Top Five All-Time Cardinal Managers: Number 3 – Whitey Herzog

The next manager on my list is unique because he has ties to both the Cardinals and the Royals.  Dorrel Norman Elvert “Whitey” Herzog.

Whitey was born on November 9, 1931 in New Athens, Illinois, which lies just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in the part of Illinois known as Metro East. In his younger days, he excelled at baseball and basketball and even drew interest from St. Louis University and the University of Illinois for his basketball skills. He originally signed with the New York Yankees, though he never made it to the Yankees as a player. He was given the nickname “Whitey” because of his blonde hair and his resemblance to pitcher Bob Kuzava, which also might have led to the bestowing of another sometimes more derisive nickname, “The White Rat”.  He labored in the minors for a few seasons until he joined the U.S. Army during the Korean War.  He was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and even managed the fort’s baseball team.  On April 2, 1956, Whitey was traded by the Yankees to the Washington Senators.  He made his major league debut on April 17, 1956 at Griffith Stadium against his former organization and started in Right Field.  Whitey managed to Single to Right off of Don Larsen (the eventual author of the Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series) in the bottom of the 8th inning of a 10-4 loss.  This after striking out twice and grounding out.  Over the course of eight seasons, he was used mainly as a spare part.  Apart from the 117 games he played with the Senators during his rookie campaign, he got his most significant playing time during his stint in Baltimore with the Orioles in 1961 and 1962.  He also played for the Kansas City A’s (1958-1960) and the Detroit Tigers (1963).  He retired as a player after the 1963 Season.

After Whitey’s playing days were over, he rejoined the Kansas City A’s organization, first as a scout in 1964 and then as a coach in 1966.  In 1967, he joined the New York Mets organization, starting out as the club’s Third Base Coach and then moving into the front office as Director of Player Development.  It was in this post that Whitey made his greatest mark with the Mets.  Under his watch, the Mets’ farm system produced such talent as:  John Matlack (who would form one third of a dominant pitching trio with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman),  John Milner, Wayne Garrett, Ken Singleton (who would go on to have success in Montreal and Baltimore) and Amos Otis (who he would later manage in Kansas City).  After the sudden death of Gil Hodges in April, 1972, Herzog was widely considered to be a candidate to succeed him, however, Board Chairman M.Donald Grant passed him over in favor of Yogi Berra.  Whitey saw this as a snub and he left the Mets to take over as manager of the Texas Rangers.  His stint in Texas did not go well.  He was fired on September 7, 1973 with the Rangers mired in last place with a 47-91 record – far from indicative of the greatness that was to come.  He would be replaced by Del Wilber for one game and Wilber would give way to Billy Martin.  The next year, he was hired by the California Angels as a coach and then on an interim basis as manager to fill in between Bobby Winkles’ dismissal and the hiring of Dick Williams.  He finished with a 2-2 record.  Whitey and Dick would later appear on a Miller Lite ad together.

On June 24, 1975, the Kansas City Royals found themselves in Second Place in the American League Western Division with a record of 50-46 and trailing the Oakland (nee Kansas City) A’s by 11 games.  Owner Ewing Kauffman decided to make a change.  Manager Jack McKeon was fired and Whitey Herzog was brought in to replace him.  The Herzog-led Royals went 41-25 the rest of the way and still finished Second, but trailed the A’s by only seven games.  It was a sign of things to come.  Under Herzog, the Royals enjoyed their first taste of measurable success after being perennial also-rans.  Whitey had a solid lineup to work with in the City of Fountains.  Slugging First Baseman John Mayberry.  Frank White at Second.  Little Freddie (“The Flea”) Patek at Short.  The great George Brett at Third.  The aforementioned Amos Otis, Hal McRae and Al Cowens in the outfield.  Darrell Porter behind the plate.  Starting pitchers Steve Busby, Larry Gura, Dennis Leonard and Paul Splittorff and Dan Quissenberry in the pen.  The Royals won three straight AL West titles from 1976 to 1978, unfortunately, falling short to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  In 1979, Whitey was let go even though his team finished with a record of 85-77.  Herzog finished his managerial tenure in Kansas City with a record of 410-304 for a winning percentage of .574.

On June 9, 1980, Whitey Herzog succeeded interim manager Jack Krol at the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals.  He would guide the Cardinals to record of 38-35 during his somewhat brief first term as Cardinal skipper before handing the reins over to the recently deposed Red Schoendienst.  The Cards would finish fourth in the National League East with a record of 74-88.  On August 26, 1980, Whitey was “kicked upstairs” and became General Manger where he remained until the end of the 1982 season. In 1981, he reclaimed the position of field manager in which he remained until July 6, 1990 when he resigned with the Cardinals in last place in the NL East with a 33-47 record, again, giving way to Red Schoendienst who, himself, would give way to Joe Torre.  It was during his tenure in St. Louis that Herzog perfected a “new” brand of play called “Whiteyball”.  It was a style of play that placed more of an emphasis on defense, pitching and speed rather than power hitting.  It harkened back to the style of play espoused by John McGraw.  Whitey’s lineup did have a couple of bonafide power hitters in George Hendrick and Jack Clark.  At one point, he had an All-Star caliber First Baseman in Keith Hernandez (until a trade to the hated rival Mets on June 15, 1983).  He got solid production from Second Baseman Tommy Herr.  Hall of Fame defense at Short, the likes of which has never been seen before or since, from Ozzie Smith.  He had a solid Third baseman in Terry Pendleton.  Plus, he got speed from Vince Coleman and Willie McGee (who was also a two-time batting champion) and he had Darrell Porter (who he had also managed in Kansas City) behind the plate.  He got good reliable starting pitching from Joaquin Andujar, Bob Forsch (author of two no-hitters), John Tudor and British-born Danny Cox.  He also had future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter and Todd Worrell in the bullpen.  It was during this period, that the rivalry between the Cardinals and one of whitey’s former employers, the New York Mets reached its peak.  The Cards and the Mets waged epic see saw battles for supremacy in the NL East in the years between 1985 and 1988.  Cards fans referred to the Mets as “Pond Scum” and Mets fans derisively referred to Whitey as “The White Rat”.  In 1985, the Cardinals won the NL East flag by three games over the New Yorkers with a record 101-61.  The Mets would return the favor the next year, finishing 28.5 games ahead of Whitey’s Cardinals with a franchise record 108 victories.  The 1986 Mets would go on to win the World Series in seven games over the AL Champion Boston Red Sox.  A Mets repeat in 1987 was not to be as the Cards returned to the pinnacle of the NL East in 1987, winning 95 games, finishing three games ahead of the Boys from Flushing Meadow.  The Mets won the NL East in 1988, winning 100 games as the Cards faded badly, winning only 76 contests.  The Cardinals were arguably the dominant team in the National League in the 1980’s, winning pennant in 1982, 1985 and 1987 and the 1982 World Championship.  They lost the 1985 World Series to Whitey’s former team, the Royals after being up three games to one.  Some say it was the result of a controversial play involving Royals’ baserunner Jorge Orta, Cardinals’ pitcher Todd Worrell and Umpire Don Denkinger.  They lost the 1987 Fall Classic to the Minnesota Twins in a seven game Series in which the home team won every game.  Whitey finished his managerial tenure in the Gateway City with a  record of 822-728 for a .530 winning percentage.

After his managerial tenure in St. Louis was over, Whitey did a brief turn as General Manager of the California (later Los Angeles) Angels from 1993 to 1994.  Whitey finished his managerial career with a record of 1281-1125 and a .532 winning percentage.  On December 7, 2009, largely on the strength of his managerial success in Kansas City and St. Louis, Whitey was elected by the Veterans Committee to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted on July 25, 2010.  The number 24 he wore in St. Louis while skippering the Cardinals was retired a week later.  On August 16, 2014, Whitey was inducted into the inaugural class of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.  He continues to live in the St. Louis area and makes numerous personal appearances and has been a commercial spokesman for various St. Louis area businesses.

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