New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Dan Topping

Dan Topping (Baseball, pro football.  Born, Grennwich, CT, June 11, 1912; died, Miami, FL, May 18, 1974.)  Grandson of a former president of Republic Steel on his father’s side and a tin millionaire on his mother’s, Daniel Reid Topping was an above-average amateur golfer, owner of two pro football teams, and an owner of the Yankees for 22 years.  Topping played football, golf, baseball, and hockey at various times during his school years at The Hun and Penn.  It was in golf that he made his only serious athletic impression, reaching the quarterfinals of the British Amateur in 1935 and playing in the U.S. Amateur three times.  Topping started his business career at Bankers Trust in 1930, briefly ran an advertising agency, and, in 1934, bought the N.F.L. Brooklyn Football Dodgers.  He owned the club for 11 years (1934-44), hiring famed coach Dr. John B. Sutherland in 1940 (for the then-huge salary of $17,500) and beating the Football Giants on Pearl Harbor Day (Dec. 7, 1941) at the Polo Grounds.  His pro sports ownership was then mixed with a 42-month hitch in the Marines during World War II (26 months in the Pacific Theater).  In 1945, Topping announced that his Brooklyn team was leaving the N.F.L. to join the new, rival league then being formed.  Earlier that year, he had joined the triumvirate that bought the Yankees from the Ruppert estate (Jan. 25).  Topping, construction magnate Del Webb, and baseball executive Larry MacPhail paid $2.8 million for the team and Yankee Stadium.  The N.F.L. stripped his team of its players but Topping joined the All-America Football Conference anyway, placing the Football Yankees in the Stadium (1946-49).  The football team made the playoffs three times in four years and twice lost the league title game to the Cleveland Browns.  It was for the Football Yankees public-address position that Topping hired Bob Sheppard (1949), who later became famous as the baseball Yankees p.a. announcer for almost 60 years.  Topping’s baseball teams were much more effective, winning 14 American League pennants and nine World Series in his first 17 years as president after MacPhail was bought out following the 1947 Series.  He sold most of his interest to C.B.S. (for $11.2 million) in 1964 and the balance two years later when he resigned as president.  Earlier, Topping and Webb had sold Yankee Stadium (1953).  Lean, handsome, and always tanned, Topping led an active personal life.  He was married six times (including to actress Arline Judge in 1937, Olympic figure skating champion Sonja Henie in 1940 and actress Kay Sutton in 1947).  Five of the marriages ended in divorce, but he had nine children.  Topping summed up his feelings when he said, “Being in sports is the only way you can work and enjoy yourself while working.”  He also once observed, “Friends are the guys who are still around when you’re not winning.”  Topping also served on the boards of several companies, including Madison Square Garden.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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