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February 23: Barney Dreyfuss and the World Series

Lawrence Bush
February 23, 2017
Barney Dreyfuss, who owned the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 to 1932 (the team won six pennants and two World Series during that period, led by the outstanding shortstop Honus Wagner), was born in Freiburg, Germany on this date in 1865. Dreyfuss came to the U.S. in 1881 and settled in Paducah, Kentucky, where he rose to manage a distillery. He began his career in baseball by organizing teams and then leagues among distillery workers. In 1903, Dreyfuss brokered the agreement that established the National and American Leagues, with a single set of rules for both and cooperative scheduling between them. That year also saw the launching of the annual World Series, with the first series bringing together his Pirates and the Boston Americans (later called the Red Sox), who were led by pitcher Cy Young and won five games to three. In 1908, Dreyfus began construction of Forbes Field, the first concrete-and-steel stadium in Major League Baseball. He died at 66 in 1932. “Always the workaholic, Dreyfuss toiled six long days at the distillery and studied English at night. When a physician told Dreyfuss that his schedule would impact his health, Barney took his suggestion to develop a recreational pursuit. His business associates persuaded him that running a baseball club would give him that opportunity. Barney had begun an appreciation of baseball almost since his arrival in Kentucky. He began by organizing teams using distillery workers as players. As much as he enjoyed the game, Dreyfuss found greater fulfillment in organizing and managing local amateur teams.” --Society for American Baseball Research

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.