When people think of Bing Crosby, they might think fondly of the classic film White Christmas, or his golden voice. He was arguably one of the most famous and successful entertainers of his era.
He was also a partial owner of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers.
His ownership stake in the Pirates is by far the better known of these two. As recently as 2010 it was found that Crosby — who helped pioneer and popularize making recordings of film — had one of the only recordings of game seven of the 1960 World Series. Crosby had actually asked his assistant to record the game from the TV broadcast, something that simply wasn’t a commonplace practice in 1960.
Crosby’s history as both a fan and integral member of the Pirates organization is a treasure trove of factoids. He purchased stock in the team in the late 40s, and maintained partial ownership into the 1960s. He served as the vice president and owned about 15 percent of the team.
His ownership in Tigers stock is barely a footnote, but on January 10, 1957, the then-commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, determined that Crosby was allowed to keep his shares in the Detroit Tigers in spite of being a part-owner of the Pirates. According to Crosby’s obituary, his purchase of Tigers shares came after his purchase with the Pirates, and he owned about five percent of the Tigers franchise.
At the time, when Crosby was awaiting judgment from Frick, some suggested he might be forced to sell off stock in one of the teams. Crosby’s brother Larry apparently made it quite clear that if that were the case, Bing would keep his Pirates shares. This evidently became a moot point when Frick ruled in Crosby’s favor.
“Bing has only a token hold in the Detroit club. He made it just to be in on the thing with friends,” was Frick’s statement. Apparently, Crosby’s stock in the Tigers was worth less than $1000, which Frick didn’t feel violated the rule that no one person could own “substantial stock” in more than one major league team.
Interestingly, Crosby’s purchase of Tigers shares came roughly ten years after the 1947 acquisition of Tigers great Hank Greenberg by the Pirates. The Pirates acquired Greenberg for about $35,000, thanks to a snafu involving an old photo of Greenberg in a Yankees uniform that had been taken during the 1943 All-Star War Bond Game, where Greenberg had forgotten his Tigers uniform (he would be wearing an All-Star jersey for the game and hadn’t anticipated needing his team uniform for a public practice, so someone loaned him a Yankees uniform).
The revival of this photo riled up then-Tigers owner Walter Briggs. Rather than promote Greenberg to the general manager role as Greenberg had requested, Briggs sold his contract to Pittsburgh, and its new part owner: Bing Crosby.
Thanks to Tigers History on Twitter for bringing this one to our attention.
Jan. 10, 1957: Commissioner Ford Frick rules that singer Bing Crosby can keep his share of #Tigers ownership despite also being a part owner of the Pirates pic.twitter.com/jRDjcOLke6— Tigers History (@TigersHistory) January 10, 2018