FORMER CARDINALS OWNER
ST. LOUIS 12-30-1999
Fred Saigh Jr., whose decision to sell the Cardinals to an Anheuser-Busch heir kept the team in St. Louis, has died. He was 94.
Saigh, also one of the wealthiest men in St. Louis, died early Wednesday.
Saigh earned millions buying and selling stocks. But he was perhaps best known for his 5-year tenure as owner of the Cardinals.
Had Saigh been greedy, Mark McGwire might be playing for the Milwaukee Cardinals. Saigh was sole owner of the team in 1953, when legal problems forced him to sell. Groups from Milwaukee and Houston offered as much as $4.5 million to buy the Cardinals and move them.
Instead, Saigh accepted $3.75 million from August Busch Jr.
"I didn't want the Cardinals to leave St. Louis," Saigh said in a 1992 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Saigh grew up in Kewanee, Ill. His parents eventually moved to St. Louis, where he became a tax and corporate lawyer and dabbled in several business ventures during the Great Depression.
Saigh and a partner bought the Cardinals in 1948. When his partner's health failed the next year, Saigh became sole owner.
In February 1953, Saigh was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $15,000 for owing $19,099 in back taxes.
"I was a victim of some things going on in St. Louis," he said. Saigh served five months in prison. Under some pressure from the National League, he decided to sell the team. A year after Saigh sold the Cardinals, the St. Louis Browns were sold and moved to Baltimore.
Saigh's decision eventually paid off for him.
"Schlitz was the No. 1 brewer in the country at the time, and Miller was second," Saigh said in 1992. "Anheuser-Busch wasn't up there with them. But after they got involved with the Cardinals, everything seemed to take off.
Owning the Cardinals might be the best thing that ever happened to Anheuser-Busch, the thing that got their beer advertising into the sports market and gave them free publicity every day, all over the
country." Saigh quickly recognized that the brewery was on the rise. He bought about 28,000 shares in Anheuser-Busch, at about $20 a share, not long after selling the team. Eventually, he came to hold more stock in Anheuser-Busch than anyone outside the Busch family -- at the peak, nearly 1.1 million shares at almost $60 a share.
memorial service will be Monday. Survivors include a sister and brother.