Frank McQuade

From BR Bullpen

Francis Xavier McQuade

Biographical Information[edit]

Frank McQuade was a well-known and controversial figure with the New York Giants in the early 20th century. A Judge, he was affiliated with Tammany Hall, the notoriously corrupt political machine that controlled New York City in the final decades of the 19th century, before serving as a minority owner of the Giants. In 1928, he was ousted by principal owner Charles Stoneham in a boardroom coup.

His father was a well-to-do businessman whose political aspirations were thwarted when, as a New York City alderman, he was convicted of accepting bribes in a railway scheme. He was able to send his son Frank to New York University's law school, from which he graduated in 1900. He then became a counsel for the city government, thanks to his Tammany Hall connections. In 1911, he was named a magistrate of the New York City Court.

He became a friend of Giants manager John McGraw, the two sharing a fondness for the racetrack. In 1917, he was the judge who ruled on a complaint brought against the Giants for playing a Sunday game. In today's environment, he would have recused himself from the case given his personal friendship with one of the principals involved; instead he ruled on it, in effect nullifying New York's law banning Sunday baseball. That made him very popular in many baseball circles. He then worked in the political arena to have the offending law repealed, speaking forcefully in the press on the matter. It succeeded in 1919 when the New York State Senate passed a law explicitly allowing Sunday baseball. He was widely celebrated for his role in this campaign, and three weeks after the law was adopted, he was invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch before a huge crowd at the Polo Grounds.

The Giants at the time were owned in majority by the female heirs of the late John T. Brush, but Harry Hempstead, who represented their interests, wanted to sell out after the club suffered some losses caused by World War I. Stock trader Charles Stoneham was approached as a potential owner, and he decided to form a three-man syndicate to acquire a controlling portion of the team's stock for somewhere between $1 million and $1.3 million. Stoneham's two partners were McGraw and McQuade. McGraw had long wanted to get into the ownership ranks, while it's likely that Stoneham thought McQuade's City Hall connections would be useful. As a sitting judge, he was in theory bared from engaging in other paid occupations, such as being an officer with a professional sports team, but this was conveniently ignored.

Under the new ownership, the Giants were immediately extremely successful, including winning four consecutive National League pennants from 1921 to 1924. McQuade basked in his association with the team and took over the role of unofficial team spokesman, as Stoneham preferred to remain in the wings. However, tensions soon appeared in the syndicate, with McGraw and McQuade upset at rumors that Stoneham was looking to sell his stock (which would have turned them into powerless minority owners). In 1923, Stoneham was indicted by a Federal grand jury on charges of stock fraud. He was acquitted, but besieged by civil suits by betrayed investors, the financial pressures meant he stopped spending on his team. In 1928, for purely monetary reasons, Stoneham decided to send superstar Rogers Hornsby to the Boston Braves, incurring the wrath of his co-owners. In the team board meeting that followed, Stoneham engineered for McQuade to be removed from his post as club treasurer. It was now open warfare between Stoneham and some of his minority stockholders, not just McQuade, with accusations of financial improprieties flying around and a lawsuit being filed against Stoneham regarding McQuade's ouster in 1930.

However, the publicity brought unwanted attention to McQuade, as it prompted influential persons to ask publicly how he could serve as an officer of the club while still a sitting judge. A concurrent investigation into the practices of Tammany Hall also had McQuade in its crosshairs, and recommended his removal from the bench "for personal conduct and business and other activities which demonstrate his unfitness to continue to serve as a city magistrate." He decided to resign from his judicial position. The lawsuit against Stoneham came to trial in 1931 and caused damage to the reputations of everyone involved as both sides resorted to mudslinging to win the case. McQuade won the suit and a financial restitution, but the judgment did not reinstate him as treasurer. However, the judgment was overturned on appeal a couple of years later, leaving McQuade without a position or source of income until he successfully sued to obtain a pension from New York City. He eventually sold his stock to Stoneham.

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