Cheap Seats

On this date in Cardinals history, Jan. 28, 1953

On this date 58 years ago one of the saddest pages in Cardinals history was written as owner Fred Saigh was convicted of income tax evasion, forcing him to give up control of the team.

Saigh, a Springfield, IL native, bought the Cardinals in 1947 from Sam Breadon.

Breadon, the longtime owner of the club, was ill with cancer and was frustrated by his inability to get a new ballpark for the team built. Saigh, who made his money as a tax and corporate attorney, also owned several office buildings in downtown St. Louis and could have been a powerfull, deep-pocketed owner for many years.

It's odd -- or maybe it isn't -- given Saigh's background that he was accused in 1952 to evading nearly $50,000 in income taxes. He pled no contest and was sentenced to prison. During his stay in the pokey, and under pressure of other baseball owners, Saigh agreed to sell his interest in the Cardinals.

His tenure over the club was brief. But Saigh was vital to keeping the Redbirds in their St. Louis roost. He received higher offers for the Cardinals from out of town groups in Milwaukee and Houston than the one he eventually accepted from the Anheuser-Busch brewery when he was forced to sell the team.

Saigh parted with the Birds for about $3.75 million and a promise that A-B would keep the club in the Mound City. But he reportedly wasn't happy about it. Although he snapped up a mountain of stock shares in the brewery (indirectly making him an owner of the Cardinals once again) Saigh resented August Busch Jr's lowball offer and supposedly refused to go to the team's games until the brewery sold the club to its current ownership group in 1995.

''I didn't want the Cardinals to leave St. Louis,'' Saigh told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1992. ''Anheuser-Busch's publicity department turned it around that Mr. Busch was a savior. But it was sort of a mutual thing. I was bitter and I was hurt -- still am.''

The former top Redbird died in 1999.