Sometimes, the saying in baseball goes, the best trade is the one you don’t make.
In 1946, a syndicate headed by Bill Veeck bought the Cleveland Indians. Veeck, the son of a sportswriter-turned-baseball executive, wasn’t the kind of guy to stand pat, leading player-manager Lou Boudreau to say, “We always had three teams — one on the field, one coming and one going.”
Veeck knew Boudreau was more than a capable shortstop, but didn’t appreciate his skills as a field general. When Veeck took over, rumors started almost instantly that he was looking for a new manager. He had his eye on a couple baseball lifers plying their trade in the Pacific Coast League: Jimmy Dykes managing the Hollywood Stars, or Oakland Oaks skipper Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. (Dykes would later manage the Indians after Frank “Trader” Lane swapped him from Detroit for then-Indians manager Joe Gordon.) Veeck was also rumored to be planning a reunion with Charlie Grimm, a former partner and manager when Veeck owned the Milwaukee Brewers, then in the American Association.
During the 1947 World Series between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Veeck — like many other baseball figures, and entertainers — was holding court at Toots Shor’s restaurant in Manhattan. He floated the idea (off the record, of course) of trading Boudreau to the St. Louis Browns and possibly bringing Al Lopez on as the Tribe manager (Lopez did eventually succeed Boudreau as Tribe skipper).
The story was kept off the record, but eventually found its way into a column in Chicago. Then the Cleveland media pounced, and fans loudly and vehemently opposed the move.
But the deal was already dead. The Browns would take Boudreau, but wanted the Indians to cover his salary. Veeck, never missing an opportunity to work the public, acceded to the demands and gave Boudreau a two-year contract.
And Boudreau returned the favor by being named American League MVP and leading the Indians to a World Championship in 1948. Veeck sold the team in 1950. After that season, Boudreau was released as a player and fired as a manager. The new syndicate brought in Al Lopez. By then, Stengel was in New York City, managing the Yankees.
Boudreau remains the last Indians manager to win a World Series — and the one with the most wins.