Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#11 Billy Gardner

The first manager card in the set........

Card: This is Gardner's first card as a manager. Gardner appeared on seven base cards as a player with his rookie card issued in the 1957 set.

Pic: It's hard to tell on the computer but looking at the card closely it appears the hat Gardner is wearing has mesh sides and back.  I never thought major leaguers wore those cheapies. 

Player: Gardner was a scrappy blue collar infielder for ten major league seasons. Gardner led the league in plate appearances, at bats, and doubles for the Orioles in 1957. He won a world series as a backup 3B/2B for the '61 Yankees. 
Manager: Gardner's playing career ended after the 1964 season where he spent the year playing for AAA Seattle, Boston's top farm club. Gardner was a coach on the Red Sox staff for a few years and then managed in the Boston minor-league chain through 1971 and managed in Royals farm system through 1976.
In '77 Gardner moved on to the big leagues with the Expos as a coach for two years. He then returned to the minors to manage in the Expos chain for three years.
In 1981 Gardner joined the Minnesota Twins coaching staff and took over as manager when Johnny Goryl was fired.  Gardner led the team to 30-43 record in the strike shortened season. Managing a young team in '82, Gardner and the Twins continued to struggle with a 60-102 effort.  1983 saw a ten game improvement as the Twins went 70-92.  With young stars Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, and Frank Viola, Gardner guided the team to a .500 finish in 1984.  After a 27-35 start to the '85 season, Gardner was canned and replaced by Ray Miller.
Gardner caught on as a coach on the Royals staff and took over as manager in 1987 when Dick Howser had to step down due to his fight with cancer.  Languishing around .500 Gardner would not get to finish the season as the Royals replaced him with John Wathan in August.

Flipside: Gardner is an even six feet tall not 6'10" as listed. 

Oddball: During his four years in Minnesota, Gardner lived in a Super-8 motel located in a truck stop.
As a player, Gardner was known by the nicknames Whitey, Shotgun, and Slick.

History: Gardner did not have success as a MLB manager but is credited with helping mold the core of the '87 Championship Twins. As a player Gardner was a member of a World Series champion and is remembered for his good glove and hustle.
Gardner still lives in his birth town of Waterford, Connecticut.

I am really enjoying researching these players and learning new things as I go through the '83 set.  Feel free to drop a comment or suggestion along the way.


  1. I know this post is over a year old, but I'm playing catch-up with your blog and wanted to say good job. You seem to cover all the bases yet keep it tight and interesting. Looking forward to making my way through.

  2. Thanks for reading and the positive feedback. It can be challenging sometimes to encompass a player's career while being concise. Hope you enjoy the rest of the posts.