Ask almost anyone who knows Dan Farrell to tell you something about him and the first thing they’ll probably say is that he is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in St. Louis. I met him in the early '80s when our dads worked together, and I’ve long called him my friend; but to be honest, he really didn’t want me to write about him. While he was flattered, he knows he’ll get some ribbing at the office, but he’s just too darn nice to say no.
That office also is the place where he also holds down one the best jobs in town: He’s the senior VP of sales and marketing for the Cardinals. That means he’s in-charge of everything from bobbleheads to Fredbird, luxury boxes to bleacher seats, and radio and TV and stadium entertainment.
Dan has worked hard for a lot of years to get where he is, but I think it’s also that 'nice' factor that helped make him a success. “I try to be respectful of people,” he tells me as we sit in his office that overlooks the Musial statue. “I try to learn somebody’s name, look them in the eye when we shake hands, and listen to what they have to say. I find out who they are, walk a mile in their shoes and not harbor ill will--that's just the way I treat people.”
Dan has a gentleman’s charm, a big Irish smile and rosy cheeks and looks a lot like his late father, who, by the way, also was one of the nicest people you would ever meet. “It has something to do with the way I was raised,” he says. "My father, as a banker, always treated people in a respectful way.”
His dad, Neal Farrell, brought his family to St. Louis in 1978 when he left the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York to become president of the old Mercantile Trust Company, eventually taking over for my dad, Jim Brown, when he retired from 'Merc.' The elder Farrell grew up in Brooklyn but was--coincidentally, or maybe a harbinger of things to come--a lifelong Cards fan, mainly because of Stan Musial.
Dan himself grew up in New Jersey, 20 miles west of Manhattan, but always was a Braves baseball fan because of Hank Aaron and the miracle 1957 World Series win over the Yankees. Right after he graduated from Mizzou in ‘82, he landed a job as a promotions assistant with the Cardinals; five months later, the Redbirds were celebrating a World Series Championship. “In my first five years, we got to the World Series three times--I thought this was an easy game!” he laughs as he remembers.
Dan worked his way up through the ranks, and in 1998, was named senior VP. Ever since, the team has been on a remarkable run, making the post-season 10 out of the last 14 years, and adding four more National League pennants and two more World Series titles. He can’t help but to feel a bit of connection to the team's history and its success. “It’s because of Musial and Brock, Schoendienst and Gibson, Smith, Sutter and McGee. I also put a lot on our broadcasters, from Buck, Shannon, Harry Caray; and now, McLaughlin, Rooney, Hrabosky and Horton, too.”
While Dan says he obviously didn't 'create' the team's success on and off the field, he feels he's been a contributor. "I always tell our folks, we work the margins, what we do is add that last 10 to 15 percent to the attendance or the revenue, and help keep the flame burning," he says. "Our role is to be caretakers of this flame because it started burning a long, long time ago.”
While most of us reflect on the nostalgia and drama of the game, professional baseball is, after all, a business. For most baseball teams, greater financial success means more wins (with the exception of the Cubs, who make money because they are enduring--yet endearing--losers), so Dan recognizes that marketing is even more valuable today than it may have been in the past--and St. Louis was the perfect place for him to make his mark. “It always felt right to be part of this organization because I always loved baseball, and my dad had always loved the Cardinals."
But Dan says just loving baseball isn’t going to make you successful in this business. “It’s being able to take that love and interest in the game and turn it into a business proposition and a way to generate revenue for the ball club.” It seems to be working pretty well for both the Cardinals and Dan Farrell--and I have to say, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.