As an infielder who struggled to hit, Dal Maxvill overcame the odds and started in 21 World Series games for the Cardinals. As a coach with no experience as a baseball executive, Maxvill again overcame the odds and became general manager of the Cardinals.
Thirty years ago, on Feb. 25, 1985, Maxvill was the surprise choice of the Cardinals to replace Joe McDonald as general manager. Maxvill was a coach with the Atlanta Braves when the Cardinals approached him about becoming their top baseball executive.
“It seemed a rather sizeable leap to go from third-base coach to general manager,” Rick Hummel wrote in The Sporting News.
In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said, “I had my doubts about him when he was hired … He’d never made a trade, never negotiated a contract and I wondered what the hell was going through their minds when they hired him.”
Baseball and business
Maxvill, 46, said he hadn’t applied for the job and was approached by club officials. Team owner Gussie Busch said he was seeking a candidate who knew both baseball and the Cardinals organization and also had business experience.
Busch believed Maxvill met the criteria.
Maxvill had played for the Cardinals from 1962-72. Replacing the injured Julian Javier, he started seven games at second base in the 1964 World Series. He started seven games at shortstop in the 1967 World Series and again in the 1968 World Series. Maxvill won a Gold Glove Award in 1968. He hit .220 in his Cardinals career.
Maxvill was a Cardinals coach from 1979-80 and an instructor in 1981. He and former Cardinals reliever Joe Hoerner were co-owners of a St. Louis travel agency.
The Cardinals offered Maxvill a one-year contract.
“Of all the people we considered, myself and the other members of the executive committee unanimously agreed that Dal Maxvill has the qualifications we were looking for in a general manager,” Busch told the Associated Press.
Fred Kuhlmann, chief operating officer of the Cardinals, said Tal Smith, a consultant hired to lead the search for a general manager, gave Maxvill “as enthusiastic a recommendation as there could be.”
Two other former Cardinals players _ broadcasters Tim McCarver and Joe Torre _ were considered before Maxvill was offered the position, The Sporting News reported.
“I’ve been a Cardinals fan since I was 3,” said Maxvill, a native of Granite City, Ill. “My mother and father took me to see Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore and Red Schoendienst.”
Schoendienst, a Cardinals coach in 1985, was Maxvill’s manager from 1965-72.
“Once, I was his boss,” Schoendienst said. “Now, he’s mine.”
On April 2, 1985, Maxvill made his first trade, acquiring infielder Jose Oquendo from the Mets for infielder Angel Salazar and minor-league pitcher John Young. Oquendo played for the Cardinals from 1986-95. In 2015, he entered his 17th season as a Cardinals coach.
The Cardinals won two pennants, 1985 and 1987, with Maxvill as general manager.
“He turned out to be a hell of a baseball executive,” Herzog said of Maxvill. “… Maxie is smart and he caught on fast.”
Maxvill was Cardinals general manager from 1985-94 until he was fired by team president Mark Lamping and replaced by Walt Jocketty.