The ‘White’ stuff
Former Manager Whitey Herzog One Step Away from Cooperstown
By SAMANTHA CARR
November 17, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Whitey Herzog once said, “Baseball has been good to me since I quit trying to play it.”
Although Herzog’s big league playing career may not have turned out the way he wanted, he made his mark on the game as a manager.
Herzog managed for 18 seasons in the big leagues, 11 of them with the St. Louis Cardinals after stops in Texas, California and Kansas City. He won six division titles, three pennants, a World Series, the 1985 National League Manager of the Year Award and finished with a .532 winning percentage as a skipper.
|Whitey Herzog is one of twenty finalists for election to the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
Herzog is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Veterans Committee managers/umpires ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Veterans Committee will vote on Dec. 6 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7. The results of the Veterans Committee election for executives will also be announced on Dec. 7.
The 10 candidates on the managers/umpires ballot are: Charlie Grimm, Doug Harvey, Davey Johnson, Tom Kelly, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, Danny Murtaugh, Hank O’Day, Steve O’Neill and Herzog. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.
Herzog has held almost every position in baseball, serving as a player, scout, general manager, coach, farm system director and manager. In eight seasons primarily as an outfielder, he hit .257 with 25 home runs, 172 RBI and a .979 fielding percentage with the Senators, Athletics, Orioles and Tigers from 1956 to 1963.
But it was in management where Herzog found his true calling. He began his managerial career in 1973 with the Texas Rangers, serving as the first of three managers the team would have that season. The following year he served on an interim basis with the California Angles before being replaced by Hall of Fame Manager Dick Williams.
Herzog the landed a permanent job with the Kansas City Royals midway through the 1975 season, leading KC to a 41-25 mark in his 66 games that year. A year later, Herzog skippered the Royals to 90 wins and their first American League West title.
He brought his determination and positive attitude to a young team that had talent but lacked experience in winning.
“The mood of a team starts with the manager,” Herzog said. “Once I lose the will to win and my enthusiasm, the coaches lose it and then the players will lose it, too.
Over the next 15 seasons – from 1976-90 – Herzog led his team to first or second place finishes nine times. The Royals won three straight American League West titles (1976-79) under Herzog, whose style of play was dubbed “Whitey Ball.” He believed successful teams featured speed, defense and a strong bullpen.
“We need three kinds of pitching: left-handed, right-handed, and relief,” said Herzog.
This style allowed Herzog to win games in Kauffman Stadium and Busch Stadium, both of which had deep fences and artificial turf at the time.
“I don’t think you can find a player that dislikes (Herzog),” said Gene Tenace, who played for Herzog with the Cardinals in 1981 and 1982. “He’s blessed with a special gift to deal with players.”
After serving as Cardinals’ manager for part of the year and general manager for the other part in 1980, Herzog held both positions from 1981-1982, acquiring and managing many of the players that would bring the Cardinals three World Series appearances in the decade and a win in 1982.
“Obviously, with Whitey over here, the thinking of the whole organization changed to go along with his philosophy,” said Cardinals second baseman Tommy Herr. “He began to systematically surround himself with coaches and players who took a more aggressive, more serious approach to the daily business of winning games.
“I think what he did was to get everybody focused on more team-oriented goals instead of individual goals.”
Herzog left managing during the 1990 season with a career 1,281-1,125 record – a win total still ranks No. 32 among all managers. He managed Hall of Famers George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Frank Robinson, Bruce Sutter and Ozzie Smith during his managerial career.
His accomplishments have not only been recognized by players, but he earned the respect of fellow managers like Gene Mauch.
“He’s better at assembling the parts of a winning team than anyone in baseball,” said Mauch.
Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum