Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

For Marty Marion, being popular and having success in the big leagues gave him an edge over Johnny Keane in their competition for the Cardinals’ manager job.

On Nov. 29, 1950, Marion was chosen by Cardinals owner Fred Saigh to replace manager Eddie Dyer, who resigned. The hiring came two days before Marion turned 33.

Marion, the Cardinals’ shortstop since arriving in the big leagues in 1940, had no managerial experience. The other finalist, Keane, 39, began managing in the Cardinals’ system in 1938 and led their Rochester farm team to a 92-59 record and league championship in 1950, but he had no big-league experience.

Yankees prospect

Dyer, 51, resigned under pressure in October 1950. He had winning records in all five seasons as Cardinals manager and guided them to a World Series title in 1946, but Saigh was looking to make a change after the Cardinals fell to fifth place at 78-75 in 1950.

Saigh screened 25 candidates for the job, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Saigh “came close” to hiring a candidate outside the organization. The Post-Dispatch identified him as Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner. According to the Post-Dispatch, Saigh offered him the job, but Turner turned it down. Asked about it, Saigh declined comment.

Saigh eventually narrowed the field to four candidates. The Globe-Democrat identified Keane, Marion and two minor-league managers with big-league playing experience, Mike Ryba and Dixie Walker.  According to the Post-Dispatch, the four finalists were Keane, Marion, minor-league manager and former big-league catcher Rollie Hemsley and an unidentified “dark horse.”

Keen credentials

Saigh’s search was in its sixth week when the candidate list was pared to two, Keane and Marion.

Keane was well-regarded within the organization and his resume showed conclusively he knew how to manage and how to win. “I can’t try to do a selling job on myself by talking,” Keane told the Post-Dispatch. “My position is, ‘Here I am. You know my record. It’s up to you.’ “

Though Saigh was impressed by Keane’s record, he was concerned about image. Because he’d spent his whole career in the minors, Keane wasn’t well-known among the Cardinals’ fan base, and Saigh was hoping to make a splash with his first managerial hire.

Marion was a candidate who figured to attract attention. As the shortstop on Cardinals clubs that won four National League pennants and three World Series titles, Marion was as well-known among Cardinals fans as Stan Musial. He was popular with players, fans and media, and he was widely respected for his skills as a fielder and timely hitter. In 1944, Marion became the first shortstop to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Before being approached by Saigh, Marion said he hadn’t given a thought to managing, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Keane was “neck-and-neck” with Marion and “might have landed the job if he had the benefit of a rich major-league background,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “No doubt the final factors that influenced Fred Saigh were Marion’s background and popularity, and the fact Keane would be a stranger in the National League.”

Pleasing the public

Saigh told the Post-Dispatch he made the decision to hire Marion the day the announcement was made.

“He can do as good a job as anyone,” Saigh said to The Sporting News.

Marion said, “It’s my ambition to win a pennant, not just be a contender, and we’ll hope to surprise everyone.”

Marion got a one-year contract. He said he planned to continue playing while managing, but he gave up his role as player representative in baseball labor relations. Marion had been active in negotiating a pension plan for players.

Dyer and former Cardinals executive Branch Rickey were among the first to send congratulatory telegrams to Marion, the Post-Dispatch reported. Cardinals players also reacted positively. Musial said Marion “will do well as a manager” and Red Schoendienst predicted “he’ll be a good manager.”

In an editorial, the Post-Dispatch noted, “Marion in the manager’s post is a definite asset. He has the advantage of youth, ability and the wholehearted support of players and fans. His managerial inexperience may be a handicap, but that same inexperience might make him more inclined than a seasoned hand to do experimenting and play the game with the dash which made the Cardinals famous.”

Twists and turns

The Cardinals gave Marion an experienced coaching staff to lend support. The group was Ray Blades, Marion’s first big-league manager; Terry Moore, Marion’s former teammate who had coached for Dyer; Buzzy Wares, a Cardinals coach since 1930; and Mike Ryba, the former Cardinals pitcher who had been a candidate to replace Dyer.

Marion opted not to play in 1950 in order to focus on managing. He was replaced at shortstop by Solly Hemus.

The 1951 Cardinals finished 81-73, getting three more wins than they did the year before under Dyer, but were 15.5 games behind the first-place Giants. Saigh fired Marion and replaced him with Eddie Stanky.

In June 1952, Marion replaced Rogers Hornsby as Browns manager and kept the job through the 1953 season. Marion became manager of the White Sox for the last nine games of 1954 and for all of 1955 and 1956. The 1955 White Sox were 91-63 and the 1956 team was 85-69.

After losing out to Marion for the Cardinals’ big-league job, Johnny Keane continued to manage in their farm system. In 1959, when Solly Hemus became Cardinals manager, Keane got to the majors for the first time as a coach on Hemus’ staff. When Hemus was fired in July 1961, Keane replaced him and he guided the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1964, their first since Dyer was their manager.

Read Full Post »

John Claiborne lasted a mere 22 months as Cardinals general manager because he didn’t produce the results club owner Gussie Busch wanted and didn’t connect with Busch the way Whitey Herzog did.

Forty years ago, on Aug. 18, 1980, in what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described as “a surprise move,” Busch fired Claiborne, citing “basic disagreements” between the two “regarding progress of the team in all areas of operation.” Two weeks later, Herzog was promoted from manager to general manager.

Given the authority to rebuild the Cardinals into a club featuring defense, speed and relief pitching, Herzog transformed them from losers in 1980 to World Series champions in 1982.

Front office intrigue

A St. Louis native who worked in the front offices of the Mets, Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox, Claiborne, 39, was hired to replace his mentor, Bing Devine, as Cardinals general manager in October 1978 on the recommendation of Busch’s personal attorney, Lou Susman.

In 1979, the Cardinals finished 86-76, but it was a different story the next year. The 1980 Cardinals were 8-10 in April and 8-18 in May. Claiborne had made a bad trade, acquiring Bobby Bonds to play left field after Lou Brock retired, failed to sign top free agents and didn’t obtain a closer for the bullpen.

On June 8, 1980, with the Cardinals’ record at 18-33, Claiborne fired manager Ken Boyer between games of a doubleheader and Herzog was hired as the replacement.

After a couple of weeks as manager, Herzog was called into Busch’s office and asked to give his assessment of the team. In his book, “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said he told Busch, “Well, Chief, you’ve got a bunch of prima donnas, overpaid SOBs who ain’t ever going to win a goddamned thing. You’ve got a bunch of mean people, some sorry human beings. It’s the first time I’ve ever been scared to walk through my own clubhouse. We’ve got drug problems, we’ve got ego problems and we ain’t ever going anywhere.”

Herzog said, “I’ve never seen such a bunch of misfits. Nobody would run out a ball. Nobody in the bullpen wanted the ball.”

Busch asked, “You really think it’s that bad?”

“I know so,” Herzog responded. “We’ve got to do some housecleaning.”

Personnel flops

Busch began thinking the housecleaning should start with Claiborne.

“Claiborne went to the Cardinals as an innovative thinker,” columnist Bill Conlin wrote in The Sporting News. “He convinced Gussie Busch that the free-agent raffle was a viable shortcut to a pennant. The trouble was, despite St. Louis’ willingness to spend, John couldn’t sign any first-liners.”

The free agents signed by Claiborne were pitchers Darold Knowles and Don Hood, and reserve outfielder Bernie Carbo.

“Claiborne spent too much money for too little talent,” wrote Rick Hummel in the Post-Dispatch.

Top free agents such as outfielder Pete Rose, pitcher Tommy John and closer Mike Marshall rejected Cardinals offers.

“In two or three cases, our offer actually was the best, but the player chose another club,” Claiborne said.

Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg noted Claiborne could have acquired Cubs closer Bruce Sutter for catcher Terry Kennedy, first baseman Leon Durham and second baseman Tommy Herr, but declined. “A sizable request, yes, but there’s an old saw in baseball that if you think you’re only one player away from competing for the top banana, you’ll give more than you can get,” Broeg wrote.

Claiborne “probably hesitated when he should have acted,” Post-Dispatch columnist Tom Barnidge concluded. “This club did, after all, need a relief pitcher like a cripple needs a cane.”

Drinking buddies

As Busch was contemplating what to do, Herzog met for lunch with Bing Devine and told him he was having trouble getting access to Busch. In his book, Herzog said Devine replied, “You’ve got a hell of an advantage. You drink. So does Gussie. Claiborne doesn’t drink. Just call him up and tell him you’re coming out for a few beers.”

Herzog said he followed Devine’s advice. He called Busch and told him, “I’m coming out to have a beer and a braunschweiger sandwich.”

Herzog began meeting regularly at Busch’s home and told him what should be done to improve the team. “Sometimes I’d bring him some fresh fish, which he loved, or some headcheese, which a friend of mine made. We’d sit and eat sandwiches, play gin and drink beer.”

After hearing how Herzog thought the Cardinals should be rebuilt, Busch decided Claiborne wasn’t up to the task and fired him.

Claiborne told the Post-Dispatch, “I was a failure at trying to win quickly. The blame has to be placed on someone and I accept it.”

Though Herzog undercut Claiborne by going directly to Busch with his thoughts rather than working through the general manager, Herzog was taken aback when Busch fired Claiborne, The Sporting News reported. Asked about Busch’s decision, Herzog said, “You wonder why at this time.”

Herzog said he wasn’t interested in being general manager because the job was too time-consuming. “I like to hunt, fish and golf,” Herzog said.

Executive level

Busch put attorney Lou Susman in charge of conducting a search for Claiborne’s replacement.

While Susman was interviewing candidates in New York, Herzog was called to Busch’s home by club vice president Margaret Snyder and told Busch wanted him to be general manager. Herzog asked for time to think about it.

In his book, Herzog said, “I didn’t really want to be a general manager,” but he was concerned someone would be hired who he couldn’t work with. So he called Busch and accepted.

When his promotion to general manager was announced Aug. 29, 1980, Herzog told the Post-Dispatch, “I feel I’m the right guy for the job. I don’t know how anybody can be better qualified for it than me. I decided this is one time I can control my own destiny. I sure as heck didn’t come here to be general manager, but I can do more for the Cardinals as GM than as field manager.”

Former Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst became interim manager.

Herzog wanted to hire Gene Mauch or Dick Williams to be Cardinals manager after the 1980 season but couldn’t work out an arrangement. On Oct. 24, 1980, the Cardinals announced Herzog would have the dual role of general manager and manager. Herzog hired his friend, Joe McDonald, former general manager of the Mets, to be executive assistant/baseball and take care of the administrative and business duties while Herzog focused on baseball matters.

Read Full Post »

It took until 1964 for all the teams in the major leagues to have integrated housing for their players at spring training.

On March 4, 1964, the Minnesota Twins became the last club in the big leagues to end segregation of blacks and whites in spring training residences. The move came 99 years after the end of the Civil War and four months before enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Twins owner Calvin Griffith acted only after civil rights groups planned to picket the regular-season home opener in protest of the segregated housing practice.

Racism and inequality

In Orlando, where the Twins trained, their white players, manager, coaching staff and front-office personnel stayed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel on Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.

Because the Cherry Plaza discriminated against blacks, the Twins’ black players stayed at the Hotel Sadler. Located on West Church Street, it was described by the Orlando Sentinel as “the first hotel for blacks in central Florida.”

Most major-league teams training in Florida were slow to end segregated housing. In St. Petersburg, where the Cardinals trained, their black players stayed at a boarding house, and their white players stayed in a waterfront hotel. In 1961, activist Dr. Ralph Wimbish and Cardinals first baseman Bill White led the effort to get Cardinals owner Gussie Busch to end the segregated housing. Unable to find a suitable integrated hotel, the Cardinals leased a St. Petersburg motel and had the entire team and their families stay there.

Three years later, under duress, Calvin Griffith and the Twins did it differently.

High-rise hotel

In 1950, the Eola Plaza apartments opened in Orlando. The nine-story building was one of the tallest in the region, and nearly every room offered a view.

Businessman William Cherry bought the building in the mid-1950s and converted it into a hotel, the Cherry Plaza. It featured a nightclub, the Bamboo Room, and banquet facility, the Egyptian Room.

Calvin Griffith considered the Cherry Plaza to be the best hotel in Orlando. The Twins arranged to make it their spring training headquarters, even though the Cherry Plaza wouldn’t allow blacks to stay there.

Bellman to boss

In 1963, Henry Sadler, who had been a bellman at the San Juan Hotel in downtown Orlando, opened the Hotel Sadler, a two-story turquoise and white structure. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Sadler built the hotel with financial help from Calvin Griffith.

The Hotel Sadler became a mecca for black baseball players and entertainers such as Ray Charles and James Brown, Sadler’s daughter, Paula, told the newspaper.

“I have as good a room at the Sadler as I have anywhere in the American League,” Twins catcher Earl Battey told The Sporting News.

Speaking out

Earl Battey liked the Hotel Sadler, but he and his black teammates objected to being segregated. “Our position was that equal but separate accommodations was still discrimination,” Battey told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Another black Twins player, outfielder Lenny Green, said to The Sporting News, “We wanted to be treated like any other player.”

Minnesota Gov. Karl Rolvaag appointed a three-member review board to investigate charges of discrimination against black Twins players at spring training, The Sporting News reported. Rolvaag appointed the panel after Minnesota’s State Commission Against Discrimination ordered a public hearing.

Minnesota attorney general Walter Mondale, the future vice president of the United States, spoke out against the Twins’ segregated conditions.

Minneapolis mayor Arthur Naftalin was informed the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Congress of Racial Equality planned to picket the Twins’ regular-season home opener unless integrated housing was provided to the team.

Naftalin called Griffith and urged him to “lay down the law” to management of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and insist they admit blacks, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Quality inns

On Feb. 10, 1964, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. The proposal needed approval of the U.S. Senate before President Lyndon Johnson could enact it.

Griffith said he tried to convince Frank Flynn, manager of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, to accept blacks, but Flynn refused. Griffith said he and Twins traveling secretary Howard Fox looked into other Orlando hotels and motels, and all except the Cherry Plaza and the Robert Meyer Motor Inn, which opened on Lake Eola in 1963, were objectionable. Like the Cherry Plaza, the Robert Meyer Motor Inn wasn’t integrated.

“There are two first-class hotels in Orlando and neither will accept Negroes,” Griffith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “That’s all there is to it. Sure, there are places integrated in Orlando, but they’re nothing we would stop at. We’re not going to go to a third- or fourth-rate hotel just to accommodate the civil rights people. If we’re going to integrate, let’s go first class.”

Orlando mayor Robert Carr said it was “ridiculous” to claim good integrated accommodations were unavailable in the city.

With Griffith unwilling to take the team out of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, civil rights groups went ahead with plans for demonstrations to show “our displeasure with the team’s management for not making a strong effort to change the discrimination policy,” said Minneapolis NAACP president Curtis Chivers.

“The Negro members of the team aren’t in a position to do too much and it’s the responsibility of civil rights groups to act in their behalf,” Chivers said.

Making the move

Howard Fox indicated the threat of pickets provided the impetus for Twins management to find integrated housing, The Sporting News reported.

Twins players, coaches and manager Sam Mele were moved to the Downtowner Motor Inn, a chain motel in downtown Orlando. The motel had been integrated since it opened 15 months earlier.

Unmarried players and married players whose wives were not at spring training were moved to the Downtowner. Married players with wives present were allowed to make their own arrangements. Griffith and others in the Twins front office remained in the Cherry Plaza Hotel, The Sporting News reported.

A total of 27 members of the Twins’ team, including a half-dozen blacks, moved to the integrated motel, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

“We had to give up a little in the quality of accommodations,” Griffith told the Minneapolis newspaper. “As a matter of fact, neither the white nor the Negro players will have quite such commodious quarters as when they were separated, but we have accomplished the primary purpose of bringing our players together without discrimination.”

It’s a small world after all

On June 19, 1964, the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act. It was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Three months later, on Oct. 25, 1964, President Johnson visited Orlando and stayed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel, which integrated after passage of the Civil Rights Act.

At spring training in 1965, all of the Twins were housed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel. The Twins went on to win the 1965 American League pennant.

On Nov. 15, 1965, a month after the Dodgers beat the Twins in Game 7 of the World Series, Walt Disney held a news conference in the Egyptian Room of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and announced plans for the creation of Disney World.

Read Full Post »

In a conference call with bloggers, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said the 2020 major-league baseball season has been about adjusting, adapting and learning every day because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking from Target Field in Minneapolis before the Cardinals played the Twins on July 29, 2020, Mozeliak met for 45 minutes with about a dozen bloggers via Zoom video conferencing to update them on “these unprecedented times” in baseball.

Mozeliak usually meets yearly with bloggers in St. Louis. Because of the pandemic, he opted to continue the tradition using technology. It was a classy, much appreciated effort by Mozeliak, who answered every question asked of him.

Mozeliak described himself as a person who usually isn’t anxious, but he said playing a baseball season during a pandemic has created “a weird stress” for him.

Regarding the Cardinals’ first road trip in 2020, Mozeliak said it has been both “very normal and very odd.”

Trying to find balance with those conflicting feelings “is the art of all this,” he said.

While emphasizing he wasn’t complaining and was grateful baseball was being played, Mozeliak admitted, “Doing this is far different than normal.”

Usually, Mozeliak said, his biggest stresses during a baseball season are winning and losing games. In the 2020 season, he said, the main stress is “just getting through the day.”

Like a batter facing curveball after curveball, Mozeliak said playing baseball games while trying to protect the health of everyone involved with the team has been “extremely demanding to keep it together.”

Mozeliak said the coronavirus infecting multiple members of the Marlins team was a wakeup call to all big-league players “to understand the severity of how fast this can spread.”

Regarding cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands, automatically putting a runner on second base in extra innings and other oddities, Mozeliak said the 2020 baseball season “is a unique opportunity to do weird stuff. This is a year to be as open-minded as possible.”

In answering questions from bloggers, Mozeliak addressed several topics, including:

_ Whether the Cardinals’ complex in Jupiter, Fla., was open and whether he was concerned about sharing the facility with the co-tenants, the Marlins: Only one player and two staff members are in Jupiter, so he isn’t overly concerned.

_ Whether he would be in favor of expanding the active roster to 30 players for every big-league team: Yes.

_ Whether the Cardinals would conduct a Florida Instructional League camp in the fall: I don’t know.

_ On the status of the Cardinals’ Dominican Republic academy: The only players there are from Venezuela because those players cannot get back into Venezuela.

_ On the status of scouting by the Cardinals: At the big-league level, all scouting is being done by video. All other scouting is via day trips within a scout’s area.

_ On whether the Cardinals will use cardboard cutouts of spectators in the seats at big-league games: “I think we’ll see those on the next homestand.”

_ On Cardinals such as Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright quickly adapting to using masks: “Having veterans on the team who follow the rules is a huge help” in influencing teammates.

_ On the Cardinals’ organization supporting the Black Lives Matter movement: “My email in-box was not very nice. Kind of crazy, really. Shows you where our country is and how polarizing it has become. I’m not naive. I wasn’t that surprised.”

_ On whether spectators will be allowed to attend Cardinals games in 2020: “Having fans in the stadium is going to be a challenge, but I’m not ruling it out yet.”

Read Full Post »

When Whitey Herzog became Cardinals manager, he replaced a friend who had been his roommate and teammate with the Mets.

On June 8, 1980, the Cardinals fired manager Ken Boyer and hired Herzog to succeed him.

Boyer, an all-star and Gold Glove Award winner as Cardinals third baseman in the 1950s and 1960s, was their manager since April 1978. Herzog managed the Royals to three consecutive division titles before being fired after the 1979 season.

In 1966, the Mets had Boyer as their third baseman and Herzog as a coach. In his book, “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said he and Ken Boyer shared a New York apartment with Yankees players Roger Maris and Clete Boyer, Ken’s brother.

“When the Mets were on the road, Clete and Roger had the place, and when the Yankees were on the road, Kenny and I took it over,” Herzog said.

After Boyer was fired by the Cardinals, he told a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, “Wish Whitey Herzog good luck. I hope they can turn it around.”

The comment was relayed to Herzog, who said, “I appreciate that. We are very good friends.”

Time for a change

After Herzog left the Royals, Cardinals general manager John Claiborne called him occasionally to seek his opinions on players. Claiborne and Herzog had worked together for Bing Devine with the Mets.

At one point in their conversations, Herzog said, Claiborne asked whether he’d want to become a paid consultant to the Cardinals. “I told him I didn’t want to get tied up with something like that, but I’d be happy to give him my opinions when he asked for them,” Herzog said.

The 1980 Cardinals hit the skids early and Claiborne and club owner Gussie Busch determined Boyer needed to go.

On Saturday, June 7, 1980, Herzog said he got a call from Busch’s attorney, Lou Susman, who asked him to meet Busch in St. Louis the next morning. Meanwhile, Claiborne headed to Montreal, where the Cardinals were playing, to inform Boyer he was fired. Claiborne intended to get to Montreal on Saturday night and meet with Boyer the next morning, but a rainstorm canceled the connecting flight and Claiborne had to spend the night in Chicago.

On the morning of June 8, 1980, Herzog went to Busch’s estate at Grant’s Farm and Claiborne took a flight from Chicago to Montreal, where the Cardinals and Expos were to play a Sunday afternoon doubleheader.

Herzog met with Busch and Susman, and was offered a one-year, $100,000 contract to manage the Cardinals. When Herzog objected to the length of the contract, Busch countered with a three-year deal through the 1982 season. Herzog accepted and Busch made plans to announce the hiring in a news conference late in the afternoon.

At Montreal, the Cardinals lost Game 1 of the doubleheader, dropping their record to 18-33 and giving them 21 losses in their last 26 games.

Boyer was in the clubhouse, making out the lineup card for Game 2, when he looked up and was surprised to see Claiborne enter. “I thought for certain he had come here to discuss possible trades,” Boyer told the Montreal Gazette.

Instead, Claiborne told Boyer he was fired. “This is something you want to talk about to a man face to face, not over the telephone,” Claiborne said.

Claiborne offered Boyer another job within the organization, but Boyer said he wanted time to think it over.

“Boyer was on his way to St. Louis by the second inning of the second game,” the Gazette reported.

Coach Jack Krol filled in as manager for Game 2, and the Cardinals lost again.

Mourning in Montreal

In the locker room, after getting swept in the doubleheader, most Cardinals said they were sorry Boyer was gone and exonerated him of blame for the team’s record. Boyer was 166-191 as Cardinals manager.

In comments to the Post-Dispatch, first baseman Keith Hernandez said the 1980 Cardinals were “the worst team I’ve been on since I’ve been in the major leagues. The worst. We are bad. The manager is only as good as his horses and we don’t have the horses. I’m going to miss Ken Boyer.”

Second baseman Tommy Herr said, “There’s a lack of professionalism among certain players as far as guys running groundballs out, 100 percent all-out effort.”

Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons and pitcher Bob Forsch were two of the players most upset by Boyer’s firing, according to the Post-Dispatch. “Old Cardinals die hard,” Simmons said.

Pitcher John Fugham told The Sporting News, “Unfortunately, there were not 25 people on this team that were as intense as Kenny Boyer was. Therein lies the problem.”

Vern Rapp, who two years earlier was fired while the Cardinals were in Montreal and replaced as manager by Boyer, was a coach with the 1980 Expos. Asked his reaction to Boyer’s firing, Rapp told the Post-Dispatch, “I feel sorry for anybody it happened to. I know how it feels. It’s not a good feeling.”

Oh, brother

At the news conference at Grant’s Farm introducing him as Cardinals manager, Herzog said, “I’m going to take this dang team and run it like I think it should be run. I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble with players hustling. I understand that’s been a problem here. I think you’ll see the Cardinals running out groundballs.”

Asked whether the Cardinals needed a leader to emerge from within the team, Herzog said, “I don’t need a team leader. I’m the leader.”

Said Busch: “My type of manager, without any argument.”

Born and raised in New Athens, Ill., Herzog described himself as a “very opinionated, hardheaded Dutchman.”

At birth, he was named Dorrell Norman Elvert Herzog. His mother said she intended to name him Darrell, but the name got misspelled. In New Athens, where he excelled at basketball as well as baseball, everyone called him Relly. In the New Athens High School yearbook, it was noted, “He likes girls even more than basketball.” As a professional ballplayer, he got nicknamed Whitey because of his light blonde hair.

Herzog had two brothers _ Therron, who everyone called Herman, and Codell, who everyone called Butzy.

When Herzog was named Cardinals manager, Butzy, who “never played baseball in his life,” told Whitey what lineup he should use to help the Cardinals improve.

“I may play his lineup,” Whitey said.

“He better,” Butzy told the Post-Dispatch, “or we’ll have a fight.”

Whether or not it was with Butzy’s help, the Cardinals went on to win three National League pennants and a World Series championship during Whitey’s 11 years as their manager.

Read Full Post »

With or without a hypnotist, the 1950 Browns played like they were in a trance.

Two months into the 1950 season, the Browns fired Dr. David F. Tracy, a psychologist and hypnotist who they’d hoped would help turn the American League club from losers to winners.

The 1950 Browns slumbered to an 8-25 record before cutting ties with Tracy. They stayed in a stupor, finishing 58-96.

In the 21st century, professional sports teams commonly invest in helping athletes with the mental side as well as the physical. For instance, Bob Tewksbury, who pitched for the Cardinals in the 1990s and earned a master’s degree in sports psychology and counseling from Boston University, became a mental skills coach for the Red Sox and mental performance coach for the Giants.

Not so in 1950.

Brothers Bill DeWitt Sr. and Charles DeWitt, the Browns’ owners, were among the first to hire a psychologist to work with a big-league club. Looking back, their decision might be lauded as bold and innovative, but at the time many viewed it as desperate and gimmicky. The Browns needed better pitching, hitting and fielding, but Tracy offered hypnosis, psychology and metaphysics.

A self-promoter, who often seemed more P.T. Barnum than Sigmund Freud, Tracy generated skepticism as well as curiosity.

Mind games

Tracy grew up in Gloucester, Mass. He attended Tufts College for two years and became intrigued by the use of hypnosis to treat battle shock during World War I. Tracy transferred to the University of Southern California and earned a degree in psychology, he told The Sporting News.

While in Los Angeles, Tracy said, he became an ordained minister in the Divine Church of Metaphysics.

He moved to New York, married his wife, an associate editor of a medical journal, became a lecturer and founded the American School of Modern Hypnotism. In 1937, Tracy became a practitioner in New York and charged $20 an hour for his sessions, according to The Sporting News. He wrote a book, “How to Sleep Without Pills,” hired a press agent and charged admission for demonstrations.

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat described him as “a one-man medicine show.”

Tracy was a sports fan, and in December 1949, when the baseball winter meetings were held in New York, he met the DeWitt brothers and convinced them to hire him to help the Browns, who suffered 101 losses that year.

Deep breaths

Browns fans who hoped the DeWitts would return from the winter meetings with upgrades to the roster might have suspected hocus-pocus when they learned the major acquisition was a 50-year-old hypnotist.

“This is no gag,” Charles DeWitt said. “We have several fellows on our club who have an inferiority complex. We feel sure the doctor will instill in them a winning spirit, the same type of spirit that has made the Yankees famous.”

Tracy, described by The Sporting News as “a registered doctor of metaphysics, a hypnotist and a consulting psychologist,” said, “After I teach the players emotional stability, they will automatically climb higher in the league race. With my treatment, the club should finish fifth and maybe even climb to fourth.”

Regarding hypnosis, Tracy said he would teach the players to “talk themselves into a state of confidence.”

“I will teach the Browns players to talk to their arms, so they will feel more limber and strong, and to talk to their legs, so they will feel more speedy and supple,” Tracy said. “When I have a player under hypnosis, I will tell him the next time he feels nervous he should take two deep breaths, allow his shoulders to slump and he then will feel relaxed. I’ve noticed a certain tenseness among the Browns.”

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tracy said, “Don’t laugh about hypnotism. I’ll use it only in individual cases, but I’ll teach the players to hypnotize one another.”

The Browns hired Tracy to work for them until April 1, 1950, with the understanding an assessment would be made then on whether to continue. The agreement called for him to be paid more than $200 a week, The Sporting News reported, with the possibility of a bonus. The St. Louis Star-Times reported the Browns would pay Tracy $1,000 a month.

Join the club

Tracy accompanied the Browns to spring training in Burbank, Calif.

“Dr. Tracy will work with the boys during the hours they are not in uniform,” Browns manager Zack Taylor said.

Player meetings with Tracy were held at a hotel and attendance was voluntary.

“I don’t interfere with Dr. Tracy and he doesn’t interfere with me,” Taylor said. “Our players don’t have to go to him, but he already has helped some, I believe.”

Said Tracy: “I’ve been encouraged by the players’ interest and application.”

Browns players referred to Tracy as “The Eye,” the Star-Times reported, because of the way he peered at them during sessions.

When he wasn’t working with the players, Tracy was giving media interviews, making speaking engagements and, at every opportunity, urging people to buy tickets to Browns games.

Near the end of spring training, the DeWitts said Tracy would be retained indefinitely, “probably throughout the 1950 American League season.”

“We’re satisfied Dr. Tracy has been received favorably by most of our players and that he already has helped some of them,” Bill DeWitt Sr. said. “We’re fully aware of the publicity value that has resulted.

“If he can help us sell tickets as well as relax our kids and make them more confident, that’s what we want.”

Costly experiment

The Browns opened the 1950 season with wins in their first two games at Chicago against the White Sox.

Tracy “drew more newsmen and broadcasters to his corner of the bench before the season opener in Chicago than the entire Brownie team attracted,” The Sporting News reported.

Tracy “wasn’t a bit bashful about taking some of the credit for the fast getaway,” according to The Sporting News.

The good vibes faded quickly. Positive suggestion couldn’t overcome bad baseball, and the Browns lost 13 of 15.

On May 29, with their record at 8-23, the Browns informed Tracy his contract would be terminated May 31.

“This experiment was an expensive proposition,” said Charles DeWitt, “and it is our feeling we can’t continue to enjoy these luxuries unless we draw bigger crowds.”

The Browns were 3-5 in April and 5-20 in May, but Charles DeWitt noted, “The Browns feel Dr. Tracy has helped several of our players. He has taught them a lot about relaxation.”

DeWitt concluded, “This experiment has convinced us there is a definite place for a psychologist in sport.”

Pointing fingers

Tracy put the blame for his dismissal on Zack Taylor, claiming the Browns’ manager didn’t fully embrace his ideas.

“From the start, he displayed no interest in my work,” Tracy said. “He neither helped nor hindered me. Had he stepped in and gone along with me, I think I could have helped him win some games.

“When I joined the Browns, I had an idea I’d have the status of a coach, with authority to call the players together, possibly once a week for meetings,” Tracy said. “Also, I thought I’d be given the privilege of talking to certain players just before they took the field for a game, so I could cement in their minds the theories transmitted to them earlier, but the Browns didn’t approve of my plan.”

In a parting shot, Tracy added, “The Browns got a million dollars worth of publicity, but they failed to get the benefits of my work.”

Asked to analyze the Browns’ problems, Taylor, who had been in the big leagues since joining the Dodgers as a catcher in 1920, said, “This team has possibilities, but it’s awfully green. Every day, somebody makes a vital mistake and that generally costs us the game.”

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »