' last year. He was succeeded by former Cardinal GM Bing Devine. He was named The Sporting News' Executive of the Year in 1950, 1951, 1952, and 1960. Weiss passed on drafting Reggie Jackson in the 1966 Major League Baseball Draft, instead selecting Steve Chilcott.
Later life and legacy
In 1971, Weiss was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. Weiss was one of seven selected for induction. All of the inductees had been selected by the Veterans Committee; no players were elected through the regular voting process of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Weiss died in Greenwich, Connecticut, at age 77 in 1972. Stengel lamented his death, saying, "George's death is a tough thing on baseball. He was successful and great and capable in every way, shape and form. He wasn't a terrific mixer but George sure knew how to pick men. Why, you can't stay in baseball that long by pulling players out of an icebox." Yogi Berra said that Weiss could be difficult to deal with, but he praised the emotion that Weiss brought to the game as well as his understanding of the importance of scouting.
He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982.
- The New York Times, Aug. 14, 1972
- Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, ed., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 3rd edition. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America, 2007
- Barra, Yogi Berra Eternal Yankee, Norton, 2009, p 194.
- Parry, Reggie Jackson The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October, Harper Collins, 2010, p 24.
- "Seven old timers named to Baseball Hall of Fame". The Morning Record. February 1, 1971. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- "George Weiss dies". The Beaver County Times. August 14, 1972. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Barra, Allen (2009). Yogi Berra Eternal Yankee. Norton. ISBN 039-3-06-2333.
- Perry, Dayn (2010). Reggie Jackson The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-156238-9.
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