Danny Gardella, who was involved in a once-famous case against baseball reserve clause, died last week at age 85.
Gardella's was probably the most serious challenge to the reserve clause between Monte Ward's and Curt Flood's. Gardella was banned from the majors for "jumping" to the brand spanking new Mexican league in 1946. Even though he hit 18 homers in 1945, with more players returning from the war, Gardella had expected to be sent back down to the minors and instead decided on trying the new league. Gardella changed his mind and attempted to return to organized ball but was rebuffed. Commissioner Happy Chandler had already issued a suspension for all jumpers to the new rival league.
Gardella sued, claiming that he had not signed a contract for 1946, so the only thing holding him to his ‘45 team (the Giants) was the reserve clause. Gardella won in the Federal courts on appeal and baseball settled with him out of court in 1949 (for $29 K). Gardella returned for one game with the Cardinals in 1950.
Much of this has been reported. However, a rather salient point never seems to get much coverage. Perhaps expecting a rather shortlived interleague battle, Chandler issued the mandatory suspension for just five years. Gardella's case was settled just in time for the 1950 season. Had he just waited out the suspension, he might have returned at the same time.
Another odd story about Gardella was that he once shocked his roommate with a fake suicide note. When the roommate read the note and saw an open hotel window, he immediately rushed to the window only to find Gardella waiting on the ledge to surprise him. And you thought Ashton Kutcher was cruel.