1912 – Manager Bresnahan Sues the Team


Owner Helene Hathaway Robison Britton


The year didn’t go very well. The team had a female owner and a manager that stated that “no women is going to tell me how to manage baseball.” Of course, that created plenty of issues. Early in the season, Ms. Britton stated publicly that she had the managers back and the decisions were his when it came to playing the game. Someone must have gotten in her ear as later in the season she began questioning what manager Bresnahan was doing. A feud began and it was out in the public.

Meanwhile, the actual season was very good as the Cardinals finished 53-90 and in 6th place out of 8. The 1912 season is one of the very few highlights. Ed Konetchy finds his consecutive errorless chance stop at 592 when he made a poor throw on July 18 in a game with Brooklyn. Pitcher Harry Sallee was one odd duck on the team as he had an affinity to help the milkman deliver milk. He would stay up most of the night with those chores.

Manager Fired and Sues

Bresnahan and Britton got along well enough in the beginning. She made a few changes to the club such as renaming League Park in honor of her father and uncle, Robison Field, and moving local ticket sales depots from saloons to drug stores so that they would be assessable to women; however, for the most part, Britton allowed others to run the day to day operations. She took the title of vice-president but maintained control in the boardroom.

Britton must have soon garnered a different opinion of Bresnahan and others within the business though, seeing them on a day-to-day basis. She attended every home game and saw and heard things which she typically wouldn’t. Bresnahan, like many ballplayers, was crude and vulgar in his speech and over time he failed to clean it up around Britton. Perhaps just as important, the club turned a substantial profit, $165,000. Britton was so pleased that she gave Bresnahan a five-year deal on September 13 at $10,000 per plus 10% of the net profits. The deal made him one of the highest-paid men in the game.

The 1912 season was a different story. The pair clashed all year. It all seemed to take a turn about the time Britton appeared in court in early May to confirm her control over the club. On the stand, she noted that Bresnahan had offered her $500,000 for the club and ballpark. It was an innocent remark (she was only trying to establish the value of her investment) but it led some to suggest that Bresnahan was lying down, trying to lose games to force a transfer of the club. What wasn’t so innocent was Bresnahan’s repeated offers to purchase the club after being repeatedly denied?

Did Bresnahan Tank?

Bresnahan had some other troubles in 1912. For one, he broke his kneecap in April and then came down with pneumonia. He only caught in 29 games in 1912 after doing so in 59, 77 and 77 respectively over the three previous seasons. Bresnahan also fought a charge from Philadelphia Phillies president Horace Fogel that he didn’t field his best club when facing his old friends on the Giants (Fogel was banned at the end of the year by the National Commission). Worst still, the Cardinals never threatened during 1912 and this led to a drop (from 404,000 to 342,000) at the gate as well.

Britton and Bresnahan just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye. Bresnahan flat out didn’t like answering to a woman. And as the losses piled up he had more and more to answer for. Part of the issue had roots in the Robison era. Stanley Robison bowed out of field decisions. He had made a deal with Bresnahan that the manager would have complete control over personnel and other related matters.

Bresnahan and Britton feuded publicly in 1912, as the Cardinals fell to sixth place in the NL. The Cardinals fired Bresnahan after the 1912 season due to various arguments Bresnahan had with Britton, including over Bresnahan’s desire to sell Miller Huggins to another franchise. Britton cited decreased profits as a sign that Bresnahan was uninterested in the job. Huggins succeeded Bresnahan as Cardinals’ manager, as she preferred Huggins’ “gentlemanly” manner, as opposed to Bresnahan’s rougher personality. Bresnahan hired an attorney to obtain the remainder of his salary. He eventually settled the lawsuit against Britton for $20,000 ($490,414 in current dollar terms).

Following his termination by the Cardinals, the NL declared Bresnahan a free agent. He signed a three-year contract with the Cubs, receiving $10,000 ($239,428 in current dollar terms) per season with a $25,000 signing bonus ($598,569 in current dollar terms).