The Historical Connection Between Stouffer's And The Cleveland Guardians

During his years playing for the Cleveland Indians (now officially known as the Cleveland Guardians), former Major League Baseball player Ken Harrelson lived in a penthouse next to food tycoon Vernon Stouffer. That location came with a pretty nice perk. Apparently, Stouffer would let Harrelson use his private helicopter to commute to the ballpark for work. In his book "Hawk: I Did It My Way," Harrelson describes the situation: "Stouffer also told me I could use his helicopter, which had its own landing pad on top of the building, to avoid the traffic ... The club had really rolled out the red carpet for me." Why was Stouffer so generous to Harrelson?

It turns out there was more to the history of Stouffer's than frozen dinners and penthouse helicopters. While the brand established a chain of restaurants in the 1920s and debuted its famed frozen foods in 1954, in 1960, it expanded beyond the food scene (via the company website). That year, it opened the hotel, Anacapri Inn, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In the years that followed, Vernon Stouffer became strongly involved with the team that Harrelson played for. In fact, Stouffer owned it at one point.

Vernon Stouffer Buys The Cleveland Baseball Team

With the Stouffer's side of businesses in full motion, Vernon Stouffer stepped up to the plate to keep his hometown baseball team in Cleveland after hearing that it could relocate (via the University of Houston). Stouffer initially invested in the Cleveland baseball team in 1962 and by August of 1966, he had a controlling stake, per the Society For American Baseball Research

Having been born and raised in Cleveland, Stouffer invested in the community on multiple occasions, for which he was formally recognized. So it is not surprising he would want to invest in the team. Unfortunately, for the next few years attendance would struggle, and Cleveland's performance on the field dwindled to the point where the team was dead-last in 1969. The whole organization began to struggle, and the team's dismal showing was compounded by issues off the field. 

In 1967, Stouffer Food Corporation merged with Litton Industries. The stock price crashed to about 15% of the original value by 1971. With the team and its funding spiraling downward, Stouffer sold the team to Nick Mileti, another Clevelander, in 1972. So after a relatively short stint of owning a Major League Baseball team, Stouffer's investment came to an end.