Ban Johnson
B: Jan 5, 1864 Norwalk, Ohio
D: Mar 28, 1931

St. Louis, Missouri

President  -Western League (A.L.)  1894-1899
President A.L.  1900-1927

Biography / Info

  • Ban was the founder of the American League, He served as President of the league from 1900 to 1927.
  • Graduated from Marietta College of Ohio in 1887. The husky man played catcher on the school's team. 
  • Took a job as a sportswriter for the Cincinnati Commercial-Gazette and formed a friendly relationship with Reds manager Charles Comiskey. The two engaged in conversations about the future of baseball and maybe someday another major league to rival the established, yet somewhat chaotic National League.
  • In 1893, the Western League, a minor league in operation since 1879, folded. With the blessing of Comiskey and others, Ban took a one year leave of absence from the newspaper to try to revive the defunct eight team league. 
  • Comiskey was fired by the Reds and in 1895 took over the Sioux City team. Soon, another man was convinced by Johnson to join the rebuilding league as an owner. The man's name was Connie Mack. 
  • After several key franchise moves to more attractive venues, the Western League was officially renamed to the American League on October 11, 1899.
  • The league reflected its leader and unlike other leagues was organized and ran with dignity. There was no liquor at the parks, no profanity on the field and the umpires were the ultimate authority.
  • After the 1900 season, and still running as a minor league system, Johnson wanted to raise his league to a major league status..By waiving the 2400 dollar player salary, he was able to lure over 100 players to the new league. The National League, however still refused to acknowledge the league.
  • Finally, by 1903, The National League agreed to recognize the league as a major league. In turn, Ban Johnson helped draft the National Agreement of Professional Baseball covering both leagues. Thus the birth of the National Commission, a group of three men overseeing the business of baseball. Johnson was by far the most dominant personality. 
  • Under his watch, the American League grew dramatically in popularity over the next 15 years, snagging dozens of future Hall of Famers. 
  • Johnson's bad break came after the 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox scandal rocked the baseball world. He pressed on an investigation against several players conspiring to throw World Series games. This ended his long time friendship with White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, as Comiskey insisted there were no wrongdoing by his players. Opposition to the investigation grew and the club owners decided to replace the 3 man National Commission with an independent baseball commissioner. The move was also devised to restore the integrity of the game itself. 
  • Johnson was snubbed for the position and they selected Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a man who had no previous connection to the game. 
  • With Landis ruling the game, Ban's health declined and his spirits left him. In 1920, the American League was about to enter its finest era, but Johnson felt he was no longer running the show. 
  • He stayed on as American League President until July of 1927 and hastily resigned when the owners decided to strip him of his powers, even though he could retain his title of President. It all stemmed from a supposed late season fixing of a Indians/Red Sox game in 1919 by Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.  The case crumbled and  Johnson's competency became questioned.
  • Under contract until 1935, Johnson was still entitled to $320,000 in salary. He refused to take the money for a job he would not be able to do.
  • He retired with his wife to Spencer, Indiana. Johnson died of diabetes in 1931 at St. John's Hospital in St. Louis.

Hall of Fame

  • Was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.

New Selection