Tagged: manager

June 2 – Happy Birthday Gene Michael

michaelIf 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.

The Stick shares his birthday with this effective Yankee reliever from the late 1990’s, this postseason hero from 2012 and  this former Yankee second baseman.

Michael’s Yankee playing record:

1968 NYY 61 119 116 8 23 3 0 1 8 3 2 23 .198 .218 .250 .468
1969 NYY 119 464 412 41 112 24 4 2 31 7 43 56 .272 .341 .364 .705
1970 NYY 134 491 435 42 93 10 1 2 38 3 50 93 .214 .292 .255 .548
1971 NYY 139 513 456 36 102 15 0 3 35 3 48 64 .224 .299 .276 .576
1972 NYY 126 430 391 29 91 7 4 1 32 4 32 45 .233 .290 .279 .568
1973 NYY 129 446 418 30 94 11 1 3 47 1 26 51 .225 .270 .278 .547
1974 NYY 81 193 177 19 46 9 0 0 13 0 14 24 .260 .313 .311 .623
10 Yrs 973 3092 2806 249 642 86 12 15 226 22 234 421 .229 .288 .284 .572
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

Michael’s Yankee managing record:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
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
4 years 406 206 200 .507 4.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

May 23 – Happy Birthday Buck Showalter

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.

Another Yankee manager was also born on May 23rd as was this former Yankee catcher who was once pegged as Bill Dickey’s eventual successor, and also this first voice of the Yankees,

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
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
15 years 2142 1102 1039 .515 3.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

April 21 – Happy Birthday Joe McCarthy


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.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/21/2013.

April 7 – Happy Birthday John McGraw

mcgrawSo 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 shares his April 7th birthday with this former New York first baseman, this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

McGraw’s stats as a player:

1901 BLA 73 308 232 71 81 14 9 0 28 24 61 6 .349 .508 .487 .995
1902 BLA 20 84 63 14 18 3 2 1 3 5 17 6 .286 .451 .444 .896
16 Yrs 1099 4940 3924 1024 1309 121 70 13 462 436 836 155 .334 .466 .410 .876
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

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

McGraw’s stats as a manager:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
2 1901 28 Baltimore Orioles AL 68 65 .511 135 5
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
33 years 2763 1948 .586 4769 2.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

February 25 – Happy Birthday Stump Merrill

merrillJust 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.

Stump shares his birthday with this former great Yankee outfielder,  this WWII era Yankee outfielder and this former first baseman.

Rk Year Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
1 1990 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 2 49 64 .434 113 7
2 1991 New York Yankees AL 71 91 .438 162 5
2 years 120 155 .436 275 6.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/2/2014.

November 17 – Happy Birthday George Stallings

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.

Stallings shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee broadcast booth partner of Phil Rizzuto.

Rk Year Tm W L W-L% G Finish
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2013.

November 3 – Happy Birthday Johnny Keane

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.

Keane shares his November 3rd birthday with this former Yankee starter, this former Yankee reliever and this one too.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.