Dreyfuss, Barney

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DREYFUSS, BARNEY (1865–1932), owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team from 1900 to 1932, founder of the World Series, builder of baseball's first modern stadium. Born in Freiberg, Germany, to Samuel Dreyfuss, an American citizen living in Germany, Dreyfuss came to the United States in 1881 to avoid being drafted into the German army. He settled in Paducah, Kentucky, and found work at the Bernheim whiskey distillery, at first cleaning whiskey bottles and eventually becoming head bookkeeper. Advised that outdoor activity would cure his poor indigestion, headaches, and general poor health, he organized and played second base on a semiprofessional baseball team that he formed.

The distillery moved to Louisville in 1888, and there Dreyfuss became part owner, secretary-treasurer, and eventually team president and owner of the National League Louisville Colonels. At the same time, he bought into the Pittsburgh Pirates, and as the National League was dropping the Louisville Colonels, Dreyfuss became sole owner of the Pirates, where he remained until his death. Considered the best judge of baseball talent in his time, Dreyfuss' outstanding ability as a scout made it possible for the Pirates to win the National League pennant six times (1901, 1902, 1903, 1909, 1925, 1927) and the World Series in 1909 and 1925. Indeed, many of his star players were elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame, and it was said by the president of the National League upon Dreyfuss' death, "He discovered more great players than any man in the history of baseball."

In 1903, Dreyfuss approached Henry Killilea and proposed that his American League champion Boston Pilgrims (Red Sox) meet the National League champion Pirates in a nine-game interleague series, with the winner taking 60 percent of the gate receipts and the loser 40 percent. Dreyfuss believed a post-season contest would establish better relations between the two squabbling leagues and create additional interest in baseball. It did, beyond anyone's imagination, and thus was born the first World Series, a permanent American icon that achieved almost mythic proportions. In a gesture of goodwill, and contrary to the treacherous, greedy image of the typical owner, Dreyfuss put his club's $6,699.56 gate receipts into the players' pool, which earned the 16 Pirates $1,316 each, more than the victorious Boston players' $1,182.

In 1909, Dreyfuss built Forbes Field, the first modern steel-frame triple-tier stadium and the first baseball park capable of seating 25,000 fans. The stadium represented a visionary statement, for up until then no one believed that a game of baseball could attract that many people. Dreyfuss was also instrumental in having the spitball pitch banned from baseball in 1920.

Dreyfuss was also a pioneer in the formative years of professional football. He was co-owner and manager of the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, winners of the pro football championship in 1898, professional football's fourth organized season.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]