This past Saturday’s “This Day in Giants History” was about Andrew Freedman, who owned the Giants from 1895 to 1902. One historian has written that Freedman was “a man of breathtaking arrogance, appalling miserliness, and uncompromising dishonesty.” We’ll no doubt look at those characteristics in future posts, but for the moment, let’s look at Freedman’s purchase of the Giants.
In January 1895, 35-year-old Andrew Freedman was somewhat at loose ends. A native New Yorker, he had entered two businesses as a younger man, real estate and politics, and prospered at both. His talents for administration and manipulation were exceptional. He formed a close friendship with a rising Irish-American politician, Richard Croker, who was a member of the Tammany Hall machine that controlled city politics — and city contracting. When Croker succeeded John Kelly in 1886 as chief of Tammany, the machine that ran the Democratic Party in New York, he brought his friend Andrew Friedman into the ruling circles of New York City. Freedman advised Croker on business affairs, and they were partners in several ventures. Freedman never held any government position, yet had enormous political influence through his association with the boss and his own combination of native talent and extraordinary political connections ensured the success of his real estate business. By the mid-1890s, Freedman had accumulated a substantial fortune and had begun to branch out from real estate.
But in 1984, after exposure of its incredible graft and outright stealing, Tammany was defeated in municipal elections by the “reform” ticket led by William Strong. Beaten at the polls, with the prospect of reform legislation designed to curtail Tammany’s corrupt practices, Richard Croker resigned his position as Tammany leader and sailed for England, where he could live in ease, free from the threat of indictment.
Out of power, and looking for something to do, Freedman decided to purchase the New York Giants. On January 24, 1895, he bought 1,200 shares, nine more than an absolute majority, for $45 a share, or a total of $54,000. He assumed control of the club amid expressions of good will from both the press and the cranks. In baseball, however, good will is a notoriously fragile commodity, dependent upon continually caressing the sportswriters’ sense of importance, giving the fans exciting and winning baseball, and playing well with the other owners. Andrew Freeman, alas, was unable to do any of these things. We’ll look at his tenure as Giant owner in future posts.