William Eckert

William Eckert
Born William Dole Eckert
(1909-01-20)January 20, 1909
Freeport, Illinois
Died April 16, 1971(1971-04-16) (aged 62)
the Bahamas
Title Commissioner of Baseball
Term 1965–1968
Predecessor Ford Frick
Successor Bowie Kuhn

Military career

Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
United States Air Force
Years of service 1930–1961
Rank Lieutenant General
Awards Distinguished Service Medal

William Dole "Spike" Eckert (January 20, 1909 – April 16, 1971) was a lieutenant general in the United States Air Force, and later the fourth Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1965 to 1968.


Before baseball

William Eckert was born on January 20, 1909 in Freeport, Illinois.[1] Eckert, who grew up in Madison, Indiana, graduated from the United States Military Academy in June 1930. It was there that Eckert earned the nickname "Spike" while playing football. He then attended the Air Corps Flying Schools at Brooks and Kelly Fields in San Antonio, Texas, graduating in October 1931.

In 1938, he was selected as one of two officers for advanced education at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and graduated with a master's degree in June 1940.

In 1957, at the age of 48, Eckert was commissioned lieutenant general, making him the youngest three-star officer in the United States Armed Forces. When he retired, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.[1]

Just before becoming the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Eckert worked as a management consultant to the aviation industry. During this period, he served on the boards of directors of several corporations.

Tenure as Commissioner of Major League Baseball

More than 150 names appeared on the original list of nominees for the commissionership following Ford Frick's retirement. The club owners initially were unable to decide if the next commissioner should come from the ranks of the game (e.g., the president of the American or National Leagues), or elsewhere. They finally decided that the new commissioner should have a strong business background to deal with the problems that were confronting the game at the time.

Eckert had not appeared on any lists of prospective candidates at first. He only became a serious candidate for the commissionership after fellow officer Curtis LeMay gave Major League Baseball a recommendation for him. On November 17, 1965, by a unanimous vote of the then-20 major league club owners, William Eckert became the fourth Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

When he became commissioner, Eckert had not seen a game in person in over 10 years. He was almost completely unknown to the public, leading sportswriters to nickname him "the Unknown Soldier."

He incurred the public's ire by refusing to cancel games after the assassinations of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and team owners' disdain because he refused to deal forcefully with substantive business issues. By 1968, the owners anticipated a players' strike, and had long since lost confidence in Eckert's ability to handle the situation. For this reason, Eckert was forced to resign at the end of the season, although he still had three years on his contract.

In spite of his much publicized failures and shortcomings, Eckert also developed more effective committee actions, streamlined business methods and helped stabilize franchises with bigger stadiums and long-term leases. In addition, Eckert worked hard toward promoting the game internationally, including a 1966 tour of Japan by the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Eckert died two years after leaving the commissionership, while playing tennis in the Bahamas.[2]


  1. 1 2 Tank Productions (2007-03-10). "General William D. Eckert (1965-1968)". Retrieved 2011-06-02.
  2. Neyer, Rob. Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders.
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