Ford C. Frick, 83, whose contributions as commissioner of baseball elevated him to the game's Hall of Fame, is dead.
A sportswriter, a semipro player, a radio commentator and college professor before becoming a baseball administrator, he died Saturday at Lawrence Hospital after a lengthy illness.
"Through 31 years as a baseball leader he brought the game integrity, dedication and a happy tranquility far removed from the turbulence of today," said Bowie Kuhn, the current commissioner.
"It was my good fortune to have worked with him for many of those years and to know how much he cherished baseball and his membership in the Hall of Fame. He belonged there."
Mr. Frick also served as president of the National League from 1934 until 1951, and Arthur E. (Red) Patterson, former longtime executive with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers and now assistant to the chairman of the board of the California Angels, recalled:
"He cured several ailing franchises while he was the president of the National League - Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia - and I think he helped Cincinnati. There were several franchises that might have gone by the boards. He did a great job of bringing in money, leadership. The man played a major part in the development of the National League, in making it the league it is today."
Mr. Frick is survived by his wife, Eleanor; a son, Frederick, and two grandchildren.
Services and interment will be private.
On Sept. 20, 1951, Mr. Frick succeeded A. B. (Happy) Chandler as the third baseball commissioner. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the first.
Mr. Frick served as commissioner until 1965. He was succeeded by the late Gen. William Dole Eckert. In 1970 he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Oldtimer's Selection Committee.
During Mr. Frick's reign as commissioner, there were many franchise changes and the National and American leagues expanded from eight to 10 teams.
In the switching of cities, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and eventually to Atlanta, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City and later became the Oakland A's. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants switched to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Major league additions presided over by Mr. Frick were the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s, now the Astros, to the National League and the Angels and the second version of the Washington Senators to the American League. The original Senators moved to Minnesota and were renamed the Twins. The second version later became the Texas Rangers.
One of the high points of Mr. Frick's reign was the signing of a three-year radio-television contract for the All-Star Game and World Series in conjunction with a Game of the Week presentation, netting the sport $30 million that, subsequently, has more than doubled.
While National League president, he led a movement in 1935 to establish the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., and he presided over the advent of night baseball.
One of biggest controversies involving him was his ruling that the 61 home runs hit by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees in 1961 must be recorded with an asterisk because Maris broke Babe Ruth's record of 66 in a 162-game season. Ruth hit his 60 during a 154-game campaign in 1927.
"To be put into the Hall of Fame with all those other great guys is a tremendous honor," said Mr. Frick, who was 74. "I never expected to be voted into the hall. It comes as a complete and wonderful surprise."
He served as a member of baseball's hierarchy for a longer period than any man except the owners. He was president of the National League for 17 years and commissioner to 14.
Born Dec. 19, 1894 at Wawaka, Ind., Mr. Frick matriculated at De Pauw, and following graduation in 1915, went to Walsenburg, Colo., to accept a job as school teacher and play first base for a local team.
In the fall of 1916, he found a job as a high school English teacher and later taught at Colorado College. He also began working at the Colorado Springs Gazette and soon gave up teaching to concentrate on newspaper work.
He remained on the Gazette staff until 1918, worked briefly for the War Department then returned to newspaper work at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.
In 1922 New York beckoned, Mr. Frick accepted a job with the American and in 1923 moved to the Journal. During his stay with the Journal, he traveled with the Yankees and became a ghost writer for Babe Ruth.
In 1930, he expanded his role in the media to newscaster and continued the dual role until 1934, when he was named director of the National League Service Bureau.
Nine months later, on Nov. 8, 1934, shortly before his 40th birthday, he was elected president of the National League. He succeeded John A. Heydler, who resigned because of ill health. Mr. Frick remained in this capacity until September, 1951, when he became commissioner. After serving two seven-year teams, he retired in Dec., 1965, at 71.