Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

With the Cardinals in need of a public relations boost, Stan Musial went to bat for Red Schoendienst.

red_schoendienst8As usual, Musial delivered.

Fifty years ago, on Oct. 20, 1964, the Cardinals hired the popular Schoendienst to replace Johnny Keane as their manager. Four days earlier, Keane had stunned the Cardinals by resigning less than 24 hours after leading St. Louis to a World Series championship.

Schoendiesnt, 41, a former all-star second baseman who was a coach on Keane’s staff, had no managerial experience. “I never had really thought about managing,” Schoendienst said in his book “Red: A Baseball Life.”

According to broadcaster Harry Caray, in his book “Holy Cow,” the Cardinals had told Schoendienst that summer they wanted him to get experience managing in the minor leagues. Schoendienst said he told the Cardinals he had no desire to manage and would prefer to remain a major league coach for the next 25 years.

Fan favorite

Keane quit because Cardinals owner Gussie Busch had fired general manager Bing Devine in August and plotted to replace Keane with former St. Louis shortstop Leo Durocher after the season. Even though Busch changed his mind about firing Keane after the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant and World Series crown, Keane refused to stay. His surprise departure triggered a firestorm of criticism against Busch and general manager Bob Howsam.

Desperate to repair the damage, Busch ordered Howsam to fire consultant Branch Rickey, who had advocated for Devine’s dismissal and for Durocher to replace Keane, and he formed a six-person executive committee to seek a replacement for Keane.

Musial, in his first year as Cardinals vice president after a stellar playing career, and Howsam were the key members of the committee. Joining them were Busch, club executive Dick Meyer and Cardinals board of directors members Jim Conzelman and Mark Eagleton.

According to multiple sources, Howsam favored hiring either White Sox scout Charlie Metro, who had managed for Howsam in the minor leagues at Denver, or former Giants manager Al Dark, a one-time Cardinals shortstop.

Musial advocated for Schoendienst, who was Musial’s friend and road roommate during their playing days together for St. Louis.

“I knew Red needed experience _ we all did _ but we felt he was the best man for the job,” Musial said, according to George Vecsey’s 2011 biography of the Cardinals icon.

Said Schoendienst: “With Musial leading my support, it came down to as much a public relations decision as a baseball one and that’s where I had the advantage … The prevailing thought was the new manager needed to be someone who was a favorite of the fans.”

Quick decision

Schoendienst got tipped off by a Busch relative, Ollie Von Gontard, that the committee was considering him as a serious candidate.

Caray told Schoendienst, “Red, if you keep your nose clean with all the craziness that’s going on here, you’re going to wind up being manager of this club.”

Schoendienst said Busch called and asked to meet at the ballpark. Schoendienst said he met with Busch and Howsam. After Howsam quizzed Schoendienst about game strategies and player personnel evaluations, Schoendienst said the general manager “suddenly jumped up from his chair and asked how I would like to manage. I said that would be great and he said, ‘You’re my new manager.’ It happened so quickly I really didn’t have time to think about it.”

Said Schoendienst: “I felt comfortable that I could do the job and was ready to put my full-time energy and devotion into the post.”

Take my advice

Cardinals players, who respected and supported Keane, were tolerant of Schoendienst, who wisely avoided micro-managing while learning on the job.

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” pitcher Bob Gibson said, “The only problem I had with Schoendienst was that he wasn’t Johnny Keane. But he was a good man and a good man for us … Schoendienst, like Keane, respected our intelligence and our professionalism. His only rules were ‘Run everything out’ and ‘Be in by 12.’ Somehow, we got the words tangled up and lived instead by the motto ‘Run everything in and be out by 12.’ “

Schoendienst also listened to his players. Said Gibson: “Red was uncertain of himself in the beginning, a fact which the ballplayers were well aware.”

Gibson said he and catcher Tim McCarver would sit on either side of Schoendienst in the dugout and offer suggestions to one another about game strategy. “We never actually told him to make a move; we were just there as birdies in the ear, now and then providing the information he needed to make his decision,” Gibson said.

Center fielder Curt Flood, in his book “The Way It Is,” said of Schoendienst, “When he was required to think two or three moves ahead, as in choosing pinch-hitters or replacing pitchers, he accepted advice readily. And it was given matter-of-factly, with every consideration for Red’s position.”

Outfielder Carl Warwick told author Peter Golenbock for the book “The Spirit of St. Louis” that Schoendienst was a popular choice with the players. “You couldn’t help but love Red,” Warwick said. “You knew he was going to be on your side all the time … Red was available to help anybody any time.”

The Cardinals finished seventh and sixth in Schoendienst’s first two years as manager, then won two consecutive pennants and a World Series title. He managed the Cardinals from 1965-76 and for parts of 1980 and 1990. His 1,041 wins rank second only to Tony La Russa (1,408 wins) among Cardinals managers all-time.

Previously: Red Schoendienst: ‘Lover of hot ballgames and cold beers’

Previously: How Red Schoendienst survived Cardinals’ 5-20 start in 1973

Previously: Big 3: Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, Tony La Russa

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: Johnny Keane to Gussie Busch: Take this job and shove it

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Gussie Busch broke Johnny Keane’s cardinal rule. Keane couldn’t forgive him.

johnny_keane2Fifty years ago, on Oct. 16, 1964, just 19 hours after St. Louis had won the World Series championship, Keane resigned as Cardinals manager, stunning Busch, the Cardinals owner, who had expected to sign Keane to a contract extension that day.

Loyalty was sacrosanct to Keane. He had been loyal to the Cardinals, serving the franchise for 35 years. When Busch became disloyal to him, Keane’s personal code of conduct required he take action: He quit.

Surprising news

In the celebration that immediately followed the Cardinals’ World Series Game 7 victory over the Yankees on Oct. 15, Busch announced he would hold a news conference at the Anheuser-Busch brewery the next morning. Word leaked that Busch intended to present Keane with a three-year contract extension, reportedly for $50,000 per year.

When Keane arrived at the brewery, he handed Busch a resignation letter 30 minutes before the news conference. Busch, in a hurry to begin the event, gave the letter to an assistant without reading it, according to the book “October 1964.” The assistant read the letter and insisted the owner do the same.

Flanked by Keane and general manager Bob Howsam, Busch, visibly shaken, announced Keane’s resignation to the surprised gathering, who were expecting a celebratory contract signing.

“This really has shocked me,” Busch said. “I didn’t know a thing about it until I saw Johnny this morning. All I can say is that I’m damned sorry to lose Johnny.”

Said Keane: “I told Mr. Busch not to make any offer. I handed him my resignation and said my decision was firm _ that I didn’t want to embarrass him _ but that no offer would be acceptable.”

In his book “Uppity,” Cardinals first baseman Bill White wrote, “I wasn’t there, but I was told Busch and Howsam looked as if Johnny had just kicked them in the teeth _ which, in effect, he had.”

The resignation letter was dated Sept. 28 _ the day after the Cardinals had completed a five-game sweep of the Pirates, with six games remaining in the regular season.

The decision had been made 10 days before then.

Higher calling

Keane, a St. Louis native, briefly had studied for the priesthood at St. Louis Prepatory Seminary. At 18, he signed a Cardinals contract and was assigned to the minor leagues.

“I’ve been asked about that often,” Keane told The Sporting News. “Did I give up the priesthood for baseball? The answer is no. I knew after consultation with the priests at the seminary that the life was not for me.”

Keane was a baseball lifer. More specifically, a Cardinals lifer, or so it seemed.

He was an infielder in the St. Louis organization from 1930 until becoming a Cardinals minor league player-manager in 1938. He spent 21 seasons as a manager in the St. Louis farm system and had winning records in 17 of those years.

In 1959, Keane made it to the major leagues for the first time as a coach on the staff of Cardinals manager Solly Hemus. Keane replaced Hemus as St. Louis manager in July 1961.

Matter of principle

In August 1964, Busch, thinking the fifth-place Cardinals were out of contention, fired general manager Bing Devine, business manager Art Routzong and player personnel director Eddie Stanky. All were friends of Keane.

Though Keane remained manager, published reports indicated Busch planned to replace Keane after the season with Dodgers coach and former Cardinals shortstop Leo Durocher.

Keane felt betrayed.

On Sept. 18, with the Cardinals 6.5 games behind the first-place Phillies, Keane and his wife agreed that Keane would resign after the Cardinals’ final game. They kept their agreement private.

Ten days later, Keane wrote his resignation letter and put it aside.

Hold that letter

The Cardinals then won four of their final six games, including a sweep of the Phillies, and clinched the pennant on the last day of the regular season.

Carl Warwick, a Cardinals reserve outfielder, said of Keane, “He was as nearly perfect as any manager I ever saw. He didn’t panic.”

In the World Series, the Cardinals won four of seven against the Yankees, clinching their first title in 18 years.

At the news conference the next day, Keane told reporters a series of “little things” led to his resignation. Pressed for details, Keane admitted Devine’s firing and Busch’s open flirtation with Durocher were factors that caused him to depart.

Devine and Keane had become friends in 1949 when Devine was general manager of the Cardinals’ minor league club at Rochester and Keane was the manager.

In his book “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine wrote, “As a person, Keane impressed me as Stan Musial did … I’m talking about basic traits as a person.

“I didn’t think he needed to _ or should have _ quit the Cardinals because of me. But Johnny Keane was a loyal guy _ and that’s how he felt.”

Players react

Most Cardinals players said Keane’s resignation surprised them. But Cardinals pitcher Roger Craig told United Press International he had predicted Keane’s decision in August when it became known Busch wanted Durocher as manager. “Knowing the pride he has,” Craig said of Keane, “I knew this would happen.”

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson wrote, “My anger toward the ballclub _ and it was tangible _ stemmed largely from the needless nature of Keane’s departure … I stayed mad through the winter.”

Hours after Keane’s resignation became public, the Yankees fired manager Yogi Berra. Three days later, Keane was hired to replace him.

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: 5-game sweep of Pirates positioned Cardinals for pennant

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Blinded by his impatience, insecurity and inability to quell internal politics, Cardinals owner August “Gussie” Busch ousted the general manager who built the team that two months later would win the franchise’s first World Series championship in 18 years.

bing_devineFifty years ago, Aug. 17, 1964, Busch fired general manager Bing Devine.

“It was a travesty,” longtime St. Louis journalist Bob Broeg wrote in recalling the firing 40 years later. “And a lot of the players on the team felt the same way.”

Trades engineered by Devine had brought to the Cardinals core players on the championship club. They included outfielders Lou Brock and Curt Flood, infielders Bill White, Julian Javier and Dick Groat and pitchers Curt Simmons, Roger Craig, Ron Taylor and Barney Schultz.

Under Devine’s leadership, the minor-league system also had developed essential Cardinals such as pitchers Bob Gibson, Ray Sadecki and Ray Washburn as well as outfielder Mike Shannon and catcher Tim McCarver. In the pipeline were prospects such as pitchers Steve Carlton and Nelson Briles.

Still, Busch became convinced in August 1964 that the Cardinals needed to dump Devine (and replace manager Johnny Keane with Leo Durocher after the regular season) in order to produce a champion.

The Cardinals were 62-55, nine behind the first-place Phillies, in the National League when Busch fired Devine. From there, the Cardinals went 31-14, finishing in first place at 93-69, one game ahead of both the Reds and Phillies.

In his book “October 1964″ (1994, Villard), author David Halberstam wrote, “Devine went quietly. It was something he had always expected. He had been dealing for the last seven years from a position of limited strength and the pressure to produce a winner had grown every year. Life under as volatile a man as Gussie Busch was like living on a precipice, he thought.”

(Departing along with Devine were business manager Art Routzong and player personnel director Eddie Stanky.)

The three key reasons why Busch fired Devine:


The Cardinals hadn’t won a pennant since Busch took control of the club in February 1953. Devine had been general manager for much of that time, replacing Frank Lane in November 1957.

After the Cardinals placed second in 1963, Busch had high expectations for the following year. His frustration reached a boiling point in August 1964.

“I have been worried about the Cardinals for a long time,” Busch said to The Sporting News after firing Devine. “The club has not been making any progress.”

In his book “The Memoirs of Bing Devine” (2004, Sports Publishing), Devine wrote, “There’s no question in my mind that I got fired because Mr. Busch was frustrated. He’d always had success with Anheuser-Busch. He’d owned the Cardinals for 10 years and he was tired of not succeeding in this other business.”


A mid-season incident involving Groat hurt Devine’s relationship with Busch.

Keane had given Groat approval to call for the hit-and-run play when he saw an opportunity to execute it. Groat handled the bat well. But, in Keane’s view, Groat abused the privilege.

When Keane banned Groat from calling the hit-and-run, Groat groused openly and often. Devine learned of Groat’s unhappiness. The general manager informed Keane to address the issue by conducting a team meeting and confronting Groat. Keane did and the matter was resolved when Groat apologized to Keane and the team and stopped his complaining.

Devine didn’t inform Busch of the incident because he viewed such squabbles as commonplace in clubhouses. Besides, the problem wasn’t lingering.

Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews, though, was friendly with Groat and heard of Groat’s initial unhappiness. Mathews was dating Busch’s daughter, Elizabeth. Mathews told her of the conflict and she, in turn, told her father.

Busch was angry that Devine hadn’t informed him. He became suspicious, wondering what else Devine wasn’t telling him.

“Busch was upset,” Devine wrote. “And that may have affected his thinking about me.”

Halberstam wrote of Busch, “He was more than a little paranoid anyway; it seemed to go with the territory with a man who had so much power in, but knew so little about, the high-profile business of baseball.”

Internal politics

Busch had hired Branch Rickey, the former longtime Cardinals general manager, as a special consultant. Rickey, 82, and Devine clashed. Rickey meddled. He criticized Devine in talks with Busch.

Rickey had built the Cardinals minor-league system in the 1920s. His influence was evident in remarks Busch made after Devine was fired.

“I am concerned that we cannot trade our way to a pennant,” Busch said to The Sporting News in August 1964. “We must depend on production out of our own system and I have been disappointed with the operation of our farm department. There just seems to be a gap someplace between the signing of players, their development and their progress to the Cardinals as men ready to do a major-league job.”

Busch insisted Rickey didn’t trigger his decision to fire Devine. “Rickey had nothing to do with it,” he said. “I did not consult him until I’d made up my mind.”

Few bought that explanation. “He (Rickey) was undercutting Bing,” wrote Broeg. “We all knew that.”

Wrote Halberstam, “Rickey gradually increased the tempo of his drive against Devine … The veteran players, who liked Devine, and who did not think the team needed two general managers, were not amused. They knew that the more senior they were, the more likely Rickey was to get rid of them at the end of the season.”

In his book “Stranger to the Game” (1994, Viking), Gibson wrote, “The players were hurt by Devine’s firing, but we decided that instead of packing it in for the year, we would dedicate ourselves to redeeming Devine with a strong finish.”

According to the book “The Spirit of St. Louis” (2000, Avon), Busch asked broadcaster Harry Caray to become general manager. Caray declined and suggested Busch hire former St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck. But Veeck demanded a controlling interest of the stock in the Cardinals.

On Rickey’s suggestion, Bob Howsam, who had joined Rickey in a failed attempt to start a third major league, the Continental League, was named general manager.

“Howsam did nothing to win the pennant after he became GM,” Broeg wrote. “He led the league in cheers.”

After the Cardinals won the World Series title against the Yankees, Keane resigned, rather than accept a contract extension, in protest of Devine’s dismissal. Keane then accepted an offer to manage the Yankees.

Humiliated, Busch ordered Howsam to fire Rickey. He did so.

Devine joined the Mets front office.

Howsam lasted with the Cardinals for two years, then went to the Reds. Stan Musial replaced him.

When Musial resigned in triumph after the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series title, Devine was rehired by Busch to be the Cardinals general manager.

Previously: How Bing Devine helped Stan Musial plan retirement

Previously: How Bing Devine was forced to fire Fred Hutchinson

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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny possesses excellent leadership skills, but needs to continue to show progress on his ability to make strategic decisions during games, his boss, general manager John Mozeliak, told Cardinals bloggers.

Mozeliak and Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III were among those who addressed bloggers and answered their questions during the club’s 2014 Blogger Event on June 22 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Asked to assess Matheny, the Cardinals’ third-year manager, Mozeliak cited Matheny’s leadership, saying the manager “understands people, relates very well.”

As for game management, Mozeliak said of Matheny, “That’s the evolution we are watching.”

In summary, Mozeliak said of  Matheny, “There’s no one else we’d rather see” as Cardinals manager.

Other newsworthy highlights of the session:


DeWitt said revenue generated from the entertainment complex next to Busch Stadium “mostly goes to pay for that investment.”

Asked whether revenue from Ballpark Village would be reinvested in baseball operations, DeWitt said, “It’s too early to tell.”

DeWitt said expansion of Ballpark Village could include options such as a residential tower, office tower, hotel or retail complex.


Mozeliak said he told Matheny that if Taveras is with the Cardinals “you have to play him.”

Taveras, the outfield phenom, was sent to Class AAA Memphis after a short stint with the Cardinals.

Said Mozeliak: “He is an amazing player. He is going to hit. I imagine next time he’s here, he’s here for good.”


Mozeliak: “What we don’t want to do is make irrational decisions … July 31 is when irrational decisions are at their height.”


Mozeliak: “It hasn’t gone as planned … We thought it was going to be an offensive club.”


Ron Watermon, Cardinals vice president of communications, said the franchise soon will debut a digital version of its media guide that will include a video of the Cardinal Way. He said the Cardinals will seek feedback from bloggers about the usefulness of the digital guide.

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Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa both ended their Hall of Fame managing careers as Cardinals. Both decided to extend their baseball careers as executives with other teams.

whitey_herzog4Herzog’s effort largely was a bust.

La Russa should learn from it.

On May 17, 2014, La Russa was named chief baseball officer of the Diamondbacks. In this newly created position, La Russa, who will report to Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall, will oversee the entire baseball operation, according to published reports. La Russa planned to begin his job by traveling to minor-league games and evaluating prospects.

La Russa joined the Diamondbacks three years after his last season as Cardinals manager. He had led the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series titles, retiring after winning the second crown in 2011.

Herzog joined the Angels one year after his last season as Cardinals manager. He had led the Cardinals to three National League pennants and one World Series title, quitting in midseason with the team mired in last place in July 1990.

Job confusion

In September 1991, Herzog was named senior vice president and director of player personnel of the Angels.

Herzog believed he, like La Russa with the Diamondbacks, was overseeing the entire Angels baseball operation.

Instead, he found himself in a power struggle.

Dan O’Brien was the Angels’ senior vice president for baseball operations when Herzog was hired.

Herzog thought O’Brien primarily would be his assistant, handling paperwork.

In his book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game” (1999, Simon & Schuster), Herzog wrote, “I made sure I worked out every detail in advance … I’d be in complete charge of baseball operations: the minor-league system, the hiring and firing of coaches and scouts, the ballclub’s trades and drafts.”

O’Brien thought Herzog primarily would be evaluating players, leaving O’Brien to direct most of the baseball operations, including approval of trades and free-agent signings.

Herzog won the battle _ O’Brien eventually was fired _ but lost the war, resigning before the Angels could become contenders.

Work from home

His friends, Angels owners Gene and Jackie Autry, hired Herzog with the goal of bringing the franchise its first American League pennant and World Series title.

Herzog was given an apartment in Anaheim, but he kept his residence in the St. Louis area and did most of his work from that home. He didn’t have an office at the Angels ballpark.

“Whitey doesn’t want to be an office person and he doesn’t have to be,” Angels president Richard Brown told the Los Angeles Times. “My exact words to him were, ‘If I see you in Anaheim in the office, you’re not doing your job.’ He has to be on the road a lot. I’m going to be relying on him constantly to evaluate our young players, and I don’t want him reading scouting reports. I want him evaluating what he saw.”

O’Brien did have an office at the Angels ballpark.

In a March 1992 interview, six months after Herzog was hired, O’Brien told the Los Angeles Times, “You can’t do things in this business in 1992 as you did in 1990 because it’s in a constant state of change. Contracts, more than anything else, keep getting in the way. The talent is probably now one of the easier things to analyze.”

In 1992, Herzog’s first full season with the team, the Angels finished 72-90 and ranked last in the American League in hitting and runs scored.

The next year wasn’t much better. The 1993 Angels finished 71-91. Herzog and O’Brien remained at odds. Bob Nightengale of the Los Angeles Times described the working relationship of the two senior vice presidents as “deteriorated beyond repair.”

O’Brien ouster

In mid-September 1993, Brown convinced the Autrys to fire O’Brien. Bill Bavasi, the Angels’ farm director, was promoted to general manager, reporting to Herzog. Bavasi was to handle administrative duties. Herzog was given the title of vice president in charge of baseball operations and was allowed to continue to work primarily from his suburban St. Louis home.

Wrote Nightengale, “The Herzog-O’Brien conflict was set in motion by the Angels two years ago when they appointed Herzog as vice president in charge of player personnel. Herzog was told that he would be in charge of all baseball operations, but O’Brien carried the title of vice president in charge of baseball operations and never relented in his duties, creating the impression within baseball that no one was in charge.”

Said Angels manager Buck Rodgers: “It was doomed from Day 1 … They are two good baseball men, but it’s hard to succeed when you don’t have one guy in control. You have to have a No. 1 guy.”

(A year later, in a November 1994 interview with Nightengale, O’Brien said he was surprised by his firing. “The thing that I find funny is that people kept saying that Whitey and I never got along,” O’Brien said. “That wasn’t true. I mean, Whitey was never around. He did things his way and I did things my way. All I know is that I was there every day in the office.”)

In his book, Herzog wrote, “They never told (O’Brien) what my duties were until I’d arrived. He got protective of his job, cut me out of meetings and fought my authority for two years.”

Old-school dropout

With O’Brien gone, Herzog gave an ill-advised multi-year contract to pitcher Joe Magrane, the former Cardinal. (Magrane would have elbow surgery 12 days before spring training began.) Herzog also created a stir by exploring the possibility of acquiring another former Cardinal, outfielder Vince Coleman, who had flopped with the Mets. (It didn’t happen.)

Herzog’s old-school tactics backfired with some players or their agents. He also may have felt restricted by a reduced player payroll. In January 1994, four months after O’Brien was fired, Herzog resigned, stunning the Angels. Bavasi replaced him.

In a blistering column, Mike Penner of the Los Angeles Times opined, “Herzog was baseball’s first absentee general manager _ he ran a ballclub based in Anaheim from his den in St. Louis _ and the best thing he generally managed from there was his leisure time.”

Said Herzog: “I don’t really want to be traveling all over and going back and forth to California or anywhere else.”

Wrote Nightengale, “Herzog was told that the Angels’ budget would have to be slashed to about $19 million, and instead of acquiring players in the free-agent market, he couldn’t even secure his own. He alienated several of his players in negotiations with his brash, sometimes abusive, style. He screamed at starter Mark Langston in a closed-door session. He slammed the phone in reliever Steve Frey’s ear. He bullied agents.”

“He had a great deal of respect and recognition among his peers, but the reality now is that this is a different era, and he hasn’t crossed that bridge,” said Steve Comte, Frey’s agent.

Said Arn Tellem, Langston’s agent: “Whitey’s strengths were finding and evaluating players, but not in the art of diplomacy dealing with lawyers and agents.”

In his book, Herzog took credit for identifying Angels minor leaguers Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds and Gary DiSarcina as prospects and for preparing them to advance to the majors.

Wrote Herzog, “When I finally handed the reins over to Billy Bavasi in ’94 _ I’d been grooming him to replace me _ he said, ‘Man, you’re leaving at the wrong time. You’re the guy who put this together and it’s ready to blossom.’ I knew it was, but I didn’t need any credit.”

Previously: Why Whitey Herzog saw Pedro Guerrero like Lana Turner

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In 33 years as a major-league manager, Tony La Russa was fired once. The man who replaced him was Jim Fregosi. A key factor why the White Sox chose Fregosi to succeed La Russa was because of the work Fregosi did in mentoring Cardinals prospects. One of those prospects, Jose Oquendo, became a Cardinals coach for La Russa on his staff in St. Louis and together they won three National League pennants and two World Series titles.

jim_fregosiHow’s that for connecting the dots?

Fregosi, who died Feb. 14, 2014, managed the Cardinals’ Class AAA Louisville club from 1983 until he replaced La Russa as White Sox manager in June 1986. Among the prospects managed by Fregosi at Louisville were Vince Coleman, Danny Cox, Ken Dayley, Ricky Horton, Tito Landrum, Greg Mathews, Oquendo, Terry Pendleton, Andy Van Slyke and Todd Worrell. Seventeen of the players on the 1985 National League championship Cardinals club played for Fregosi at Louisville.

Path to the majors

A six-time all-star shortstop for the Angels in the 1960s, Fregosi managed the Angels from 1978-81, leading them to their first division title in 1979, before he was fired and replaced by Gene Mauch. After sitting out the 1982 season while running a food brokerage business, Fregosi became Louisville manager in 1983. (Lee Thomas, the Cardinals’ director of player development, had been an Angels teammate of Fregosi and was instrumental in bringing him into the St. Louis organization.)

Louisville won back-to-back American Association championships (1984-85) under Fregosi. But, with Whitey Herzog entrenched as Cardinals manager, Fregosi’s best hope of managing again in the major leagues was with another organization. The Mariners had contacted him, but Fregosi was seeking an opportunity with a franchise that gave him a chance to win.

In June 1986, White Sox general manager Ken “Hawk” Harrelson fired La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. The White Sox were 26-38 and Harrelson had been clashing often with La Russa and Duncan. “The record is not indicative of the talent involved,” Harrelson told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Fregosi was Harrelson’s first choice. Harrelson had sent scouts to Louisville and their reports on Fregosi were glowing, the Sun-Times reported.

Tireless teacher

Here is what others said about Fregosi’s work in the Cardinals system:

_ Rick Bozich, columnist, Louisville Courier-Journal: “When you roll the highlights films of what Fregosi has accomplished in Louisville, the two American Association championships won’t even make the top 10. No, the lingering images will be of the consistently long hours he worked developing the young players who carried the St. Louis Cardinals to the 1985 National League pennant and the wonderfully tranquil clubhouses he presided over. There was never a reason to check Fregosi’s time card. He reported to Cardinal Stadium at 2 every afternoon. One day he’d be in the cage convincing Vince Coleman he could make millions chopping down on the ball; the next day you could find him in the bullpen tinkering with Todd Worrell’s fastball grip.”

_ Mo Mozzali, Cardinals scout: “As fantastic as Jimmy has been for baseball in Louisville, he’s done even more for the players in the Cardinals organization. I’ve never seen anybody better working with young players.”

_ Dyar Miller, Louisville pitching coach: “Jim is a great teacher. He works on the field for three or four hours before every game, on theories of hitting, turning the double play, getting ready to pitch in the bullpen, whatever.”

_ Tony La Russa to the Sun-Times after learning Fregosi had replaced him: “When Jim Fregosi was in this league (as Angels manager), I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s been ready to manage in the big leagues for several years.”

Tales from Tony

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said La Russa told him, “If you have to fire me, hire Jim (Fregosi) or Jim Leyland … Fregosi is a good manager. I like him.”

La Russa went to the Athletics and won three American League pennants and a World Series title before joining the Cardinals and completing a managerial career that has earned him election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Fregosi managed the White Sox from 1986-88, then had stints as manager of the Phillies (1991-96) and Blue Jays (1999-2000). He won a National League pennant with the 1993 Phillies.

In 1996, La Russa’s first season as Cardinals manager, he was asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Fregosi during a series with the Phillies in St. Louis.

La Russa replied, “The old line had me asking, ‘What does Fregosi have that I don’t have?’ The answer was, ‘Your job.’ “

Previously: Dyar Miller gets justly rewarded for loyalty to Cardinals

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