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Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Though given an offer he called the best he’d ever received, Gene Mauch rejected a chance to manage the Cardinals.

In August 1980, when Whitey Herzog was promoted from manager to general manager of the Cardinals, Mauch was Herzog’s choice to replace him.

If Mauch had accepted the offer, he might have earned the prize that eluded him.

Mauch, who would manage for 26 years in the major leagues, never led a team to a league pennant or World Series championship. Two years after Mauch turned down the Cardinals, Herzog managed the team to the 1982 National League title and World Series crown.

Whether the Cardinals would have achieved the same with Mauch as their manager is conjecture, but it is a fact Herzog wanted to give him the opportunity.

Wanted: Type A

In June 1980, with the Cardinals’ record at 18-33, manager Ken Boyer was fired and replaced by Herzog. Two months later, Cardinals general manager John Claiborne was fired and replaced by Herzog. Red Schoendienst, Cardinals coach and former manager, was named interim manager for the remainder of the season.

Cardinals owner Gussie Busch elevated Herzog to the general manager role because he believed a roster overall was needed to make the club a contender and he wanted Herzog to oversee the rebuilding job.

One of Herzog’s first tasks was to find a manager.

“The players are too passive … I want the players to be more aggressive,” Herzog said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “One quality I’ll be looking for in a manager is someone who is aggressive himself.”

The first candidate Herzog contacted was Mauch. “I do know he’s a fine manager _ I managed against him _ and he has a great baseball mind,” Herzog said.

Mauch, 54, was available because he had resigned as Twins manager in August 1980.

After Mauch joined the Twins in 1976, the organization severed ties with several of their best players through trades (Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven) or free agency (Larry Hisle, Bill Campbell). Mauch led the Twins to winning records in three of his first four seasons, but they had a 54-71 mark in 1980 when he chose to leave rather than return for the final year on his contract.

“I’ve had some bad teams _ teams that were bad enough to gag a maggot _ but even those teams were able to steal some games by executing,” Mauch told The Sporting News. “This season, we have lost because of a failure to execute.”

Mauch, an infielder, played nine seasons in the big leagues, including seven games with the 1952 Cardinals.

At 34, he was named manager of the Phillies in 1960. Four years later, Mauch had the Phillies in first place _ a 6.5-game lead with 12 to play _ but the team lost 10 in a row and finished a game behind the champion Cardinals.

Mauch managed the Phillies for nine years (1960-68), the Expos for seven (1969-75) and the Twins for five (1976-80).

He and Herzog competed in the same division, the American League West, from 1976-79 when Herzog managed the Royals.

Change of plans

Asked by Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch in September 1980 whether he was interested in becoming Cardinals manager, Mauch replied, “Let me say this: If I take another managing job, it will have to be with a team which has a chance to win. I think the Cardinals have a chance to win.”

Hummel concluded, “Mauch … would be Herzog’s type of manager. The Cardinals are in need of a demanding, tough-guy sort of leader.”

By early October, just before the 1980 regular season ended, Herzog’s top two choices for the managerial job became clear:  Mauch and Dick Williams.

Williams, manager of the Expos, was under contract to them for 1981, but there had been published speculation the club could be considering a change. Williams was a St. Louis native and, like Mauch, an experienced manager with a no-nonsense approach. He had managed the 1967 Red Sox to an AL pennant and he had led the Athletics to World Series championships in 1972 and 1973.

When it became evident Williams would stay with the Expos, Herzog offered the job to Mauch.

“It is no secret that Mauch was Herzog’s first choice for the job,” Hummel wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Unsure he was ready to manage again, Mauch declined.

Recalled Herzog: “He said, ‘I don’t want you to hold off on me. It’s probably the best offer I’ve ever had, but I just don’t feel like I want to do it.’ ”

Herzog also confirmed to Larry Harnly of The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., that Mauch had turned down the Cardinals’ offer.

With Mauch and Williams unavailable, Herzog decided to hire himself.

On Oct. 24, 1980, the Cardinals announced Herzog would have the dual role of general manager and manager. Herzog hired his friend, Joe McDonald, former general manager of the Mets, to be executive assistant/baseball and take care of the administrative and business duties while Herzog focused on baseball matters.

(Herzog’s first choice for the assistant’s role had been Bing Devine, who had served two stints as Cardinals general manager, but Lou Susman, attorney for club owner Gussie Busch, opposed the move and blocked it, according to Hummel in the Post-Dispatch.)

Four months later, in February 1981, Mauch was named director of player personnel for the Angels.

“I had offers to manage four clubs this winter,” Mauch said. “If I wanted to manage, I’d be in one of those places. Right now, I don’t want to manage.”

In May 1981, the Angels fired manager Jim Fregosi _ and replaced him with Mauch.

Previously: Battle of wills: Bob Gibson, Gene Mauch play hardball

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Though the Cardinals were cash poor and never had won a National League pennant, their outlook was hopeful in 1917 because the top two leaders of their baseball operations, Branch Rickey and Miller Huggins, were among the best in the business.

Rickey, the Cardinals’ president, and Huggins, their manager, were smart, innovative and effective. Both would build careers that would earn them election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

They worked together, however, for just one season in St. Louis.

Rickey and the Cardinals wanted Huggins to stay. Rickey, however, was the decision-maker on all key baseball matters _ a role Huggins wanted. Huggins also felt he had been misled when denied the chance to become part of the ownership group.

On Oct. 25, 1917, Huggins left the Cardinals to become manager of the Yankees. With a lineup anchored by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Huggins managed the Yankees to six American League pennants and three World Series titles.

Rickey went on to build the first minor-league system, establishing a steady supply of affordable talent that transformed the Cardinals from a lackluster franchise into an elite one.

Front-office intrigue

Huggins, who, like Rickey, earned a law degree, played in the major leagues as a second baseman for the Reds (1904-09) and Cardinals (1910-16).

A favorite of team owner Helene Britton, Huggins became the Cardinals’ player-manager in 1913. In that role, Huggins made all the important baseball decisions, including acquisition of players. His friend and most trusted scout, St. Louis native Bob Connery, discovered the future Hall of Famer, Rogers Hornsby, and brought him to the Cardinals.

After the 1916 season, Britton decided to sell and she promised Huggins he would have first chance to buy the franchise. Huggins was friends with the owners of the Fleischmann’s Yeast company of Cincinnati and they planned to bankroll his bid to purchase the Cardinals.

When Britton’s attorney, James C. Jones, learned of his client’s intentions, he organized a St. Louis group of investors, who included auto dealer Sam Breadon, and convinced her to sell the Cardinals to them. Jones was named chairman of the club. Needing someone to run the baseball side of the business, the group hired Rickey from the crosstown American League Browns and named him president.

For Huggins, the new management structure “placed over him a man who did all the club’s business of finding and hiring players and left Huggins nothing to do but to direct them. Furthermore, with Rickey as president, getting a $15,000 salary, or twice the sum Huggins received, friction was inevitable,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Though stung by the sale of the team and by the emergence of Rickey as baseball boss, Huggins managed the Cardinals to an 82-70 record and third-place finish in 1917. Those were the most wins in a season for the franchise since 1899 and just the second time the club finished as high as third place since joining the National League.

“The fact that he had suffered a bitter disappointment in not being given a chance to buy the club himself _ a chance promised him by Mrs. Britton _ did not interfere with his services” to the 1917 Cardinals, the Post-Dispatch proclaimed.

Bidding game

After the 1917 season, Rickey offered Huggins a salary of $10,000, plus 10 percent of all club profits over $25,000, to remain Cardinals manager in 1918, the Post-Dispatch reported

Huggins. who made a counter offer, told the St. Louis Star-Times that Rickey “failed to meet my terms.”

Rickey said Huggins “seemed to agree with me that the percentage above $25,000 was fair in these days of inflated baseball salaries, but managers, like players, are seeking more money every day. I felt that in justice to my board of directors that I could offer Huggins no greater percentage of the club’s profits.”

Huggins accepted a Yankees offer of a two-year contract at $12,000 per year. According to a report in the Post-Dispatch, the Yankees also agreed to pay Huggins “a small percentage of the profits of the club.”

Noting that Huggins “has put up with a world of inconveniences and misfits” as Cardinals manager, the Star-Times opined, “Huggins has made a great leader for the Cardinals and has been very much unappreciated … There is no doubt that Huggins is one of the smartest fish in baseball. The wisest men on the diamond will tell you that.”

Right move

Huggins replaced Bill Donovan, who had managed the Yankees to a 71-82 record in 1917. The Yankees had losing records in two of Donovan’s three seasons as manager.

“I had no quarrel with the St. Louis club and I’m leaving the Cardinals under the most friendly circumstances and with the best of wishes for their success,” Huggins said. “The club made me an offer to remain, but I left because I felt that I could do better (in New York). I talked the whole matter over with President Rickey.”

Said Rickey: “I can only say that my best wishes go with Huggins and that he is a great field general _ one of the best I have ever known. We hold no grievance against him.”

The Sporting News concluded, “Rickey understood that it was not entirely a money proposition with Huggins. The opportunity to lead a club in New York, where he would be in supreme charge of the makeup and handling of his team, was bound to appeal to any ambitious baseball man.”

Huggins managed the Yankees for 12 years (1918-29) and had a record of 1,067-719. Including his Cardinals years, Huggins had 1,413 career wins as a big-league manager.

Rickey replaced Huggins with a manager from the minor-league Indianapolis Indians, Jack Hendricks, and it was a disaster. The Cardinals finished 51-78 in 1918. Rickey took over as manager the following year.

Previously: How Branch Rickey escaped Browns, joined Cardinals

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A month into his first season as Cardinals manager, Solly Hemus behaved in a way that damaged his reputation and diminished his stature among some players.

Desperate and disgusted when the Cardinals lost 15 of their first 20 games in 1959, Hemus resorted to insults and intimidation in an effort to rattle the opposition and motivate his team.

Using racist remarks, Hemus lost respect and created resentment.

Two years later, he was fired during the 1961 season.

Managing up

Hemus, an infielder, played for the Cardinals from 1949 until he was traded to the Phillies in May 1956. Skilled at reaching base, Hemus scored 105 runs in 1952 and 110 in 1953.

After he was traded, Hemus, a prolific letter writer, wrote to Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, expressing gratitude for his playing career in St. Louis and indicating a desire to return to the organization.

Busch and Hemus continued to correspond. When the Cardinals fired Fred Hutchinson in September 1958, Hemus was Busch’s choice _ not general manager Bing Devine’s _ to become player-manager.

The 1959 Cardinals started sluggishly under Hemus. After losing the first game of a doubleheader to the Pirates on May 3 at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals’ record was 5-15. The Pirates won in the 10th when a fly ball by Bill Mazeroski was misjudged by right fielder Gino Cimoli and sailed over his head for a RBI-single.

An instigator

Furious and determined to shake the Cardinals from their slumber, Hemus put himself into the starting lineup at second base for Game 2.

In the first inning, Hemus faced Bennie Daniels, making his first start of the season for the Pirates.

A pitch from Daniels to Hemus “nicked him on the right pants leg,” according to The Pittsburgh Press.

“Hemus just stuck his leg out to be hit on purpose as usual,” Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Daniels’ pitch “wasn’t a brushback pitch, but Hemus tried to make a federal case out of it,” said Pittsburgh writer Les Biederman.

As Hemus went to first base, he “tossed a few choice phrases in Daniels’ direction,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In his book “The Long Season,” Cardinals reliever Jim Brosnan said, “(Hemus) yelled at Daniels, ‘You black bastard.’ ”

Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, in his book “Stranger to the Game,” said, “I can understand that Hemus wanted to light a fire under us, but that was no excuse for calling Daniels a black bastard.”

As Daniels and Hemus exchanged words, Pirates first baseman Dick Stuart “blocked Solly’s path in case he might be thinking of pursuing Daniels,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Players poured onto the field, but there was no fighting.

In his book, “Uppity,” Cardinals first baseman Bill White said, “After that, Daniels always called Hemus ‘Little Faubus,’ a reference to Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, who tried to block school desegregation in Little Rock in 1957.”

Tempers flare

In the third inning, Hemus blooped a run-scoring double to left against Daniels, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

When Hemus batted again in the sixth, Daniels’ first pitch “just missed” Hemus’ chin, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“I didn’t think that pitch was too close,” Daniels told the Post-Gazette. “I guess Hemus did.”

On the next delivery, Hemus moved up in the batter’s box and “threw his bat toward Daniels before the pitch reached the plate,” The Pittsburgh Press said.

“What was I supposed to do, turn the other cheek?” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch. “The bat slipped out of my hand just like the ball slipped out of Daniels’ hand.”

The bat landed several feet from Daniels. Again, players rushed onto the field. This time, there were scuffles.

Murtaugh “got a short punch at Hemus during the fighting and drew a little blood,” according to The Pittsburgh Press.

Hemus, who told The Sporting News he “was clipped a few times,” grappled with Pirates coach Len Levy.

“I told Solly it was silly to be throwing a bat because somebody could be killed,” Levy said. “Hemus challenged me, so I had to protect myself.”

Fans booed and threw beer cans onto the field.

After order was restored, play resumed with no ejections. “They didn’t have anything to throw me out for,” Hemus said.

Daniels retired Hemus on a groundout to short. After the Cardinals completed their half of the inning, Hemus removed himself from the game.

(Because of a curfew, the game was suspended in the seventh and resumed on the Cardinals’ next trip to Pittsburgh in June. The Cardinals won, 3-1.) Boxscore

Bad example

Noting that Hemus claimed he had tried to put a spark into the Cardinals, Brosnan said, “If that truly was his intention, he did it as awkwardly as he could. All he proved to me was that little men _ or boys _ shouldn’t play with sparks, as well as with matches.”

Wrote the Post-Gazette: “Hemus’ behavior seemed something less than expected from a major league manager.”

The Pittsburgh Press concluded Hemus “went to great lengths to set what turned out to be a bad example.”

After the second game was suspended, Hemus held a closed-door meeting with his team.

During the session, Gibson said, “Hemus referred to Daniels as a nigger … It was hard to believe our manager could be so thickheaded and it was even harder to play for a guy who unapologetically regarded black players as niggers.”

In his book “The Way It Is,” Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood said Hemus told the team, “I want you to be the first to know what I said to Daniels. I called him a black son of a bitch.”

Flood said he and teammates “sat with our jaws open, eyeing each other” as Hemus spoke.

“We had been wondering how the manager really felt about us,” Flood said. “Now we knew. Black sons of bitches.”

Said Gibson: “Hemus’ treatment of black players was the result of one of the following: Either he disliked us deeply or he genuinely believed that the way to motivate us was with insults.”

White said of Hemus, “I never had a problem with him, but some of the other players, especially Curt Flood and Bob Gibson, absolutely despised him, partly because he didn’t play them as much as they would have liked but also because they thought he was a racist.”

In 1992, Gibson recalled, Hemus approached him at a Cardinals reunion and said he wasn’t a racist. Gibson reminded Hemus of the incident with Daniels. According to Gibson, Hemus defended himself as “a master motivator doing what he could to fire up the ball club.”

Said Gibson: “My response was ‘Bullshit.’ ”

In his book “October 1964,” author David Halberstam said Hemus “was saddened that years later Gibson and Flood still thought of him as a racist. He accepted the blame for what had happened. The world had been changing, but he had not, he later decided.”

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Leo Durocher, combative shortstop of the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang teams of the mid-1930s, fell out of favor with manager Frankie Frisch.

Their relationship deteriorated so badly Frisch issued an ultimatum to Cardinals executive Branch Rickey: Either Durocher goes or I go.

On Oct. 5, 1937, the Cardinals dealt Durocher to the Dodgers for third baseman Joe Stripp, second baseman Jim Bucher, outfielder Johnny Cooney and pitcher Roy Henshaw.

The trade, it turned out, created a career-boosting opportunity for Durocher. After a season as the Dodgers’ starting shortstop, he became their player-manager in 1939. Durocher went on to a successful, sometimes stormy, managerial career that earned him election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, none of the players acquired by the Cardinals for Durocher contributed much. Frisch, who had been player-manager since 1933, was fired in September 1938 near the end of the Cardinals’ first losing season in six years.

Battle of wills

Durocher had come to the Cardinals from the Reds in a May 1933 trade. As their starting shortstop, Durocher helped the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1934. He led National League shortstops in fielding percentage in 1936.

Complaining of a kidney ailment and bad back, Durocher had a poor start to the 1937 season. After going hitless in a May 4 game at Boston against the Braves, Durocher’s batting average was at .132.

After the game, Durocher asked Frisch for permission to stay out of the hotel past the manager-mandated midnight curfew. The request upset Frisch, who accused Durocher, the team captain, of being focused more on fun than on performance.

The next day, May 5, Frisch benched Durocher and started Jimmy Brown at shortstop against the Braves.

After an off day on May 6, the Cardinals opened a series against the Giants at New York. Brown started at shortstop in the May 7 game.

When Frisch posted a lineup with Brown at shortstop again on May 8 against the Giants, Durocher declined to take batting or fielding practice at the Polo Grounds.

Durocher’s defiance was intolerable to Frisch.

“Nobody on my team _ even you _ can show such a lack of spirit,” Frisch said to Durocher.

When Durocher spoke up for himself, saying he had played earlier despite being ill and in pain, Frisch barked, “Get a train and go back to St. Louis. Get out of here.”

Durocher didn’t depart, but he didn’t get back into the starting lineup until May 12 against the Phillies at Philadelphia.

Big deal

Durocher, 32, played out the rest of the season as the Cardinals’ primary shortstop. He batted .203 in 135 games and grounded into a team-high 17 double plays.

In summarizing Durocher’s season, the St. Louis Star-Times wrote, “He was off stride at the very start, complained of illness and injuries, and was anything but the brilliant defensive player he had been. Durocher gained weight and was unable to handle the important shortstop position with his old-time finesse. Batted balls to his left and to his right became base hits.”

On Oct. 5, two days after the completion of the Cardinals’ season, Rickey was in New York to attend the World Series between the Giants and Yankees when he made the trade with the Dodgers.

Dick Farrington, in a column for The Sporting News, declared, “Leo Durocher’s passing from the Cards to the Dodgers was a case of ‘It’s Durocher or me’ with Frankie Frisch.”

A headline in The Sporting News blared, “Frisch Responsible For Durocher Going.”

The key players in the deal for the Cardinals were Stripp and Bucher. Stripp _ “Generally regarded as one of the best third sackers in the major leagues,” according to the Post-Dispatch _ long had been coveted by Frisch. Rickey liked Bucher, who had started his career in the Cardinals’ system before being drafted by the Dodgers.

“Bucher, alone, is a better ballplayer than Durocher,” Giants manager Bill Terry told International News Service in rating the deal a steal for St. Louis.

According to The Sporting News, “The first impulse of Brooklyn fans was heavily against the switch” because they thought four players were too high a price for Durocher.

However, Pie Traynor, Pirates manager, said, “The Dodgers got a great shortstop and they didn’t give up anybody who could help them.”

Dodgers benefit

The 1938 season was a failure for Frisch and the Cardinals.

Stripp squabbled with management over his contract and got a late start to the season. He batted .286 in 54 games but was sent to the Braves on Aug. 1.

Bucher, who spent most of the year in the minors, hit .228 in 17 Cardinals games.

Henshaw had a 5-11 record and 4.02 ERA for the Cardinals.

Cooney was released on the eve of the season opener.

On Sept. 11, with the Cardinals’ record at 63-72, Frisch was fired and replaced by a coach, Mike Gonzalez, for the rest of the season.

Durocher in 1938 led National League shortstops in fielding percentage and was named to the all-star team.

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cards to oust Frankie Frisch

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The last hit of the Hall of Fame career of Frankie Frisch completed a ninth-inning comeback that carried the Cardinals to a walkoff victory and inspired his teammates to carry Frisch off the field.

In 1937, Frisch, 40, was manager of the Cardinals. He also was in his last season as a player.

Frisch had been a standout second baseman for the Giants from 1919 to 1926. After he was dealt for Rogers Hornsby, Frisch continued his success with the Cardinals, helping them to four National League pennants and two World Series titles. He became their player-manager in 1933.

As late as 1936, Frisch played 59 games at second base and 22 at third base for the Cardinals, batting .274 with an on-base percentage of .353.

In 1937, however, Frisch seldom appeared in the lineup.

His last game at second base was on May 29, 1937. Over the next two months, he had five at-bats as a pinch hitter. Frisch failed to reach base in any of those plate appearances.

So it was a bit of a surprise when, with the outcome on the line in the Cardinals’ game against the Braves on Aug. 4 at St. Louis, Frisch put himself at the plate as a pinch hitter.

Keep the line moving

The Braves led, 6-2, entering the bottom of the ninth inning of the Wednesday afternoon game before 2,303 spectators at Sportsman’s Park.

Braves starter Lou Fette, who had a 13-3 record, appeared to be in control. The rookie from Alma, Mo., retired two of the first three batters in the ninth. Terry Moore, who had walked, was on first base when Johnny Mize came to the plate, representing the Cardinals’ last hope.

With a four-run lead, the Braves weren’t holding Moore at first. So, he went to second base uncontested while Fette focused on Mize.

Mize singled to right, scoring Moore and cutting the Braves’ lead to 6-3.

Joe Medwick followed with a double to left-center, driving home Mize and making the score 6-4.

Braves manager Bill McKechnie, the former Cardinals skipper, brought in Guy Bush to relief Fette. Bush had a 2.76 ERA.

Don Padgett greeted him with a single to right, scoring Medwick and reducing the Braves’ lead to 6-5.

Don Gutteridge got the Cardinals’ fourth consecutive hit _ a single to left. When Padgett advanced from first to third on the play, drawing the throw from the outfield, Gutteridge alertly took second.

With runners on second and third, Pepper Martin, sent to pinch-hit for Leo Durocher, received an intentional walk, loading the bases.

Stout heart

Mickey Owen was due up next for the Cardinals. A rookie catcher, Owen was the Cardinals’ eighth-place batter. He was 1-for-4 in the game, giving him a .214 batting mark for the season.

Frisch, who was batting .194 and hadn’t produced a hit since May 28, grabbed a bat and stood in at the plate for Owen.

“I felt I was the right man in this spot,” Frisch said to the St. Louis Star-Times. “I believed I could deliver the much-needed hit in the pinch … Why should I put some other man in that spot when I figured I could get a hit myself?”

Frisch, a switch hitter, batted from the left side against Bush, a right-hander. Swinging at the first pitch, Frisch “slashed it down the first-base line like a shot out of a howitzer,” the Star-Times reported.

The ball eluded first baseman Elbie Fletcher and bounded into right field. Padgett scored from third with the tying run and Gutteridge raced from second to the plate with the winning run for a 7-6 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Frisch’s teammates rushed toward him, lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him triumphantly to the dugout.

“The best pinch-hit I’ve ever seen,” Medwick said.

Frisch, the Star-Times observed, “still packs a pretty stout heart beneath those red birds on his Cardinals uniform shirt.”

The hit gave Frisch 2,880 for his big-league career.

The next day, Frisch batted for the final time. Pinch-hitting in the ninth for Moore, Frisch grounded into a double play in a game the Cardinals lost 4-1 to the Braves.

Frisch finished with a career batting mark of .316 and 1,244 RBI. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947.

Previously: Kolten Wong, Frankie Frisch gave Cards pop at 2nd

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In July 1977, when Al Hrabosky ignored manager Vern Rapp’s facial hair ban and let his whiskers grow, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch intervened and tried to get the pitcher to follow orders. Rather than obey, Hrabosky fought back. He told Busch he would file a grievance with the players’ union if the Cardinals tried to force him to shave.

If Hrabosky filed a grievance, the matter would go to arbitration. To Busch, the prospect of appearing before an arbiter and likely losing to Hrabosky and the union was more distasteful than having the pitcher grow a moustache.

Outmaneuvered, Busch lifted the facial hair ban Rapp had imposed at the start of 1977. At the same time, in an effort to show he maintained confidence in Rapp, Busch extended the manager’s contract through the following season.

Busch, though, was angry and humiliated.

Unaccustomed to defiance from an employee, Busch lashed out publicly at Hrabosky. He challenged him to become a better pitcher and warned Hrabosky to quit being disruptive.

“You pushed me into a corner,” Busch said, addressing Hrabosky, “and no one does that to me.”

Hrabosky realized his victory came at a price. He predicted the Cardinals would get rid of him.

Hairy situation

Hrabosky had established himself as an effective Cardinals reliever in 1973. Soon after, he developed a persona as the “Mad Hungarian.” With a Fu Manchu moustache, flowing black hair and menacing glower, Hrabosky tried to intimidate or irritate batters by standing behind the mound, facing the infield, muttering to himself and pounding his fist into his glove before whirling around and preparing to pitch.

After Rapp replaced Red Schoendienst as manager, he imposed the facial hair ban for 1977. Clean-shaven, Hrabosky no longer looked like the “Mad Hungarian.” He said he believed that took away from his ability to pitch at his best.

Unhappy and resentful, Hrabosky ripped Rapp in spring training, then apologized. In May, he refused Rapp’s request to meet and briefly was suspended for insubordination.

On July 4, the Cardinals began a 15-game road trip. They didn’t play well and tension mounted between manager and players.

Rapp called a clubhouse meeting in Philadelphia on July 14. Rapp began the session by saying he’d noticed 5 o’clock shadows on the faces of some players. He considered that a violation of the facial hair ban and said he’d suspend anyone who didn’t shave, The Sporting News reported.

Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock spoke up and asked Rapp to “bend a little” on his rules. Rapp replied, “I’m not going to change,” and left the clubhouse.

Jack Buck, Cardinals broadcaster, told listeners, “It’s one against 25.”

After the game, Hrabosky told a Philadelphia radio station “there’s no way” he could play another season with Rapp as manager. Soon after, Hrabosky began letting his facial hair grow.

Plenty of trouble

The Cardinals lost 11 of 15 games on the trip _ Hrabosky was 0-2 with a save and an 11.42 ERA _ before entering the all-star break.

When the team got back to St. Louis, Busch met with Hrabosky on July 21, the pitcher’s 28th birthday. Rather than a gift, Hrabosky received scorn.

“Well, young man, if you’re looking for trouble you can believe August A. Busch Jr. will give you more than you can handle,” Busch said.

Hrabosky told Busch he had the backing of Marvin Miller, leader of the players’ union. Miller encouraged Hrabosky to file a grievance.

That’s when Busch lifted the ban, saying management wouldn’t give Hrabosky “the satisfaction of dragging the Cardinals and baseball into the courtroom.”

Said Hrabosky: “From the legal standpoint, they knew they’d lose.”

Put up or shut up

Hrabosky at that time had a record of 2-4 with seven saves and a 4.58 ERA.

“You said … you can only get batters out by being psyched up with your moustache and beard,” Busch said. “Then go ahead and grow it. But, boy, are you going to look like a fool if you don’t get batters out.”

Said Hrabosky: “After much thought and personal reflection, I know it will be in the best interests of the ballclub and of my career to go back to being Al Hrabosky. I sincerely believe my appearance had a great effect on my performance … I sincerely believe my decision will help me on the field.”

Busch told Hrabosky: “My suggestion … would be for you to stop causing this trouble in the middle of a pennant race, obey the rules of the team, work your butt off for a pennant and quit this complaining.”

Jeff Meyers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote that Hrabosky “deserves applause for having had the courage to stand up for what he thought was right,” but added that Busch had “deflated Hrabosky’s massive ego.”

Fading fastball

Cardinals infielders Mike Tyson and Garry Templeton were among the players who said they would grow facial hair in support of Hrabosky. Another infielder, Don Kessinger, said he wouldn’t try a moustache or beard.  “If I grow one, my wife won’t kiss me and there ain’t nothing worth that,” Kessinger said.

On July 23, Hrabosky made his first Cardinals appearance since his meeting with Busch and received mostly applause from the spectators at Busch Stadium. He pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief and the Cardinals beat the Astros, 4-3.

Hrabosky had a productive August (3-1 record, one save, 3.52 ERA) and a dismal September (0-0, no saves, 6.75 ERA).

“His fastball isn’t what it used to be and the whole league knows it,” Buck said.

Hrabosky’s overall statistics for 1977: 6-5, 10 saves, 4.38 ERA.

In The Sporting News, Neal Russo wrote, “Al Hrabosky was as bad with his beard as without.”

On Dec. 8, 1977, the Cardinals traded Hrabosky to the Royals for pitcher Mark Littell and catcher Buck Martinez.

Previously: Al Hrabosky, Vern Rapp and a tumultuous spring

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

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