Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday School: History Lesson 17

Gerry Nugent was the owner of the Phillies from 1932-1942. In actuality, the majority of stock in the team was owned by Nugent's wife, Mae. Gerry Nugent married the secretary of team owner William F. Baker. Gerry was so helpful with suggestions about the team that Baker hired him to work in the front office as his own assistant in 1926. Years later, Baker died and left substantial ownership of the team to Mae. Gerry became acting owner and team president.

Gerry Nugent was a shrewd judge of talent. He excelled at scouring the minors for unknown players. It was Nugent's idea to have the Phillies purchase Chuck Klein for $7500 in 1928. He acquired loads more players from the minor leagues, who would later become Major Leaguers, like Claude Passeau, Don Hurst and Pinky Whitney. Nugent's ability to spot and develop talent was only exceeded by his inability to hold on to it.

Without question Nugent was at the mercy of factors not under his control, as money was not easy to come by in the depression era. Hardship struck the team just as it struck most Americans. During Nugent's decade in charge, the Phillies drew over 250,000 fans in just one season.

In an effort to increase attendance, Nugent got the ban on Sunday baseball lifted in 1934. Among his other promotions were ladies days, and a knothole gang (multi-game passes) for school children. With little other revenue other than ticket sales, the team rarely met its operating costs, which were reportedly $350,000 annually. The shortfall would be made up each year with player contract sales to wealthier ball clubs.

In 1942, the National League's board of directors chose to force the sale of the Phillies. Nugent was quickly bought out as the league searched for a new owner with a larger bank account. Nugent was later named president of the Class B Inter-state League, which featured the Reading Chicks, Wilmington Blue Rocks, Allentown Wings and the Trenton Senators.
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