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Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

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.

Eighty years ago, 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.

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Gussie Busch made a handshake agreement to hire Leo Durocher to manage the Cardinals, lied about it to the public and reneged on the commitment.

Busch’s mishandling of the Durocher deal was one of several missteps made by the meddling Cardinals owner during the 1964 season.

Despite Busch’s bumbling, the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant on the last day of the regular season and went on to clinch a World Series title against the Yankees.

Holy cow!

On Aug. 17, 1964, the Cardinals were nine games out of first place when Busch, figuring there was no hope for a pennant, fired general manager Bing Devine and replaced him with Bob Howsam, a colleague of special consultant Branch Rickey.

Busch wanted to fire manager Johnny Keane, too, but decided to wait until after the season.

On Aug. 29, 1964, before a Saturday game between the Dodgers and Cardinals at St. Louis, Durocher was interviewed by broadcaster Harry Caray. Durocher, a shortstop for the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang clubs in the 1930s before becoming a manager and leading the Dodgers (1941) and Giants (1951 and 1954) to pennants, was in his fourth season as a Dodgers coach in 1964 and Caray asked him whether he wanted to manage again.

If an offer was made, Durocher replied, “I just know I would accept if it was a good ballclub.”

Busch was listening and liked what he heard. He contacted Caray and told him he wanted to meet with Durocher the next morning. Caray called Durocher at his hotel room that night and said he’d drive Durocher to Busch’s estate in the morning.

In his book “Nice Guys Finish Last,” Durocher said, “Harry was going to pick me up at 8 in the morning, not in front of the hotel but two blocks down on Lindell Boulevard where nobody would see us.”

It’s a deal

On Aug. 30, 1964, Caray took Durocher to Busch’s home and waited in the car as Durocher went inside. Busch and Durocher had breakfast before going into an office where they talked for about an hour. According to Durocher, Busch stuck out his hand and said, “You’re the manager of the ballclub. Don’t worry about the salary.”

Durocher returned to the car and told Caray what happened. “Harry was simply overjoyed,” Durocher said.

When the Dodgers got back to Los Angeles, Durocher informed club owner Walter O’Malley about his talk with Busch. O’Malley already knew, Durocher said, because Busch had phoned him. Durocher and O’Malley agreed Durocher would resign near the end of the season, clearing the way for the Cardinals to hire him.

Left hanging

On Sept. 22, 1964, three weeks after Busch and Durocher met, Milt Richman of United Press International reported Keane would be fired within two weeks and Durocher “most likely will succeed him.”

“The decision to fire Keane was reached some time ago” by Busch “who conferred with Durocher the last time the Dodgers were in St. Louis,” Richman reported.

Contacted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Busch said he had “great admiration for Durocher,” but denied he had met with him.

Durocher told United Press International, “I haven’t approached anybody and nobody has approached me.”

Asked about Keane’s performance as manager, Busch declined comment.

Busch “left Johnny Keane hanging by his thumbs,” the Post-Dispatch concluded.

On the day Richman broke the story, the Cardinals, in New York to play the Mets, were six games behind the first-place Phillies. It later was learned Keane met that day with a “trusted emissary” for the Yankees about the club’s managerial job, according to the Associated Press. The Yankees planned to fire manager Yogi Berra after the season and contacted Busch to get permission to talk to Keane. Busch gave his approval, but soon came to regret it.

The plot thickens

On Oct. 1, 1964, Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi announced Durocher would not return as coach “at his own request.”

Asked whether he was going to become Cardinals manager, Durocher told the Los Angeles Times, “My hands are tied. I just can’t say.” Bavasi said Durocher asked for his release so he could negotiate for a managerial job and he got the impression the Cardinals were the club.

Durocher’s timing was terrible because the Cardinals had surged while the Phillies had faltered. From Sept. 24 to Oct. 1, the Cardinals won eight in a row and moved into first place with three games remaining.

On Oct. 2, 1964, the day after Durocher resigned, Busch met Keane in the clubhouse and offered him a contract extension, but Keane said he preferred to wait until after the season to discuss an offer, the Post-Dispatch reported.

On Oct. 4, 1964, after the Cardinals clinched the pennant that day, Busch approached Keane at the team party and offered him “whatever you want,” but Keane said he wouldn’t talk terms until after the World Series.

October surprise

Busch’s attempts to sign Keane put Durocher in limbo. Durocher expected “to accept Busch’s offer to manage the Cardinals next season but when Leo pounced the cupboard was bare,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On Oct. 9, 1964,, the New York Journal-American reported Busch offered Durocher $100,000 to forget about their agreement. Durocher denied getting any payoff from Busch.

The Cardinals clinched the World Series title on Oct. 15, 1964. Busch scheduled a news conference for the next morning with the intention of announcing a contract extension for Keane, but when Keane arrived at the gathering he handed Busch a resignation letter. Keane cited Busch’s firing of Devine and flirtation with Durocher among the reasons for his decision.

A few hours later, the Yankees fired Berra.

With Keane’s departure, Busch could have hired Durocher, but he feared a backlash from a fan base who blamed the two conspirators for driving out Keane. “Although Durocher has the qualifications and credentials to do the job on the field, indications are that public pressure might make this choice unwise for the ballclub _ and the (Anheuser-Busch) brewery,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Thanks, Leo

Busch called Durocher and “right from the beginning I didn’t like the way the conversation was going,” Durocher said. “All hemming and hawing and not a word about managing his ballclub.”

“I could understand the fix he was in,” Durocher said. “He had become the laughingstock of the country.”

Durocher also understood the public perceived he and Busch as having acted underhandedly.

As Busch dawdled, Durocher said to him, “Apparently what you’re trying to tell me is you can’t make me manager of your ballclub. Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

“Yeah,” said Busch, “in sort of a way.”

“It’s perfectly all right,” Durocher responded. “Forget the handshake. Forget you gave me the job.”

Busch replied, “Thanks very much, Leo. I knew you’d understand the predicament I was in” and hung up.

“There I sat, with the telephone in my hand,” Durocher said.

On Oct. 20, 1964, the Cardinals named coach Red Schoendienst to be the manager and the Yankees hired Keane to replace Berra.

Durocher worked in broadcasting for a year before becoming manager of the Cubs in 1966.

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In a pairing of two of the most successful and colorful sports leaders of the 1980s, Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka spent an evening with the Cardinals as a guest of their manager, Whitey Herzog.

Thirty years ago, on July 19, 1988, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Ditka got into a Cardinals uniform, took batting practice with the team and brought out the lineup card to the umpires at home plate before the start of the game against the Dodgers.

Ditka came to St. Louis to promote Herzog’s restaurant at Union Station. The management firm that ran Herzog’s restaurant also operated Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago.

Bringing Ditka and Herzog together created the media attention the restaurant managers sought.

Ditka led the 1985 Bears to a NFL championship, winning 15 of 16 regular-season games and all three postseason games. The Bears qualified for the playoffs in seven of his 11 seasons as their head coach. A popular “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch at the time featured actors playing blue-collar Bears fans who spoke with Chicago dialects about their devotion to “Da Bears” and to Ditka, “Da Coach.”

Herzog led the 1982 Cardinals to a World Series championship and followed that with National League pennant-winning seasons in 1985 and 1987. Dubbed “The White Rat” during his playing career because of his light-colored hair and resemblance to a Yankees pitcher with the same nickname, Herzog transformed the Cardinals into winners by emphasizing a style of play, called “Whiteyball,” featuring speed, fielding, relief pitching and fundamentals

Fan of The Man

Ditka was named Michael Dyczko when he was born Oct. 18, 1939, in Carnegie, Pa. The surname was changed to Ditka during his childhood because it was easier to pronounce.

As a youth in Aliquippa, Pa., where the family moved in the 1940s, Ditka became a Cardinals baseball fan because their best player, Stan Musial, also was from western Pennsylvania.

“I’ve been a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan since I was a kid, basically because of one man, and that was The Man: Stan Musial,” Ditka told the Chicago Tribune in 1988. “Musial was from Donora, Pa., and I was from just outside of Pittsburgh. In the bottom of my heart, I’m still a Cardinals fan. I have to root for the Cubs every once in a while.”

At Aliquippa High School, Ditka played football, baseball and basketball and was coached by Press Maravich, the father of future college and NBA standout “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Though Ditka was a catcher and outfielder for the high school baseball team, and later for the University of Pittsburgh, he knew his future was in football. “My fondest memories of baseball were playing in Little League and then in Pony League and then American Legion, because we competed pretty good in the state of Pennsylvania,” Ditka said.

After excelling as a receiver and punter for the University of Pittsburgh football Panthers from 1958-60, Ditka went on to become a top tight end in the NFL with the Bears (1961-66), Eagles (1967-68) and Cowboys (1969-72). He was inducted as a player into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

Ditka was head coach of the Bears (1982-92) and Saints (1997-99).

“We always enjoyed playing the Cardinals in football,” Ditka said. “St. Louis went through a great era of football down here when Don Coryell was here and Jim Hart and Dan Dierdorf … They were about as good a team as there is in the Eastern Division.”

That’s entertainment

When Ditka got to the Cardinals baseball clubhouse to meet Herzog before the game with the Dodgers, he was issued a uniform with No. 89. That was his uniform number during his NFL playing days.

“Ditka and Herzog appeared to enjoy each other’s company,” columnist Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observed, but both “appeared to be just the least bit embarrassed by what their business partners had gotten them into.”

The Cardinals had lost 10 of their previous 11 games, prompting Herzog to tell Ditka, “Let’s don’t joke around with this too much. Bad as we’re going it doesn’t pay to joke too much.”

Ditka stood 6 feet 3 and weighed 230 pounds, and when Herzog saw him in a size 48 Cardinals jersey, he called Tom Brunansky to come over and said to the strapping right fielder, “He’s going to take batting practice. If he hits one out, I may have to move you out of cleanup.”

Replied Brunansky: “He can have right field as far as I’m concerned. Anything for some run support.”

Brunansky, acquired by the Cardinals from the Twins three months earlier, went to his locker and came back wearing a Minnesota Vikings football T-shirt. “What do you think of this?” he said playfully to Ditka.

Hit and miss

In the batting cage, Ditka, 48, hit “a couple of soft-liners, a couple of semi-loud fouls,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Ditka hit “one drive to the warning track after several swings and misses.”

“He’s got a short stroke,” said Herzog. “He’s got potential.”

Ditka gave Cardinals players Bear caps to wear during batting practice. “You know what?” said Herzog. “We hit better with them Bears caps on.”

Wearing his Cardinals uniform with the name Ditka on the back, the Bears coach joined Dodgers coach Bill Russell in presenting team lineup cards at home plate to umpires Tom Hallion, Joe West, Bob Engel and Charlie Williams.

The Cardinals went on to beat the Dodgers, 3-2, that night. Brunansky, batting cleanup, contributed a single, a walk, a stolen base and scored a run. Boxscore

Three days later, Ditka was back with the Bears for the opening day of training camp in Wisconsin.

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Chuck Stobbs was a left-hander who made his major-league debut at age 18, pitched for three American League franchises, yielded an epic home run to Mickey Mantle, experienced a streak of 16 consecutive losses and was given a chance to extend his career with the Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on July 9, 1958, Stobbs, 29, was claimed by the Cardinals from the Senators for the waiver price of $20,000.

The Cardinals utilized Stobbs as a reliever the remainder of the season, but he didn’t fit their plans and they released him. He returned to the Senators, reviving his career after discovering and correcting an eye problem.

Young pro

Stobbs was a standout athlete at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va., and was recruited by several college football programs. He chose to pursue a professional baseball career and was signed in May 1947 by Red Sox scout Specs Toporcer, a former Cardinals infielder.

Stobbs was 18 when he made his major-league debut with the Red Sox in a relief role on Sept. 15, 1947, against the White Sox. He became a starter in 1949 and had one of his best season in 1950, posting a 12-7 record.

After the 1951 season, the Red Sox traded Stobbs to the White Sox and he spent one season with them before he was dealt to the Senators in December 1952.

“Stobbs suffers from asthma and the changeable spring weather makes him weak,” columnist Bob Addie reported in The Sporting News. “Once the weather gets hot and dry, Chuck feels human again and becomes a better pitcher.”

Stobbs made his first regular-season appearance for the Senators on April 17, 1953, in a start against the Yankees at Griffith Stadium in Washington and it was memorable. In the fifth inning, Mantle hit a pitch from Stobbs out of the ballpark, a home run estimated to have traveled more than 500 feet and the only ball to clear the left field bleachers at Griffith Stadium. Boxscore

In 1956, Stobbs was 15-15 for the Senators, but lost his last five decisions. The losing streak stretched to 16 when Stobbs lost his first 11 decisions in 1957.

Stobbs was 8-20 with a 5.36 ERA for the Senators in 1957 and 2-6 with a 6.04 ERA for them in 1958 when he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals.

Seeking relief

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson had pitched and managed in the American League for the Tigers, was familiar with Stobbs and thought the breaking-ball specialist could help in the bullpen.

“I suppose I’ll be called in to pitch to Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews and some of those other sluggers,” Stobbs said. “Maybe I’ll get past them by walking them.”

Stobbs disliked airplane travel and was dismayed to learn the Cardinals took flights on longer road trips. “I didn’t know the train was so obsolete,” Stobbs said. “I thought I was in baseball, but it seems somewhere along the way I joined the Air Force.”

Stobbs made his Cardinals debut on July 13 against the Pirates at St. Louis. Entering the game in the fifth inning with a 6-5 lead, he yielded a two-run home run to Bill Mazeroski and took the loss. Boxscore

On July 16, in a four-inning relief stint against the Braves at St. Louis, Stobbs gave up back-to-back home runs to Mathews and Hank Aaron and took another loss. Boxscore

A week later, on July 23 at Milwaukee, Stobbs relieved starter Larry Jackson and shut out the Braves for six innings. Boxscore

When the Cardinals fell into an eight-game losing streak from July 27 to Aug. 3, Stobbs offered to contribute the rabbits feet and other good-luck charms fans sent him when he experienced his 16-game skid with the Senators. “The charms apparently are easier to find than prospects from Redbird farms who can help right away,” wrote Neal Russo of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Stobbs lost his first three decisions with the Cardinals before earning his lone win on Aug. 6 with five scoreless relief innings against the Giants at St. Louis. Stobbs also walked, scored a run and executed a sacrifice bunt. Boxscore

On Sept. 9, Stobbs earned a save against the Cubs at St. Louis, entering with two on, two outs and an 8-7 lead in the ninth and retiring Walt Moryn on a fly out. Boxscore

Stobbs finished with a 1-3 record, a save and a 3.63 ERA in 17 relief appearances for the 1958 Cardinals. Left-handed batters hit .300 (15-for-50) against him.

Eye opener

Described by The Sporting News as a “carefree bachelor,” Stobbs got married in November 1958 and was preparing to report to spring training before the Cardinals released him in January 1959 after he went unclaimed on waivers.

Stobbs was home in Washington, D.C., when he went to renew his driver’s license and nearly flunked the eye test. He saw an optometrist and learned he had weak vision in his right eye. The eye problem “seriously affected his depth perception and could easily account for his increasing inability in recent years to find home plate with his pitches,” Shirley Povich reported in The Sporting News.

After being fitted for glasses, Stobbs met with Calvin Griffith and convinced the Senators owner to give him a chance to compete for a job in spring training. Able to hit his spots with his improved vision, Stobbs had a string of 16 scoreless innings in 1959 spring training games and opened the regular season as a Senators reliever.

Stobbs was 1-8 with seven saves and a 2.98 ERA for the 1959 Senators. In 1960, Stobbs had one of his best Senators seasons, finishing 12-7 with a 3.32 ERA.

When the Senators relocated to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961, Stobbs went with them and pitched his final season there. In 15 years in the majors, Stobbs was 107-130 with a 4.29 ERA.

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Seeking a return to professional baseball after a stint in a hospital rehabilitation facility to treat his depression, Jimmy Piersall was given a chance to manage a group of players in the Cardinals’ organization.

The man who hired Piersall to manage the Orangeburg (S.C.) Cardinals in 1973 didn’t know the former big-league outfielder was being treated for a mental health issue at that time, though Piersall’s history certainly was no secret. In 1952, while playing for the Red Sox, Piersall suffered a nervous breakdown. He wrote a book, “Fear Strikes Out,” about that experience and Hollywood made it into a film, starring Anthony Perkins.

Piersall played 17 years in the major leagues, twice won a Gold Glove Award and was notorious for his on-field antics and feuds with umpires.

He never managed a team until getting the chance with the Cardinals prospects.

It would be his only season as a manager.

Road to recovery

In 1972, Piersall worked for the Athletics in group ticket sales and promotions. The 1972 Athletics won the World Series championship and Piersall earned a ring.

However, Piersall clashed with Athletics owner Charlie Finley. Piersall also disclosed in his second book, “The Truth Hurts,” that he was having marital problems at the time.

“So between my wife and the Finley situation, it really hit me, and I got very depressed, into crying and all that, and I went to see a psychiatrist,” Piersall said.

Piersall was admitted to a rehabilitation center at a hospital in Roanoke, Va. He stayed for about a month. “Finally I got back in shape,” Piersall said. “I felt strong and the attitude was good again.”

As his stay at the treatment center neared its end, Piersall said, he got a call from a friend, Red Dwyer, who had become president and general manager of the Orangeburg Cardinals, a fledgling franchise in the Class A Western Carolinas League.

Dwyer asked Piersall to manage the club. Dwyer “didn’t know I was in the rehab center,” Piersall said. “He just thought I was in the hospital for some minor thing.”

Piersall, 43, accepted the offer and on March 13, 1973 _ a month before the season opener _ he was named manager.

Bad behavior

Orangeburg hadn’t had a minor-league team since 1908. The 1973 Orangeburg Cardinals were not officially affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. The club was a co-op, meaning its roster was composed of players from several big-league organizations. St. Louis, though, supplied the majority of players.

“By the time I linked up with the Orangeburg team, spring training was already over,” Piersall said. “When I got a look at the team, I knew I had a bunch of guys who just weren’t good enough to be professional baseball players … Most of them were getting their last shot at the game.”

On the eve of the opener, Piersall told the Orangeburg Times-Democrat, “I know that I’m going to have to conduct myself properly and make the right decisions.”

Piersall, however, got involved in several scrapes with umpires. In June, he was suspended for two games by the league after he reportedly pushed umpire Bob Nelson, causing him to fall backwards.

Soon after his return, police were called to escort Piersall from the ballpark when he continued to argue with umpires after a game.

“When he gets vehemently loud, he detracts from the concentration of his own players, the guys on the other teams and from the umpires,” said umpire Dave Slickenmyer.

Said Piersall: “What I try to do is fight for my players. I don’t look to get into a show with a hundred people in the stands.”

Handle with care

Piersall took seriously the responsibilities of working with his players and managing games.

“The kids make mistakes _ chiefly in fundamentals _ but they are sharp, have ability and want to learn,” Piersall told the Associated Press.

Piersall said he was learning “how to cope with young people without blowing my top. It’s something I have learned day by day. I keep notes during games to point out to the kids in practice the next day mistakes they have made. With no coaches to help, it’s hard giving instruction.”

The best prospect on the club was 18-year-old outfielder Tito Landrum. “He has all the tools to become a big leaguer,” Piersall said. “He has a lot to learn, but his attitude is good, he has a great arm and speed.”

Landrum told the Times-Democrat how Piersall helped him become a better hitter by having him place more weight on his front foot and less on his back foot.

(Landrum batted .279 in 70 games for Orangeburg. He would be the only member of the Orangeburg Cardinals to play in the major leagues. He spent nine seasons in the majors _ eight with St. Louis _ and played in two World Series.)

Three other players of note on the Orangeburg roster:

_ Dave Bialas, who would become a manager in the Cardinals’ farm system.

_ Rob Sievers, son of former big-league slugger Roy Sievers.

_ Randy Poffo, who would become the professional wrestler known as Macho Man Savage.

One and done

National media _ including the Washington Post and Heywood Hale Broun of CBS News _ came to Orangeburg to do stories on Piersall.

In August, Piersall experienced chest pains and was taken to a hospital. Dwyer said Piersall was diagnosed with bronchitis. Piersall returned to the team. (Two years later, Piersall was found to have blocked arteries and underwent heart surgery.)

Orangeburg finished in last place with a 50-72 record.

In 1974, Orangeburg became an affiliate of the Dodgers. Bart Shirley, a former major-league infielder, was named manager. Among the prospects on the 1974 Orangeburg Dodgers were future big-leaguers Pedro Guerrero and Jeffrey Leonard.

Trying to remain in baseball, Piersall contacted his friend, Billy Martin, who had replaced Whitey Herzog as Rangers manager. Martin helped Piersall get a job in group ticket sales and promotions with the 1974 Rangers.

Previously: Jimmy Piersall and his NL debut against Cardinals

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Club owner Sam Breadon wasn’t satisfied with Bob O’Farrell managing the Cardinals to a 92-win season. Breadon wanted O’Farrell to perform at the level of a most valuable player, too.

On Nov. 7, 1927, Breadon changed managers, replacing O’Farrell with coach Bill McKechnie, even though in his first season as player-manager, O’Farrell, a catcher, led the 1927 Cardinals to a 92-61 record and second place in the National League, 1.5 games behind the Pirates.

The 1927 club was the franchise’s first to achieve more than 90 wins in a season since the Cardinals joined the National League in 1892.

The year before, the 1926 Cardinals, with Rogers Hornsby as player-manager, finished in first place with 89 wins and defeated the Yankees in a seven-game World Series. O’Farrell’s play was significant in the success of the 1926 Cardinals. Solid on defense, he worked well with the pitching staff and batted .293 with 30 doubles and 68 RBI. O’Farrell was named winner of the 1926 NL Most Valuable Player Award.

In 1927, O’Farrell batted .264 with 10 doubles and 18 RBI. Though O’Farrell was slowed by injuries, Breadon concluded the catcher’s play was impacted negatively by the responsibilities of managing. With McKechnie, the former Pirates manager who led Pittsburgh to the 1925 NL pennant, on the coaching staff, Breadon opted to return O’Farrell to the status of fulltime player and promote McKechnie.

Who’s boss?

O’Farrell had done Breadon a big favor by agreeing to become player-manager in 1927.

After the Cardinals won their first World Series title in 1926, Hornsby demanded a three-year contract. Breadon offered a one-year deal. Unable to reach agreement, Breadon traded Hornsby to the Giants for Frankie Frisch, sparking a public outcry.

Attempting to quell the backlash, Breadon turned to O’Farrell, who was popular with the fan base.

Breadon wanted McKechnie, fired by the Pirates, to manage the 1927 Cardinals, but that wasn’t likely to appease the critics. Breadon got the next-best arrangement when McKechnie agreed to be a coach and serve as O’Farrell’s assistant.

“O’Farrell never was considered an outstanding candidate for a managerial job,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared, “and he was named as Hornsby’s successor chiefly because of his having been honored as the league’s most valuable player.”

At 1927 spring training, O’Farrell injured his right shoulder in an exhibition game. “The injury handicapped him most of the year,” the Post-Dispatch reported. Late in the season, O’Farrell also dislocated a thumb.

O’Farrell was limited to playing in 61 games and making 51 starts at catcher. He split playing time with Frank Snyder (55 starts) and Johnny Schulte (46 starts).

According to a biography of McKechnie by the Society for American Baseball Research, O’Farrell didn’t want to be manager and “he leaned heavily on McKechnie, occasionally calling time in mid-inning to go to the bench and consult his assistant.”

The Post-Dispatch suggested fans were aware McKechnie was calling the shots “under the disguise of a coach.”

James Gould, columnist for the St. Louis Star-Times, credited McKechnie with having “a quiet, suave handling, and a calm, collected policy.”

The Cardinals were in the 1927 pennant race until the end. They would have repeated as league champions if they’d done better against the Pirates. The Cardinals were 8-14 against Pittsburgh and 84-47 versus the rest of the National League.

Assessing value

Breadon and his top baseball executive, Branch Rickey, were impressed by McKechnie, especially with how he related to prospects.

Breadon met with O’Farrell after the 1927 season and informed him of his intention to make McKechnie the manager. O’Farrell “seemed to be willing and ready to slip out from under the tasks of a manager and devote all his time to playing,” The Sporting News claimed.

In the Star-Times, Gould surmised, “We cannot picture Bob O’Farrell as terribly unhappy over the change in his status.”

To lessen the sting of the demotion _ and perhaps to soothe his own conscious _ Breadon increased O’Farrell’s pay by $5,000, giving him a salary in excess of $20,000 and making him the highest-paid catcher in baseball, according to the Post-Dispatch.

While acknowledging the injuries O’Farrell suffered in 1927 _ “Had he escaped injuries, I believe we would have won the pennant,” Breadon said _ the owner insisted the manager job largely was responsible for the drop in the catcher’s performance.

“I believe that, with O’Farrell free to devote all his time to catching, his arm will come back and he once more will be the outstanding catcher in baseball,” Breadon said. “… I believe O’Farrell will be of more value to us as a catcher without the worries of management.”

Sent packing

McKechnie said he consulted with O’Farrell before agreeing to replace him. “I never would have accepted the managership of the Cardinals had not Bob O’Farrell decided it best for himself to step out and confine his efforts to catching in 1928,” McKechnie said.

McKechnie had a splendid season in 1928; O’Farrell did not.

The Cardinals finished in first place at 95-59, two games ahead of the Giants.

O’Farrell hit .212 in 16 games before he was traded to the Giants on May 10, 1928, for outfielder George Harper.

Jimmie Wilson, acquired from the Phillies, replaced O’Farrell as Cardinals catcher.

O’Farrell, who began his major-league career in 1915, played until 1935, including stints with the Cardinals in 1933 and 1935. He was player-manager of the Reds for part of the 1934 season.

After the Cardinals were swept by the Yankees in the 1928 World Series, Breadon demoted McKechnie to a position in the minor leagues and replaced him with Billy Southworth. When Southworth proved unprepared for the job, Breadon brought back McKechnie during the 1929 season.

Breadon asked McKechnie to stay as manager in 1930, but McKechnie instead accepted an offer to manage the Braves. He later became Reds manager and led them to two pennants and a World Series title.

McKechnie, who won pennants as manager of the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Previously: How Bob O’Farrell went from NL MVP to manager

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