Outfielder Gardella, 85, dies

Updated: March 13, 2005, 5:31 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Danny Gardella, a New York Giants outfielder who challenged baseball's reserve clause in a 1947 federal lawsuit, has died. He was 85.

He died March 6 of cardiac disease at a hospice in Yonkers, the Westchester County medical examiner's office said Sunday.

Gardella spent just more than two seasons in the major leagues. But his lawsuit was one step on the road to players winning free agency in 1976, eventually leading to the flurry of player movement and multimillion-dollar contracts of today.

He played with the Giants in 1944 and '45, but the following year he joined the Mexican League rather than return to the minors. In April 1946, commissioner Happy Chandler imposed a ban of at least five years on all players who had gone to the Mexican League.

The next year, Gardella sued baseball, seeking $300,000 in damages. He argued that baseball was illegally depriving him of his livelihood and violating antitrust law through the reserve clause, which bound a player to his club until he was released or traded.

The case was dismissed by a federal judge in 1948, but sent back to district court the next year. Rather than risk a legal battle, in 1949 Chandler offered amnesty to all players who had gone to Mexico. Gardella dropped his suit and later said he received a $60,000 settlement.

Gardella signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1950, but was sent to the minors after one at-bat. He never played in the majors again.

His older brother, Al, also played for the Giants in 1945.

In addition to Al, Danny Gardella is survived by seven daughters, three sons, two sisters and 27 grandchildren. His wife, Katherine, died in 2004.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press