Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

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

Forty years ago, 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 »

Rich Hacker, a protege of Whitey Herzog, developed and coached players for championship Cardinals clubs.

Hacker died April 22, 2020, at 72. He managed teams in the St. Louis farm system for four years and was a big-league coach on Herzog’s staff for five seasons, including 1987 when the Cardinals were National League champions. Hacker also was a coach for the Blue Jays when they won consecutive World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

From boyhood in southern Illinois to his days as a big-league shortstop and later as a scout, manager and coach, Hacker was strongly influenced by Herzog.

Early learner

Hacker was born in Belleville, Ill., and raised in New Athens, Ill., Herzog’s hometown. Rich’s uncle, Warren Hacker, pitched in the majors for 12 seasons and was a 15-game winner for the 1952 Cubs.

Herzog was a big-league outfielder from 1956-63 and “when he would come home to New Athens, there would be a freckle-faced, redheaded kid waiting on his front porch, hoping for a game of catch. The kid’s name was Richie Hacker,” wrote Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We always knew when he was home,” Hacker recalled. “He drove this big, old Edsel and you couldn’t miss it. He’d bring home bats and balls for us to play with and we’d get a game up out in the street. We’d play pepper and the kid who caught the most balls got to take the bat and ball home.”

Hacker played baseball and basketball at New Athens High School. The Cardinals selected him in the 39th round of the 1965 amateur draft but he enrolled at Southern Illinois University. After his sophomore year, the Mets, whose director of player development was Herzog, took him in the eighth round of the 1967 draft and signed him.

Hacker fielded well but couldn’t hit much. On March 31, 1971, the Mets traded Hacker and Ron Swoboda to the Expos for Don Hahn. Hacker began the season at minor-league Winnipeg, but got called up to the Expos in late June when shortstop Bobby Wine went on the disabled list.

Reaching the top

On July 2, 1971, Hacker made his big-league debut, starting at shortstop in both games of a doubleheader versus the Phillies at Montreal. In the first game, Hacker went hitless against Rick Wise but played flawless defense for winning pitcher Dan McGinn. Boxscore

“Hacker is just a great shortstop,” McGinn told the Montreal Gazette. “He should find it a cinch here after fielding balls on the bumpy infield at Winnipeg.”

In the second game, Hacker got his first big-league hit, a double versus Woodie Fryman to drive in Coco Laboy from third, and “showed the fans why the Expos feel he has a major-league glove,” the Gazette reported. Boxscore

A few days later, when Wine returned, Hacker went back to Winnipeg with instructions to try switch-hitting.

Hacker rejoined the Expos in September. His last hit in the majors came Sept. 26, 1971, when he singled versus Cardinals reliever Dennis Higgins at St. Louis. Boxscore

After spending 1972 and 1973 in the minors, Hacker, 26, was finished as a player. “I knew I wasn’t a prospect anymore,” Hacker said.

Earning respect

Out of baseball for two years, Hacker wanted back in. He spent three seasons (1976-78) as head baseball coach at Southeastern Illinois College and two years (1979-80) as a Padres scout. In 1981, the Blue Jays hired him to scout and to manage their Gulf Coast League team.

Herzog, who joined the Cardinals in 1980, had the dual roles of general manager and manager, and his influence was substantial. The Cardinals hired Hacker to manage their farm club at Johnson City, Tenn., in 1982. Among the prospects at Johnson City were Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton.

Hacker managed three seasons at Johnson City and one at Erie, Pa.

In November 1985, Hacker was named to the Cardinals’ coaching staff, replacing Hal Lanier, who became Astros manager. Hacker got the job after rejecting a chance to be Astros director of player development, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Herzog regarded Hacker “as one of the brightest minds in the organization,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Herzog said. “I wouldn’t have made a guy coach just because he comes from New Athens. Otherwise, I would have brought the bartender in here. He was better to me than anyone else.

“Rich Hacker has a hell of a future in baseball,” Herzog said. “He was a smart player, a smart minor-league manager and a smart scout.”

Hacker was Cardinals first-base coach from 1986-88. When Nick Leyva left the Cardinals’ coaching staff to become Phillies manager, Hacker replaced him as third-base coach in 1989.

Accident victim

After Herzog abruptly quit in July 1990, Joe Torre became manager and wanted to bring in different coaches for 1991. Hacker departed and became third-base coach on the staff of Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. The Blue Jays won a division title in 1991 and a World Series championship in 1992.

In 1993, when the Blue Jays were on their way to a second straight World Series crown, Hacker made plans to visit his family at home in Belleville, Ill., during the all-star break.

On Sunday, July 11, 1993, Hacker took a flight to St. Louis and arranged to drive himself home. At about 11:45 p.m., Hacker was driving across the Martin Luther King Bridge from downtown St. Louis “when one of two speeding cars that were drag racing across the bridge from Illinois crashed into Hacker’s eastbound vehicle head-on,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hacker suffered head injuries and a broken right ankle.

“He was wearing his seat belt,” said Dr. Marc Shapiro, director of trauma services at the St. Louis University Medical Center. “If Mr. Hacker was not wearing his seat belt, his injuries would be much more serious. We might not even be talking about him now.”

Hacker told the Post-Dispatch his condition “was touch and go for a while.” Regarding the accident, Hacker said, “I don’t remember a darn thing. I guess that is the body’s way of protecting us.”

Hacker was in a rehabilitation hospital until Sept. 3, 1993. Among his visitors were Blue Jays team doctor Ron Taylor, the former Cardinals pitcher, and Cardinals coach Red Schoendienst and his brother Elmer. When Elmer Schoendienst was a Cardinals prospect in 1948, he was injured and five teammates were killed when their team bus was hit head-on by a truck near St. Paul, Minn. “He’s been very kind to me,” Hacker told the Post-Dispatch.

On Oct. 8, 1993, Hacker threw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Toronto.

With Hacker unable to work on the field, the Blue Jays, in a fitting twist, hired Leyva to replace him as third-base coach. Hacker remained on the Blue Jays’ coaching staff in 1994 and was given special assignment duties, including charting every pitch of each game from the press box, Toronto’s National Post reported.

Hacker was out of baseball in 1995, though the Blue Jays paid him his full salary of $75,000, the Post-Dispatch reported. In 1996, he became a Padres scout, a position he held until he retired after the 2003 season.

Several retired Cardinals players posted tributes to Hacker on his obituary page.

John Tudor called Hacker “a class act and great person” and said “he was such an unheralded part of those 1980s teams.”

Ozzie Smith said, “Rich was one of the nicest people I have ever met. We spent a lot of time talking baseball and him hitting me ground balls.”

Read Full Post »

The Cardinals gave Terry Francona a chance to finish his playing career as part of a Louisville outfield with Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey.

Thirty years ago, on May 5, 1990, the Cardinals signed Francona, 31, after he was released by the Brewers and assigned him to their Class AAA farm club at Louisville.

The Cardinals made the move because Francona provided insurance in case their left-handed pinch-hitter, Denny Walling, faltered, and because he brought experience to a Louisville lineup featuring prospects Lankford, Gilkey and first baseman Rod Brewer.

Francona’s lone season in the Cardinals’ system was his last as a player, but hardly the end of his baseball career.

In 2004, Francona managed the Red Sox to a World Series sweep of the Cardinals, and in 2011 he was a candidate to replace Tony La Russa as St. Louis manager.

All in the family

Tito Francona, Terry’s father, was an outfielder and first baseman in the majors for 15 years with nine teams, including the 1965-66 Cardinals.

Terry Francona followed his father into baseball. He batted .769 as a high school senior in New Brighton, Pa., and went on to play at the University of Arizona for coach Jerry Kindall, a teammate of Tito Francona with the 1962-64 Indians.

In 1980, Arizona won the College World Series championship. Terry Francona was named outstanding player of the tournament and he won the Golden Spikes Award as the top college baseball player of the year.

The Expos selected Francona in the first round of the 1980 amateur draft and he made his major-league debut with them a year later in August 1981. Like his father, Terry Francona batted left-handed and played outfield and first base.

On Sept. 16, 1981, Francona hit his first major-league home run and it came against Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter at Montreal. Francona said “Mr. Fanning,” Expos manager Jim Fanning, told him to take the first pitch from Sutter, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Francona did and it was called a ball. He swung at the second and hit it over the right-field wall.

“We felt that wasn’t a bad pitch,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

Said Sutter: “The kid hit a home run. It couldn’t have been a good pitch.” Boxscore

Francona went on to hit .274 in a big-league career with the Expos (1981-85), Cubs (1986), Reds (1987), Indians (1988) and Brewers (1989-90). He batted .311 versus the Cardinals and had more career hits (46) against them than he did any other team.

Kentucky home

Francona’s last appearance in a big-league game was April 19, 1990, when he ran for Dave Parker. The Brewers released him April 27 and the Cardinals signed him a week later.

On May 5, 1990, in his first game for Louisville, Francona had a double and triple against Buffalo. Louisville’s outfield was Francona in right, Lankford in center and Gilkey in left.

Four days later, on May 9, 1990, those three played central roles in a wild inning.

Louisville scored 16 runs in the third inning of an 18-4 win at home against Nashville. Gilkey had two singles, a home run and four RBI in the inning. Francona and Lankford also hit home runs in the inning. Francona’s was a two-run shot and Lankford’s was his first grand slam as a professional.

Francona’s home run came against starter Rodney Imes, the first of three Nashville pitchers in the inning. The others were Bobby Moore and Neil Allen, the former Cardinal. Francona pitched the eighth and ninth innings of the blowout for Louisville and allowed one run on one hit, a home run by Keith Lockhart.

The next day, Louisville, naturally, was held to three hits, but one was a two-run home run by Francona, in a 4-1 win versus Indianapolis.

Francona played mostly against right-handers and finished the season with a .263 batting average, six home runs and 30 RBI. “We thought he’d hit better and for more power,” manager Gaylen Pitts told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

A left-handed thrower, Francona was an effective mopup reliever for Louisville. In five appearances as a pitcher, he had a 1.17 ERA, allowing one earned run in 7.2 innings and striking out six.

New career

After the 1990 season, Francona had reconstructive knee surgery. Receiving no offers to play again, he tried selling real estate but didn’t like it. He got back into baseball when his former Reds teammate, Buddy Bell, who was in the White Sox front office, offered him a job to coach in the minors. In 1992, Francona became manager of a White Sox farm team in South Bend, Ind.

Francona managed the Phillies from 1997-2000 and Red Sox from 2004-2011 before becoming Indians manager in 2013. He led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 World Series championship was their first since 1918. He also managed the Indians to the 2016 American League pennant.

When Tony La Russa retired after managing the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title, Francona was a candidate to replace him. Others were Mike Matheny, Ryne Sandberg, Jose Oquendo, Joe McEwing and Chris Maloney, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A search committee interviewed Francona on Nov. 8, 2011, in Cincinnati where Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. resided and operated a private equity firm.

“We discussed pretty basic philosophy,” Francona told the Post-Dispatch. “I’d call it an enjoyable, casual conversation.”

A week later, on Nov. 14, 2011, Matheny was named manager of the Cardinals.

Read Full Post »

Jim Frey was the Texas League batting champion when the Cardinals acquired him and gave him a chance to compete for a spot on their Opening Day roster. Frey didn’t get to the majors as a player, but he did as a manager.

Frey died April 12, 2020, at 88. An outfielder who played in the minors for 14 years, including four in the Cardinals’ system, Frey managed the Royals to their first American League pennant in 1980 and led the Cubs to their first division championship in 1984.

A left-handed batter, Frey could hit, but a weak throwing arm kept him out of the big leagues. He played in the farm systems of the Braves, Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals and Pirates from 1950-63.

Looks deceive

As a student at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, Frey and classmate Don Zimmer became lifelong friends. Western Hills was the alma mater of multiple major-league players, including Pete Rose, Russ Nixon and Zimmer. Frey, Zimmer, Rose and Nixon all managed in the majors.

In 1957, Frey, 26, was in his eighth season in the minors. Playing left field for Tulsa, a Phillies farm club, Frey batted .336, 28 points better than any other player in the Texas League. He also led the league in hits (198), runs (102), doubles (50), triples (11) and total bases (294).

The Cardinals purchased’s Frey contract and put him on their 40-man winter roster. At spring training in 1958, Frey was a candidate for a reserve outfielder spot with the Cardinals.

“We’ll take a long look” at him, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News.

Listed at 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds, Frey “actually looks smaller,” The Sporting News noted, “but doubts as to his ability are dispelled when he takes his turn at the plate. The little guy, who wears specs and resembles an oversized jockey rather than a big-leaguer, has an A-1 batting style.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Frey “swings a business-like bat. He wears glasses and looks more like a sophomore who leads his class in chemistry and mathematics than he resembles a ballplayer, but he hits the ball where it is pitched, instead of trying for home runs, and what a pleasure it is to see a player so intelligent.”

Have bat, will travel

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson “gave me a real shot” to make the club, Frey told the Kansas City Star. “I hit everything they tossed up that spring, but I couldn’t throw a ball from center to second base. My arm was dead after I banged my shoulder against the fence the year before.”

The Cardinals sent Frey and another outfield prospect, Curt Flood, to their Omaha farm club.

Frey “was handicapped by the fact he has only a mediocre throwing arm and the Cards already are well prepared with left-handed pinch-hitters, Joe Cunningham and Irv Noren,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

“I’ve always been overlooked,” Frey told The Sporting News.

Playing for manager Johnny Keane, Frey hit .283 for Omaha in 1958 and had a team-leading .382 on-base percentage, but the Cardinals kept him off the 40-man winter roster entering 1959.

Frey spent the 1959 and 1960 seasons with the Cardinals’ farm club at Rochester. He hit .296 with a team-leading .387 on-base percentage in 1959. In 1960, he was the International League batting champion, hitting .317. Frey tied Leon Wagner for the club lead in home runs (16) and again was the best on the team in on-base percentage at .381.

In September 1960, the Cardinals traded Bob Sadowski and four Rochester players, Frey, Dick Ricketts, Wally Shannon and Billy Harrell, to the Phillies for Don Landrum.

Frey played in the Phillies’ system in 1961 and 1962. He opened the 1963 season with a Pirates minor-league club, got released and was signed by the Cardinals, who sent him to their Atlanta farm team. Frey, 32, finished his playing career there that season.

Coach and manager

From 1970-79, Frey was an Orioles coach on the staff of manager Earl Weaver. Like Frey, Weaver never played in the majors but he spent multiple years in the Cardinals’ farm system. The Orioles won three American League pennants during Frey’s time as coach.

In October 1979, when Frey became Royals manager, he told The Sporting News, “I think of myself as a guy who helped Weaver win games, not as his protege.”

On replacing the popular and successful Whitey Herzog as manager of the Royals, Frey said, “The name is Frey, as in, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire.’ ”

Four years later, when he was named manager of the Cubs, who played their home games at Wrigley Field, a ballpark then without lights, Frey said, “We’re going to try to win every night.”

Read Full Post »

In his return to the Cardinals, Ken Boyer prepared to manage some of their best prospects while preparing veteran Joe Torre to play third base.

Fifty years ago, in March 1970, Boyer attended spring training with the Cardinals for the first time since he was traded five years earlier.

Boyer, 38, was back as an instructor and as manager of the Cardinals’ Class AA Arkansas farm club. The Cardinals hired him after he retired as a player near the end of the 1969 season.

Stanky protege

Boyer played 11 seasons for the Cardinals, won the Gold Glove Award five times at third base and produced 1,855 hits and 1,001 RBI. He was the recipient of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1964 when the Cardinals won the World Series title.

The Cardinals traded Boyer to the Mets after the 1965 season and he went on to play for the White Sox and Dodgers as well.

The Dodgers wanted Boyer to manage in their farm system in 1970, but he accepted an offer from Cardinals general manager Bing Devine to manage at Arkansas because he preferred to return to the franchise where he began his career, according to the book “Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain.”

“There is a line of tradition here,” Boyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… When you put on a Cardinals uniform, you just seem to fall in step with people like Rogers Hornsby and Frank Frisch.”

Boyer said as a player he enjoyed analyzing games in clubhouse talks with Cardinals teammate Dick Groat, and those discussions prompted him to think about becoming a manager, Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg reported.

Eddie Stanky was Boyer’s first manager in the majors in 1955. Though Stanky was fired two months into the season, his influence on Boyer was significant.

“I agree entirely with Stanky that safety-first baseball is second-division baseball,” Boyer said. “You’ve got to be aggressive and take chances. Speed is baseball’s only two-way weapon. It’s necessary on both offense and defense.

“I’m glad I broke in under a manager as smart as Stanky … I’m fortunate I learned so many little things from him, including how to run the bases. If he had pitching to go with the offense he developed, the Cardinals in the mid-1950s would have been outstanding.”

Regarding Johnny Keane, manager of the 1964 World Series champion Cardinals, Boyer said, “He encouraged individual ingenuity.”

Teaching skills

At Cardinals spring training in 1970, Boyer was one of the instructors who worked with Joe Torre, the catcher who was learning to play third base. With Cardinals third baseman Mike Shannon sidelined because of a kidney disease, Torre and first baseman Richie Allen were the candidates to take over the position.

“I told Bing Devine that Torre had good enough hands and a strong, accurate arm,” Boyer said. “The only questions are his range and knowing what to do in certain situations.”

As spring training neared an end, the Cardinals named former pitcher Dick Hughes to be a coach on Boyer’s staff at Arkansas. Boyer’s former Cardinals teammate, Carl Sawatski, was the Arkansas general manager.

Boyer’s brother, Len, 24, was the Opening Day third baseman for Arkansas. “I don’t think it’s going to cause any problems,” Ken Boyer told The Sporting News.

Arkansas lost 13 of its first 17 games. Len Boyer struggled, hitting .230 in 24 games, and was sent down to Class A Modesto.

Even with the slow start and his brother’s demotion, Ken Boyer was poised and patient. The club followed his lead, recovered and finished with a 67-67 record.

“The challenge is to get kids to go out and play the game relaxed,” Boyer said. “(Stan) Musial enjoyed playing. That’s a big reason he lasted so long.”

Two of the top prospects at Arkansas were outfielder Jose Cruz (90 RBI, .300 batting average) and pitcher Al Hrabosky (8-1, 3.26 ERA).

“There’s more emphasis on development in double-A.” Boyer said. “When I played, we had four or five players over 30 who didn’t have anywhere to go, or maybe had already been and were coming back.”

Back in the majors

After the 1970 season, Boyer was named Cardinals hitting coach, replacing Dick Sisler, who was fired.

“The young players at Arkansas liked Boyer,” said Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst.

Devine said Boyer “has impressed a lot of people with his work with young players.”

Boyer’s ascension to the big-league coaching staff fueled speculation he was waiting in the wings to replace Schoendienst, whose clubs didn’t contend in 1969 and 1970.

In the Post-Dispatch, Bob Broeg wrote, “Red’s heir apparent now is Ken Boyer.”

Boyer was a Cardinals coach in 1971 and 1972 before returning to managing in their farm system from 1973-76.

When Schoendienst was fired after the 1976 season, the Cardinals bypassed Boyer and hired Vern Rapp. Disheartened, Boyer left the organization and became a manager in the Orioles’ farm system.

Boyer was managing Rochester of the International League when the Cardinals fired Rapp in April 1978. Boyer finally got his chance to manage in the majors, replacing Rapp.

In three seasons as Cardinals manager, Boyer was 166-191 before he was fired in June 1978 and replaced by Whitey Herzog.

Read Full Post »

(Updated June 19, 2020)

In the first major-league game he played, Dusty Baker was teammates with the fathers of two of his managerial counterparts in 2020.

Baker, who turned 71 in June 2020 during his first year as Astros manager, was 19 when he debuted in the majors with the Braves against the Astros in 1968.

Two of the teammates who appeared with Baker in the game were Felipe Alou and Tito Francona.

Alou’s son, Luis Rojas, was Mets manager in 2020. Francona’s son, Terry Francona, was Indians manager in 2020.

Music man

Johnnie B. Baker was born in Riverside, Calif. When he was a boy, his mother called him Dusty because he often got dust all over himself while playing, according to The New Yorker magazine.

Baker was a gifted athlete with a passion for music. He played the piano as a youth.

“Deep down inside, I don’t think of myself so much as a baseball man as I see myself as a music man, a blues man and much more than that,” Baker said in his 2015 book “Kiss The Sky.”

When he was 10, Baker wanted to stop playing baseball. “I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was playing ball,” Baker recalled to The Sporting News, “but, thankfully, my father wouldn’t let me quit. He kept me going, kept up my interest in playing.”

After he moved with his parents to the Sacramento area, Baker was the lead singer and only black member of a garage band. “I was going to be Hootie and the Blowfish before Hootie,” Baker said.

He excelled in multiple prep sports, including baseball, and was selected by the Braves in the 26th round of the amateur draft in June 1967, a week before he turned 18. The scout who recommended him to the Braves was Bob Zuk, who signed Willie Stargell for the Pirates and Reggie Jackson for the Athletics.

As an 18th birthday present, Baker’s mother bought tickets for him and a friend to the three-day June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, featuring performances by Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding, among others.

Turning pro

After signing with the Braves in August 1967, Baker reported to their Austin, Texas, farm club. Austin was managed by Hub Kittle, who would become the pitching coach for the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals.

Two of Austin’s most prominent players were Cito Gaston and Walt Hriniak. Like Baker, Gaston would become a Braves outfielder and a big-league manager, leading the Blue Jays to World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Hriniak would become an influential hitting coach who mentored Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Frank Thomas, among others.

Baker joined Austin too late in the season to do much, but it was a different story the next year. He hit .342 for the farm club at Greenwood, S.C., in 1968 and was called up to the Braves in September.

Big time

On Sept. 7, 1968, the Astros led the Braves, 2-0, at Atlanta when Baker appeared in a big-league game for the first time, batting for a future Hall of Famer, pitcher Phil Niekro, with one out and the bases empty. Facing Denny Lemaster, Baker grounded out to short.

In addition to Felipe Alou and Tito Francona, Baker’s teammates in the game included four future Hall of Famers: players Hank Aaron, Joe Torre and Niekro, plus coach Satchel Paige.

The game had four players who would become big-league managers: Alou, Baker, Torre and the Astros’ Doug Rader. Boxscore

Baker made the most of his stint with the 1968 Braves. “You see the way he’s hitting the ball in batting practice?” Braves manager Lum Harris said to the Atlanta Constitution.

Baker’s first big-league hit was a single against the Astros’ Mike Cuellar, a former Cardinal. Boxscore His second hit was a single versus future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal of the Giants. Boxscore

“Baker will be a big-league star,” Lum Harris said. “I’d bet on that.”

After the season, Baker returned to California. In his book, he said he was on a street in San Francisco when he had a chance encounter with Jimi Hendrix and smoked a joint with him.

Distinguished career

In 1972, Baker’s first full season with the Braves, Hank Aaron said, “He does everything now but hit with consistent power. He’ll do that. I think he’ll hit between 25 and 30 homers a year in the future.”

Baker hit 20 or more home runs in a season six times, including a career high of 30 with the 1977 Dodgers.

In 19 seasons as a big-league player with the Braves, Dodgers, Giants and Athletics, Baker had 1,981 hits and 1,013 RBI.

The 2020 season will be his 23rd in the majors as a manager. Before accepting the Astros job in January 2020, Baker managed the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals.

Baker played for 11 managers in the big leagues: Lum Harris, Eddie Mathews, Clyde King and Connie Ryan with the Braves; Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda with the Dodgers; Frank Robinson and Danny Ozark with the Giants; and Jackie Moore, Jeff Newman and Tony La Russa with the Athletics.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »