What if J. Edgar Hoover had become the baseball commissioner?
According to a note that I read over the weekend, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declined an offer to become Major League Baseball commissioner in 1951.
He would have replaced Happy Chandler, a man who supported Jackie Robinson crossing the color line, took a tough stand against players who became free agents, and signed with a new pro league in Mexico.
The Hoover note left me with a couple of questions:
First, who would have succeeded him? Better said, who could have replaced him? After all, Director Hoover was there from 1924 until his death in 1972.
Second, what kind of commissioner would he have been?
We obviously don't know, but there is lots of room to speculate and fantasize about both answers.
As for his successor, the appointment would have been made by President Harry Truman, a close friend, according to notes in the Truman Library.
The new candidate would have been confirmed by a conservative U.S. Senate at the time. I wonder if politicians would have used the confirmation process to unload about Mr. Hoover's ways and whether the new director would have been forced to stop all the surveillance. Hoover had files on many Americans he considered subversive.
Over on the baseball diamond, Hoover would have joined the business of baseball in the decade that saw several franchises pack up and leave for greener pastures in Milwaukee (Braves), Kansas City (A's), San Francisco (Giants), and Los Angeles (Dodgers).
Would a Commissioner Hoover have challenged the owners to expand the post-season, adding what we now call the League Championship Series before the World Series to take advantage of TV money? Baseball was the last sport to have several teams in the postseason.
Of course, we will never know. My guess is that Director Hoover made the right call. I just don't think being MLB commissioner would have equated with the awesome power he had in the FBI.