Results tagged ‘ manager ’
After thirteen seasons as a National League second baseman, “”Hug”” became a manager. He took over as skipper of the Yankees in 1918, winning over one thousand games, six AL pennants and three World Series during his one dozen seasons in the Yankee dugout. Though he was small in stature, only 5’6″ tall and weighing just 140 pounds, Huggins was able to gain the respect and love of his players. Lou Gehrig called him “the squarest shooter I ever met in baseball.” He became seriously ill during the 1929 season when an eye infection turned into a case of blood poisoning. He died that September. He was just 50 years old.
Since we’re on the topic of Yankee managers and Joe Girardi is about to begin his seventh year at the helm of the Bronx Bombers, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the records of the top five winning managers in pinstripe history. Here’s the list:
|Manager – World Championships||Wins||Losses||Pct.|
|Joe McCarthy – 7||1460||867||.627|
|Joe Torre – 4||1173||767||.605|
|Casey Stengel – 7||1149||696||.623|
|Miller Huggins – 3||1067||719||.597|
|Ralph Houk – 2||944||806||.539|
|6||1918||40||New York Yankees||AL||60||63||.488||126||4|
|7||1919||41||New York Yankees||AL||80||59||.576||141||3|
|8||1920||42||New York Yankees||AL||95||59||.617||154||3|
|9||1921||43||New York Yankees||AL||98||55||.641||153||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1922||44||New York Yankees||AL||94||60||.610||154||1||AL Pennant|
|11||1923||45||New York Yankees||AL||98||54||.645||152||1||WS Champs|
|12||1924||46||New York Yankees||AL||89||63||.586||153||2|
|13||1925||47||New York Yankees||AL||69||85||.448||156||7|
|14||1926||48||New York Yankees||AL||91||63||.591||155||1||AL Pennant|
|15||1927||49||New York Yankees||AL||110||44||.714||155||1||WS Champs|
|16||1928||50||New York Yankees||AL||101||53||.656||154||1||WS Champs|
|17||1929||51||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||82||61||.573||143||2|
|St. Louis Cardinals||5 years||346||415||.455||774||5.4|
|New York Yankees||12 years||1067||719||.597||1796||2.3||6 Pennants and 3 World Series Titles|
|17 years||1413||1134||.555||2570||3.2||6 Pennants and 3 World Series Titles|
When Del Webb and Dan Topping purchased the Yankees in 1945, they needed a baseball man to run things and they selected former Dodger and Cardinal team president, Larry MacPhail to fulfill that role. The two multi-millionaires loaned MacPhail the $900,000 he needed to purchase ten percent of the team. That presented a problem for legendary Yankee Manager, Joe McCarthy, who did not like MacPhail. It became the key reason why Marse Joe quit as the Yankee skipper 35 games into the 1946 season. He was replaced by Yankee catching legend Bill Dickey, who had been one of McCarthy’s coaches.
The Yankees finished in third place in 1946 and Dickey did not even finish the season as manager, resigning that September, as soon as the Red Sox had eliminated New York from the pennant race. Two days after Dickey quit as skipper, MacPhail hired Bucky Harris to an unnamed front office position, to serve as MacPhail’s personal liason with the Yankee clubhouse. Harris then got the Manager’s job after the 1946 season ended.
Bucky had become famous in 1926, when at just 27 years of age, he became the player manager of the Senators and led the team to a World Series Championship that season. That title earned him the nickname “The Boy Wonder.” He then continued to manage for the next two decades but had not won another World Series.
The Yankee team he inherited in 1947 was getting old and ornery. His outfield was a mess. Joe DiMaggio had sore heels, Charley Keller a bad back and Tommy Henrich had turned 37 and hit just .251 in 1946. His infield wasn’t any better. First baseman Nick Etten had become an automatic out once big league pitchers returned from serving in WWII plus he was a horrible defensive first baseman. Third baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss was also a much less effective hitter against post war pitching and both second baseman Joe Gordon and shortstop Phil Rizzuto had a difficult time getting their swings back after their military service. As for pitching, Red Ruffing had retired and Spud Chandler was getting old fast.
Working with MacPhail, Harris made a series of moves that turned out to be genius-like. He replaced Etten at first with 38-year old George McQuinn, an NL veteran with a decent glove and good bat. MacPhail traded Joe Gordon to the Indians for pitcher Allie Reynolds and Harris switched Stirnweiss from third to Gordon’s old spot at second and inserted rookie Billy Johnson at the hot corner. He benched Keller and made Johnny Lindell his starting left fielder. His best move was converting Yankee starter Joe Page to his closer. Each of these maneuvers panned out perfectly and with DiMaggio, Henrich and Rizzuto all enjoying bounce back seasons, the Yankees rolled to the 1947 AL Pennant, finishing a dozen games ahead of the second place Tigers. A few weeks later, Harris had his second World Championship as a Manager when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games.
Despite winning 94 games the following season, the Yankees finished a disappointing third in the AL Pennant race. MacPhail had also been bought out by Topping and Webb, who had installed George Weiss as the new Yankee GM. Weiss used the Yankees third place finish in ’47 as an excuse to replace Harris with his own man, Casey Stengel.
If a Manager was hired in today’s times, who then won 191 regular season games during his first two years managing a team plus a World Series, he’d get a multi-year contract worth eight figures. Instead, Bucky Harris got fired. In all, Harris managed 30 years in the Majors. He was named to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1975.
Harris shares his birthday with this short-time Yankee outfielder.
|21||1947||50||New York Yankees||AL||97||57||.630||155||1||WS Champs|
|22||1948||51||New York Yankees||AL||94||60||.610||154||3|
|Boston Red Sox||1 year||76||76||.500||153||4.0|
|Philadelphia Phillies||1 year||39||53||.424||94||7.0|
|New York Yankees||2 years||191||117||.620||309||2.0||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|Washington Senators||18 years||1336||1416||.485||2776||4.9||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|Detroit Tigers||7 years||516||557||.481||1078||5.4|
|29 years||2158||2219||.493||4410||4.9||3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles|
The late George Steinbrenner probably felt he had much more in common with Jake Ruppert than any other team owner in Yankee franchise history. After all, both were sons of wealthy German-American businessmen who purchased the Yankee team when it wasn’t winning and were able to restore the franchise to glory with bunches of additional World Championships and get a magnificent new Stadium built for their team. And since Rupert got elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012, you know the Boss would have loved following his lead by also getting inducted into Cooperstown.
But Georgie-boy was actually a much more meddling owner than old Jake Ruppert ever thought to be. Simply put, Ruppert kept hiring the best GMs and field managers he could find and let them make their own decisions and though Steinbrenner’s reign started the same way, he quickly morphed into a micro-managing, you-do-what-I-say type of owner. That’s why instead of Ruppert, he reminds me much more of another former Yankee team owner who is also in the Hall of Fame. His name was Larry MacPhail Sr. and he’s the guy who made today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant the manager and ex-manager of the New York Yankees.
Remember when Steinbrenner promised Yankee catching legend Yogi Berra that he would be New York’s skipper during the entire 1985 season and then replaced him with Billy Martin just 16 games into that season? In 1946, MacPhail was brought in as an ownership partner by Dan Topping and Del Webb when they purchased the Bronx Bombers from Ruppert’s estate. The fiery but highly innovative ex-Red and Dodgers exec was made the team’s de-facto GM. Long-time Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy couldn’t stomach working for MacPhail and quit just 35 games into the season. MacPhail then made Bill Dickey the team’s manager but instead of giving him some job security with a longer-term contract, the new owner also hired former Senators’ “Boy Wonder” manager, Bucky Harris as a special consultant. With Harris looking over his shoulder at every move he made on the field, its easy to understand why Dickey began feeling insecure in his new role and started asking the Yankee front-office for a longer-term deal. When it became apparent that MacPhail had no intention of granting Dickey an extension during the 1946 season, the future Hall-of-Fame catcher quit with 14 games remaining on the schedule and went home to Arkansas.
The Yanks then turned to one of Dickey’s coaches, Johnny Neun to finish the season as New York’s field boss. Neun had been a big league first baseman for both the Tigers and the Braves back in the 1920′s and early thirties. A switch-hitter with little power, he was never more than a back-up during his six years in the Majors but he did become famous for becoming the seventh big leaguer in history to pull off an unassisted triple play. It happened during the 1927 season and his feat was made even more memorable by the fact that one day earlier, Chicago Cubs infielder, Jimmy Cooney had also done it.
After Neun retired as a player in 1934, he got a job managing in the Yankees’ farm system and soon became one of the organization’s top minor league skippers. He led both Newark and Kansas City, New York’s top minor league affiliates to league titles and was rewarded with a job on Joe McCarthy’s coaching staff, joining Dickey, Art Fletcher and Johnny Schulte.
MacPhail made it clear that Neun’s hiring was on an interim basis and no one expected him to be considered a candidate for the job the next season. Neun led the Yankees to an 8-6 finish and the Baltimore native then accepted the manager’s job with the Cincinnati Reds. He spent a season and two-thirds skippering the Reds. His record when he was fired 117-137. He later became a long-time scout for the Milwaukee Braves.
As expected, MacPhail ended up hiring Harris to manage the Yanks in 1947 and he did a good job, leading New York to the 1947 World Championship. But during the World Series victory celebration, an intoxicated MacPhail became so belligerent, Topping and Webb decided they needed to force him out of their partnership. With his mentor gone, Harris managed in the Bronx for one more season before being replaced by Casey Stengel.
Neun shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
If you weren’t around during the 1960′s when the great New York teams led by Mantle and Maris were doing their thing, you missed a great era of the Yankee dynasty. Fortunately, you also missed the second-half of that decade as well, which means you didn’t see that dynasty crumble, as the players who comprised it grew old or got hurt seemingly all at once. What was left were a bunch of prospects who would never become good big league players along with a few who weren’t yet ready to do so. That forced the Yankees to fill in the holes and gaps with acquisitions from other teams and one of those deals was for a switch-hitting Dodger shortstop named Gene Michael.
The resident of Akron, Ohio had only been in the big leagues for a couple of seasons when the Yanks purchased his contract from Los Angeles, yet Michael was already 30 years old. He was considered a decent fielding shortstop but what had kept him in the minor leagues for so long was his inability to hit. He might have been a switch-hitter but the problem was he really couldn’t swing the bat very well from either side of the plate. In fact, after he averaged just .202 trying to replace Maury Wills as the Dodger shortstop in 1967, Michael spent the following winter in the Florida Instructional League, determined to become a pitcher. That’s when his phone rang and it was Yankee GM Larry MacPhail telling him he was coming to New York where Ralph Houk hoped to make him his starting shortstop. That plan looked like it had flopped decisively after Michael played 61 games at short during the ’68 season and hit just .198. That forced Houk to bring Tom Tresh back in from the outfield to once again play the position at which he had won the 1962 Rookie of the Year Award.
When the 1969 spring training season rolled around, Houk had penciled in Tresh to remain at short but was also hoping Bobby Murcer or Jerry Kenney might win the job in camp. Both players were returning from military service that spring but neither could handle the position and when Tresh started the regular season in a horrible slump, Houk again turned to Michael.
Even though this all happened over 45 years ago, I can remember feeling not-to-thrilled when I heard that Michael was being given the job again. If he had been with the Yankees just a half dozen seasons earlier and hit .198, he’d have been released or buried so deeply in the Yankee farm system his family would have needed a backhoe to find him. So what’s Michael do? He goes out and hits, 272 and fields the position close to brilliantly. Could I have been wrong? Was the player sarcastically nicknamed “Stick” actually evolving into a good stick? Unfortunately no. Houk and Yankee fans like me spent the next four years waiting for Michael to replicate the offense he generated during that 1969 season and he never did.
When Steinbrenner took over the team, Houk left to manage in Detroit and when the Yankees released Michael in January of 1975, he joined the Major in Mo-Town for his final season as a big league player. Steinbrenner may have not respected the Stick as a player but he valued his baseball smarts so he kept giving Michael jobs in the Yankee organization. In 1981, Steinbrenner made him Yankee manager and he had the Yankees in first place when baseball went on strike that June. When play resumed that August, Michael grew so sick of Steinbrenner’s meddling with his handling of the team that he told the Boss to either fire him or shut up. Steinbrenner felt he had no choice but the latter and replaced him with Bob Lemon. The following April, when Lemon’s decision making irked the Boss, he fired him too and replaced him with the Stick.
He would eventually ask Steinbrenner to relieve him as manager because the two argued too much when Michael was in that job. He wanted to work in the Yankee front office and fortunately for the Boss, he gave Michael his wish. So when Faye Vincent suspended the Yankee owner for his roll in the Dave Winfield-Howie Spira episode in 1990, Michael took over control of the organization and is credited with building the team that won four World Series between 1996 and 2000. So the shortstop who signified the end of one Yankee dynasty became the architect of another.
Michael’s Yankee playing record:
|NYY (7 yrs)||789||2656||2405||205||561||79||10||12||204||21||215||356||.233||.296||.289||.585|
|PIT (1 yr)||30||33||33||9||5||2||1||0||2||0||0||7||.152||.152||.273||.424|
|LAD (1 yr)||98||245||223||20||45||3||1||0||7||1||11||30||.202||.246||.224||.470|
|DET (1 yr)||56||158||145||15||31||2||0||3||13||0||8||28||.214||.253||.290||.543|
Michael’s Yankee managing record:
|1||1981||43||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||56||34||22||.607||1||First half of season|
|2||1981||43||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||26||14||12||.538||6||Second half of season|
|3||1982||44||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 3||86||44||42||.512||5|
|New York Yankees||2 years||168||92||76||.548||4.0|
|Chicago Cubs||2 years||238||114||124||.479||5.5|
Many Yankee fans, including me, were livid at George Steinbrenner after the 1995 season. We had just gone through two strike-shortened baseball seasons at the very same time our Yankees were on the verge of once again becoming baseball’s best team. Don Mattingly had just had a wonderful playoff series against Seattle and although the Yankees lost that series three games to two, we were convinced that in Buck Showalter, the Yankees had the right manager to lead them back to post season prosperity.
Then the Boss lowered the boom. The Yankees did not try to convince Donnie Baseball to continue playing and instead acquired Tino Martinez to play first base. Just as upsetting was the firing of Showalter who was replaced by the nice guy but perennial loser as a manager, Joe Torre.
It is amazing how a little thing like winning four World Championships in a five year period can help you let bygones be bygones. And come to think of it, Buck Showalter never seemed to be having any fun. And why the heck did he always wear that completely zipped-up Yankee jacket in the dugout, even when the temperature was in the nineties?
Seriously, Buck Showalter restored a sorely needed level of low-key professionalism to the Yankee dugout after the Billy Martin-to-Stump Merrill era of merry-go-round managers. His record as Yankee skipper was 313-268. He went on to manage both the Diamondbacks and Rangers and was a two-time AL Manager of the Year winner. He is now skippering the Baltimore Orioles back to respectability.
Update: The above post was last updated in May of 2011. Since that time, Showalter’s Orioles have made it back to the postseason and once again become one of the Yankees’ most competitive rivalries. Baltimore finished in second place just two games behind New York in the AL East in 2012 and then gave the Bronx Bombers everything the could handle in the 2012 ALDS before finally losing in five games.
|1||1992||36||New York Yankees||AL||162||76||86||.469||4|
|2||1993||37||New York Yankees||AL||162||88||74||.543||2|
|3||1994||38||New York Yankees||AL||113||70||43||.619||1|
|4||1995||39||New York Yankees||AL||145||79||65||.549||2|
|New York Yankees||4 years||582||313||268||.539||2.3|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||3 years||486||250||236||.514||3.0|
|Texas Rangers||4 years||648||319||329||.492||3.3|
|Baltimore Orioles||4 years||426||220||206||.516||3.8|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is the winning-est manager in Yankee history. Joe McCarthy’s baseball career began as a Minor League infielder who’s bad knee and inability to hit a curve ball prevented him from ever playing in a Major League game. He was playing for Wilkes-Barre in 1912 when the team’s Manager quit. McCarthy was given the job. Just 20-years-old at the time, he was the youngest manager in professional baseball. His team played very well for him and McCarthy realized his future in the sport was as a Manager.
He got his first big league job with the Cubs in 1926. He remained in the Windy City, working for the Wrigley’s for five seasons and won the NL Pennant in 1929. Ironically it was that success, according to a NY Times article about McCarthy written by Joseph Durso, that led to the Manager’s firing as Cub Manager. The Cubs lost the Series to the A’s that year in five games. In Game Four of that Fall Classic, the Cubs had blown an eight-run lead. Chicago owner William Wrigley, who had the money to buy anything he wanted, coveted a World Series trophy. After McCarthy’s team failed to win it in ’29, the chewing gum magnate came to the fateful conclusion that McCarthy was not the field boss who could win him one. A season later, McCarthy was fired by Chicago. During the next thirteen years, Wrigley’s appraisal of his former Manager had been disproved emphatically, not once but seven different times.
Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins had died during the 1929 season. Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert replaced him with one of his team’s former pitching stars, four-time 20-game winner, Bob Shawkey. When Shawkey’s team finished third in 1930 and McCarthy was fired by the Cubs, the Yankee owner outbid the Red Sox for his services. New York teams won 1,460 games during his sixteen total years at the helm, which included six 100-victory seasons, eight American League Pennants and seven World Championships. “Marse Joe” won a total of 2,125 games during his 24-year Major League managerial career, which ended with the Red Sox in 1950. Babe Ruth hated McCarthy because he wanted the Manager’s job himself but both Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio revered him. He was famous for defending his players and accepting blame for any of the team’s defeats or failures on his own shoulders. The most remarkable thing about his record was that during his two-dozen seasons as a big-league skipper, not one of his three teams ever lost more games than they won. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1957 and died in 1978, at the age of ninety.
McCarthy shares his April 21st birthday with this one time Yankee lefty relief specialist.
|6||1931||44||New York Yankees||AL||155||94||59||.614||2|
|7||1932||45||New York Yankees||AL||156||107||47||.695||1||WS Champs|
|8||1933||46||New York Yankees||AL||152||91||59||.607||2|
|9||1934||47||New York Yankees||AL||154||94||60||.610||2|
|10||1935||48||New York Yankees||AL||149||89||60||.597||2|
|11||1936||49||New York Yankees||AL||155||102||51||.667||1||WS Champs|
|12||1937||50||New York Yankees||AL||157||102||52||.662||1||WS Champs|
|13||1938||51||New York Yankees||AL||157||99||53||.651||1||WS Champs|
|14||1939||52||New York Yankees||AL||152||106||45||.702||1||WS Champs|
|15||1940||53||New York Yankees||AL||155||88||66||.571||3|
|16||1941||54||New York Yankees||AL||156||101||53||.656||1||WS Champs|
|17||1942||55||New York Yankees||AL||154||103||51||.669||1||AL Pennant|
|18||1943||56||New York Yankees||AL||155||98||56||.636||1||WS Champs|
|19||1944||57||New York Yankees||AL||154||83||71||.539||3|
|20||1945||58||New York Yankees||AL||152||81||71||.533||4|
|21||1946||59||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||35||22||13||.629||3|
|Chicago Cubs||5 years||770||442||321||.579||2.8||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||16 years||2348||1460||867||.627||1.8||8 Pennants and 7 World Series Titles|
|Boston Red Sox||3 years||369||223||145||.606||2.3|
|24 years||3487||2125||1333||.615||2.1||9 Pennants and 7 World Series Titles|
So much of the Yankees’ history is tied to the city of Baltimore. Not only was the franchise born in Maryland’s largest city, so was Babe Ruth, its biggest all-time star. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s legendary career sort of followed the same geographical route and like Ruth, McGraw’s childhood was not a happy one. His mom died when he was just 11-years old and his alcoholic father was ill-equipped to raise four children on his own. When McGraw was 12, his old man beat him so badly that the boy ran to an Inn, located across the street from his Truxton, NY home, for protection. Fortunately, he found it. The owner of the Inn ended up raising him as her own.
The young McGraw, again like Ruth, discovered an escape from his childhood miseries in baseball and became a very good player and pitcher for a local semi-pro ball club. He was good enough to earn roster spots with minor league teams, and in 1892, the 22-year-old McGraw, who was by then an infielder, made his debut with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association, which was back then considered the major league of baseball. Over the next decade, he became a star for the Orioles, topping the .320 mark in batting average for nine straight seasons. Just five feet seven inches tall, he developed a playing style that was completely devoted to one primary goal, getting on base as often as humanly possible. He became so good at it that McGraw’s lifetime on base percentage of .466 places him third on the all-time list behind latter-day sluggers, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.
McGraw and his Oriole teammates became one of baseball’s first dynasties, when they won three-straight league pennants during the mid 1890′s. A celebrated sports hero, he had found a home in B-town, even marrying a local girl. But when the Orioles’ ticket sales took a dip in the late 1890′s, the team’s owner tried to transfer all of his star players to a new franchise he was starting in Brooklyn in 1899. McGraw refused to make the move and remained in Baltimore as the roster-raped club’s skipper. He impressed everyone by leading a team that had lost its entire starting lineup and its best pitchers to an 82-65 record. But during September of that ’99 season, McGraw’s wife died from a ruptured appendix. When the financially troubled Orioles collapsed the following year, McGraw’s reasons for wanting to stay in Baltimore were gone and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Just one year later, the new American League was formed and McGraw accepted an offer to become the first manager and part owner of the AL’s Baltimore Orioles franchise. He then led the first team in Yankee franchise history to a 68-65 record during the 1901 season, but in the process constantly battled with Ban Johnson, who had founded and ran the new league. When McGraw was suspended by Johnson during the following season, the second-year skipper accepted a new position to manage the National League’s New York Giants team. That single move changed the course of history for two of baseball’s most fabled franchises.
This is the guy responsible for the brand new Yankee Stadium getting constructed. Why? Because without McGraw the original Yankee Stadium might never have been built in the first place. The Yankees moved into the Polo Grounds as a co-tenant with McGraw’s Giants in 1914. The Giants were the better team back then, consistently winning or challenging for the NL pennant. They also outdrew the Yankees in attendance every year. That all changed in 1920, however, when Babe Ruth put on the Pinstripes for the first time. Suddenly, a Yankee game became the hottest ticket in town and McGraw didn’t like the change. Little Napoleon evicted the Yankees and they moved across the East River to their new home, the original Yankee Stadium, in 1923.
McGraw was considered the best baseball mind of his generation. His teams won ten NL pennants and four World Series. He was an outstanding judge of talent and a fiery, no-nonsense leader. He still holds the record for most wins by a National League manager with 2,669. He died in 1934 at the age of 60.
McGraw’s stats as a player:
|BLN (9 yrs)||848||3929||3163||840||1063||94||55||10||392||369||642||123||.336||.461||.410||.871|
|NYG (5 yrs)||59||172||132||15||32||0||0||0||6||9||31||11||.242||.412||.242||.654|
|BLA (2 yrs)||93||392||295||85||99||17||11||1||31||29||78||12||.336||.496||.478||.974|
|STL (1 yr)||99||447||334||84||115||10||4||2||33||29||85||9||.344||.505||.416||.921|
McGraw’s stats as a manager:
|3||1902||29||Baltimore Orioles||AL||1st of 2||26||31||.456||58||8|
|Baltimore Orioles||1 year||86||62||.581||152||4.0|
|Baltimore Orioles||2 years||94||96||.495||193||6.5|
|New York Giants||31 years||2583||1790||.591||4424||2.5|
Just recently, David Price, the AL’s 2012 Cy Young Award winner got quite a rise out of Yankee Universe when he told reporters that should he become a free agent in the future, he would most likely not sign with a team like the Bronx Bombers. He explained that he was not a fan of all the rules the organization requires its players to follow off the field. Price singled out the Yankee front office’s obsession with hair. He indicated that he could not play for anyone who told him he had to shave or get a haircut.
Based on the loud negative reaction of the Yankee media and fans to Price’s comments, you would have thought the talented young hurler had urinated on the grave of Babe Ruth. Perhaps these over-sensitive Yankee rooters have forgotten or weren’t around when one of our team’s all-time favorite players refused to follow the orders of today’s Pinstriped Birthday Celebrant to get his hair cut and was actually pulled from the team’s regular season lineup as punishment. The player with the long locks was none other than Don Mattingly and the guy who ordered “Donnie Baseball” to cut them is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
When I hear the name Stump Merrill, two phrases pop into my mind. The first is “nice guy.” The second is “yes man.” He was actually a curmudgeonly native of Maine who had become a baseball-lifer after spending the late nineteen sixties and early seventies as a minor league catcher in the Phillies’ organization. By 1978 he was the 34-year-old manager of the Yankees double A affiliate in West Haven, Connecticut. During the next eight seasons he became one of the franchise’s more successful minor league skippers and George Steinbrenner took a liking to him. In 1986 he was rewarded with a job with the parent club as the team’s “eye-in-the-sky.” He would sit in the press box and from his perch, position the Yankee defense. The next season he was promoted to Lou Piniella’s first base coach. He became sort of famous during this first tenure with the Yankees for sleeping in the Stadium’s clubhouse whenever the Yankees were scheduled to play a day game following a night game. During the baseball season, the low-salaried Stump saved money by living with a sister who’s resided in the southern half of Jersey. Instead of making the long ride from the Bronx late at night and then getting up and reversing it early in the morning, Merrill saved some gas money and got his shut-eye on a clubhouse couch.
By 1988 he was back managing in the minors, willing to go anywhere and do anything the organization requested. Steinbrenner would soon reward that blind loyalty. It was during the late eighties that I remember thinking “the Boss” had either gone crazy or was suffering a nervous breakdown. He was up to his eyeballs in the bizarre Howie Spira episode, he was making some of the worst player personnel decisions in Yankee history and he was changing managers more often than a maid at the Hilton changes bed linens. Midway through the 1990 season, Steinbrenner decided Bucky Dent had to go and replaced him with Stump.
The Yankee team Merrill took over had been decimated by poor front-office decision making. Stump’s starting lineup included Bob Geren at catcher, Alvaro Espinosa at short, and a starting outfield of Oscar Azocar, Roberto Kelly and Jesse Barfield. That team’s batting average of .241 was worst in the American League and believe it or not, Stump’s first Yankee pitching staff was just as bad. His record during that first partial season was 49-64, the Yankees finished in last place in their division and me and just about everyone else who followed the team back then were certain Merill’s managing days were over. But the Boss thought differently. For some unknown reason, the owner who fired successful winning managers like Dick Howser, Lou Piniella and Bucky Showalter decided to extend Stump Merrill’s contract to manage the team for two additional years, through the 1992 season.
His first full year at the helm turned out be Merrill’s last. The 1991 Yankees finished with a 71-91 record and in fifth place in the AL East Division. Though his team’s pitching improved, that ’91 club finished third from the bottom in batting average and third from the top in most errors. The now boss-less organization (Steinbrenner was serving his Howie Spira-induced suspension) replaced him with Buck Showalter. Instead of leaving the organization, however, Merrill resumed his career as a Yankee minor league manager. I was happy about the move and didn’t miss the guy but since his dismissal, I’ve learned more about Merrill’s effectiveness for New York at the minor league level. He spent a total of seventeen seasons managing the organization’s farm teams and his overall record doing so was a very impressive 1625-1319. He also crossed paths and earned the respect of every Yankee prospect who in any way contributed to the outstanding success the parent club would enjoy on the field beginning in 1994. They included Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant succeeded two Hall-of-Famers when he became the third manager in Yankee franchise history. John McGraw skippered the club during its first two seasons in existence while it was still located in Baltimore and known as the Orioles. “Little Napoleon” was followed by Clark Griffith, “the Old Fox,” who would later bring baseball to our Nation’s Capitol and join McGraw in Cooperstown. Unlike McGraw and Griffith, Gentleman George Stallings hardly played any Major League ball, getting just a couple of hits in 20 at bats in the Big Dance. He learned what he knew about the game while spending thirteen years toiling in the minors, at one time or another playing every position on the baseball field except the hot corner.
Stallings started managing in the minors in 1893 for a team located in his home town of Augusta, Georgia. He eventually took over as field boss of the Detroit Tigers, before that team became an AL franchise. He was then hired to manage the Philadelphia Phillies in 1898. He lost that job two months into his second season and then returned to Detroit where he remained skipper when the Tigers were admitted as a franchise in Ban Johnson’s newly formed American League. Johnson owned a large share of the Detroit ball club and when he suspected Stallings of conspiring to jump the team to the rival National League, he fired him as skipper.
Stallings then returned to manage in the minors and when no minor league team wanted him, he went back to farming in his native Georgia for a spell. He finally got another skipper’s job in Newark, NJ in 1908, so he was just across the river when the New York Highlanders finished the 1908 season, dead last in the AL and Clark Griffith threw his hands up and walked away from his job as the New York’s Manager. Highlander owner, Frank Farrell asked Stallings if he wanted the job and he accepted. He then led the team back to respectability in 1909 as they finished with a 74-79 record. It looked as if Gentleman George had found a home but the incorrigible and highly talented Yankee first baseman, Hal Chase, had other ideas.
Chase had become the regular New York Highlander first baseman in 1905 and remained in that position for a little more than eight seasons and over 1,000 games. “Prince Hal” was a smart and gifted athlete who immediately became a fan favorite in New York. It was Chase who first began the now accepted defensive strategy of charging the plate in likely sacrifice situations. He also pioneered the practice of moving into the outfield to receive and relay cut-off throws. In addition to being an excellent and innovative fielder, Chase was also a strong hitter and a great base runner. He had a .291 lifetime batting average and his 248 stolen bases made him the all-time Yankee base stealer until Willie Randolph and Ricky Henderson passed him seven decades later.
Chase, however, had one passion greater than his love for baseball and that was money. Perhaps, if he lived in today’s era of free agency and multi-million dollar contracts, his story and career would have had a different ending. But at the turn of the century, professional baseball players were not paid royally. As a result, many of them were forced to earn a living doing other things.
Before the 1908 season, Chase tried holding out on the Yankees, to force team management to pay him more money. Even though the tactic was successful, Chase still jumped to the outlawed California league and played for the San Jose franchise using a fake name. Caught in this charade, Chase was suspended by the Highlanders but his immense popularity with New York fans quickly got him reinstated.
It was at that point that George Stallings began to suspect Chase of throwing games. The skipper’s suspicions grew so strong during the 1910 season, he leveled the charges publicly. But Chase’s popularity on the field helped him earn enough support with Yankee owner Farrell and League President Ban Johnson to beat back Stallings’ charges and actually get the manager fired. Adding insult to injury, Chase got himself named to replace Stallings as the team’s field boss.
Although he didn’t realize it at the time, getting double-crossed by Chase and Farrell actually was a career blessing for the fired manager. Stallings went back to managing in the minors for the next two years and then was hired by the Boston Braves, who were one of the worst teams in the National League. That Braves team had finished in last place the previous four seasons in a row, so when Stallings got them to a fifth place finish in 1913, it was considered a minor miracle. But the real miracle took place the following season, when the Braves won the NL Pennant by 10.5 games and then shocked the mighty Philadelphia A’s by sweeping them in the 1914 World Series. It was certainly Stallings finest hour in the big leagues and he continued to manage the Braves through the 1920 season, but he never again led them to a Pennant.
|4||1909||New York Highlanders||74||77||.490||153||5|
|5||1910||New York Highlanders||1st of 2||78||59||.569||142||2|
|Philadelphia Phillies||2 years||74||104||.416||180||8.0|
|Detroit Tigers||1 year||74||61||.548||136||3.0|
|New York Highlanders||2 years||152||136||.528||295||3.5|
|Boston Braves||8 years||579||597||.492||1202||4.6||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|13 years||879||898||.495||1813||4.8||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
I was a sophomore in high school when I realized that David Halberstam was a brilliant historian. I had just finished his epic book, The Best and the Brightest about how the US got entangled in the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until about two decades later that I realized Halberstam knew his baseball too. His book, October 1964, is a detailed and entertaining dissection of that season’s World Series between the Cardinals and the Yankees. In it, Halberstam describes how on the plane ride home from the seventh game of the Series, losing manager, Yogi Berra asked his all star second baseman, Bobby Richardson if he should be bold enough to ask the Yankees for a two-year contract. That’s how certain Berra was that he was going too be re-hired. But when he walked out of Yankee GM Ralph Houk’s office just a few days later, he was the stunned ex-manager of the only team he had ever worked for.
Houk had made the decision to fire Berra much earlier during the 1964 regular season, when certain Yankee players had approached him to complain that Yogi had lost control of the team. A few weeks later, he found out that Gussie Busch intended to fire Johnny Keane. Houk felt the Yankees needed a disciplinarian to replace the easy-going Berra and in his mind, Keane fit that description perfectly. So just minutes before Busch began a post Series press conference to announce he had decided to rehire his team’s skipper, Keane handed the Cardinal owner his resignation letter. He had accepted Houk’s offer to replace Berra as manager of the Yankees. Even though I was just ten years old at the time, I distinctly remember feeling sorry for Berra and angry with Houk for what I felt was a low class double-cross of a Yankee legend.
Keane proved to be a horrible fit with the Yankees from the start. His brand of discipline was geared toward young players and the veteran-filled Yankee roster had few of those. Players like Mantle, Maris, Clete Boyer, Joe Pepitone and Whitey Ford basically ignored the new rules introduced by their new field boss and that disrespect quickly permeated through to just about the entire team. When the Yankees reached the 1965 All Star break with a 41-46 record, Yankee fans like me were in shock. It was beyond the realm of possibility that our favorite team was not going to compete for the AL Pennant and we fully expected a turnaround in the second half.
The team did better, going 46-39 in the second half, but that was only good enough for an unforgivable fifth place finish. Keane should have been fired at the end of that ’65 regular season and probably would have been if the team hadn’t been owned by CBS at the time. The gigantic entertainment network paid little attention to the Yankees day-to-day operations, enabling Houk to delay the inevitable and let Keane stay on to open the 1966 season. Houk was hoping that Keane had just needed time to get the Yankee roster to buy into his management style. But when the Yankees opened the 1966 season by losing 16 of their first 20 games, Houk knew Keane was in over his head and mercifully fired his beleaguered skipper. In less than a year, the dismissed manager was dead, a victim of a heart attack at the age of 55.
A native of St. Louis, Keane had spent fifteen years playing in the Cardinal farm system as a a middle infielder, without ever appearing in a big league game. He then spent another 13 years coaching and managing in the St. Louis farm system. The Cardinals made him their big league skipper in July of 1961, when he replaced the fired Solly Hemus. His three-and-a-half season managerial record with the Cards was a very respectable 317-249. He should have never left St Louis.
|5||1965||53||New York Yankees||AL||77||85||.475||162||6|
|6||1966||54||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||4||16||.200||20||10|
|St. Louis Cardinals||4 years||317||249||.560||567||3.5||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|New York Yankees||2 years||81||101||.445||182||8.0|
|6 years||398||350||.532||749||5.0||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|