Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Fight for Claude Corbitt!

Claude Corbitt was an infielder in the forties that made the majors for Brooklyn and Cincinnati, but not without some scuffling between a couple of teams beforehand.

Corbitt's Baseball Reference page lists the following for his transactions:

But that doesn't even come close to the whole story.

Corbitt was a minor leaguer in the Yankees system who was loaned on option to Milwaukee before the 1940 season. Sometime during that year, the Milwaukee club purchased the rights to Corbitt from the Yankees, that deal mentioned in several newspaper articles.

After the 1940 season, things got dicey. Corbitt was reportedly sold by Milwaukee to the Dodgers' Montreal club, but the Milwaukee team tried to back out of the deal, citing timing issues with the deal. Montreal would have none of that-they really wanted Corbitt, and took the matter to the higher-ups...from the Milwaukee Journal of Feb 16, 1941...

“A controversy between the Milwaukee ball club and the Brooklyn Dodgers over Shortstop Claude Corbitt will be heard at Hot Springs, Ark., Feb. 25…”

“[Judge W.G.] Bramham [president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues] will decide whether Corbitt still belongs to the Milwaukee club or goes to Brooklyn. The teams, according to Henry J. Bendinger, president of the Brewers, made a tentative agreement in December whereby Corbitt would be sold to Brooklyn.”

“Had the deal with Brooklyn been completed, the Brewers were to have received several players on option and a cash consideration and Corbitt was to have gone to Montreal, the Dodgers’ International league farm.”

The Montreal Gazette of March 26, 1941 tells us how that decision went, and the aftermath:

"Hector H. Racine, president of the Montreal Baseball Club, announced today the consummation of a player deal with the Milwaukee club of the American Association by which Montreal secures the services of Claude Corbitt, star shortstop of the American Association club. In exchange for Corbitt Montreal gives Milwaukee two players outright – first baseman Gus Suhr and outfielder Arnold Moser, and also options to Milwaukee for the 1941 season pitcher Ray Roche.”

“Following a hearing at St. Petersburg, Fla., March 17, Judge William G. Bramham, president of the National Association, sustained the contention of the Montreal Club with respect to the transaction and directed completion of the transaction.” 

So the deal sent Corbitt to Montreal for Suhr and Moser and the use of Ray Roche. Suhr was a solid first baseman in the NL for years prior to this, and Moser had a major league cup of coffee. Roche didn;t make the majors, nor did he make Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Journal of April 18, 1941, just a few days later, had the following:

“Ray Roche, left handed pitcher who figured in the Claude Corbitt deal, was returned by the Brewers Thursday to Montreal.”

Corbitt, as it turned out, wasn't a great major league hitter. Brooklyn sent him to Cincinnati for the waiver price, as you see above, and Cincinnati traded his contract outright to Syracuse, then their farm club, in this deal from the Reading Eagle of  Aug. 29, 1949:

“The Cincinnati Reds today traded utility infielder Claude Corbitt to their Syracuse farm in the International League for Shortstop Sam Meeks.”

Sam Meeks would stay with the Reds for awhile. There are a few "unknown transactions" listed for him....we will try to follow up on them.

Syracuse was independent for a few years, while Corbitt stayed with the team, then remained as the Yankees made the Chiefs their AAA team in 1953. Still property of Syracuse (and evidently not the Yanks), he was part of the second deal mentioned on Baseball Reference.

Corbitt from Pinterest

Moser from eBay

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