Sunday, June 10, 2012

#186 Whitey Herzog - St. Louis Cardinals

Topps must have known from the beginning that Whitey Herzog was destined to be a manager.  As a player he appeared on seven cards and six of them were head shots like this one.  Pictured here on his third card as a manager and first as a Cardinal, Whitey's powder blue jersey blends in well with the sky.
Player:  White Herzog the player was a reserve outfielder for four different teams from '56 to '63.  Originally signed by the Yankees, his trip to the majors was delayed for two years while he served in the military.  Shortly after he got out,he was traded to the Senators.  His rookie year of '56 would be the closest Herzog would come to being a regular as he batted .245 in 465 plate appearances.

Herzog spent most of '57 in the minors and was dealt to the Kansas City A's in '58.  He got a brief chance to play every day at the start of the '59 season when Roger Maris was sidelined with an appendectomy.  Herzog was hitting 293/446/390 through 38 games when he suffered a season ending leg injury.

The left handed hitting Herzog spent one more year in KC and the next two in Baltimore assembling decent seasons as a fourth outfielder and pinch hitter with OPS+ between 110 and 117.  He spent one final year in Detroit as a rarely used pinch hitter and retired after the season.

ManagerHerzog started his post-playing career as a scout for the A's in '64.  He then joined the coaching staff for the '65 season.  He moved over to the Mets in '66 to be their third base coach for a year.  He then spent the next six years as the Mets director of player development and was partially responsible for assembling the '69 Miracle Mets.

Feeling slighted by Mets ownership when he was passed over for the vacant manager position after Gil Hodges' death, Herzog readily accepted the Rangers offer to run the Texas team.  Herzog took over a talent starved team and clashed with eccentric Rangers owner Bob Short, especially over the handling of 18 year old pitcher David Clyde.  Still it was a surprise when Herzog was fired in September with a 47-91 record.

Herzog joined the Angels' staff in '74 and was interim coach for four games between the tenures of Bobby Winkles and Dick Williams.  Midway through the '75 season the Royals hired Herzog after they terminated Jack McKeon.  Herzog inherited a good Royal team that has hovering just over .500.  With Whitey at the helm, the Royals won 41 of their last 66 games and finished in 2nd place. 

Herzog's Royals would win the next three division crowns with 90, 102, and 92 win seasons.  Each time though they fell to the Yankees in the ALCS.  Herzog and the Royals were stung hard by the repeated shortcomings with Whitey blaming management for failing to sign free agent bullpen help.  After an 85 win season KC slipped to second place in '79 and Herzog was canned.   

Whitey wasn't out of work long as he moved across state to be the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  After an 18-33 start, owner Gussie Busch axed skipper Ken Boyer and Herzog took over.  The team won 38 of the 73 games he managed before he stepped down as field general in favor of Red Schoendienst who finished the bizarre year as the Redbirds manager.  Herzog decided to return to the dugout in '81 and the Cardinals finished second in both halves of the strike shortened season and finished with a 59-43 record. 

With a brand of ball later dubbed Whiteyball, which favored fast runners who could take advantage of the Busch Stadium artificial surface, the '82 Cardinals had seven players steal 10 or more bags but only two with double digit home runs.  The Cards swept the Braves in the NLCS and won a hard fought World Series over the Brewers in seven games.

The next two years Whitey's team was stuck in neutral with 79 and 84 win seasons.  Led by rookie Vince Coleman's 110 steals the '85 squad was the first in 70 years to steal more than 300 bases.  After defeating the Dodgers in the '85 NLCS the Cards lost the All-Missouri World Series against the Royals.

After a disappointing 79 win season in '86, the Cardinals won 95 games in '87 and made it back to the World Series but lost to the Twins.  Herzog guided the Cards to third and fifth place finishes in '88 and '89.  Herzog was fired during the 1990 season when St. Louis won only 33 of the first 80 games. 

Flipside:  Do they still list manager's weight on the back?  Not sure, but I'm willing to bet Herzog's actual weight was a bit north of 187 lbs at the time this card was issued. 

Oddball:  In 1986 Herzog was interested in becoming President of the National League.  Bart Giamatti who got the gig instead.  Giamatti, who later took over the job of baseball's commissioner, left Yale University for the job.  After Giamatti's hiring was announced, broadcaster Marv Albert asked Herzog if he would be interested in the Yale University job.  Herzog, not in playful mood replied:
"I get the idea you're trying to be funny, and that's not funny at all."

History:  Herzog's teams finished in first place six times and he won a World Series with the Cards in '82.  After his manging career he spent the first half of the '90s working for the Angels including two years as their general manager.  He  was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

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