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Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

A rift between manager Solly Hemus and most of his coaches was a major factor in the Cardinals’ decision to fire him.

On July 6, 1961, Hemus was ousted and replaced by coach Johnny Keane.

Distrust between Hemus and the coaching staff, combined with a losing record, a disgruntled fan base and low team morale, all contributed to the decision to change managers.

Uneasy relationship

Hemus entered the Cardinals’ farm system as an infielder in 1946. As the second baseman for the Houston Buffaloes in 1947 and 1948, his manager was Johnny Keane. Hemus got to the majors with the Cardinals in 1949 and played for them until he was traded to the Phillies in May 1956.

In September 1958, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch decided to fire manager Fred Hutchinson and replace him with Hemus, who was the Phillies’ second baseman. Busch ignored the recommendation of general manager Bing Devine, who wanted Hutchinson to remain manager.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hemus asked for Keane, who was managing in the Cardinals’ farm system, to be on his coaching staff and also approved the choices of coaches Howie Pollet and Harry Walker.

Keane, who was a finalist for the Cardinals’ managing job in November 1950 before Marty Marion was selected, twice had rejected offers to become a Cardinals coach because, “I wanted to go up as a manager,” he told The Sporting News.

On the advice of his friend Bing Devine, who told Keane his lack of big-league experience was preventing him from managing in the majors, Keane reconsidered his stance and accepted the offer to join Hemus’ staff.

In Hemus’ first year as manager, the Cardinals were 71-83 and finished seventh in the eight-team National League. Hemus made racist remarks and lost the respect of players such as Bob Gibson. In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “His treatment of black players was the result of one of the following: Either he disliked us deeply or he genuinely believed the way to motivate us was with insults.”

Hemus arranged for catcher Darrell Johnson to join the staff as player-coach in 1960 and the Cardinals improved to 86-68 and third place. According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Hemus credited Johnson with the development of pitchers Ernie Broglio, a 21-game winner, and rookie Ray Sadecki.

As Hemus gained confidence in Johnson, the relationship with the other coaches ruptured.

“Hemus questioned both the competence and loyalty of the veteran organization men” on the coaching staff, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Only Johnson “passed Solly’s own naive loyalty test,” columnist Bob Broeg wrote.

Hemus wanted to fire Keane after the 1960 season, but Devine blocked the attempt, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Clubhouse turmoil

Expected to contend in 1961, the Cardinals flopped, posting losing records in each of the first three months of the season.

Tension created by the defeats intensified because of the fractured leadership. With Hemus relying on Johnson for advice, “Keane and the other coaches resented the decreased responsibility,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Keane said Hemus “had not taken advantage of his baseball experience and had bypassed him.”

“I did the only thing I could do then _ my job and no more,” Keane said.

Describing Hemus and Keane as “two fast friends who had become cool associates,” the Post-Dispatch reported Devine sought to bring them together, but couldn’t.

After a 13-1 loss to the Cubs on July 1 dropped the Cardinals’ record to 31-39, Gussie Busch declared he was “terribly discouraged and unhappy” with the team, but said Hemus would finish the season as manager, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Busch told the Globe-Democrat, “I’m a great admirer of Solly,” and added, “I’m quite sure he’ll finish the season.”

Regarding the players, Busch said, “Our boys are not playing hard enough. Something’s going on.”

The next day, July 2, the Cardinals again lost to the Cubs, 10-9. After a day off, they played at home and split a July 4 doubleheader with the last-place Phillies. After winning the opener, the Cardinals blew a 6-0 lead in the second game and lost, 10-6. Boxscore

In what had become a common occurrence, Hemus was booed throughout the doubleheader. Hemus “probably drew more boos than any pilot in the history of the Cardinals,” the Globe-Democrat noted.

Decision time

After the doubleheader, Devine informed Hemus a change might be necessary, the Globe-Democrat reported.

As the team departed for Los Angeles and a series against the Dodgers, Devine stayed behind in St. Louis. He went to Busch and said a change in managers was needed immediately.

“I took the initiative in this thing,” Devine told the Globe-Democrat.

Concerned about the discontent of Cardinals fans, Busch “relented reluctantly” to Devine’s recommendation, according to the Post-Dispatch.

On July 5, while the Cardinals were beating the Dodgers, 9-1, “Devine slipped into town and registered at another hotel,” the Post-Dispatch reported. He met with Hemus and Keane and told them of the change.

At 9 a.m. on July 6, Devine, flanked by Keane and Hemus, held a press conference and made the official announcement.

Keane was signed to manage for the remainder of the 1961 season and for 1962.

Devine also announced that Red Schoendienst and Vern Benson would join Howie Pollet and Harry Walker as coaches on Keane’s staff. Benson had been manager of the Cardinals’ Portland farm team. Schoendienst would be a player-coach.

Darrell Johnson was removed from the coaching staff. He rejected the Cardinals’ offer to be a coach at Portland and instead joined the Phillies as a reserve catcher. “I know I have no future with the Cards,” Johnson told the Globe-Democrat.

Hostile takeover

The Cardinals were 33-41 and in sixth place when Hemus was fired. His overall record with them was 190-192. “We feel a change is called for before an extended losing pattern becomes fixed and established,” Devine said.

Hemus displayed “an obvious coolness” toward Keane at the press conference, the Post-Dispatch noted.

Bob Broeg wrote, “At first, Solly declined to discuss at all his relations with Keane. Then, asked specifically if his silence meant he felt Keane had undermined him, he said, ‘No comment.’ “

Keane had been a player, manager, scout and coach in the Cardinals’ organization since 1930. Regarding the 1961 Cardinals, Keane said, “The important thing is to boost morale. The morale isn’t apparent in the mechanical effort, but some players are down.”

Pointing to his heart, Keane told the Post-Dispatch he believed some players weren’t “feeling the game here.”

Bob Burnes of the Globe-Democrat lauded Keane as “a sound baseball man” and added, “Many of us have thought for years that Keane deserved a shot at the job he now has acquired.”

Under Keane, the 1961 Cardinals were 47-33 and finished fifth at 80-74.

In his book “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “If there is any individual who gave me the confidence in my ability to be a major-league pitcher, it was Johnny Keane.”

Keane led the Cardinals to 84 wins in 1962, 93 in 1963 and 93 again in 1964.

The 1964 Cardinals won the National League pennant on the last day of the season and prevailed against the Yankees in a seven-game World Series.

Feeling betrayed by Gussie Busch, who fired Bing Devine during the 1964 season and plotted to have Leo Durocher become manager, Keane quit a day after the World Series clincher and joined the Yankees.

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The Whitey Herzog style of baseball was capsulized in the 10th inning of a game at the Astrodome.

Forty years ago, on May 12, 1981, a squeeze bunt by Tommy Herr scored Gene Tenace with the go-ahead run, and Jim Kaat retired the side in order in the bottom half of the inning, carrying the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Astros.

Baserunning, sacrificing, advancing runners and lockdown relief pitching were essential elements in the blueprint Herzog devised to make the Cardinals contenders.

Clear philosophy

Herzog became Cardinals manager in June 1980. Given the additional role of general manager soon after, he began to transform the Cardinals, who hadn’t won a pennant since 1968, into a fundamentally sound unit. Their approach became known as Whiteyball.

When Herzog was a Yankees prospect in the 1950s, manager Casey Stengel mentored him and influenced the methods Herzog brought to the Cardinals.

Though Stengel’s Yankees clubs were known for power hitting, “they based their dynasty on being the best defensive team and best baserunning team in the league,” Herzog said in his 1999 book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game.”

“Casey’s Yankees understood something our game has just about forgotten: that baseball, more than anything else, is a game of intelligence, craft and doing the little things right,” Herzog said in his book.

In describing the approach he took to rebuilding the 1980s Cardinals, Herzog said, “First, in the modern game, with all its specialization, you had to have that great stopper in the bullpen.

“Second, to shrink a huge ballpark like Busch Stadium down to size, you needed good athletes with speed. You also needed pitchers who threw strikes and let the other team make contact. Forget strikeouts. Their hitters wouldn’t be able to put many over the wall, and your track stars could run down the balls that stayed in.

“Finally, because that turf is so fast, you wanted batters who hit the upper half of the baseball, smacked it on the ground and took off. That would create new ways to get on base, stir up trouble and score runs.”

Herzog correctly concluded, “The right personnel at Busch Stadium wouldn’t look like much. They wouldn’t have to be big. They’d have to be smart.”

Fundamentally smart

One of the players who epitomized the caliber of baseball Herzog wanted was the second baseman, Tommy Herr. After trading Ken Reitz to the Cubs in the deal that brought closer Bruce Sutter to the Cardinals in December 1980, Herzog shifted Ken Oberkfell to third base to open a spot for Herr at second.

In “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog described Herr as having “a fine mind for the game” and someone who would “make a hell of a coach.”

As a fielder, Herr “was never out of defensive position his whole time with me,” Herzog said. “Fundamentally, he was such a smart player. He never screwed up a ground ball or a play that he should have made. He never made a mental mistake.”

At the plate, Herr was “the most amazing hitter I had those years” in St. Louis, Herzog said.

“I can’t think of a better example of how having a plan, a sense of the situation you’re in, can help you succeed,” said Herzog. “If there was one guy I managed that I would want hitting for me in the stretch drive, it’d be hard to pick between (the Royals’) George Brett and Tommy.”

Whitey’s way

The 1981 Cardinals were 15-7 entering a three-game series against the Astros at Houston. The opener became a showcase for how Herzog changed the Cardinals’ culture.

In the fourth inning, Keith Hernandez singled, stole second, advanced to third on an error and scored on Sixto Lezcano’s sacrifice fly.

The Astros countered in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run home run by Jose Cruz, the former Cardinal, but those were the only runs allowed by starter Bob Forsch. In seven innings, Forsch struck out just one, but allowed no hits from the fifth through seventh.

In the eighth, the Cardinals tied the score against starter Bob Knepper. Oberkfell singled and stole second. With two outs, Garry Templeton, batting right-handed, grounded a single to the opposite field, driving in Oberkfell. “I placed it pretty good,” Templeton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Sutter relieved Forsch and held the Astros scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Getting it done

In the 10th, left-handed Astros closer Joe Sambito relieved Knepper. First up for the Cardinals was Gene Tenace, a right-handed batter.

Acquired from the Padres in December 1980, Tenace was adept at reaching base (.388 career on-base percentage) and played for three World Series championship Athletics clubs.

“You put my name on the lineup card and the only thing I’ll guarantee you is 100 percent,” Tenace told the Post-Dispatch.

Tenace hit a double to the base of the wall in left-center. Oberkfell moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt placed between the pitcher and third baseman.

Up next was Herr. When the count got to 2-and-1, Herzog called for the suicide squeeze.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” Herr told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Tenace said, “Once you get the sign, you try to maintain your composure. If you trigger it too soon, it’s going to backfire. If you break too quick or too early, it’s not going to work. The runner makes the play. You’ve got to time the pitcher. When he puts his leg up, you break.”

Herr decided he would try to bunt the ball toward the middle of the diamond. “Usually, you try to bunt to either first base or third base, but in that situation, if you just get it on the ground, it’s going to score a run,” he said.

Herr bunted toward the mound and Tenace barreled down the line. “The ball had a little backspin,” Herr said. “The backspin deadened it enough.”

Sambito gloved the ball and flicked it to catcher Alan Ashby, but Tenace dived safely across the plate, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Ashby threw wildly to first base and Herr scurried to second on the error.

After lifting Sutter for a pinch-hitter, Herzog turned to 42-year-old Jim Kaat to protect the lead. Kaat did the job, retiring all three batters he faced. Boxscore

The 1981 Cardinals went on to achieve the best overall record in the East Division at 59-43, but didn’t get to the playoffs because of the lame decision by baseball officials to award split-season division titles _ one based on records before the players’ strike and another based on records after the strike.

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(Updated May 8, 2021)

As managers, Red Schoendienst and Dallas Green led teams to World Series championships. As players, they faced one another with the outcome of a game on the line.

Sixty years ago, on April 28, 1961, Schoendienst came up as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning and stroked a two-run double against Green, lifting the Cardinals to a 10-9 walkoff victory versus the Phillies at St. Louis.

Schoendienst, 38, was in his first season back with the Cardinals after being traded by them in June 1956. Green, 26, was in his second season in the majors and trying to overcome persistent shoulder and arm ailments.

After their playing careers, Schoendienst managed the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1967 and Green did the same for the Phillies in 1980.

Heading home

A second baseman of Hall of Fame caliber with the Cardinals, Giants and Braves, Schoendienst was at a career crossroads in 1961. He sat out most of the 1959 season while recovering from tuberculosis and was released by the Braves in October 1960.

Angels general manager Fred Haney, who managed the Braves to a World Series championship in 1957 when Schoendienst was the second baseman, offered him a contract to play for the American League expansion team in 1961. Schoendienst almost accepted, but opted instead for an invitation to spring training with the Cardinals.

Schoendienst was issued uniform No. 16 because the No. 2 he wore for most of his first stint with the Cardinals belonged to catcher Hal Smith. Smith voluntarily gave No. 2 back to Schoendienst.

“When Red was with the Cardinals the first time, he wore No. 2 and had two children,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “When he was with the Braves, he wore No. 4 and had four children. When he came back to the Cardinals, he was given No. 16, so ….”

Schoendienst made the Opening Day roster, accepting a role as pinch-hitter and backup to second baseman Julian Javier.

“Don’t write me off,” Schoendienst said to The Sporting News. “This is too much fun. I’m not ready to throw in the towel.”

Clutch hit

A switch-hitter, Schoendienst had a sizzling start to the 1961 season, hitting .348 in April.

Dallas Green also did well early for the Phillies. A right-hander, he earned a spot in the starting rotation and pitched a shutout against the Giants in his first appearance of the season.

“For the first time in several years, I can throw without pain,” Green told The Sporting News. “You just can’t imagine what a feeling it is to be able to let go again.”

When the Phillies and Cardinals played on April 28, a raw, chilly Friday night at Busch Stadium, the starting pitchers were Robin Roberts and Ernie Broglio. The Cardinals led 6-1 after four innings, but the Phillies rallied. The game went to extra innings and the Phillies went ahead, 9-8, in the 11th.

Green, the Phillies’ seventh pitcher of the game, was working his third inning when the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the 11th.

Sent to bat for pitcher Al Cicotte, Schoendienst lined a double into the right-field corner, scoring Carl Sawatski and Alex Grammas.

“A good pitch, a slider, I think,” Schoendienst said to the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Getting it done

Three months later, on July 6, when the Cardinals fired manager Solly Hemus and replaced him with coach Johnny Keane, Schoendienst was added to the staff as player-coach.

Schoendienst led by example, becoming “one of the best pinch-hitters in the business,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

For the season, Schoendienst hit .347 as a pinch-hitter and .300 overall. In 54 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, his on-base percentage was .407.

In 133 plate appearances overall in 1961, Schoendienst had six strikeouts, or one out of 22 times. No other Cardinal whiffed so infrequently in 1961, The Sporting News reported. Only once did he hit into a double play during the season. 

Schoendienst continued as a player-coach for Keane in 1962, hitting .306 as a pinch-hitter and .301 overall.

He began the 1963 season in the same role, but after going hitless in six plate appearances, the Cardinals opted to remove Schoendienst from the player roster. According to Cardinals Gameday Magazine, general manager Bing Devine informed Schoendienst he could remain with the Cardinals as a coach or make his own deal to sign with another club as a player.

“I’ve talked to five clubs,” Devine told Schoendienst. “They all said they want you.”

Schoendienst chose to stay as a coach, ending his playing days. 

For his big-league career, Schoendienst had better numbers as a pinch-hitter (.305 batting average and .371 on-base percentage) than he did overall (.289 batting average and .337 on-base percentage).

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Cardinals pitcher Larry Jackson and Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider found out the hard way that bats and balls, like sticks and stones, may break bones.

On March 27, 1961, Jackson suffered a fractured jaw when Snider’s bat splintered and struck Jackson in the face during a spring training game.

Three weeks later, on April 17, 1961, Snider suffered a fractured right elbow when the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson hit him with a pitch during an at-bat in the regular season.

Gibson’s plunking of Snider had more to do with the home run Snider hit in his previous at-bat against Gibson than it did with the accident involving Jackson.

Jackson and Snider recovered from their injuries, and each went on to have a productive season.

Painful outing

Jackson was pitching in his last scheduled inning when Snider came to bat in the exhibition game between the Cardinals and Dodgers at Vero Beach, Fla.

Snider had hit a two-run home run in the first and a two-run double in the third against Jackson. In the sixth, with baserunner Tommy Davis on second, Snider was looking to drive in another run.

Jackson threw a pitch near Snider’s fists. Snider connected, shattering the bat and sending pieces of it flying. The ball hit Jackson on the hip and fell to the ground. As Jackson turned to retrieve it, the heavy end of the bat, whirling rapidly through the air, struck him in the lower left jaw.

“Bleeding from cuts inside his mouth, Jackson fell in a heap in front of the mound, but did not lose consciousness,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In his book “The Duke of Flatbush,” Snider said, “I felt awful about it, but that’s one of the occupational hazards of pitching.”

Jackson was taken by ambulance to a Vero Beach hospital and given emergency treatment. X-rays showed he had two fractures in the jaw.

Jackson was permitted to return on a chartered flight to St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Cardinals trained. His jaw was wired that night by a surgeon at a St. Petersburg hospital.

Released from the hospital on March 31, Jackson pitched batting practice a few days later. The Cardinals targeted the end of April for his return in a game.

Purpose pitch

After the Cardinals opened the season with wins in three of their first five games, they started Gibson against the Dodgers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In the third, Gibson threw a pitch on the outside corner to Snider, a left-handed batter. In the book “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “I pitched away to Snider because he was a good pull hitter.”

Snider poked the ball over the screen in left for a two-run home run and a 3-1 Dodgers lead.

The next time Snider came up, in the fifth, “I was still going to pitch him outside,” Gibson said.

Gibson changed his mind when he noticed Snider lean in. “So I threw the next pitch tight to brush him back away from the plate,” Gibson said.

Snider barely saw the fastball. “It came right at me,” Snider said. “It was headed for my ribs and I brought up my right arm instinctively to protect my body. The pitch hit my elbow and the ball dropped straight to the ground. It was no glancing blow. It hit me flush.”

Snider advanced to first and was thrown out attempting to steal second.

When he tried to bat again in the seventh, Snider “felt a sharp pain in that right elbow, like someone jabbing a needle in there” and was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

An examination revealed the elbow was fractured.

“I saw Duke after the game,” Gibson said. “I didn’t apologize to him. He knew I was sorry. He knew I wasn’t throwing at him. I was just trying to move him away from the plate, trying to get him to think and not take things for granted up there.”

In the book “We Would have Played For Nothing,” Snider told former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, “I know that Bob Gibson has told people he never threw at a player on purpose. Bob Gibson is a nice guy, but he stretches the truth a little bit once in a while.” Boxscore

We meet again

Jackson’s absence from the starting rotation the first few weeks of the 1961 season was a significant setback for the Cardinals. The year before, he won 18 and led the National League in innings pitched (282).

A right-hander, Jackson made his first appearance of the 1961 season on April 26, a month after his injury, in a start against the Braves.

He lost his first three decisions, prompting The Sporting News to note, “After subsisting on liquids and soft foods for a month, Jackson showed he needed a few steaks to beef up his pitching.”

Meanwhile, after sitting out a month, Snider returned on May 19 as a pinch-hitter and was back in the Dodgers’ starting lineup on May 22.

Two days later, the Dodgers opened a series at St. Louis. Jackson started Game 1 and faced Snider for the first time since the spring training accident. Snider walked three times, but didn’t get a hit, and Jackson got his first win of the season. Boxscore

The next night, Gibson started and faced Snider for the first time since he suffered the fractured elbow. Snider got a single in four at-bats. Sandy Koufax pitched a three-hitter and Tommy Davis hit a home run in a 1-0 Dodgers triumph. Boxscore

Keep going

On June 26, Jackson lost to the Braves, sinking his record for the season to 3-8. Manager Solly Hemus dropped him from the starting rotation.

Two weeks later, Hemus was fired and Johnny Keane replaced him. Jackson returned to the rotation and won 11 of his next 12 decisions.

“There’s no pitcher in the league right now who’s better than Larry Jackson,” Keane said to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Jackson finished the season at 14-11 with three shutouts and 211 innings pitched. He made six starts against the Dodgers and was 1-3. Snider hit .294 versus Jackson in 1961 and .219 for his career.

Snider finished the season with 16 home runs and a .296 batting mark. Against Gibson, Snider hit .300 in 1961 and .212 for his career.

 

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Chuck Dressen thumbed his nose at being tossed.

On June 6, 1951, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Dressen, the Dodgers’ manager, was ejected in the fifth inning for complaining about ball and strike calls while Peanuts Lowrey batted for the Cardinals.

After plate umpire Artie Gore motioned for Dressen to take a hike, the manager stormed out of the dugout, kicked dirt around the plate and gesticulated wildly.

The performance ended when Dressen departed down the dugout steps, but it was just the first act in an afternoon of theatrics.

Costume party

According to the New York Daily News, Dressen went “to the cubicle beneath the stands, where it is possible to do a little bootleg managing.”

Unsatisfied with that arrangement, Dressen dreamed up a different scheme. According to The Sporting News, Dressen put on a groundskeeper’s cap and jacket and slipped into a corner of the Dodgers’ dugout, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed. He was about to pick up a rake to enhance the disguise when Cardinals manager Marty Marion spotted him and informed Gore.

“Marty turned me in when I was giving out instructions from the dugout,” Dressen told The Sporting News.

After being ordered by Gore to leave the dugout, Dressen headed for the clubhouse, but he wasn’t done.

Sitting pretty

In the seventh inning, Dressen, wearing street clothes, positioned himself in a box seat next to the Dodgers’ dugout on the first-base side.

Ever vigilant, Marion detected Dressen and again informed Gore. According to Marion, Gore replied, “There is nothing wrong with that, but if you see him doing anything to run the team from there, you let me know and I’ll chase him,” the New York Daily News reported.

Marion saw shortstop Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers’ captain, go over to Dressen’s seat.

“Dressen was giving the signs and motioned for Reese to get some pitchers warmed up,” Marion told The Sporting News. “He was making a joke of the game.”

When Marion advised Gore what he had seen, Gore told Dressen to leave. Dressen watched the rest of the game from team owner Walter O’Malley’s private perch under the mezzanine behind home plate.

Asked whether he was giving instructions to Reese, Dressen “grinned and said he wasn’t that dumb,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

“I just told Pee Wee to find out from Gore what Marion was complaining about,” Dressen said. “I wouldn’t try to relay signs right out there in the open.”

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Dressen said he sat in the box seat at the request of a photographer. Dressen told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the photos were for a shoe polish ad.

Some nerve

The Dodgers won, 3-2. Roy Campanella drove in all the Dodgers’ runs and Ralph Branca pitched a complete game. Boxscore

Marion protested the game on the grounds that Dressen broke the rules when he didn’t stay away after being ejected in the fifth inning.

National League president Ford Frick fined Dressen $100 for “failure to leave the bench when ejected and for masquerading in the dugout,” but denied the protest.

Miffed that Marion turned him in to Gore, Dressen told The Sporting News, “If I ever get the chance, you can bet I’ll pour it on him good. I don’t appreciate what he did to me.”

Nearly 50 years later, on June 9, 1999, in a night game against the Blue Jays, Mets manager Bobby Valentine returned to the dugout disguised in sunglasses and a fake moustache after being ejected. Valentine said he was fined $5,000 and suspended for two games for the prank. Video

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After he was fired from his job as Cardinals manager, Ken Boyer stayed with the organization and worked for his successor, Whitey Herzog.

Forty years ago, in February 1981, Boyer was at Cardinals spring training camp as an instructor, working with players who a year earlier he had managed.

It was one of multiple roles Boyer would fill for the Cardinals in 1981.

Helping hand

Cardinals general manager John Claiborne asked Boyer to stay with the franchise after Herzog replaced Boyer as manager in June 1980.

Boyer, an all-star and Gold Glove Award winner when he was Cardinals third baseman in the 1950s and 1960s, accepted the invitation and was assigned to visit the farm clubs, instructing and evaluating prospects.

In August 1980, Claiborne was fired and Herzog took on the additional role of general manager.

Boyer and Herzog became friends in 1966 when both were with the Mets. Boyer, the third baseman, and Herzog, a coach, shared an apartment in New York with Yankees players Roger Maris and Clete Boyer, Ken’s brother.

After he took over the baseball operations of the Cardinals in 1980, Herzog assigned Boyer to be an advance scout for the 1981 season.

“Whitey told me I’ve got the job that, in the back of his mind, he always thought he’d like to have,” Boyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Boyer’s job was to watch opposing National League teams and file reports on strengths and weaknesses before the Cardinals played them. He also was tasked with watching six American League clubs to rate players the Cardinals might want to acquire.

In addition to the scouting job, Boyer was asked by Herzog to come to training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1981 and help out in early drills.

Boyer agreed and was on the field daily with the Cardinals players in preparation for the Grapefruit League exhibition season.

Staying informed

When he was done helping on the field at training camp, Boyer took on the scouting assignment with gusto. He told the Post-Dispatch two other organizations had made offers to him to be a minor-league manager, but he rejected both in order to stay with the Cardinals.

“I’m really excited about it,” Boyer said of the scouting role. “It really keeps you in touch with all the right people … and it keeps you in touch with the players. You can ask a ballplayer two questions and he might tell you what’s going on with his club and around the whole league.”

In June 1981, while the major-league players were on strike and scouting was curtailed, Boyer stepped in when the Cardinals needed an interim manager at their farm team in Gastonia, N.C., after Joe Rigoli was suspended for bumping an umpire during an argument.

Boyer was back scouting when the players ended their strike in August.

Ol’ Kentucky home

After the 1981 season, the Cardinals’ top farm team relocated from Springfield, Ill., to Louisville. The owner of the Louisville Redbirds, A. Ray Smith, asked the Cardinals for Boyer to be the manager. They’d been together before. When the Cardinals’ Class AAA farm team was at Tulsa, Smith was the owner and Boyer was manager from 1974-76. 

Boyer never had been to Louisville and wasn’t keen on giving up a job scouting major-league teams to return to riding buses in the minors, but he agreed to visit before making up his mind.

Dan Ulmer, co-chairman of a committee to raise funds to refurbish a football stadium into a ballpark for the Redbirds, told the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Boyer didn’t think too much about the idea at first. Before he came here, he probably gave Louisville about a rating of 3 on a scale of 10. When he saw the stadium and the enthusiasm, we quickly moved up to about an 8 in his estimation.”

On Nov. 13, 1981, Boyer was introduced as Redbirds manager at a news conference in Louisville.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Boyer told the Courier-Journal. “I welcome this challenge to get back into managing.”

Noting the widespread support for the return of a Class AAA ballclub to Louisville for the first time since 1972, Boyer said to the Associated Press, “It’s more like moving into a big-league market than a minor-league one.”

Attending the news conference as an observer was resident Pee Wee Reese, the former shortstop of the Dodgers. Reese had been team captain of the Dodgers, just like Boyer had been team captain of the Cardinals.

When Boyer spotted Reese, he said to him, “We’re going to make this Cardinals country, Captain. The Dodger Blue has gone as far as it can go. What do you think of that?”

“Reese shrugged,” Billy Reed of the Courier-Journal noted. “As a lifelong Louisvillan, he’s happy to see Class AAA baseball come back to town.”

Terrible time

Shortly after he was named Louisville manager, Boyer, 50, had a routine physical examination. The doctor ordered a biopsy, which revealed Boyer, a smoker, had inoperable cancer in both lungs and the esophagus, according to the book “Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain.”

Boyer, divorced, initially told only his children about the diagnosis, according to the biography. He began receiving treatment in St. Louis after Thanksgiving Day. Boyer eventually informed Cardinals management, according to the book, but requested no announcement about his condition.

In January 1982, Boyer went to Mexico to receive treatments of the drug laetrile. Extracted from apricot pits, laetrile was not approved in the United States as an effective treatment for cancer.

After Boyer failed to show for a promotional event in Louisville on Jan. 21, 1982, the Courier-Journal reported he was “seriously ill.”

A. Ray Smith confirmed to the newspaper that Boyer had lung cancer, but said, “In my judgment, I think he’ll manage here.”

Joe McDonald, assistant to Whitey Herzog, said, “We expect Ken Boyer to be our manager in Louisville this season.”

A month later, on Feb. 22, 1982, with spring training approaching, Smith said Boyer wouldn’t be able to manage the Louisville club. Boyer’s health problems “are very serious,” Smith told the Associated Press.

Smith wanted former Angels manager Jim Fregosi to replace Boyer, but Fregosi declined, the Courier-Journal reported.

Cardinals scout Joe Frazier, former manager of the Mets, was chosen to manage Louisville in 1982. Frazier and Boyer were Cardinals teammates in 1955 and 1956.

Seven months later, on Sept. 7, 1982, a month before the Cardinals became World Series champions, Boyer, 51, died in St. Louis. 

 

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