Sexton House (Michael H. Sexton)
1209 21st Street
Broadway National Register District, 1998; Rock Island's 100 Most Significant Unprotected Structures, 2009
Significance StatementMichael Sexton is nationally famous for helping to form and then lead the national minor baseball league
Architect / Builder
The first owner of this circa 1902 home was the Sexton family. Mr. Sexton was a partner in the Rock Island Steam Laundry and Towel Supply Company located downtown. He was also a former police chief (1893-95) and known affectionately as “Mr. Baseball.”
Sexton and Baseball
When Patrick Powers resigned as the first President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) in 1909, it was an easy move to elect Michael H. Sexton to replace him. Powers and Sexton were considered the “fathers” of Minor League Baseball. The NAPBL was formed as an umbrella organization for minor leagues. An agreement between the major leagues and the new minor league association was written. The new document established league classifications, roster and salary limits and a system for drafting players. It recognized reserve lists and created a Board of Arbitration that was given the power to suspend players, clubs, or officials for violations. The organization changed its name to Minor League Baseball in 1999. Powers was President of the Eastern League as well as the National Association. When his league, along with the American Association, threatened to withdraw from the National Association over control issues, Powers did not agree, but was caught in the middle and resigned as the association’s president in mid-term. Sexton was chosen to replace him. Sexton was the president of the Three-I League (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana) from 1901-1904 and 1909, and also president of the Western League from 1902-1904. Sexton was later the first president of a restarted Mississippi Valley League from 1922-1924, and again in 1927. Disputes between the major leagues and the minor leagues, salaries, player raiding and gambling, were all typical of the time. It was not uncommon for Sexton to travel for league or association business, including critical meetings in New York City and other major cities. At the Winter Meeting in 1919, NAPBL members voted to abort the National Agreement, their pact of cooperation with the major leagues, over issues including territorial rights, player limits and salary structure. The appointment in 1920 of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis as baseball’s first commissioner has been described as the turning point for major league baseball, but it had a profound impact on the minor leagues as well. By January, 1921, he had the two sides back together with a new National Agreement. Sexton retired at the Winter Meeting in 1932. He had been president for 24 years, the longest tenure of any National Association president to this day.
A prominent peak at the front of this house gives the huge bay a tower effect. Closer inspection, however, reveals that it’s not a functional tower but simply a detail that relates much visual interest. This Free Classic Queen Anne exhibits both Queen Anne and Classic Revival characteristics. The intricate roofline and irregular ground floor outline show the massing of a Queen Anne, but the four keystones by the front door and the fanlight above the center bay on the second story, along with the Tuscan columns are pure Colonial Revival influence.