Posts Tagged ‘Earl Weaver’

Star Managers

December 5, 2013

Recently my son reminded me that Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Ted Williams all have something in common other than being Hall of Famers with 500 home runs. Each was a manager with an overall losing record. Mathews’ .481 is the highest winning percentage of the four. He wondered if I knew that (I didn’t).

It got me to thinking about how commonplace an idea it is that great players don’t make great managers. The great managers are guys like Earl Weaver who never got to the big leagues,  Tony LaRussa who was a marginal player (he hit a buck-99 in 132 games), or Walter Alston who got all of one at bat in the Major Leagues. And no one is going to question that the three of them were great managers. But let me point out a small handful of exceptional players who made pretty fair managers.

1. John J. McGraw has the second most wins of any manager ever, and the one with the most wins of any manager who didn’t also own the team (Connie Mack). McGraw was a true star in the late 19th Century. He was the heart and soul of the most famous of all 19th Century teams, the 1890s Baltimore Orioles. He hit well, played a fine third base, ran well, and was unmatched at on field shenanigans.

2. Hughie Jennings was a teammate of McGraw’s and led Detroit to three consecutive World series appearances (1907-09). The Tigers lost all of them, but the next time they got the Series was 1934.

3. Yogi Berra led two New York teams to the World Series: the Yankees in 1964 and the Mets in 1973. Both teams lost.

4. Joe Torre, who admittedly wasn’t the player McGraw and Berra were, won four championships as a manager after winning an MVP as a player.

There are also a number of player-managers who were both successful managers and star players. Bucky Harris, Frank Chance, and Joe Cronin are only three examples.

So while it’s true that being a great player doesn’t necessarily translate to a great manager, it also doesn’t mean the guy is a disaster as manager.

RIP Earl Weaver

January 19, 2013
Earl Weaver

Earl Weaver

Just saw that Orioles manager and Hall of Famer Earl Weaver died yesterday at 82. His team won the 1970 World Series and participated in three others. RIP, Earl.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Take the Money

January 3, 2013
Brooks Robinson in the field

Brooks Robinson in the field

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been conned a few times, usually for something like who drives or who buys the beer. And I’m also basically an honest type so I don’t do a lot of that kind of thing myself. But sometimes you just got to take the money.

Way back in 1970 I was in the US Army and stationed in Germany. It was October and my interest turned to the World Series. For those of you too young to remember, that’s the Series that cemented Brooks Robinson’s reputation as the greatest gloveman of all time among third basemen. He won the Series MVP and the Baltimore Orioles rolled over the Cincinnati Reds to post Earl Weaver’s only World Series victory. And every bit as important for my purposes is that the Series was still played in the afternoon. That meant that I got to listen to it during the overnight period (I worked the graveyard shift), then could go to the enlisted  club and watch the tape-delay game in the afternoon without having to worry about who was going to win. I could just watch and enjoy the great (and not-so-great) plays.

But we had this guy, he was fairly new, who just simply didn’t understand what was going on. He never quite understood that the game had been played the previous night (our time) and that if you listened to AFN (Armed Forces Network) radio you already knew the score. It just never seemed to make sense that if you were watching a game being played in the daytime, it just couldn’t be daytime where we were.

With the Orioles up three games to none, a bunch of us sat down to watch game four.  The dolt mentioned above was one of them. He began by telling us “his” Orioles were going to sweep. I told him Cincy was going to win game four. He told me I was crazy. I told him the score was going to be 6-5 (I looked the score up on Retrosheet a few minutes ago). He laughed, informing me that Palmer was going to close out the Series.

“No, he isn’t.” (All conversations cleaned up from GI English and after 40 years, approximated.)

“Sure he is. Wanna bet?”

“Why not? Five bucks?” OK, so I’m a jerk, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Let’s face it, when someone is being that willfully stupid you just gotta take the money.

“Deal. Two to one.”

“OK by me.”

So I handed a five to the bartender, he gave the bartender a ten, and the rest of the guys at the table snickered. Well, sure enough the Reds won 6-5 and I picked up an easy ten dollars. The other guy was  stunned. We tried to explain to him about tape-delays and listening to the game in the middle of the night, but it just didn’t sink in.

The next night, Baltimore wrapped up the Series, Brooks Robinson was named MVP, and we all met in the afternoon to watch the crowning. Of course the guy was there, ready to put up money again that this time Baltimore would win it all.

“No bet, slick, because you’re right, the Orioles are going to win (9-3 according to Retrosheet). By the way (we wouldn’t have dared to say “BTW” back then), Brooks Robinson was the MVP.”

It seems he didn’t understand the nature of the past tense meant by the word “was”.

“That makes sense, but I’m not sure it won’t go to Blair (Paul).”

“Trust me, Robinson wins.”

Here came the deathless line again, “Wanna bet?”

Well, now I’ve got this terrible dilemma. What do I do? I’ve taken the poor fool’s money once. Do I do it again? You know the answer, don’t you?

“Sure. Five bucks again?”

“Deal, but no two to one.”

“Fine by me.”

So the bartender got two fives and we waited. The O’s won, Robinson was MVP and I was fifteen total dollars richer. I don’t know that he ever figured out how the turning of the Earth and tape-delay worked. I had a few months left and he had a couple of years to go. I was gone before the Super Bowl, but, geez, I wish I coulda got a bet down with him.