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Unhappy with management’s indifference to re-signing any of the team’s core free agents and unwilling to ask those players to make the kinds of selfless sacrifices that were essential to the success of his Cardinals clubs, manager Whitey Herzog found himself trapped in the middle of an uncomfortable situation.

whitey_herzog5Twenty-five years ago, on July 6, 1990, Herzog, 58, resigned when he concluded he couldn’t be effective with a team uninterested in playing his style of baseball.

“I was totally embarrassed by the way our team played,” Herzog said to the Associated Press. “I just feel very badly for the ball club, the organization and the fans.”

Adios

Herzog said he decided to quit on July 3 while the 1990 Cardinals were in San Francisco. He discussed the decision with his wife on July 4, informed Cardinals management on July 5 and made the announcement on July 6 at a news conference at the team hotel in San Diego.

Three weeks earlier, Herzog had offered to resign, but club president Fred Kuhlmann and general manager Dal Maxvill talked him out of it. “He told us then it could get a lot uglier,” Maxvill said.

When Herzog stepped down, the Cardinals had a 33-47 record and were in last place in the National League East. In 11 years with the Cardinals, Herzog was 822-728, with three NL pennants and a World Series championship. He replaced Ken Boyer as manager in 1980 with the club in the cellar.

“I came here in last place and I leave here in last place,” Herzog told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Red Schoendienst, the Cardinals coach and former manager, was named interim manager. “I had dinner with Whitey (July 5) and we stayed up late discussing the team,” Schoendienst told Hummel. “He never gave me a hint (about resigning).”

Herzog blamed himself rather than the players for the team’s performance. “I don’t think that I have done a good job as a manager this year,” Herzog said. “I just can’t get the guys to play and I think anybody could do a better job than me.”

Invested in self

Outfielders Willie McGee and Vince Coleman, third baseman Terry Pendleton and reliever Ken Dayley were among the ten 1990 Cardinals eligible for free agency after the season. By July, it became apparent management wasn’t interested in re-signing any of those core players.

“I watched Whitey suffer through this year and his hands are almost tied,” Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon said after Herzog resigned. “He can’t get things done right because we don’t really have a Cardinals baseball team here. What we have, in my estimation, is we’ve got so many people … just playing for themselves. They’re just playing for their free agency. Whitey Herzog is not going to be responsible for having a club that’s not a team.”

Herzog told Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times, “I felt I couldn’t look them in the eye and ask them to do the little things we always had to do because it might cost them 10 points off their batting averages and that might cost them $3 million as free agents. We had a half season to go and I felt powerless.”

Before the season ended, the Cardinals traded McGee to the Athletics. Coleman, Pendleton and Dayley became free agents after the season and signed with other teams.

In his book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said, “Fred Kuhlmann decided not even to negotiate with our free-agent players. He wouldn’t even talk to their agents. I said, ‘Man, at least talk to them; let ’em think they might be coming back. That way they have something to play for.’ But they wouldn’t do it.

“Why is that important? For our type of ball club, it was death … If we were going to win, we had to hit to the right side, play team ball and sacrifice personal stats … But if you were up for free agency, and if you knew the club didn’t want you, would you shoot the ball to right?”

Brain drain

The impending free agents weren’t the only players who were falling short of executing to Herzog’s standards. “I feel kind of responsible,” said first baseman Pedro Guerrero. “I know that I haven’t done the job that I did last year at this point.”

Said Herzog of his players: “The effort is there, but sometimes I don’t know if the minds are there.”

After his news conference, Herzog departed for St. Louis on an Anheuser-Busch corporate jet without saying goodbye to his team.

“We didn’t deserve for him to talk to us,” catcher Tom Pagnozzi told Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch. “We embarrassed him. We all but spit on him with the way we played. He didn’t have to say anything to us. We know why he’s leaving. We drove him out of here.”

Said Pendleton: “It wasn’t his fault that we stunk.”

Faces of hate

Miklasz, a sharp-eyed, pull-no-punches observer, had this chilling opening to his column from the Cardinals clubhouse in San Diego after Herzog departed:

“This was a clubhouse divided, with all the ugly cliques finally exposed,” Miklasz wrote. “Cardinals were squared away in opposite corners, eyeballing each other with looks that could kill. White players, mostly pitchers, on one side. Black players, most notably Ozzie Smith, on the other. Bad vibrations everywhere.

“It’s no wonder Whitey Herzog wanted out of here and escaped on the first corporate jet he could find. Whitey didn’t resign; he evacuated, leaving behind a team so ripped apart and split open that the players didn’t try to conceal the wounds. No one bothered to put on a mask. Nothing could hide these faces of hate.”

Previously: How Tony La Russa can learn from Whitey Herzog mistakes

Previously: Ted Simmons helped put pal Joe Torre on path to Hall

 

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Once upon a time, the managers of the Cardinals and Reds threw punches at one another and wrestled on the ground near home plate. One of them may have taken a bite out of the other. No, we’re not referring to Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker.

harry_walkerSixty years ago, on July 5, 1955, managers Harry Walker of the Cardinals and Birdie Tebbetts of the Reds fought one another during a game at Cincinnati, prompting players to rush onto the field and join in the fisticuffs.

Watching from his seat in the Crosley Field stands was National League president Warren Giles. “I never before heard of two major-league managers starting a fight between their teams by being the first to exchange blows,” Giles said to The Sporting News. “To the best of my knowledge, their fight was unprecedented.”

Action inning

The drama began in the ninth.

The Cardinals scored twice in the top half of the inning, taking a 4-3 lead. Bill Virdon began the comeback with a home run off former St. Louis pitcher Gerry Staley. Bob Stephenson gave the Cardinals the lead with a RBI-single off Joe Black.

In the home half of the inning, another former Cardinals player, Ray Jablonski, delivered a RBI-single for the Reds off reliever Paul La Palme, tying the score at 4-4.

At this point, Walker made a pair of defensive changes, sending Ken Boyer to replace Solly Hemus at third base and Pete Whisenant to replace Joe Frazier in right field.

Bill Sarni, the Cardinals’ catcher, went to the mound to visit with La Palme. Tebbetts suspected Sarni was trying to buy time for Boyer and Whisenant to loosen their arms. The defensive replacements were tossing balls to teammates on the sidelines while Sarni and La Palme huddled.

Tebbetts protested to plate umpire Jocko Conlan, claiming the rules called for the game to resume as soon as the new fielders took their positions.

The argument ended without a resolution.

Sam Mele then stepped to the plate for the Reds. Batting with one out and runners on first and second, Mele flied out to Whisenant.

Johnny Temple was the next batter, but before he could take a stance, Sarni again visited the mound. As he did, Whisenant threw more practice tosses.

Temper tantrums

Tebbetts came out to the plate to complain to Conlan. Walker rushed over to defend his team. The managers began yelling at one another, with Conlan between them.

“We called each other names,” Tebbetts said. “We both seemed to get the idea at once that the only way to settle our argument was with our fists. So we started swinging.”

In The Sporting News, Bob Broeg wrote, “Tebbetts suddenly swung _ and missed _ prompting a return blow that landed.”

Tebbetts, 42, and Walker, 38, grabbed one another, wrestled to the ground and rolled around in the dirt.

Players from both benches emptied onto the field, with several piling onto Walker and Tebbetts. Some squared off in individual battles. Pitchers Art Fowler of the Reds and Larry Jackson of the Cardinals tangled. So did Frazier and Reds outfielder Wally Post.

Others, such as Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst of the Cardinals and Ted Kluszewski of the Reds, played peacemakers.

Bruised and battered

Walker suffered a bruised forehead and said Tebbetts bit him on the left ear.

“A lot of players must have hit me or kicked me,” said Walker. “At one time, while we were down, I yelled at Birdie, ‘You’re trying to bite me.’ ”

Said Tebbetts: “Someone stomped on my back and someone else kicked me in an ear. I saw another foot coming at me and ducked my head against Harry’s face so close he thought I was trying to bite him. I was just trying to protect my own head.”

Tebbetts suffered a nosebleed and cuts on his lip and neck. “I feel like I have been run over by a steam roller,” Tebbetts said.

Reds rally

Conlan ejected Tebbetts, Walker and Sarni.

When played resumed, Temple singled off La Palme, scoring Chuck Harmon with the run that gave the Reds a 5-4 victory. Boxscore

Giles fined Tebbetts and Walker $100 each.

“Managers have an obligation to preserve or restore order and not, by their actions, to incite disorder,” Giles said.

Neither manager seemed contrite.

Said Tebbetts to the Associated Press: “This is not a game of tiddlywinks.”

Previously: The story of why Cardinals fired manager Eddie Stanky

Previously: No backing down: Tony La Russa vs. Lloyd McClendon

Previously: Wrangle at Wrigley: Tony La Russa vs. Dusty Baker

Previously: 1980s macho match: Whitey Herzog vs. Roger Craig

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Twenty years ago, in June 1995, the Cardinals were a franchise in disarray. The depth of their dysfunction was revealed on one dismal day, June 16, when they fired their manager, Joe Torre, and traded their cleanup hitter, Todd Zeile.

todd_zeileRather than signal an inspiring beginning, the moves had the feel of surrender.

The termination of Torre largely was viewed as a lame effort to deflect attention from management’s shortcomings.

The trading of Zeile largely was viewed as spiteful.

A bad team

After being named Cardinals manager in August 1990, Torre led the Cardinals to winning seasons each year from 1991 through 1993. His best record was 87-75 in 1993. When the Cardinals fell to 53-61 in strike-shortened 1994, Torre’s friend, general manager Dal Maxvill, was fired and replaced by Walt Jocketty.

By then, the Anheuser-Busch ownership of the Cardinals seemed more interested in minimizing expense to enhance profitability than it did in investing in the team.

The 1995 Cardinals split their first 18 games, then lost 10 of their next 13 and sunk to 12-19.

“This is a bad team and someone must pay the price,” columnist Bob Nightengale wrote in The Sporting News. “They don’t have a marquee power hitter. They’re awful defensively. They have no speed.”

Published reports indicated Cardinals president Mark Lamping was pressuring a reluctant Jocketty to appease a restless fan base by changing managers.

Cheap PR move

On the morning of June 16, with the Cardinals’ record at 20-27, Jocketty went to Torre’s home and informed the manager he was fired.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Torre told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

His overall record as Cardinals manager: 351-354.

“We worked hard and we did a lot of things,” Torre said. “We just didn’t win enough.”

Said Jocketty: “We will not stand pat and let things keep going as they were.”

Unimpressed, Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote that the Cardinals “dumped a classy guy, Torre, to feed the wolfpack.”

“All I see is a cheap PR move.” Miklasz wrote. “All I see is a twitch reflex from a panic attack.”

Change the dynamics

After considering Cardinals coaches Chris Chambliss and Gaylen Pitts as candidates to replace Torre, Jocketty chose director of player development Mike Jorgensen.

“He is an intense guy … He’ll bring a little fire to the clubhouse as well as to the field,” Cardinals pitcher Tom Urbani said of Jorgensen.

Said Jocketty: “I wanted to bring in someone who could change the dynamics a little.”

Jocketty, though, wasn’t done for the day. Next, he dealt Zeile.

Deal or no deal

Zeile was batting .291 with five home runs and 22 RBI as the first baseman and cleanup hitter for the 1995 Cardinals. In June that year, he revealed that the Cardinals had reneged on a three-year, $12 million handshake agreement he said they made in April.

Lamping was furious. “There never was a deal with Todd Zeile,” Lamping said to Hummel.

Jocketty traded Zeile, 29, to the Cubs for pitcher Mike Morgan, 35, and a pair of minor-league players, first baseman Paul Torres and catcher Francisco Morales.

“We’re not happy with the chemistry and the focus of this team,” Jocketty said. “If you saw Todd Zeile play, you could see he’s not a real aggressive person in his approach to the game. He was kind of at one gait.

“Todd Zeile was not happy here. Todd Zeile asked to be traded … We didn’t want someone here who wasn’t happy.”

In seven seasons with St. Louis, Zeile started at three positions _ catcher, third base and first base _ and batted .267 with 75 home runs.

Zeile told Hummel he would depart “with a lot more fond memories than negative,” but added, “Unfortunately, this situation turned kind of ugly at the end. I think it will be better in the long run to go somewhere where I’ll be embraced.”

Miklasz blasted Lamping and Jocketty, saying the Cardinals executives “smeared Zeile, suggesting he was responsible for poor team chemistry. Zeile wasn’t any more at fault than any of the other veterans on the team. Why single him out as the villain?”

Noting the decisions by Jocketty to acquire underperforming third baseman Scott Cooper and pitcher Danny Jackson, Miklasz wrote: “Jocketty traded for Cooper and he’s a nervous wreck. Jocketty signed Jackson and he’s a physical wreck.”

The aftermath

Getting fired by the Cardinals turned out to be a blessing for Torre. He was hired to manage the Yankees and led them to four World Series titles and six American League pennants. Torre was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Jorgensen managed the Cardinals to a 42-54 record and returned to the front office after the season. He was replaced as manager by La Russa, who would lead St. Louis to two World Series championships and three National League pennants and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Torre.

Rookie John Mabry replaced Zeile as the Cardinals’ first baseman.

Zeile was a bust with the 1995 Cubs, hitting .227. After leaving the Cardinals, Zeile played for 10 teams: Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees and Expos. He had 2,004 hits and 1,110 RBI in 16 seasons in the majors.

Morgan made 17 starts for the 1995 Cardinals and was 5-6 with a 3.88 ERA. The next year, he was 4-8 with a 5.24 ERA for St. Louis before he was released.

The two minor-league players acquired with Morgan from the Cubs never reached the big leagues.

Previously: George Kissell, Cardinals inspired Joe Torre to be manager

Previously: Why the best Joe Torre Cardinals club was not good enough

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Cardinals manager Ray Blades lost the confidence of his pitching staff. Then he lost the confidence of the team owner. Naturally, he lost his job.

ray_bladesSeventy-five years ago, on June 7, 1940, the Cardinals fired Blades and replaced him with Billy Southworth. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon made both decisions without consulting general manager Branch Rickey.

Blades had been Rickey’s choice to be manager. By firing Rickey’s personal favorite and keeping the general manager out of the decision-making process, Breadon made it clear who was boss. In doing so, he damaged the relationship with his top executive. Two years later, in October 1942, Rickey resigned and became general manager of the Dodgers.

Star pupil

The connection between Rickey and Blades took root in 1920 when Rickey, then Cardinals manager, discovered the outfielder at a tryout camp. Rickey said Blades “ran like a deer,” according to Rickey’s biographer, Murray Polner.

Blades made his big-league debut in 1922. He played 10 seasons with the Cardinals and hit .301 with a .395 on-base percentage. Rickey was his manager from 1922-25.

After Rickey became Cardinals general manager, he continued to mentor Blades, grooming him for leadership opportunities. Blades was a player-coach with St. Louis from 1930-32. Rickey then made Blades a manager, giving him prominent assignments within the farm system Rickey had built.

Blades managed the Cardinals’ Columbus (Ohio) club from 1933-35 and their Rochester (N.Y.) affiliate from 1936-38.

Manager moves

During the 1938 season, Rickey clashed with Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch. Rickey wanted Frisch out. Frisch was a favorite of Breadon. About this time, the Cubs began wooing Rickey for their top front-office job.

Faced with the prospect of losing Rickey to the Cubs, Breadon reluctantly allowed Frisch to be fired in September 1938. Rickey selected Blades to replace Frisch.

Blades led the 1939 Cardinals to a 92-61 record and second-place finish. His pitching staff had the fewest complete games (45) in the major leagues. At the time, most starting pitchers wanted and expected to pitch complete games. Blades had a different approach, believing a team should utilize whichever pitcher could be most effective.

Because of the Cardinals’ good record in 1939, Blades’ steady use of relievers was tolerated. When the Cardinals started poorly in 1940, though, Blades’ handling of the pitching staff became an issue.

Trouble in St. Louis

The 1940 Cardinals lost six of their first eight games and 16 of their first 24. Their slugger, Joe Medwick, was miffed at Blades. Pouting, Medwick went into a slump.

Published reports indicated Blades would be fired. Breadon issued a denial, telling The Sporting News, “I’m not thinking of any change now. Sure, we’re disappointed, but the failure of the Cardinals cannot be blamed on the manager.”

On June 4, the Cardinals played their first home night game. What was supposed to be a celebratory occasion turned into an embarrassment. The Dodgers scored five runs in the first inning. Fans booed and threw bottles onto the field. The Dodgers rolled to a 10-1 victory. Breadon decided then a change was necessary.

The plot thickens

On June 5, Breadon contacted Oliver French, president of the Rochester farm team, and arranged to meet in New York City. The Rochester club was playing a series in Newark, N.J. French called his manager, Southworth, and asked him to come to the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan. When Southworth arrived, Breadon was there, according to Southworth biographer John C. Skipper.

Breadon informed Southworth he would replace Blades.

With the Cardinals’ record at 14-24, Breadon announced the firing of Blades and hiring of Southworth on June 7 at St. Louis. The Sporting News described the moves as “impulsive.”

“Branch Rickey was not even informed by Breadon on either of these moves … While Breadon was away doing his plotting, Rickey was telling sports writers that no change was contemplated,” wrote Dick Farrington of The Sporting News.

Though Rickey respected Southworth and had helped him revive his managerial career in the Cardinals’ system, “Rickey had been holding out for more time on Blades.”

Breadon said firing Blades was necessary because “the team was in a rut,” adding, “I like Ray and I’m sorry it had to happen. It hurt me a whole lot to do it … I have no criticism to make on his strategical moves.”

The Sporting News, however, reported that “the entire (pitching) staff was demoralized” by Blades’ handling of the starters.

Southworth led the Cardinals to two World Series championships (1942 and ’44) and three consecutive National League pennants (1942-44) before resigning after the 1945 season.

Blades became a coach with the 1942 Reds. After Rickey joined the Dodgers, he hired Blades. From 1944-46, Blades managed the Dodgers’ St. Paul (Minn.) affiliate. He was a Dodgers coach in 1947 and ’48.

In 1951, Blades returned to St. Louis as a coach on the staff of Cardinals manager Marty Marion. Blades also was a Cubs coach from 1953-56.

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cardinals to oust Frankie Frisch

Previously: How Mike Gonzalez became first Cuban manager in majors

Previously: Why 1940 was year Cardinals saw the light

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An unhappy fan base and an unreliable pitching staff combined to create an unhealthy situation for Eddie Stanky and the 1955 Cardinals.

eddie_stanky2Unable to overcome those obstacles, Stanky was fired in his fourth season as Cardinals manager 60 years ago on May 28, 1955.

The Cardinals replaced Stanky with Harry Walker, who was managing their farm club at Rochester. Walker was more popular than Stanky but no better able to win with such poor pitching.

From foe to friend

A three-time all-star, Stanky was the second baseman on National League pennant winners with the 1947 Dodgers, 1948 Braves and 1951 Giants. His aggressive play earned him the reputation as a pest and led to him being a frequent target of boos when he played the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Imagine the surprise then of Cardinals fans when on Dec. 11, 1951, St. Louis acquired Stanky from the Giants for pitcher Max Lanier and outfielder Chuck Diering. The surprise turned to rancor when Stanky was named player-manager, replacing Marty Marion, who was fired by team owner Fred Saigh. Marion, the popular former shortstop, had guided the 1951 Cardinals to an 81-73 record and third-place finish in his lone season as manager.

Good start

In his first St. Louis season, Stanky, 36, led the 1952 Cardinals to an 88-66 record and third place in the NL. He was named manager of the year by The Sporting News.

In 1953, Saigh sold the Cardinals to Gussie Busch. Stanky, in his last season as a player, managed the 1953 Cardinals to an 83-71 record and another third-place finish.

Stanky’s career took a downturn in 1954. The low point occurred when he used stalling tactics in an attempt to avoid a loss. Umpires forfeited the game to the Phillies and, in a stunning rebuke of Stanky, Cardinals fans cheered the decision. Stanky was suspended. Humbled, he apologized for his actions. With a staff ERA of 4.50, the 1954 Cardinals finished sixth at 72-82.

Heightened expectations

Heading to spring training in 1955, expectations soared because of young standouts such as Ken Boyer, Wally Moon and Bill Virdon joining a lineup with Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst.

Bill Walsingham, a club vice president, told The Sporting News that the 1955 Cardinals “will run faster and throw better than players on the Cardinals champions of 1942.”

Stanky heightened the hope, telling Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his everyday lineup “is the best _ the fastest and finest-fielding _ I’ve had. And, unless the kids fail to hit at all, it’s of championship caliber.”

The pitching, though, hadn’t improved.

On May 22, 1955, in the first game of a doubleheader at Cincinnati, the Reds rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth and won, 4-3. Stanky stormed into the clubhouse and smacked at mustard and mayonnaise jars on a food table, sending glass and goo flying.

Displaying a hand dripping with blood and condiments, Stanky said, “No, it’s not true I was trying to cut my throat.”

Time for a change

Four days later, on May 26, Cardinals general manager Dick Meyer met with Walker in Rochester and told him he would replace Stanky. Meyer instructed Walker to be in St. Louis on May 28 and to keep the news a secret.

Stunned, Walker said to Meyer, “Is this a joke?”

Replied Meyer: “We have been considering the change for some time.”

Walker, 38, had been a Cardinals outfielder and played for their World Series championship clubs of 1942 and ’46. He managed Cardinals farm clubs at Columbus (1951) and Rochester (1952-55).

His brother, Dixie Walker, was a coach on Stanky’s Cardinals staff.

At 8:15 on the morning of May 28, Stanky got a call from Meyer, who informed the manager he was fired. Meyer asked Stanky to attend a 2 p.m. press conference at Busch’s estate at Grant’s Farm. Stanky agreed.

Flanked by Stanky and Walker, Busch informed the media of the change, saying it had been contemplated for three weeks. The Cardinals’ record was 17-19.

The Sporting News offered that “Stanky’s unpopularity had reached a point regarded as alarming to an organization concerned with the goodwill of consumers as well as customers.”

Said Stanky: “Nothing in baseball shocks me any more and there’s no such word as malice in my vocabulary.”

Dixie Walker was named Rochester manager, replacing his brother.

Different styles

Among media reactions to the dismissal of Stanky:

_ The Sporting News: “The move perhaps was inevitable because of the disappointing start of the young, highly regarded team and the mounting fan clamor for a change.”

_ J. Roy Stockton, Post-Dispatch: “Eddie showed major-league courage and acumen in the rebuilding of the Redbirds. All the club needs now to make a serious bid for the pennant is good pitching.”

_ Lloyd Larson, Milwaukee Sentinel: “Eddie Stanky undoubtedly knows baseball … So where did he fall down? The answer, I believe, rests in his handling of people _ the key to successful management in many fields.”

New boss, same results

A few hours after the press conference announcing his promotion, Walker made his Cardinals managerial debut that night against the Reds at St. Louis. Jackie Collum, a former Cardinal, spoiled the festivities, pitching a four-hitter in a 5-1 Reds triumph.

The 1955 Cardinals were 51-67 under Walker and finished seventh at 68-86 overall. The staff ERA of 4.56 was the worst in the NL.

After the season, the Cardinals replaced Walker with Fred Hutchinson, former Tigers manager. Walker went back to managing in the Cardinals’ farm system. He would return to the big leagues as manager of the Pirates (1965-67) and Astros (1968-72).

Stanky managed the Giants’ farm club at Minneapolis in 1956. His roster included future Cardinals players Bill White and Eddie Bressoud and future Cardinals manager Vern Rapp.

After serving as an Indians coach in 1957 and ’58, Stanky rejoined the Cardinals in 1959 as player development director under general manager Bing Devine. Stanky served in that role until he, along with Devine, was fired again by Busch in August 1964.

Previously: Cardinals fans cheered when 1954 game was forfeited to Phillies

Previously: Bill White interviewed about autobiography

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Whether mentoring a future Hall of Famer or helping a prospect change positions, George Kissell compiled a string of impressive successes as a minor-league manager in the Cardinals system.

george_kissellOn May 4, 2015, Kissell was elected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, along with outfielder Curt Flood, pitcher Bob Forsch and catcher Ted Simmons.

Kissell worked in the Cardinals organization from 1940 (when he started as a player in Class D) until his death at 88 in 2008. He was a Cardinals coach from 1969-75 and a longtime instructor. He also managed Cardinals minor-league clubs from 1948-57 and 1961-68.

The top 5 most interesting facts about George Kissell as a manager in the St. Louis system:

Educating Earl

Earl Weaver, the St. Louis native who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame after managing the Orioles to four American League pennants and a World Series championship, played three seasons for Kissell in the Cardinals’ organization.

A second baseman, Weaver, 19, hit .276 with 20 doubles in 127 games for a 1950 Winston-Salem team managed by Kissell. Winston-Salem won the Carolina League championship with a 106-47 record, finishing 19 games ahead of runner-up Danville.

In 1951, Kissell managed Weaver at Omaha. Weaver hit .279 with 35 doubles in 142 games. Omaha won the Western League title with a 90-64 mark and Weaver was named to the league’s all-star team.

Kissell and Weaver returned to Omaha in 1952. Weaver hit .278 with 15 doubles in 97 games. Omaha finished 86-68 under Kissell.

Weaver played in the Cardinals’ system from 1948-53. With three consecutive seasons playing for Kissell, it’s reasonable to assume the lessons and fundamentals Weaver learned from Kissell helped him become one of the game’s best managers.

Pitcher to third

Ken Boyer began his first two minor-league seasons, 1949-50, as a pitcher in the Cardinals’ organization. During the 1950 season, he converted to a third baseman.

In 1951, Boyer, 20, played his first full season as a third baseman for an Omaha club managed by Kissell. Boyer hit .306 with 28 doubles and 14 homers in 151 games, launching him on a path that would lead to him winning five Gold Glove Awards and a 1964 National League Most Valuable Player Award with the Cardinals.

When Boyer missed a few games with Omaha because of an injury, Kissell, 30, filled in for him at third base.

Power prospect

Playing for Kissell with the 1957 Winston-Salem team, Gene Oliver, 22, established himself as a Cardinals power-hitting prospect. Oliver, a first baseman and catcher, hit 30 home runs, breaking the Winston-Salem club record held by Steve Bilko.

Two years later, Oliver was called up by the Cardinals. beginning a 10-year career in the major leagues, including four seasons with St. Louis.

Comeback trail

In February 1963, the Giants released minor-league third baseman Coco Laboy. The Cardinals signed him. Playing for Kissell at Raleigh that year, Laboy, 23, revived his career, hitting .340 with 29 doubles and 24 home runs in 112 games.

Chosen by the Expos in the 1968 expansion draft, Laboy was the starting third baseman for Montreal in its first two NL seasons, 1969 and 1970.

Prized potential

In 1967, Kissell managed a pair of teenagers in their first year as professional players: Simmons, 17, and pitcher Jerry Reuss, 18. Simmons was selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the June 1967 draft; Reuss was a second-round choice.

The first place the Cardinals sent them was to their Gulf Coast League club managed by Kissell.

Simmons hit .350 in six games for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. He would go on to a 21-year big-league career, collecting 2,472 hits and 1,389 RBI.

Reuss was 0-0 with a 5.14 ERA in two appearances for Kissell’s team. Reuss would go on to a 22-year big-league career, earning 220 wins.

Previously: Cardinals spring lineup had Stan Musial, Earl Weaver

Previously: The story of how Ted Simmons became a Cardinal

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