A.B. (Happy) Chandler, the jovial Kentucky politician who resigned from the United States Senate in 1945 to succeed Kenesaw Mountain Landis in what turned out to be a monentous term as the secon commissioner of baseball, died early yesterday at his home in Versailles, Ky.
He was 92 years old, and according to his family he died of a heart attack.
In a political career that began in 1929 and continued in back rooms and public office for the rest of his life, Albert Benjamin Chandler served two terms as Governor of Kentucky and parts of two terms as a United States Senator.
Along the way he was credited with modernizing the Kentucky state government, repealing a state sales tax he regarding as a regressive burden on the poor and championing the welfare of impoverished rural residents and the rights of blacks. Went Against Owners
And as commissioner of baseball, he brushed aside strong opposition of a majority of the owners to clear the way for Jackie Robinson to break the baseball color line in 1947.
He also pushed for a variety of measures favorable to players, including the establishment of the first pension fund, and extended and strengthened the campaign against gambling that had been the hallmark of the tenure of his predecessor.
In what was seen at the time as his most decisive act, he suspended Leo Durocher as the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1947 season for "the accumulation of unpleasant incidents" culminating in a rancorous public dispute in wihch durocher accused Yankee executives of entertaining the very gamblers Durocher had been ordered to shun.
In the end, Mr. Chandler proved so independent of the owners who had unanimously elected him to succeed Landis that he lost the support he needed for a second term. He was replaced in 1951 by Ford Frick.
From then until Bowie Kuhn became commissioner in 1969 he was virtually ostracized by the baseball Establishment and was never invited to World Series games or Hall of Fame inductions.
"They forgot me and I forgot them" is the way Mr. Chandler once put it. In Hall of Fame
In recent years, however, even some owners had come to view his service as commissioner in a better light, and in 1982 he was namced to the Hall of Fame.
Mr. Chandler was born in Corydon, Ky., on July 14, 1898. He graduated from Transylvania College, in Lexington, Ky., in 1921 after time out for military service in World War I. He spent a year at Harvard Law School before returning to get his law degree from the University of Kentucky.
Turning to politics, he was elected to the State Senate in 1929, became Lieutenant Governor in 1932 and Governor in 1935. He resigned in 1939 so his successor could appoint him to fill an unexpired term in the United States Senate. He was elected to a full term in 1942.
During his years in the Senate he was a supporter of the notion that major league baseball should continue during World War II, a position that may have helped bring him to the attention of the owners when they were faced with naming a successor to Landis after his death in 1944.
After his dismissal as commissioner, Mr. Chandler returned to Kentucky politics, wimming a second term as governor, from 1955 to 1959
As Governor, he used National Guard troops to enforce integration of schools in two Kentucky towns. But in 1968, he wanted the Vice President's spot on George Wallace's third-party Presidential ticket. Mr. Wallace, as Governor of Alabama, had proclaimed "segregation forever."
Mr. Chandler's supporters never wavered, however.
One of the first blacks to follow the trail blazed by Mr. Robinson was Don Newcombe, a Dodger pitcher in the late 1940's and 1950's.
"Some of the things he did for Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe when he was commissioner of baseball -- those are the kinds of things we never forget," Mr. Newcombe said. He said that Mr. Chandler had cared about blacks in baseball "when it wasn't fashionable."
Mr. Chandler is survived by his wife, Mildred; two sons, Ben of Versailles and Dan of Las Vegas, Nev; two daughters, Marcella Miller of Wilson, N.C., and Mildred Lewis of Versailles; a half-sister, Mary Katherin Bolin; 12 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.