Monday, August 23, 2010

Skipper Sendoffs Part Deux

By The Common Man

Bill brought up some managerial mysteries in his skipper sendoff post from earlier, noting that it's not immediately apparent why some legendary managers walked off the job when they did. Here are the conditions under which the 18 managers currently in the Hall left the game:

Walter Alston
Bill wrote: "Because I haven't been able to find the actual reason for the weird timing, I'll have to assume that he saw J.R. Richard's sparkling three-hit shutout (with, uncharacteristically, zero walks and just five strikeouts), running the 26 year old's record to 19-15, and figured he was finally beat once and for all."

What happened: Tommy Lasorda had long been considered Alston's heir and had waited patiently for Smokey to move aside, even passing up multiple other managerial offers. Finally, in 1976, Alston decided he was done in the dugout. With the Dodgers 10 games back of the Reds, and mathematically eliminated from the postseason, Alston wanted Lasorda to get his feet wet, telling reporters, "I think it would be good for Tommy to take over from this point on and get a little background for next season. I think I'll just turn it over to him right now. But I want to warn him what he does will go on my record."

Sparky Anderson
Bill wrote: "George Lee Anderson stuck it out to the bitter end of the Tigers' 60-84, strike-shortened 1995 season."

What happened: Sparky resigned, saying, "I knew it was time. This city has to change, and it must change with someone else." Sparky was either being incredibly optimistic, or was a true visionary about what was going to befall Detroit. The parting seems amicable. Tigers President John McHale called Anderson, "one of a handful of greatest managers in big league history. He leaves today as he came: his own man. Cherish him, remember him. We will not see his likes again." Sheesh. Anderson was hoping to catch on with another club at 61 years old, but that never materialized.

Ned Hanlon
Bill wrote: "There was nothing he could do for the 1906-07 Cincinnati squads, who went a combined 130-174 under Hanlon's helmsmanship. Leaving after the season was at least ostensibly Hanlon's decision."

What happened: Hanlon did not go quietly. In July of 1907, he publicly announced his intention to retire at the end of the year after a power struggle with Reds President August Herrmann. "Mr. Hanlon said when he was last here [Baltimore] that he made up his mind to quit Cincinnati, as matters there are not to his liking, and he has reached the age and fortune where he does not have to submit to unpleasant features." According to the same reporter,
"Mr. Hanlon has never been the real manager...since the season of 1907 began. He has been manager in name and has had to bear the brunt of the club's misfortune, while players have been signed, released, forgiven for their misdeeds, and allowed to run themselves and their alleged manager by Mr. Herrmann.... Mr. Herrmann's desire to be a 'good fellow,' his well-known easy going nature, and his determination to be at the top of everythinbg connected with the club have negatived [sic] any good managers such as Mr. Hanlon might do."

Bucky Harris
Bill wrote: "The Tigers went 82-72, and it's not clear to me whether Harris left on his own terms or the Tigers'."

What happened: Harris resigned on September 25, 1956, effective at the end of the season. It had been a rough one for Harris, as the AP reported that "Harris earlier this season had been under heavy fire both by the public and by [Tigers President Spike] Briggs himself. Later, after the club was sold to an 11-man syndicate for $5,500,000; Briggs and the new owners announced that Harris would be retained at least until the end of the 1956 season." Translation: The new owners wanted their own manager.

Whitey Herzog
Bill wrote: "Now this was a good one to go out on...if you had to leave in the middle of a terribly disappointing season."

What happened: Whitey quit midway through the 1990 season with two more years left on his contract, saying "I still enjoy managing, but I just don't feel like I've done the job. I feel like I've underachieved. I can't get the guys to play....It isn't that I can't stand losing, if I feel like the club is playing up to its capabilities. I'm just bewildered. I can't believe this team is playing as bad as this team is playing. It's really bad. I felt like I just wasn't getting it done."

Miller Huggins
Bill wrote: Pretty safe to say that Babe Ruth made Huggins a Hall of Famer, right (see also Lazzeri, Combs, Meusel, Hoyt, etc.)? Anyway, this was another late-season exit, game 147 in the Yanks' 1929 season."

What happened: Huggins took ill with influenza that was severe enough that he was hospitalized. While there, he contracted a rare facial infection that eventually put him in a coma and ended his life.

Al Lopez
Bill wrote: His final years with the Sox read like Billy Martin's time with the Yankees, but I'm not clear on whether he was getting fired or quitting/retiring.

What happened: Lopez retired after the 1965, saying he was tired of managing and wanted to work on his golf game. His hand-picked successor, Eddie Stanky, did all right for two years, before the bottom fell out in 1968. Lopez was coaxed out of retirement to take the reins, but had a significant stomach ailment that led to an appendectomy and kept knocking him out of the dugout. He had to take time off in '68, and after being weak throughout Spring Training in 1969, he was forced to resign again after just 17 games.

Connie Mack
Bill wrote:
"The A's 52nd win against 102 1950 losses was the last win for Mack, who won 3731 of them (but lost even more) in 53 seasons before finally calling it quits at age 87."

What happened: Well, he was 87. Mack's sons had purchased the team from him in 1949 and announced that their father was welcome to manage for as long as he wanted to, despite public calls that he had become a burden on the team he built. Mack lasted one more miserable summer, before giving way to Jimmy Dykes, saying in that stilted way of his, "I am retiring from active management of the baseball club but will remain as a director."

Joe McCarthy
Bill wrote:
"He made his name with the Cubs and (especially, of course) Yankees, but he'd also had great success in 1948 and '49 with the Sox. The 5th consecutive loss on June 18, 1950, though, dropped the team to just 31-28, and the 63 year old McCarthy was done."

What happened: Well, this was just a cluster. McCarthy was sick, and was planning a break from the team. Earlier that evening, he had scoffed at the notion that he was leaving, saying, "Those reports that I'm resigning are really too silly. I'll never quit under fire, and you can bet your last dollar that as soon as I'm well enough I'll be back." Then Red Sox traveling secretary Tom Dowd contradicted McCarthy, telling the press that McCarthy was indeed resigning and being replaced by Steve O'Neill. Sounds from here like McCarthy was forced out.

John McGraw
Bill wrote:
"The New Yorkers led 2-0 after six, but gave up one in the 7th and three in the 8th. I imagine McGraw just left in a disgusted huff and never looked back."

What happened: McGraw had been sick for several years with a "sinus condition" that often kept him from traveling with the Giants on the road (except, of course, to Brooklyn). When the condition worsened, and his doctor advised him not to travel at all anymore, he handed over the team to 1B Bill Terry, saying "It is my desire that a man be appointed who was so thoroughly familiar with my method and who had learned his baseball under me." McGraw stayed on as a team stockholder and Vice-President.

Bill McKechnie
Bill wrote:
"As with Alston, McKechnie lasted until the team's final four games in his final season (1946, here), and as with Alston, I can't figure out why."

What happened: Also like Alston, McKechnie was leaving ostensibly to give his successor some time in the dugout. He told the press, "I felt it was advisable to have the matter settled at this time so that both the club and myself could make definite plans for the future." He had hoped to catch on with another team, but no job presented itself.

Wilbert Robinson
Bill wrote:
"Another long-termed Dodgers (er, Robins) manager, Robinson saw his 18th season with the team through to the end in 1931."

What happened: Robinson had survived several coup attempts by his team's board of directors, and eventually succumbed, though he admitted being "surprised" at the move, especially since the Dodgers had made it back to the first division in 1930 and '31. His replacement, Max Carey had one good year before the Dodgers succumbed to habit and became Dem Bums again.

Frank Selee
Bill wrote:
"He started '05 a very respectable 37-28 but was replaced anyway by another Hall of Famer, Frank Chance, who went on to player/manage the team through easily the best seven years of its history."

What happened: Selee took ill with what was being called "severe indigestion" in July, and was forced to give up the club. In reality, he had tuberculosis. He moved west and managed a team in Pueblo, Colorado, and died in Denver in 1909.

Billy Southworth
Bill wrote:
"The Boston squad, with which Southworth had been successful--if not nearly as successful as with his earlier work with the Cardinals"

What happened: Southworth was a tough guy to play for, even without all the booze and before his son died in World War II. His players revolted in 1949, and he walked off the job. In 1951, he did it again. Guy Butler of The Miami News wrote, "After winning the pennant his first year, 1948, in a five-year contract, it seems the man who did a great comeback once before after shunted off to the minors as a manager, could not forget. He grew hard, bitter, tough on his players. Dissension reared its ugly head, the team wasn't winning, and --well, Billy decided to chuck it all and go back to Sanbury. Maybe this time for keeps."

Casey Stengel
Bill wrote:
"You'd probably guess Stengel's exit was horrid -- he finished with four and a half god-awful years at the head of the expansion Mets -- and you'd be right."

What happened: Well, Stengel got pretty old, and allegedly his doctors told him to hang it up, as he cited "medical advice" in his farewell press conference. He took a ceremonial job in the Mets front office, but was cagey about whether he'd come back, I wouldn't want to say. I have this new job now and that's all I'm thinking about at this moment. You never know what will happen later." Right.

Earl Weaver
Bill wrote:
"Weaver tried to come back after just two and a third seasons off, and the magic was gone."

What happened: Indeed, it was gone. Weaver didn't have a lot of fun in '86, and privately told friends he wouldn't come back the next year as early as mid-August. He told reporters, "The facts the way they are is that I'm not interested in 1987, but I'm very interested in the remainder of 1986." His eventual replacement, Cal Ripken Sr., didn't believe him, equating him to the 1980s baseball version of Bret Favre, "Earl always leaves the door open. As he says, 'I can always change my mind.' He's very disappointed in the ballclub right now but if he sits down later, he might think he can come back and turn the thing around."

Dick Williams
Bill wrote:
"Managing the late-eighties Mariners is not the way a Hall of Fame manager should have to end his career. He was canned after this ho-hum loss dropped them to 23-33 and 16 games out of first on June 5 of '88."

What happened: The players revolted. Mark Langston complained about being left in too long, and other players were less than complimentary. So the Mariners fired Williams, "in the interest of the current season as well as for the future," according to team President Chuck Armstrong. GM Dick Balderson piled on, "I think in the last couple of days Dick Williams lost control of this club. I just don't think the players were responding to him at all. I don't think Williams was getting all he could out of his players." After that, the gloves came off. Mike Moore told reporters, "When you're a player, you like a pat on the back once in a while. You never got that from Dick Williams. Instead, you were kind of in limbo." Michael Brantly expressed frustration too, "A lot of guys didn't know what Dick wanted from them. Guys on the team didn't know their roles." Harold Reynolds: "I think this move will be good for the team. We're a better club than we've shown." Dave Valle: "Whenever something like this happens, it's bound to be good." Alvin Davis: "Over the last three weeks, there has been a change as far as the decision the manager has made. I really don't know why." Mark Langston: "I'm excited to get things going again. I think this is a very positive decision. It's got to take a big burden off the players." Ouch.

1 comment:

Simon DelMonte's Escape Hatch said...

Good stuff, CM. I loves me some baseball history!