Bill DeWitt, Jr., is the chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have won two World Series Championships under his leadership; tonight, they’re playing their first game of the 2013 post-season. Mr. DeWitt recently spoke with PARADE about the Cardinals and his family.
What is the best part of owning a MLB franchise?
I enjoy the everyday challenge of keeping the Cardinals a premier franchise. We do everything to maintain and enhance the franchise.
What is your favorite part of Busch Stadium?
I love the entire atmosphere and being at the ballpark in general. My father, Bill Sr., took me to ball games at Sportsman’s Park, and I just love the ballpark.
Why was Tony LaRussa such a great manager?
Tony possessed all the characteristics of greatness from the very first day of his tenure. He knew how to motivate the young athletes. He was an innovator. He developed the idea of a set-up man and a closer. Tony was also at the forefront of pitcher/hitter match-ups in late-inning situations. Additionally, he was very smart due to his legal background. His analytical abilities and his comprehension of the game far exceeded all his predecessors.
Do you collect or own any vintage Cardinals memorabilia?
Yes, I have a few things. Many significant and historical vintage items from the Cardinals organization will be publicly displayed at Ballpark Village, which is opening in 2014. Ballpark Village is a mixed-use retail and residential district that is situated on 10 acres just north of Busch Stadium. Many one-of-a-kind pieces of Cardinals memorabilia will be showcased at Ballpark Village. Some highlights include: A pristine home jersey of Dizzy Dean, and a 1926 World Series Grover Cleveland uniform.
Do you have long-term plans for the Cardinals to stay in the DeWitt family?
Yes, we plan to keep the Cardinals in the DeWitt family for future generations. My son, Bill III, is the President and is fully engaged.
Who was the greatest ballplayer you’ve ever watched play ball?
I saw Mantle, Mays, Musial, and many more in their prime. However, Stan Musial was the all-time greatest to play the game on the field and off the field. (Musial was a great ambassador for the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals.)
Everybody has a mentor at one time in their life. Who was your mentor, and what did you learn from him?
My father, Bill Sr., was my mentor. He owned the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960s and I saw how he was able to be successful. I learned a lot about scouting and player development from my father. My father was such an interesting man. In 1916, he was looking for a job and got hired selling concessions at the ballpark. The legendary Branch Rickey [the baseball owner who signed Jackie Robinson] became a mentor to my father and encouraged him to finish his education. Branch trained my dad into the great success that he was.
My thanks to Bill DeWitt for his time and invaluable knowledge