Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

Baseball experienced Saturday night fever on a Thursday in Chicago and it resulted in a disco inferno.

Forty years ago, on July 12, 1979, the White Sox staged a Disco Demolition Night promotion for a doubleheader with the Tigers at Comiskey Park.

The stunt called for disco record albums to be blown up between games, but the situation got out of control when thousands of people poured out of the stands and damaged the field.

Umpire crew chief Dave Phillips called off the second game, ruling the field unplayable, and the next day the American League granted a forfeit win to the Tigers.

Rock n’ roll will never die

Disco dance music became popular in the 1970s and was highlighted by performers such as Donna Summer, Village People, and KC and the Sunshine Band. The soundtrack to the hit movie, “Saturday Night Fever,” featured disco songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps.

In an attempt to capitalize on the trend, Chicago radio station WDAI changed its format from rock music to disco. The switch caused the departure of disc jockey Steve Dahl, who resented the rise of disco.

Dahl ended up at WLUP, a Chicago FM radio station focused on rock music. Dahl, 24, developed a following by bashing disco.

The White Sox, looking to build an audience for a weekday doubleheader between two teams with losing records, arranged with Dahl and WLUP for the Disco Demolition Night. Anyone bringing a disco album would be admitted to the doubleheader for 98 cents. The price was chosen because WLUP’s location on the FM dial was 97.9.

“When baseball has to rely on that kind of bush promotion to get people in the park, we’re all in trouble,” Tigers general manager Jim Campbell said to the Detroit Free Press.

The scheme called for the disco albums to be burned and exploded under fire department supervision in center field between games.

White Sox owner Bill Veeck, whose 1979 antics included a Greek Night featuring what The Sporting News described as belly dancers “of all shapes, sizes and ages,” was surprised when the anti-disco promotion attracted far more spectators than he expected. Attendance was 47,795 in a ballpark with a seating capacity of 44,492 and many more reportedly were turned away at the gates.

“We had more security than we ever had before, but we had as many people in here as we ever had,” Veeck said to the Chicago Tribune.

The first game was played “under a constant bombardment of records and firecrackers,” according to the Tribune, and play was halted several times. Spectators flung the record albums onto the field like Frisbees.

“How’d you like to get hit in the eye with one of those?” said White Sox designated hitter Wayne Nordhagen. “These people don’t realize it only takes one to ruin a guy’s career.”

Tigers center fielder Ron LeFlore said a golf ball thrown from the stands bounced between his legs while he was catching a fly ball.

“These were not baseball fans tonight,” Veeck said.

After the Tigers won the game, 4-1, it was time for the disco demolition to begin. Boxscore

Wild bunch

Dahl blew up a crate of disco records and the fiery explosion sent spectators into a frenzy. An estimated 7,000 spectators stormed the field, the Free Press reported. Video

“I was scared,” said White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec, who was in the bullpen to warm up for Game 2.

Veeck and White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray each used the public address system to urge people to leave the field, but their pleas mostly were ignored.

“Beer and baseball go together,” Tigers manager Sparky Anderson told the Tribune. “I think those kids were doing things other than beer.”

With little to do other than run around the field, the interlopers eventually began leaving. When helmeted police arrived, fewer than 1,000 people remained on the field and officers cleared it in five minutes, The Sporting News reported.

According to the Tribune, 39 people were arrested and six were injured.

One hour and 16 minutes after its scheduled start, Phillips called off Game 2.

“Ten years after Woodstock, there was Veeckstock,” wrote Tribune columnist David Israel, who called it baseball’s “first rock riot.”

Paying the consequences

On July 13, 1979, American League president Lee MacPhail ruled the canceled game a forfeited win for the Tigers and a loss for the White Sox “because of inadequate crowd control and damage to the playing field, both of which are the responsibility of the home team.”

“We have found a lot of ways to lose games this year,” said White Sox manager Don Kessinger, “but I guess we’ve added a new wrinkle. It’s tough to lose two games when you played only one.”

For Anderson, who joined the Tigers a month earlier after managing the Reds in the National League, Disco Demolition Night was his first time at Comiskey Park.

“If I could get every team in the league to put on a promotion like that, I might win a few games,” Anderson said.

Veeck disagreed with MacPhail’s decision, saying, “I think the grounds for forfeiting are specious at best. It’s true there was some sod missing. Otherwise, nothing was wrong.”

On its editorial page, the Tribune called Veeck’s antics “an outrageous example of irresponsible hucksterism that disgraced the sport of baseball, endangered the White Sox and Tigers, and cheated and insulted the genuine fans who came to Comiskey Park.”

In The Sporting News, columnist Dick Young suggested, “Let them hold it in the studio and burn down the radio station.”

Dahl said to the Free Press, “Everybody over 40 is freaked out.”

Veeck called Disco Demolition Night “a regrettable incident” and an “ill-advised promotion,” apologized to White Sox fans and players, and said, “All I know is we’ll make certain we don’t try anything like this again.”

WLUP production director Russ James shot back, “Tonight was like the Toyota commercial: You asked for it, you got it. What did Veeck expect? He sanctioned this.”

Said White Sox pitcher Rich Wortham: “This wouldn’t have happened if they had country-and-western night.”

Read Full Post »

“You’re going to like us” was the slogan used for many years by Trans World Airlines (TWA), but the upbeat pitch didn’t fly with a trio of Cardinals miscreants.

Forty years ago, on April 11, 1979, Cardinals players Keith Hernandez, Ken Reitz and Silvio Martinez, frustrated by a lengthy flight delay, tore up a TWA hospitality room at Lambert Field in St. Louis.

The incident embarrassed Cardinals management and created a public relations headache for the club.

Storms brewing

After an April 11 afternoon game against the Cubs at St. Louis was rained out, the Cardinals boarded a bus at Busch Stadium and went to the airport for a scheduled 4:50 p.m. commercial flight to Pittsburgh.

The TWA flight, originating in San Francisco, was delayed when the plane was rerouted to Kansas City because of severe thunderstorms in St. Louis. Eventually, all flights in and out of Lambert Field were suspended for two hours because of the weather, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

TWA arranged for the Cardinals to wait out the delay in a hospitality room. The flight didn’t take off until 1:30 a.m., about nine hours later than scheduled.

At some point during the long wait, Hernandez, Reitz and Martinez went on “a destructive rumpus” and left the room “a shambles,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Grow up, guys

Initially, details about the incident were slow to emerge.

The story took a turn when an eyewitness told the Post-Dispatch, “They put them in this VIP room and they just completely demolished it. One guy threw a chair, then threw a cabinet and tore down some signs. They just wrecked it. If it had been some college kids going to Fort Lauderdale, they’d been in the newsreels and in jail in Clayton. It was just terrible.”

TWA spokesman Larry Hillard confirmed the Cardinals “damaged folding doors, tore lettering off the walls and ripped out telephones. They also broke up some chairs and other types of wooden doors.”

While the Cardinals were in Pittsburgh, where they lost three of four games against the Pirates, public outrage in St. Louis about the airport incident was rising and club management was feeling pressure to respond. General manager John Claiborne met the team at its next stop in Chicago, fined the players involved and told them they would have to pay for the damages they caused.

“Those responsible realize they were wrong and have apologized to TWA and any other offended body, including Anheuser-Busch,” Claiborne said, referring to the Cardinals’ parent company.

Post-Dispatch columnist Dick Kaegel said the vandalism done by the players “was inexcusable” and a “childish act by grown men who should know better.”

“Sure, a nine-hour wait in an airport is frustrating,” Kaegel wrote. “It was an inconvenience. But that same night in the St. Louis area hundreds of persons were leaving their flood-devastated homes. Some were wiped out. A High Ridge mother lost her 11-year-old son to the raging torrent. A St. Charles man drowned. Compared to that, the Cardinals’ inconvenience is inconsequential.”

My fault

Days later, after the team returned home, Reitz said he was responsible for doing most of the damage at the airport and may have had too much to drink. “Keith and Silvio didn’t do all that much,” he said. Hernandez and Martinez declined comment.

“You do some things sometimes you’re sorry for later,” Reitz said. “At that point in time, I didn’t think it was that big a deal.”

Reitz said he began to realize the consequences of his behavior when Claiborne “told us what the damages were and how many people were offended.”

“I screwed up,” Reitz concluded. “Let’s put it plain and simple.”

A month later, in May 1979, the Cardinals signed Reitz, a third baseman, to a five-year contract extension totaling between $1.25 million and $1.3 million.

In October 1979, Stan Isle of The Sporting News reported Ozark Air Lines, which provided charter flights for the Cardinals and other teams, “may be having second thoughts about future service for some baseball clubs,” according to a company official, because of bad behavior by players.

According to The Sporting News, “On one of the Cardinals’ charter flights, from Pittsburgh to Chicago, witnesses said right-hander Pete Vuckovich had to be restrained after an altercation with manager Ken Boyer. The incident alarmed flight attendants and the pilot threatened to land in Indianapolis before order was restored.”

Read Full Post »

In a meeting with Cardinals players after they won two consecutive National League pennants and a World Series title, club owner Gussie Busch warned them about getting fat, greedy and selfish, and scolded them for backing union leadership he considered disrespectful to management.

Players expecting gratitude and support for achieving back-to-back championship seasons, and seeking encouragement in their pursuit of more success, instead were told they needed to do a better job of conforming and representing the organization.

Busch’s speech 50 years ago, on March 22, 1969, played well with some of the public, but backfired with some of the players, who were demoralized rather than inspired by his words. His rant was cited as a turning point in transforming the Cardinals from proud champions to dispirited underachievers.

Playing hardball

In the weeks leading to spring training in 1969, Busch became irritated and frustrated when the players’ union threatened to strike in a dispute with owners over the percentage players would get from television revenue.

Busch also was miffed by the salary demands of his players. The player payroll for the 1969 Cardinals was reported to be the highest in baseball at an estimated total of $900,000 to $1 million.

On Feb. 4, 1969, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson was a guest on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” appearing with entertainers Vince Edwards, Redd Foxx, Peter Lind Hayes and Tina Louise. Gibson explained to host Flip Wilson, subbing for Johnny Carson, why the players were prepared to boycott spring training and defended their stance.

In his 1994 book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said his comments upset Busch. With a 1969 salary of $125,000, Gibson was the highest-paid Cardinals player and joined Stan Musial as only the second to receive $100,000 in a season. In return for such compensation, Busch expected Gibson to be supportive of management.

Though the players’ union called off the proposed spring training boycott after reaching a compromise on percentage of television revenue shared, the amount owners would contribute to the pension fund and the years needed to qualify for a pension, Busch didn’t like what he was seeing and hearing from players and decided to “get it off my chest.”

Busch prepared a speech and previewed it with Cardinals executive vice-president Dick Meyer, senior vice-president Stan Musial, general manager Bing Devine and manager Red Schoendienst.

With those key management people onboard, Busch invited the media to attend his meeting with the players on a Saturday morning in the team clubhouse at the St. Petersburg, Fla., training camp.

Being bossed

“It was unusual for players to meet with the owner and unprecedented, not to mention discomfiting, to do it with reporters in attendance,” Gibson said.

The players gathered in full uniform as Busch took a seat and began speaking to them.

“Fans no longer are as sure as they were before about their high regard for the game and the players,” Busch said.

“Too many fans are saying our players are getting fat, that they only think of money, and less of the game itself. The fans will be looking at you this year more critically than ever before to watch how you perform and see whether you really are giving everything you have.”

Regarding the players’ union, Busch said, “Baseball’s union representatives made all kinds of derogatory statements about the owners. We suddenly seem to be your greatest enemies. Representatives threw down all sorts of challenges, threats and ultimatums. Personally, I don’t react well to ultimatums.”

When Busch finished his 25-minute talk, players applauded “politely,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Busch invited players to comment or ask a question, but none did.

Meyer spoke next and made remarks tailored to drive a wedge between players and union leader Marvin Miller.

“He works for you,” Meyer said of Miller. “You don’t work for him. You cannot assign your future and the future of your family to someone else. If you do, you’re in trouble.”

Keeping up appearances

Asked by the Post-Dispatch for their reactions, most players stuck to generalities. “It was well said,” offered Tim McCarver. Lou Brock called it “very well put” and Dal Maxvill said “it was first class.” Others, such as Gibson and Curt Flood, declined comment.

In his 1971 book “The Way It Is,” Flood explained, “I feared that if I so much as hinted at the truth about that meeting I would be gone from the team in a week. I was sick with shame and so was everyone else on the Cardinals except Busch and his claque.”

Flood said Busch “depicted us as a rabble of ingrates” and “humiliated us to the best of his ability.”

“Busch was using the occasion not only to revile us but to reassert the uniquely feudal privileges vested to him and other club owners by baseball’s reserve system,” Flood said.

Anheuser-Busch printed 100,000 copies of Busch’s speech and distributed versions to its 21,000 stockholders, about 10,000 employees and anyone else who wanted one, The Sporting News reported.

Changes in attitude

Busch’s remarks made headlines, but “there is no evidence this had any effect” in him getting what he wanted, The Sporting News observed. On the eve of the 1969 season opener, “several key players refused to attend” a civic dinner.

The Cardinals played poorly in the first half of the 1969 season, posting records of 9-12 in April, 12-13 in May and 14-16 in June. They finished at 87-75 and in fourth place in a six-team division. The Cardinals wouldn’t return to the postseason until 1982.

Gibson cited Busch’s speech as “defining a moment as any” in the Cardinals’ decline. “It seems our deterioration as a ballclub traced back to the fact the Cardinals, as an organization, were simply not willing or prepared to keep up with the times,” Gibson said.

Said Flood: “We Cardinals became a morose and touchy team. Our concentration suffered. So did the remarkable spirit of fraternity that had helped us dominate the league for two years in succession.”

Read Full Post »

Bill White, a leader on and off the field as a Cardinals player, was a natural to take those skills to the executive level.

Thirty years ago, on Feb. 3, 1989, White was named president of the National League, succeeding Bart Giamatti, who became commissioner of baseball.

Two years after Dodgers executive Al Campanis told a national television audience blacks lacked the necessities for management, White became the highest-ranking African-American sports official in the United States and the first black to head a major professional sports league.

White’s hiring came 42 years after Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues as a player for the 1947 Dodgers. In 1989, White became leader of a league with no black managers and no black general managers. Frank Robinson of the American League Orioles was the only black manager in February 1989 and Hank Aaron, a vice president of the National League Braves, was the only black executive of a major-league club.

“I don’t think they could have found anyone more qualified than Bill White,” Aaron said to the Associated Press.

Success in St. Louis

White played 13 seasons in the National League for the Giants (1956 and 1958), Cardinals (1959-65 and 1969) and Phillies (1966-68). With the Cardinals, White hit 20 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons and had more than 100 RBI three years in a row. In 1964, when the Cardinals were World Series champions, White batted .303 with 191 hits. As a first baseman, he won the Gold Glove Award seven times, including six with St. Louis, and he was an all-star in five of his Cardinals seasons.

In 1961, White successfully led an effort to end segregation of players at spring training in Florida.

“When Bill was first with the Cardinals, blacks could not stay in the same hotel as whites,” teammate Tim McCarver said. “Bill spoke up and said it was wrong. The next season, blacks were in the same hotel as the whites.”

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine reacquired White from the Phillies in 1969 and wanted him to learn to be a manager. White, however, wasn’t interested. “I didn’t want to manage,” White told me in 2011. “I didn’t want to try to tell 25 other guys how to play the game. I’d rather do something where the success depends on me, not on other people.”

After his playing career, White became a Yankees broadcaster in 1971 and still was in that role when he got a surprise call from Dodgers executive Peter O’Malley in late 1988.

Courting a candidate

O’Malley told White a search committee wanted to interview him for the National League president job. White replied, “Thanks, but I’m not interested.”

A week later, O’Malley called again, White recalled in his 2011 book “Uppity,” and said the committee still wanted to interview him.

“I thought it wouldn’t hurt to meet with them, even though I still wasn’t interested in actually taking the job,” White said.

White was interviewed in New York by the committee of O’Malley, Giamatti, retired National League president Chub Feeney and executives William Bartholomay of the Braves and Fred Wilpon of the Mets.

“My first reaction was, ‘Are these people serious?’ ” White said. “In meeting the people, I found out they were dead serious. Once I found that out, we went forward.”

The finalists were White and Simon Gourdine, director of labor relations for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York and former deputy commissioner of the NBA.

The committee recommended White to the 12 National League team owners, who unanimously approved him and awarded a four-year contract.

White said he accepted because “it was a challenge, and throughout my life, a challenge has been something that is hard for me to resist.”

Stellar reputation

Reaction to White’s hiring was overwhelmingly positive.

Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the National League would find White to be “a most responsible as well as respectable president.”

Frank Dolson of the Philadelphia Inquirer called White “a man of character, a man of conviction, a man of determination.”

“Some men have to grow into a job; in this case, the job will become bigger simply because of the man occupying the office,” Dolson wrote.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Al Campanis sent a congratulatory telegram to White and hailed him as “articulate, intelligent and a gentleman who has the capability to become an outstanding league president.”

Lou Brock, White’s teammate with the Cardinals, said, “This is a great step, almost equal to Jackie Robinson’s entry into baseball.”

Another Cardinals teammate, Bob Gibson, said, “There are a lot of Archie Bunkers in the world that never really have experienced just being in the same room with a (black) person. The more jobs that are gotten, acquired, the more you are going to be able to dispel the myths that have been going on for years.”

White fully understood the significance of being the first African-American to hold the position but he downplayed the racial aspect because he wanted to be judged on skills, not skin color.

“If I didn’t think I could do the job, I would have been foolish to take it out of some historic significance,” White said.

Red tape

White said he wanted to improve relations between players and umpires and between players and club owners.

Soon after he started, White had to deal with the Pete Rose betting scandal and later with Reds owner Marge Schott, who got suspended for making insensitive comments.

Among White’s successes were his role in guiding expansion of the league into Denver and Miami, keeping the Giants from leaving San Francisco and reestablishing authority of the league president over the umpires union.

White retired in 1994 after some of the team owners he’d supported failed to back his recommendations.

“I was tired of the politics, tired of the behind-the-scenes maneuverings, tired of the lies,” White said in “Uppity.”

In his 1994 book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said White confided to him the difficulties he faced as league president.

“White has been frustrated by his inability to push through change and otherwise get things done,” said Gibson. “When he was telling me this over drinks one night and explaining why he felt compelled to resign his position, I said, ‘Why don’t you just stay in it for the money?’ He replied that he couldn’t do that. I said, ‘Hell, I can. Give the job to me.’ In reality, though, I couldn’t work under those conditions any more than Bill could.”

Read Full Post »

The process of acquiring players is imperfect and misjudgments always will occur, so the Cardinals routinely do critical self-analysis to learn how to adjust and adapt their approach, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said.

In December 2018, Mozeliak answered questions from Cardinals bloggers by e-mail. The opportunity to ask questions of Mozeliak came about through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of United Cardinal Bloggers.

Mozeliak answered two of my questions and he did so thoughtfully. His answers provide good insights.

Q: How do you determine whether you’ve had a successful year with respect to player acquisitions?

Mozeliak: “Fair question. There are a lot of questions of, ‘How do you measure yourself?’ I think you have to have an honest assessment because not every decision we make works.

“When you look at the nature of player acquisitions, is it more of an aggregate question _ did we have a winning season or did we get to the postseason _ or is it more specific on individual decisions _ were they successful or were they smart?

“One thing I think we do fairly well in this organization is we’re willing to ask those questions, willing to understand the why and not afraid to change. There are a lot of things in this industry you might be a part of that you never actually do _ in other words, you may be in negotiations where you hope to get a player, but you don’t. You think about, ‘What was the strategy? How could we have done something different?’

“The same can be said for the misses and the hits. There is the 50,000-foot view you can look at and there is the much lower, in-the-weeds approach. All those are fair approaches and I think we try to do both.”

I liked Mozeliak’s answer and I appreciate him giving a response with depth rather than a pat, simplistic one.

Q: What’s one aspect about the Cardinals baseball operations department you wish more people would understand or appreciate better?

Mozeliak: “I feel like, in this day and age, our fan base understands why and how we make decisions. When you ask about a specific department, I think most people know who Randy Flores is as our scouting director, most people know who Gary LaRocque is as our farm director.

“Most people are aware of Luis Morales as our international director, but he might have less recognition just because he works out of Jupiter _ and not out of St. Louis.

“That’s a department, if you look back just five or six years, between Luis and Moises Rodriguez, they’ve advanced that department light years. As a matter of fact, we have our first graduating class from high school in the Dominican Republic, I believe, on Jan. 27.

“When you think back 10 to 15 years ago, we weren’t even providing education, now we have young men graduating from high school. That’s just a great compliment to what those guys have done and also shows that we truly are invested in the Dominican, not just as a place to mine talent, but as a place to try to improve young men’s lives.”

Again, I liked Mozeliak’s answer. It was a polite and accurate way of acknowledging many may know of the scouting and minor-league achievements, but may not know the important work being done by the international department.

According to the Cardinals’ media guide, the Cardinals have personnel in five countries outside of the United States and operate a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic as well as two rookie-level summer teams. The Cardinals’ international personnel scout for baseball talent in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, the Dutch Antilles, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. Also, the Cardinals have increased their involvement in Asia and Cuba.

Read Full Post »

Ray Blades was a pitcher for an elementary school team when Branch Rickey first took notice of him and became impressed by his baseball skills.

Rickey kept tabs on Blades in the ensuing years, brought him into the Cardinals’ system as a player and groomed him for a leadership role.

On Nov. 6, 1938, Blades became manager of the Cardinals.

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon had the final say on naming a manager, but he was influenced by Rickey, the club’s vice president and general manager, who recommended Blades.

Attracting attention

Blades was born in Mount Vernon, Ill., and lived there for two years before his family moved to nearby McLeansboro, Ill.  In 1909, the family relocated to St. Louis and Blades enrolled at Franz Sigel School, a public elementary school.

In 1913, Blades, in his final year in grammar school, pitched in the championship final of the Public School League baseball tournament at Sportsman’s Park. Rickey, who was working for the St. Louis Browns, was the home plate umpire for the game and took note of the talented pitcher.

“I scouted the boy when he played on a public school team here,” Rickey told the St. Louis Star-Times. “I admired his aggressiveness.”

After graduating from elementary school, Blades attended McKinley High School in St. Louis for a year before the family went back to McLeansboro.

Blades graduated from high school in McLeansboro and went to work for an electrical company in St. Louis. In 1918, with World War I raging, Blades enlisted in the Army, served in France and was discharged in May 1919. When he returned home, he joined a semi-pro baseball team in Mount Vernon.

The Cardinals, managed by Rickey, came to Mount Vernon that summer to play an exhibition game against the local club. Blades again impressed Rickey and signed with the Cardinals after the game.

Short fuse

Blades made his professional debut in the minor leagues in 1920 as a second baseman. After another year in the minors, Blades reached the big leagues with the Cardinals in 1922. The Cardinals’ best player, Rogers Hornsby, was the second baseman, so Blades was converted to an outfielder.

A fiery player, Blades sparked the Cardinals as a leadoff batter. He hit .311 with 21 doubles and 13 triples in 1924. The next year, he hit .342 with 37 doubles and eight triples.

“He was a dashing, courageous type, arguing with opposing players and umpires almost every afternoon,” the Star-Times reported.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blades had “a violent temper” and “when something makes him see red, he really goes to town.”

Blades “was strangely unpopular” with Cardinals fans, the Post-Dispatch reported, “and the men on the bench used to boil and swear when the fans would boo Ray.”

Managing up

On Aug. 17, 1926, Blades, batting .306, tore ligaments in a knee while chasing a fly ball. The injury caused him to sit out the final month of the regular season and the World Series.

Blades never regained full effectiveness. He was a reserve in 1927 and 1928 and got demoted to the minors in 1929. He returned to the Cardinals as a player-coach in 1930 and served in that role through the 1932 season. Blades played 10 seasons with the Cardinals and hit .301 with a .395 on-base percentage

Rickey, who was Blades’ manager from 1922-25, became head of baseball operations for the Cardinals and built their farm system. He chose Blades to manage the Cardinals’ Columbus (Ohio) affiliate in 1933.

Blades managed in the Cardinals’ system for six seasons _ three with Columbus (1933-35) and three with Rochester (1936-38). Rickey credited Blades with the development of several prospects, including pitcher Paul Dean and outfielder Terry Moore.

On Sept. 11, 1938, Breadon reluctantly fired Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch, who was feuding with Rickey. Breadon liked Frisch, but Rickey was getting overtures from the Cubs and Breadon feared Rickey would join the Cardinals’ rival if Frisch wasn’t ousted. Cardinals coach Mike Gonzalez replaced Frisch for the remainder of the season, becoming the first Cuban-born manager in the major leagues.

Big promotion

The top candidates to manage the Cardinals in 1939 were two of their minor-league managers, Blades and Burt Shotton, along with former Dodgers manager Burleigh Grimes and former Phillies manager Jimmie Wilson, the Star-Times reported. All four had played for the Cardinals. Shotton also had managed the Phillies and Reds, making Blades the only one of the candidates who didn’t have big-league managing experience.

Rickey, however, urged Breadon to select Blades, whom he called “one of my own products.”

“Pressure by Rickey is said to have been a strong factor in gaining the appointment” for Blades, the Star-Times reported.

“I put in all the good licks I could for Blades,” Rickey said. “I believe we’ll see the return of the Gashouse Gang spirit under Blades’ leadership.”

Blades, 42, got a one-year contract. “I naturally have always wanted this position, but never dared hope I would get it,” he said.

The hiring received a lukewarm reception from Cardinals fans, who were hoping for a manager with a higher profile.

“I realized I would be stepping into a fast one with the fans in St. Louis if I decided on Blades,” Breadon said. “I feel Blades merits more consideration than he has been given by baseball’s followers. He’s been a sharp student of the game and he has developed many young stars for us.”

Short stay

The Cardinals finished in second place with a 92-61 mark in Blades’ first season as manager in 1939, but they started poorly the next year and were 14-24 when Breadon, without consulting Rickey, fired Blades on June 7, 1940, and replaced him with Billy Southworth.

Southworth led the Cardinals to two World Series championships (1942 and 1944) and three consecutive National League pennants (1942-44).

Blades became a coach with the 1942 Reds. After Rickey joined the Dodgers, he hired Blades, who managed the Dodgers’ St. Paul affiliate from 1944-46. Blades was a Dodgers coach in 1947 and 1948.

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »