From Tiskilwa, Illinois, to Cincinnati, Ohio - that is the path Warren
Giles took in becoming one of the great baseball executives.
Returning to his small hometown near Moline on the Iowa border after a
stint with the United States Army in World War I, Giles began a lifelong
association with baseball in 1920 when he became general manager of the
Moline club of the Three I League.
From Moline he went to St. Joseph, Missouri, then on to Syracuse, and, finally to his last minor
league stop in Rochester in 1927. He built the Rochester team into one
of the minor league's mightiest. He generated so much respect that
league directors elected him president of the International League while
he was still general manager of the Rochester club of that league. They
knew he could separate league business from personal business.
Giles came to Cincinnati late in 1936. He was tapped by Reds
owner Powel Crosley to succeed Larry MacPhail as general manager.
Crosley had known Giles for two years, the two having met at a dinner in
Cleveland at the 1935 All-Star game. Giles had made such an impression
on Crosley that Crosley knew at the time who would someday be a
Cincinnati general manager.
didn't take long for Giles to exert a positive influence. Cincinnati
finished last in 1937, Giles' first year, but in that year he began to
clean house and to plan for the future.
Bill McKechnie was brought in as
manager. The Reds minor league system was beefed up and Giles began
leaning harder and harder on
it. He made a few trades. By the end of the 1938 campaign, the Reds had
moved up to fourth, their highest finish in 12 years.
The Reds won the pennant in 1939, their first in 20 years. They repeated
in 1940 and went on to win the World Championship, beating the Detroit
Tigers in seven games.
Cincinnati didn't win another pennant during Giles' tenure as general
manager, but the Reds always had a representative club on the field and
they consistently finished closer to the top than to the bottom of the
Giles nearly became baseball commissioner in 1951, but at the last
minute he bowed out of the running and Ford Frick got the position.
How Giles bowed out is a fascinating story in the history of baseball
and of the Reds:
December 1950, baseball's club owners refused to renew the contract of
commissioner A. B. "Happy" Chandler. They began to search for a
successor. Giles was one popular choice. Ford Frick, a former
sportswriter who was president of the National League, was another
September 1951, club owners met in Chicago to pick their new
commissioner. Giles and Frick were the only two candidates voted on.
took 12 votes to be elected. Neither could muster that strength.
"The election really was a very seesaw affair," New York Yankees owner
Del Webb told the Associated Press after the meeting. "At first Giles
was strong, and then suddenly, as new ballots were taken, Frick became
But Frick still did not have the needed
votes. It appeared that the election was hopelessly deadlocked.