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Frederick Michael Saigh Jr. (pronounced "sigh") (1905 – 1999) was the part-owner, then sole owner, of the St. Louis Cardinals of American Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1948 through 1953.

Contents

Pre-Cardinals years

Saigh, the son of Lebanese immigrants who owned a chain of grocery stores, was the oldest of five children. He was born in Springfield, Illinois, and grew up in Kewanee, Illinois. He attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and graduated from Northwestern University with a law degree in 1926, at age 21.[1] and became a highly successful tax and corporate lawyer and investor in St. Louis. In the 1940s, he owned prime office buildings in downtown St. Louis.[2]

St. Louis Cardinals

At the end of the 1947 baseball season, Saigh got wind that longtime Cardinals owner Sam Breadon wanted to sell. Breadon faced two dilemmas. He was ill with prostate cancer, and he'd been unable to find land on which to build a planned new ballpark. The Cardinals had rented Sportsman's Park from the city's other major league team, the American League Browns, since 1920. Although they had long since surpassed the Browns as the city's most popular team, Breadon wanted to build a park of his own. He'd set aside $5 million to build a park, and was facing the end of a five-year deadline to build it before having to pay taxes on that money. Saigh persuaded Breadon to sell the Cardinals to him, with the assurance that he wouldn't have to pay taxes on his $5 millon fund. To further put him at ease, Saigh brought in Robert Hannegan as a minority partner. Hannegan was a prominent St. Louis businessman, former United States Postmaster General, and confidante of President Harry Truman. The $4 million deal closed in late 1947.[3]

Saigh inherited a team in transition. The Cardinals, though then just one year removed from their ninth National League pennant and sixth World Series championship since 1926, had begun to decay as an organization. Five years before, Breadon had forced out legendary general manager Branch Rickey, who had quickly resurfaced with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Browns, under new owner Bill Veeck, began a concerted effort to drive the Cardinals out of town.

In January 1949, Hannegan, suffering from poor health,[1], sold his share of the team to Saigh (Hannegan died in October of heart disease). As sole owner, Saigh's notable actions included leading other baseball owners to oust (by not renewing his contract) Commissioner of Baseball Happy Chandler in December 1950[4] and proposing revenue-sharing of local television revenues.[5]

However, the tax dodge Saigh used soon came to light, as well as other questionable practices on his part.[3] In April 1952, Saigh was indicted on federal charges of evading $49,260 in income taxes between 1946 and 1949. In January 1953, he pleaded no contest to two counts involving more than $19,000 in tax underpayments, and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.[2] He served five months at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, leaving in November 1953 when he was given parole for good behavior.

In February 1953, under pressure from Commissioner Ford Frick,[2] Saigh put the Cardinals up for sale. Saigh would have almost certainly been thrown out of baseball if he hadn't sold the team. For a time, no credible offers surfaced from St. Louis interests, making it seem likely that the team would be purchased by someone interested in moving them to another city. But Saigh accepted less money ($3.75 million) from Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based brewery, than from out-of-town suitors. This all but assured that the Cardinals would stay in St. Louis. Shortly afterward, the Cardinals bought Sportsman's Park from the Browns. With their remaining leverage gone, it was the Browns who left town by the end of the season, becoming the Baltimore Orioles.

Post-Cardinals years

After his release from prison, Saigh resumed his career in private business, amassing a large amount of stock in Anheuser-Busch – the largest shareholder outside the Busch family itself. He died in St. Louis, at the age of 94, worth approximately $500 million.[6]

Saigh had no children.[7] He left $70 million to charity in his will, establishing the Fred Saigh Foundation. [8]

References

  1. ^ a b "The School of Engineering salutes its newest endowed professors ... and the donors who made the professorships possible" (pdf), Engineering News, School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, Spring 2005
  2. ^ a b c Richard Goldstein, "Fred Saigh, Who Helped Cardinals Stay Put, Dies at 94", New York Times, January 2, 2000
  3. ^ a b Purdy, Dennis (2006). The Team-by-Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. New York City: Workman. ISBN 0761139435.  
  4. ^ "Surprise!", Time Magazine, December 25, 1950
  5. ^ May 16, 1951 Sporting News
  6. ^ Heather Cole, "A.G. Edwards to face trial in St. Louis County Circuit Court", St. Louis Daily Record & St. Louis Countian, February 7, 2007
  7. ^ Opinion, Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, "Michael Saigh and Andrew Saigh, Appellants v. William K. Saigh, et al., Respondent", February 6, 2007
  8. ^ "Buffett donation puts spotlight on philanthropy". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 2, 2006.
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