Clyde King, who died Nov. 2 at age 86 in North Carolina, likely will be best remembered as a former big-league pitcher who went on to manage the Giants, Braves and Yankees.
King also had a fascinating stint as a minor-league manager and coach in the Cardinals organization.
In 1959, former Cardinals pitcher Cot Deal was manager of St. Louis’ minor-league affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. In July, Rochester went into a tailspin, losing 20 of 25, and fell into last place in the International League.
On Aug. 1, a frustrated Deal resigned in a dramatic clubhouse meeting. Rochester general manager George Sisler Jr. sought permission from the Reds to approach King, who was Cincinnati’s pitching coach.
King wanted to become a big-league manager and he believed being a minor-league skipper would pave the way. So King accepted Rochester’s offer to become its manager. The Reds then hired Deal to be their pitching coach.
The rejuvenated Red Wings went 21-19 under King.
In 1960, King transformed Rochester into a championship contender.
Helped by pitching talent such as Ray Washburn (16 starts), Bob Gibson (6 starts) and Ray Sadecki (5 starts), and bolstered by a lineup that featured outfielders Leon Wagner and Ellis Burton, shortstop Jerry Buchek, first baseman Luke Easter and catcher Chris Cannizzaro, King led the Cardinals’ farm club to an 81-73 record. Rochester qualified for the playoffs, eliminated Richmond in the first round and lost to Toronto in the finals in five games.
Still, Cardinals minor league director Walter Shannon was upset that King played veterans ahead of several Cardinals prospects. Shannon ordered King replaced.
Rochester management, loyal to King and disenchanted with the talent St. Louis had been sending to the Red Wings, responded by dropping their affiliation with the Cardinals and becoming a farm team of the Orioles.
King continued to manage Rochester in 1961 and ’62.
Then, in a surprising twist, he accepted an offer to become the Cardinals’ minor-league pitching coach. Many of the Cardinals’ minor-league administrators who had been upset with King in 1960 had been replaced. Eddie Stanky, a teammate of King with the Dodgers in 1944, ’45 and ’47, now was head of the Cardinals’ minor-league system.
In two years (1963-64) as Cardinals minor-league pitching coach, King mentored prospects such as Steve Carlton, Larry Jaster, Nellie Briles, Dick Hughes and Mike Cuellar.
When Danny Murtaugh resigned as Pirates manager after the 1964 season, King and his friend, Cardinals minor-league manager Harry Walker, were interviewed for the job and became finalists. The Pirates picked Walker, who then hired King to be Pittsburgh’s pitching coach.