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Go Back   Net54baseball.com Forums > Net54baseball Postwar Sportscard Forums > Postwar Baseball Cards Forum (Pre-1980)

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Old 04-16-2024, 11:44 AM
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Default Whitey Herzog RIP

Dorrel N. "Whitey" Herzog. Outfielder for the Washington Senators in 1956-1958. 414 hits and 25 home runs in 8 MLB seasons. His style of play as a manager became known as "Whitey Ball". Managed the Texas Rangers (1973), the Los Angeles Angels (1974), Kansas City Royals (1975-1979), and the St. Louis Cardinals (1980-1990). 1982 World Series champion. 1985 NL Manager of the Year. St. Louis Cardinals #24 retired. Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. 2010 MLB Hall of Fame.

Whitey Herzog, former Cardinals, Royals manager and Hall of Famer, dies at 92

In the summer of 1980, August A. Busch Jr., the chairman and president of the St. Louis Cardinals, summoned Whitey Herzog to Grant’s Farm, the family estate on the outskirts of the city. Herzog was 48 years old and had spent the previous five seasons managing the Kansas City Royals before taking over as Cardinals manager before 1980 season, but Gussie Busch, as he was known, had an idea. He needed a new general manager. He wanted Herzog. He offered a simple mission.

“Whitey,” Busch said, as the men talked over a couple beers. “Get me one more championship.”

Herzog accepted the challenge, and across the next two seasons he would remake the Cardinals in his own image, serving in a dual role as both manager and GM, building a skillful team of speed and defense and pitching and patience. In the span of 12 months starting in December 1980, he executed eight transactions that featured 31 players, sending out veterans and acquiring Hall of Famers, tailoring his roster to excel on the astroturf of the spacious Busch Stadium. The renovation set the foundation for a World Series championship, re-energized St. Louis as a baseball market and resulted in a brand of baseball that took the National League by storm.

It was known as “Whiteyball,” a style based on speed, defense and pitching. It was, as its architect once put it, just old-school baseball.

“What’s Whiteyball?” Herzog asked in 1987. “I don’t even know what it is. Whitebally. Billyball. What’s the difference? It’s all just baseball.”

Herzog, whose managerial prowess and executive handiwork helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 1982 (and appear in two others), and whose name became synonymous with 1980s baseball, died on Tuesday. He was 92.

“Whitey Herzog was one of the most accomplished managers of his generation and a consistent winner with both ‘I-70’ franchises. He made a significant impact on the St. Louis Cardinals as both a manager and a general manager, with the Kansas City Royals as a manager, and with the New York Mets in player development,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Tuesday. “Whitey’s Cardinals’ teams reached the World Series three times in the 1980s, winning the Championship in 1982, by leaning on an identity of speed and defense that resonated with baseball fans across the world.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Whitey’s family, his friends across the game, and the fans of the Cardinals and the Royals.”

Herzog, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, also played eight seasons in the major leagues — debuting with the Washington Senators in 1956 — and managed the Royals to three straight appearances in the American League Championship Series from 1976 to 1978. He shepherded the early career of future Hall of Famer George Brett. He brought shortstop Ozzie Smith to the Cardinals and watched him become one of the best defensive players in baseball history. He was colorful, brash, blunt and occasionally off-color. Most of all, he was successful. As a manager, he won six division titles and finished with a career record of 1,281-1,125 — a mark that included a stint as the Rangers’ manager in 1973 and four games as an interim skipper for the Angels in 1974.

“He’s the best manager I ever played for as a field manager and a tactician,” former Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez told The New York Times in 2010, as Herzog prepared for his Hall induction. “He made me more cognizant of doing the little things to win a game: getting a runner over, which he always emphasized; if you didn’t score a runner from second, you got him to third. Defensively, he always had a new wrinkle.”

Born Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog in New Athens, Ill., in 1931, Herzog was raised in the tiny community in southern Illinois, 30 miles southeast of St. Louis. As a boy, Herzog went by the name “Relly.” It was not until his professional baseball career began that he earned the moniker “Whitey,” which referenced his bleached blonde hair and his resemblance to former Yankees pitcher Bob “The White Rat” Kuzava, who had similar blonde hair.

Herzog once referred to himself as a “Lil Ol Country Boy,” the son of a father who worked at the Mound City Brewery and a mother who toiled in a shoe factory, the product of a hardscrabble community of bars and blue-collar work. The second of three boys, he spent his childhood delivering newspapers, digging graves for a local funeral parlor, modeling his swing after Stan Musial’s and occasionally skipping school to go watch the Cardinals, finding a lift to Belleville before taking a bus to Sportsman’s Park.

After a star turn on the baseball field in high school, Herzog signed his first professional contract — for $1,500 — with the New York Yankees and scout Lou Maguolo. It was while playing the Yankees system in McAlester, Okla., that he first heard the nickname “Whitey.”

Herzog was traded to the Washington Senators in 1956 — after a brief stint in the military during the Korean War — and debuted with the Senators that season. As a player, he was a left-handed hitting outfielder with little power, and his consistent struggles at the plate led to part-time stints with the Kansas City A’s, Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers, where his career ended in 1963. (To emphasize his abilities, Herzog once told the Los Angeles Times that Yankees manager Casey Stengel promised him he’d bring him back to New York if he ever had a good year. The punchline: He never did.)

When his playing career ended, Herzog returned with his wife Mary Lou to the Kansas City area, where he took a job as construction foreman. One day, Herzog later recalled, he was ordered to lay off 20 men based on seniority rather than performance. It was an experience that embittered him on the industry, so he quit, and he eventually accepted a job as a scout for the Kansas City A’s. The gig led to a coaching job, which led to a short stint in the Orioles’ organization and seven years in player development with the Mets.

Herzog’s first chance to manage came with the Rangers in 1973. In his opening press conference, he told reporters, according to the Los Angeles Times, “This is the worst excuse for a big-league club I ever saw.” He was right — and was fired in the middle of his first season.

Herzog’s breakthrough came when he was hired by Royals GM Joe Burke — his boss in Texas — to replace Jack McKeon as the club’s manager in late July 1975. The Royals, just seven seasons into their existence, were loaded with young talent and speed — the roster included Brett, Frank White, Amos Otis and Hal McRae — and they played their home games at what was then Royals Stadium, a spacious park with astroturf. It was the perfect environment for Herzog to test his theories about the game, to unleash Whiteyball before anyone had used the term.

“I tried to change the whole concept of how we played baseball,” Herzog said, according to the Kansas City Star. “We couldn’t hit a home run, and we could neutralize the other team’s power somewhat when we were at home.”

The Royals claimed three straight American League titles, winning a franchise-record 102 games in 1977, but they could not get over a Bronx-sized hump in the postseason, losing three straight times in the ALCS to the Yankees. In 1977, Royals owner Ewing Kauffman famously said that Herzog “can be my manager forever.” In this case, forever lasted two more years.

Friction between Kauffman and Herzog led to his firing after the 1979 season. Herzog would find a landing spot in St. Louis, first taking over the manager’s job, then the GM post, before eventually settling into both before the 1981 season. (He was the first to serve in both capacities simultaneously since Connie Mack 31 years earlier.) With Gussie Busch’s blessing, Herzog went to work on retooling the roster. In December of 1980, he acquired Bruce Sutter from the Cubs; signed catcher Darrell Porter to a free agent contract; and traded catcher Ted Simmons and pitchers Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich to Milwaukee for David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen.

He was just getting started. The next offseason, he acquired Ozzie Smith, Lonnie Smith and Willie McGee in trades with the Padres, Phillies and Yankees, respectively. Lonnie Smith finished second in the MVP voting in 1982. Ozzie Smith made the All-Star Game. The Cardinals won 92 games, bested the Braves in the NLCS and edged the Brewers in a seven-game World Series, winning the final two games and claiming the organization’s first World Series title since 1967. In the moments after the victory, Herzog sat in his office, picking at a plate of ribs.

“I don’t feel that excited about it,” he told reporters. “After seeing our ballclub last night come out smoking, I really expected this.”

The Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1985, losing a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Royals after leading the series 3-1, and again in 1987, falling in seven games to the Minnesota Twins. Herzog managed parts of three more seasons in St. Louis before resigning in the summer of 1990.

In customary Herzog fashion, he was ready with an honest quip: “I came here in last place and I leave here in last place,” he said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I left them right where I started.”

“If I ever managed, I’d try to do the things Whitey did,” Brett told Sports Illustrated in 1982. “He gave players confidence, but he wasn’t afraid to stand up to them. He’d play hearts with you. I remember once going to his house for a quail dinner. Next game I went four-for-four. Later in the season I was struggling a little and one day Whitey walks into the clubhouse with a couple of quail that Mary Lou had sent me.”

Herzog never managed again, though he did have a short stint as the Angels’ GM in the early ’90s. In his later years, he returned to his favorite fishing holes. He became an ambassador for baseball in St. Louis. His sharp sense of humor never waned. In his final years, when he became the second oldest living Hall of Famer behind Willie Mays, he joked that autography collectors kept sending him cards to sign. The value, Herzog figured, was about to spike.

At his core, though, Herzog was still the blue-collar kid from New Athens, the one who delivered papers and dug graves and who could return home and predict which townie would be on which barstool in every tavern in town. The kid also had a sense for baseball, and if you stripped away everything, Herzog said, it was not a complicated game.

“If you get good enough pitching and play defense day in and day out,” he said, “you can win on the moon.”
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 1957ToppsHerzog7821Front.jpg (95.0 KB, 78 views)
File Type: jpg 1957ToppsHerzog7821Back.jpg (118.7 KB, 77 views)
File Type: jpg 1958ToppsHerzog5257Front.jpg (108.0 KB, 79 views)
File Type: jpg 1958ToppsHerzog5257Back.jpg (129.5 KB, 77 views)
File Type: jpg 1951ToppsBlueBackKuzava9356Front.jpg (107.0 KB, 79 views)

Last edited by GeoPoto; 04-16-2024 at 11:54 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-16-2024, 12:06 PM
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He did some interviews as recent as last summer - was still the smartest person associated with the Cardinals
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Old 04-16-2024, 10:24 PM
Collectorsince62 Collectorsince62 is offline
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When asked what it is like to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Whitey responded "It's like going to heaven before you die."

Baseball in St. Louis was mediocre in the late 70's. Not even a sniff of the postseason. I remember the upper deck at Busch Stadium being closed off entirely many times. Gussie Busch wanted one last championship and hired Herzog to do whatever he thought necessary to turn things around. Whitey singlehandedly jettisoned players he felt were problematic (ex. Templeton) and added heady players he felt could take advantage of the artificial turf in St. Louis (ex. Ozzie). Winning baseball returned, played in a style that brought back the fans who had soured on the franchise, while adding new fans attracted to the exciting Whiteyball trademarks of speed, defense, pitching, strategy and small ball. It was a lot of fun to watch.

Whitey Herzog was rightfully beloved here in St. Louis. He was very visible in the community and was a frequent visitor to Busch Stadium. He attended Opening Day this year. He was unable to join his fellow Cardinal legends on the field but when he was recognized on the video board from a suite, the ovation was thunderous.

Last edited by Collectorsince62; 04-16-2024 at 10:25 PM.
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