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Pants Rowland

A photo of Pants Rowland.

Clarence Henry "Pants" Rowland (February 12, 1879 - May 17, 1969) was a Major League Baseball manager for the Chicago White Sox from 1915 through 1918 who went on to become a major figure in minor league baseball. He was born in Platteville, Wisconsin. In his varied career, he was a barkeep, catcher, scout, major league umpirer, minor and major league manager, and a boisterous baseball executive.

He started in baseball at age nine, where he earned his nickname, "Pants", from base-running antics while wearing his father's overalls at games of the Dubuque (Iowa) Ninth Street Blues.

Rowland served as a reserve catcher in the minors. Never a great player, his love of the game drove him to find other occupations. Pants worked as a scout in the so-called "Three-I" League (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa) for the Dubuque Miners. He worked his way into a managerial job, which proved to be his early calling.

He then became the manager of the Triple-I League Peoria Distillers. After the 1914 season, on December 17, Charles Comiskey, possibly as much for his legendary cheapness as for Rowland's talent, surprised White Sox fans and Chicago journalists when he called on Pants to manage the White Sox.

In his first year, Rowland and the White Sox finished 93-61, third in the American League; the next year, he finished second. And in 1917, he led them to an 100-54 record and a World Series title when they beat the New York Giants. Disagreements with Comiskey got him fired the following season, which, given the state of affairs at the White Sox that were leading up to the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, probably saved his reputation.

In 1938, as a scout for the Chicago Cubs, he was tasked with the unenviable job of obeying owner P. K. Wrigley's orders to buy a washed-up Dizzy Dean's contract at any cost. Rowland signed the ragged righty for $185,000, one of the most expensive loss-leader contracts in baseball history.

Rowland's all-time record was 339-247 in 591 games, a .591 winning percentage. Kid Gleason succeeded Rowland as the next manager of the White Sox.

He later served as an American League umpire for seven years, calling games with the likes of Babe Ruth.

He returned to the front office during World War II. Rowland was the president of the Los Angeles Angels in 1944, where he earned The Sporting News' title of No. 1 minor-league executive.

It was as president of the Pacific Coast League that Rowland came to real prominence.

"Pacific Coast baseball men are fed up with playing Santa Claus to the major leagues," said a TIME magazine article in December of 1944, "...They do not like losing their Buck Newsomes, Joe Di Maggios and Ted Williamses. They think postwar air travel may well lure some big league club to pick up a Los Angeles franchise (the St. Louis Browns nibbled at it two years ago). Above all, they await the day when they can support a third big league of their own."

Rowland was the cheerleader for the PCL battle cry of independence. Air travel was still primitive, and the PCL teams had near major-league standing in the rapidly-growing cities of the Western United States. He took on major league baseball commissioners Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Happy Chandler, trying to free the league from losing players to the American and National League for a minuscule $7,500.00 buyout of their contract.

He went to the 1944 winter meetings of the NABPL (National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues) in Buffalo with a two-plank agenda. He proposed that minor leagues get $10,000 (a compromise figure) instead of $7,500 when one of their players is drafted by a major-league club. He also suggested that if & when the major leagues invade minor-league territory, the incumbent minor-league owners should get first crack at the major franchise.

To his surprise, Rowland won support for both of his proposals. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball opposed the PCL proposal, and threatened to "outlaw" the league if it tried to move up in the world. The former judge, who had been brought in by the owners of baseball to clean up the mess from the 1919 Chicago scandal, held anyone connected with the organization at that time in particularly low esteem. Pants' ties to the last season of pre-Black Sox ball tarred him with the same brush in the eyes of the man called the "baseball tyrant."

Rowland tried his hand at establishing the PCL as a major league with Landis' successor, Happy Chandler. Chandler and his fact finding team that included National League and American League presidents Ford Frick and Will Harridge begged off again.

At a meeting in September of 1951 in San Francisco, California, Rowland lead the charge of the club owners, who voted to serve an ultimatum on the majors. If they did not get exemption from the player draft, the PCL would become an 'outlaw' major league.

"We're all living or dying together in this deal, and if the majors won't go along, to hell with 'em," said C. L. "Brick" Laws, owner of the Oakland team in a Time Magazine story on the PCL.

Without the blessings of major league baseball, and the implied threat that they could come into the Coast League at any time with one of their clubs, or an expansion club, Rowland was not able to secure the backing for any of his teams that would bring both facilities and teams up to major league standards.

Rowland died in Chicago, Illinois, the hometown of the team he managed. He is interred in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth, Cook County, Illinois.

He was inducted into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Preceded by:
Nixey Callahan
Chicago White Sox Manager
Succeeded by:
Kid Gleason