Cy Block Baseball

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Cy Block played for the Cubs in the 1945 World Series.

He played third base for the Cubs in brief appearances over three seasons — 1942, 1945, and 1946.

His career began at age nineteen when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938. His contract was picked up by the Cubs in 1941 and he made his major league debut in September 1942. Service in the Coast Guard during World War II kept him out of the game for three years. He returned to the Cubs to play in the 1945 World Series. His career ended in 1951 while he was playing for the Buffalo Bisons, the Cubs’ Triple-A team. His major league batting average was .302. His lifetime batting average was .325.

The career of Cy Block, on and off the field, has interested cultural historians and baseball buffs for several generations. As a young Jewish baseball player from Brooklyn who played in the South in the late 1930's, he endured prejudice and hostility. Yet he enjoyed the respect and friendship of fellow players, management, and especially the fans, as he moved from city to city, upward through the minor league system. During his career, he was an outspoken advocate of players' rights, one of the few players in those days to challenge management. His dealings with baseball brass legends Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler, Ford Frick, Branch Rickey Jr., and Larry MacPhail were face-to-face and involved issues that would not be addressed by the baseball community until a generation later. His support of Jackie Robinson, in an infamous 1947 clubhouse vote to boycott the spring training game against the Dodgers, cost him a place on the Cubs roster. The resulting 30 day holdout he conducted prefigured the rise of free agency, a major cornerstone of modern-day professional sports.

As a result of his advocacy for players' rights, he was asked in 1950 to testify before the United States Congress in regard to baseball's reserve clause. His testimony helped contribute to the eventual overturning of the reserve clause in 1975 and earned him praise from sports historians. In the 1980's he again became involved with Major League Baseball in his efforts to reform the player's pension fund on behalf of former players.

After he retired from baseball in 1951, Cy entered the business world, soon becoming a leader in the life insurance industry. In 1955, he led a group of investors in a failed attempt to buy the Detroit Tigers. He was frequently cited by sportswriters for his post-baseball business success and he received many honors for his civic contributions. In 1984, he founded the New York City Clean-Up Contest, a neighborhood by neighborhood campaign to enlist residents to help clean the city's streets and parks, which became a model program for other cities. During the 1980s he served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and as an adviser on Jack Kemp's 1988 Presidential campaign committee. His other philanthropic activities included founding a little league in Harlem and a girls' sports league in his home community.

He was widely known in baseball circles and was personal friends with many former ballplayers and athletes, including Jackie Robinson, Whitey Ford, Ralph Branca, Monte Irvin, Fuzzy Levane, Chuck Conners, and others.

He died in 2004 at the age of 85. His grandson, Aaron Bauman, became an All-American baseball player at UC San Diego.

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