The St. Louis Cardinals, a professional baseball franchise based in St. Louis, Missouri, compete in the National League (NL) of Major League Baseball (MLB).

Owners, transactions and valuation

Chris von der Ahe (1882–1898)

Chris von der Ahe baseball card.
Chris von der Ahe baseball card.

Chris von der Ahe was the first owner of the Cardinals franchise, then known as the Brown Stockings and pioneered many of the elements commonly associated with the sport at the game. A German immigrant who made his way as a grocer and saloon owner, he saw potential in the sport without otherwise having any other background in it.[1] He also became a polarizing figure with his employees and rivals: Von der Ahe was a flamboyant and magnanimous entrepreneur who gained enormous popularity in St. Louis and his team but was reviled by rival owners. He was marked by a willingness to charge lower admission rates, encouraging play on Sundays, and opening beer concessions at the stadium, a practice that the National League prohibited during Von der Ahe's time. He also was one of the few owners to make a profit during his time, in contrast with his rival owners, whose American Association eventually collapsed due to bankruptcy. [2] National League owners such Albert Spalding bristled at his promotional techniques that became common to today's game. Charlie O. Finley, Larry McPhail, and Bill Veeck eventually employed sideshow attractions, like the "stadium club" and the shoot-the-chute.[3]

In 1881, after the Browns profited $25,000 from playing a season's worth of informal contests, Von der Ahe bought out the team's remaining stockholders for $1,800.[4] With baseball's already existing popularity in Cincinnati and increasing popularity in other cities such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore, the time was right for a new league. Late that same year, along with other owners and financiers, Von der Ahe formed the American Association of Base Ball Clubs with the Brown Stockings.[5] In 1899, von der Ahe, once the most successful owner in the AA, was forced to sell the Browns due to bankruptcy.[2]

Sam Breadon (1920–1947)

First making his mark as a local automobile dealer, Sam Breadon first purchased a minority stake in the Cardinals in 1917 for $2,000, thus commencing 30 total years as owner of the Cardinals. Three years later, Breadon bought out the majority stock in the club to become the principal owner of the Cardinals and extinguished the futility that dredged the Cardinals' first three decades in the National League. Between 1926 and 1946, the Cardinals won six World Series titles and nine National League pennants.

Breadon was noted for a very conservative nature with his finances, highly demanding nature of his teams' success on the field, and bold moves otherwise. When he became minority owner, the Cardinals were $150,000 in debt.[6] In 1925, he moved Branch Rickey from the dugout to the front office and promoted second baseman Rogers Hornsby to player-manager. Breadon also convinced cross-town American League rival St. Louis Browns owner Phil Ball to allow the Cardinals to move into Sportsman's Park. This allowed him to sell the dilapidated Robison Field property for a total of $275,000 to the city and a trolley company, clear their debts, and, with Rickey's oversight, establish an official, contractually-linked minor league farm system. This strategy developed into the current minor league system and the Cardinals used it to circumvent the practice of bidding against the more affluent Major League teams such as the New York Yankees and New York Giants for players from minor league teams, which at that time were unaffiliated. Although Minor League Baseball has existed as long as baseball has been organized, it was the first player development system of its kind in any professional sport.[7]

Between 1920 and 1947, the Cardinals compiled a record of 2,470-1,830 for a winning percentage of .574.[8] When he sold the Cardinals to Fred Saigh and Robert Hannegan in 1947, the price was $3 million, at the time the largest transaction in baseball history.[6][9]

Fred Saigh (1947–1953)

At the end of the 1947 baseball season, Saigh got wind that longtime Cardinals owner Sam Breadon wanted to sell. Breadon faced two problems. He was ill with prostate cancer, and he had been unable to find land on which to build a planned new ballpark. The Cardinals had rented Sportsman's Park from the city's other major league team, the American League Browns, since 1920. Although they had long since surpassed the Browns as the city's most popular team, Breadon wanted to build a park of his own. He had set aside $5 million to build a park, and was facing the end of a five-year deadline to build it before having to pay taxes on that money. Saigh persuaded Breadon to sell the Cardinals to him, with the assurance that he wouldn't have to pay taxes on his $5 million fund. To further put him at ease, Saigh brought in Robert Hannegan as a minority partner. Hannegan was a prominent St. Louis businessman, former United States Postmaster General, and confidante of President Harry Truman. The $4 million deal closed in late 1947.

Saigh inherited a team in transition. The Cardinals, though then just one year removed from their ninth National League pennant and sixth World Series championship since 1926, had begun to decay as an organization. Five years before, Breadon had forced out legendary general manager Branch Rickey, who had quickly resurfaced with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Browns, under new owner Bill Veeck, began a concerted effort to drive the Cardinals out of town.[10]

In January 1949, Hannegan, suffering from poor health, his share of the team to Saigh.[11] Hannegan died that October of heart disease. As sole owner, Saigh's notable actions included leading other baseball owners to oust (by not renewing his contract) Commissioner of Baseball Happy Chandler in December, 1950 [12] and proposing revenue-sharing of local television revenues.[13]

However, the tax dodge Saigh used soon came to light, as well as other questionable practices on his part.[10] Saigh was indicted on federal charges of evading $49,260 in income taxes between 1946 and 1949. In January 1953, he pleaded no contest to two counts involving more than $19,000 in tax underpayments, and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.[14] He served five months at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, leaving in November 1953 when he was given parole for good behavior.

In February 1953, under pressure from Commissioner Ford Frick, Saigh put the Cardinals up for sale.[14] Saigh would have almost certainly been thrown out of baseball if he hadn't sold the team. For a time, no credible offers surfaced from St. Louis interests, making it seem likely that the team would be purchased by someone interested in moving them to another city. The most promising offer came from a consortium of businessmen in Houston, Texas. The Cardinals owned the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League; under major-league rules of the time, that meant they also held the major-league rights to Houston. The only question was whether Buffalo Stadium could be upgraded to major-league standards.[15]

However, just before he was due to reach a final agreement with the Houston group, Saigh sold the Cardinals to Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based brewery. Although Anheuser-Busch's offer was far less ($3.75 million) than what out-of-town suitors had on the table, Anheuser-Busch president Gussie Busch persuaded Saigh that civic pride was more important than money. This all but assured that the Cardinals would stay in St. Louis. Shortly afterward, the Cardinals bought Sportsman's Park from the Browns. With their remaining leverage gone, it was the Browns who left town by the end of the season, becoming the Baltimore Orioles.

Anheuser-Busch (1953–1996)

DeWitt, Baur and Hanser (1996–present)

Current CEO and chairman, Bill DeWitt Jr.
Current CEO and chairman, Bill DeWitt Jr.

As with other periods of the Cardinals' transaction history, doubt loomed as to whether the purchaser would keep the team in St. Louis, due to the city's status as a "small market," which appear to handicap a club's competitiveness. Such was the case when Sam Breadon sold the Cardinals in 1947: then-NL President Ford Frick had proposed to Breadon the idea of moving the Cardinals to Chicago.[16] When AB placed the Cardinals for sale in 1995, they publicly expressed intention to find a buyer who would keep the club in St. Louis.[17] In March 1996, AB sold the team for $147 million to a partnership headed by Southwest Bank's Drew Baur, Hanser and DeWitt, Jr.[16] Civic Center Redevelopment, a subsidiary of AB, held the parking garages and adjacent property and also transferred them to the Baur ownership group.[18] Baur's group then sold the garages to another investment group, making the net cost of the franchise purchase about $100 million, making the net purchase price about $10 million less than Financial World's value of the team at the time $110 million.[17][19]

Current Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini and brothers Thomas Williams and W. Joseph Williams Jr. each once owned a stake in the Cardinals dating back to the Baur-DeWitt group's purchase of the team. To allow their purchase of the Reds in 2005, the rest of the group bought out Castellini's and the Williams brothers' shares, totaling an estimated 13%. At that time, the Forbes valued the Cardinals at about $370 million.[20] However, after reabsorbing that stake into the remainder of the group, they decided to make it available to new investors in 2010. Amid later allegations that the Cardinals owed the city profit shares, DeWitt revealed that their profitability had not reached the threshold to trigger that obligation.[21]

Recent annual financial records

As of 2013, according to Forbes, the Cardinals are the tenth-most valuable franchise of 30 in MLB at $716.2 million, with a revenue of $239 million. They play "in the best single-team baseball market in the country and are among the league's leaders in television ratings and attendance every season."[22] Concurrent with the growth of Major League Baseball, the Cardinals value has increased significantly since the Baur-DeWitt purchase. In 2000, the franchise was valued at $219 million,[23] a growth rate of 327%. Since 2012, the franchise's value grew 21%.

St. Louis Cardinals' financial value since 2009
Year $ Franchise Value (mil.) 1 $ Revenue (mil.) 2 $ Operating Income (mil.) 3 $ Player Expenses (mil.) 4 Wins-to-player cost ratio 5
2009 $486 $195 $   7 $120   87
2010[24] $488 $195 $12.8 $111 100
2011[25] $518 $207 $19.8 $110   94
2012[26] TV Money Is A Game Changer For Baseball and The Dodgers (Apr. 9 issue of Forbes) $591 $233 $25.0 $123 116
2013[27] Baseball Team Valuations 2013: Yankees On Top At $2.3 Billion, Forbes (Mar. 27, 2013) $716 $239 $19.9 $134 102

Valuation per Forbes.
1 Based on current stadium deal (unless new stadium is pending) without deduction for debt, other than stadium debt.
    (2013: Market $291 mil., Stadium $182 mil., Sport $151 mil., Brand Management $91 mil.)
    (2012: Market $240 mil., Stadium $157 mil., Sport $119 mil., Brand Management $78 mil.)
    (2011: Market $206 mil., Stadium $136 mil., Sport $111 mil., Brand Management $65 mil.)

2 Net of stadium revenues used for debt payments.
3 Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
4 Includes benefits and bonuses.
5 Compares the number of wins per player payroll relative to the rest of MLB. Playoff wins count twice as much as regular season wins. A score of 120 means that the team achieved 20% more victories per dollar of payroll compared with the league average in 2010.

Principal owners

Tables key
Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame
Tenure Tenure refers to MLB seasons, not necessarily dates hired and fired
Principal franchise owners showing eras of ownership
Name Tenure Ref(s)
Chris von der Ahe 1881–1898
Edward C. Becker 18991917^
Frank Robison 18991908^
Stanley Robison 1899-1910^
Helene Hathaway Britton 19111916
Sam Breadon 19171947 β
Fred Saigh 19481952^
Robert Hannegan 1948^
Gussie Busch 19531989
Anheuser-Busch 1989–1995
William DeWitt, Jr. 1996–present


The president typically reports direct to the owner in the case where the two positions were not held by the same person.

List of presidents and their eras
Name Tenure Ref(s)
Branch Rickey 191920
Sam Breadon 1920–47
Gussie Busch 195389
Fred Kuhlmann 1989–91 [28]
Stuart Meyer 199294
Mark Lamping 1994–2008
Bill DeWitt III 2008–present

General managers

A total of 14 general managers (GM) have served for the Cardinals. Branch Rickey was the Cardinals first official GM – however, his role initially called for him to function more as a business manager – as he pioneered certain functions attributed to the contemporary GM, such as developing the forerunner of the minor league farm system that all Major League Baseball franchises use today. Rickey is also the longest tenured GM in franchise history with 23 years. Notable Cardinals who have served as GM but gained their notoriety through other roles while with the Cardinals include former outfielder Stan Musial and manager Whitey Herzog. Rickey, William Walsingham, Jr., Musial, Joe McDonald, Walt Jocketty and Mozeliak each won at least one World Series as Cardinals GM. Rickey won the most with four. Hall of Fame inductees who have served as GM for the Cardinals include Herzog, Musial and Rickey.

List of general managers and their eras
Name Tenure Ref(s)
Branch Rickeydagger 19191942
William Walsingham, Jr. 1942–1953
Richard A. Meyer 1953–1955
Frank Lane 1955–1957
Bing Devine 1957–1964
Bob Howsam 1964–1966
Stan Musialdagger 1967
John Claiborne 1978–1980
Whitey Herzogdagger 1980–1982
Joe McDonald 1982–1984
Dal Maxvill 1984–1994
Walt Jocketty 1994–2007
John Mozeliak 2007–2017
Mike Girsch 2017–present [29]

Other executives

Prior executives

Other current team executives

Related lists


  1. ^ "Chris Von der Ahe's Obit". The New York Times. June 6, 1913. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Chris Von der Ahe: Baseball's Pioneering Huckster". SABR. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  3. ^ "The man who invented the St. Louis Cardinals". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 30, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  4. ^ Hetrick1999: 8
  5. ^ Hetrick1999: 9
  6. ^ a b "Sam Breadon dies in St. Louis at 72". The New York Times. May 11, 1949. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  7. ^ "Top 5 reasons Sam Breadon should be in Hall". Retrosimba. November 25, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  8. ^ Muder, Craig (November 13, 2009). "Cardinal Rule: Breadon helped create St. Louis dynasty". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  9. ^ "Sam Breadon made Cardinals great". Toledo Blade. May 11, 1949. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  10. ^ a b Purdy, Dennis (2006). The Team-by-Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. New York City: Workman Publishing. ISBN 0-7611-3943-5.
  11. ^ "The School of Engineering salutes its newest endowed professors ... and the donors who made the professorships possible" (pdf), Engineering News, School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, Spring 2005
  12. ^ "Surprise!". Time. December 25, 1950.
  13. ^ The Sporting News. May 16, 1951.
  14. ^ a b Goldstein, Richard (January 2, 2000)"Fred Saigh, who helped Cardinals stay put, dies at 94". The New York Times
  15. ^ Veeck, Bill. Veeck--As in Wreck. New York City: G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 9780226027210.
  16. ^ a b "Baseball's Sign of the Times: Under New Ownership". Chicago Tribune. December 26, 1995. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Anheuser-Busch Puts Cardinals Up for Sale". Eugene Register-Guard. October 26, 1995. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  18. ^ Judd 2002: 91
  19. ^ "Cards owners worth $4 billion". St. Louis Business Journal. May 6, 2001. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  20. ^ "Cardinals group to buy up departing owners' stakes". St. Louis Business Journal. November 20, 2005. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
  21. ^ "DeWitt III defends Cardinals; releases owner names". St. Louis Business Journal. December 7, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  22. ^ "#10 St. Louis Cardinals". Forbes. March 26, 2013. Archived from the original on April 10, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  23. ^ "St. Louis Cardinals, LLC". Privco. March 26, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  24. ^ "#8 St. Louis Cardinals". Forbes. April 7, 2010. Retrieved Nov 14, 2011.
  25. ^ "#11 St. Louis Cardinals". Forbes. March 23, 2011. Retrieved Nov 14, 2011.
  26. ^ "#11 St. Louis Cardinals". Forbes. March 21, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  27. ^ "#10 St. Louis Cardinals". Forbes. March 27, 2013. Archived from the original on March 29, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
  28. ^ Schlegel, John (April 3, 2010). "Former Cards executive Kuhlmann dies". Retrieved November 9, 2013. 'We are deeply saddened to hear of Fred's passing, Cardinals chairman and general partner William DeWitt, Jr., said in a club release. 'Fred was the consummate professional, a dedicated executive who shared a real love for the game and the Cardinals.'
  29. ^ "Cardinals promote Mozeliak, name Girsch general manager".
  30. ^ Stark, Jayson (June 19, 1988). "So who is Lee Thomas, and where did he come from?". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved September 1, 2013.

Further reading