Monday, December 7, 2009

Harvey & Herzog Going to Cooperstown

The National Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee has voted NL umpire Doug Harvey and manager Whitey Herzog into the Hall of Fame class of 2010. They will be formally inducted next July.

Harvey umpired in the NL from 1962 to 1992. He was considered not only the best umpire of his era but many consider him the best umpire to have ever officiated a major league game.
I remember he would occasionally give umpiring tips on NBC's Game of the Week.

Herzog often said, "Baseball's been very good to me since I quit trying to play it." Indeed, after originally being signed by the New York Yankees, Herzog played eight undistinguished seasons in the big leagues with the Washington Senators, Kansas City A's, Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers. He retired as a player after the 1963 season. He would return to the Athletics as a scout and coach before joining the New York Mets organization in 1966 first as a coach and later as the director of player development. He played a role in drafting the likes of Tom Seaver and Gerry Gentry. Herzog was with the Mets when they won their first World Series in 1969.

But it is as a manager where Herzog made his greatest contribution. His managerial debut began inauspiciously in 1973 with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers went 47-91 under Herzog before he was unceremoniously fired late in the season and replaced by Billy Martin who would nearly guide them to the AL West Division the following year. Herzog spent 1974 on the coaching staff of the California Angels which included a four game stint as interim manager at the end of the season.

In 1975, Herzog got his second chance as a major league manager in Kansas City, a city familiar to him. By this time, the Athletics had moved to Oakland and the Royals were the new game in town. He would replace Jack McKeon in mid-season. The Royals would go 41-25 and finish a strong second place to the defending three time World Series champion Oakland A's. Herzog then guided the Royals to three consecutive AL West Division titles. Unfortunately, the Royals failed to get past the Yankees in three consecutive ALCS contests. When the Royals did finally best the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS, Jim Frey would be the Royals skipper.

Herzog moved onto the St. Louis Cardinals where he was hired as their new General Manager. However, Herzog temporarily added manager to his duties when he replaced Ken Boyer early in 1980. He would appoint Red Schoendienst, the man who guided the Cardinals to World Series titles in 1964 and 1967, as manager for the rest of the season. But Herzog resumed double duty the following season.

In 1982, Herzog led the Cardinals to their first World Series title since 1967. After 1982, Herzog stepped down as GM to concentrate on managerial duties full time. He also guided them to two NL championships in 1985 and 1987.

They played what was known as Whitey Ball which emphasized pitching, speed and defense in a lineup that had little power. In 1982, the Cardinals hit only 67 home runs as a team. George Hendrick led the team with 19 home runs. The Milwaukee Brewers, their World Series opponents, hit 216 home runs as a team. They had five players on the team with 20 or more home runs. Despite facing a team with more than three times as many home runs the Cardinals still won the Series in seven games. Now that's managing your ballclub.

Herzog left the managerial reins to Schoendienst during the 1990 season who would in turn hand them over to another former Cardinal, Joe Torre. He would spend his final years in baseball in various posts with the California Angels including as GM during the 1993 and 1994 seasons before retiring for good. He was twice considered by the Boston Red Sox for managerial vacancies prior to the 1997 and 2004 seasons but declined interest. Now Whitey at Fenway would have been interesting.

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