Monday, August 23, 2010

Skippers' Sendoffs

By Bill

When Lou Piniella called it quits yesterday, it's not as though he was planning his perfect exit. You have to respect a guy for just realizing that his family situation required him to leave, even though that the leaving would be forever, even though he was leaving a team that was 51-73 and facing a much, much better team. This was to be how 49 or so years in pro ball all ended, and it didn't figure to be good.

And boy, wasn't it! The Cubs kept it to 5-3 entering the seventh, but then the Braves scored eleven runs in Piniella's last three career managerial innings, and it ended 16-5.

So I got to thinking: I think Piniella will probably be in the Hall of Fame eventually. Just the one World Series berth, but he's managed the 13th most games in big-league history, has the 14th most wins, a bunch of playoff appearances, that 116-win season, and of course has that memorable character and reputation.

So here's how it ended for the other Hall of Fame managers (those who are actually specifically in the Hall as managers):

Walter Alston: Astros 1, Dodgers 0 (loss)
Alston's almost-23-year run as manager of the Dodgers ended with just four games remaining in the 1976 regular season and his team at 90-68 (the last four games, and next twenty years or so, were handled by Tom Lasorda). 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. Actually, it's entirely fitting that the manager of the 1960s Dodgers went out on a 1-0 game.

Sparky Anderson: Orioles 4, Tigers 0 (loss)
Wow, two-for-two in shutout losses so far! George Lee Anderson stuck it out to the bitter end of the Tigers' 60-84, strike-shortened 1995 season. In the finale, Mike Mussina stymied them in a complete game, two-hit, two-walk, seven-K gem. Like Richard above, Mussina was 26 and won his 19th game in the great manager's walk-away loss. Buddy Bell took over for Anderson, and was...less successful than Lasorda.
This game was also the last for Lou Whitaker, making it the finale for the Trammell-Whitaker should-be-hall-of-fame keystone combo.

Ned Hanlon: Redlegs 13, Pirates 1 (win)
No boxscore available. Hanlon made the Hall (nearly sixty years after his death) on the strength of his work from 1894-1900, when he led Baltimore and Brooklyn teams to five NL pennants in seven years. 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. Just 49, he was invested in a Federal League team, and was involved in the landmark Supreme Court suit that ended up creating the deplorable MLB antitrust exemption.

Bucky Harris: Tigers 8, Cleveland 4 (loss)
The final game of Harris' 29 year managerial career brought his career record to within 61 games of the .500 mark (managing the Senators for 18 years can do that). "Shortstop" Harvey Kuenn went 3-for-5, 21 year old vet Al Kaline hit a two-run triple and Billy Hoeft came on in relief in the 4th inning to walk away with his 20th win on the last day of the season. The Tigers went 82-72, and it's not clear to me whether Harris left on his own terms or the Tigers'.

Whitey Herzog: Cardinals 4, Padres 1 (win)
Now this was a good one to go out on...if you had to leave in the middle of a terribly disappointing season. It was the Cards' 80th game in 1990, and raised their record to just 33-47. Tied 1-1 in the 9th, the Cards exploded to score three runs off of Greg Harris in a rally that, fittingly, included both a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base. Whitey was somewhat improbably replaced by 67 year old former Cards great Red Schoendienst, who kept the seat warm for Joe Torre for a few weeks.

Miller Huggins: White Sox 7, Yankees 0 (loss)
Pretty safe to say that Babe Ruth made Huggins a Hall of Famer, right (see also Lazzeri, Combs, Hoyt, etc.)? Anyway, this was another late-season exit, game 147 in the Yanks' 1929 season. Chicago pitcher Hal McLean walked six and gave up two hits to Ruth, but allowed just two other hits for the third shutout loss in six so far. Art Fletcher finished the season, then Bob Shawkey for 1930, and then some guy named McCarthy came in in '31.

Tommy Lasorda: Dodgers 4, Astros 3 (win)
The Dodgers scored two in the 8th off of Billy Wagner to tie it at 3, and then Mike Piazza, the kid of Tommy's family friend, won it with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth. It would've been a perfect sendoff...except Lasorda had no intention to make it one. He had a heart attack the next day, officially ending his career a little over a month later. It also ended a pretty incredible run; Alston and Lasorda managed the Dodgers for a combined 43 seasons, and they've had six managers in the fifteen years since.

Al Lopez: Royals 5, White Sox 4 (loss)
A Joe Foy single in the bottom of the 12th ended Lopez' impressive career (no world championships but a .584 regular season winning percentage), just 17 games into the 1969 season, after which he retired. 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.

Connie Mack: A's 5, Senators 3 (win)
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.

Joe McCarthy: Tigers 10, Red Sox 2 (loss)
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. Ted Williams hit his 275th career home run in the losing effort. Steve O'Neill took over the rest of the way, and went 63-32.

John McGraw: Phillies 4, Giants 2 (loss)
McGraw's 33rd year as manager (and 30th as manager of the Giants) ended after just 40 games, in which the Giants had gone 17-23 and were in 8th place. 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. The next manager, Bill Terry, lasted nine more seasons.

Bill McKechnie: Reds 6, Cardinals 0 (win)
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. Great one to go out on, though, as Bucky Walters and the Reds' defense blanked the eventual world champion Cardinals. He was replaced by Hank Gowdy, who only ever managed those four games (going 3-1).

Wilbert Robinson: Robins 12, Giants 3 (win)
Another long-termed Dodgers (er, Robins) manager, Robinson saw his 18th season with the team through to the end in 1931. His boys thumped the second-place Giants, with every player including the pitcher collecting at least one hit (mostly in the first three innings off Freddie Fitzsimmons). Joining the hit parade with a 2-for-4 was a 22 year old catcher named Al Lopez.

Frank Selee: Reds 6, Cubs 0 (loss)
No boxscores from 1905. Selee made the Hall of Fame (almost a century later) for his work with the Boston Braves before the turn of the century, but he'd had some success in Chicago. 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.

Billy Southworth: Cubs 3, Braves 0 (loss)
Another shutout loss! The Boston squad, with which Southworth had been successful--if not nearly as successful as with his earlier work with the Cardinals -- in most of his first five seasons, fell to 28-31. Bob Rush threw a four-hit, four-K shutout. Tommy Holmes (hey, read about him here!) took over after the game as player/manager.

Casey Stengel: Phillies 5, Mets 1 (loss)
You'd probably guess Stengel's exit was horrid -- he finished with three and a half god-awful years at the head of the expansion Mets -- and you'd be right. Jim Bunning shut them down in a two-hit, 12-K complete game, running the Mets' 1965 record to 31-64 and Stengel's career Mets record to 175-504 (.302). I bet most people don't realize that even after 12 wildly successful years with the Yankees, Stengel's career record fell all the way back to just barely above .500 (.508, to be exact). Wes Westrum somehow suffered through most of the next three years, and then Gil Hodges took over and things got better.

Earl Weaver: Tigers 6, Orioles 3 (loss)
Joe Gibbs should've taken a lesson; Weaver tried to come back after just two and a third seasons off, and the magic was gone. The Orioles weren't terrible for most of 1986, but lost their last five games and ten of their final 13 to finish 73-89. Really nothing worth reporting about that final game. Cal Senior took over in '87, and certainly didn't do any better.

Dick Williams: Royals 7, Mariners 3 (loss)
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. There were a lot of great things in Williams' career, and Alvin Davis, Jim Presley and Rey Quinones played no part in any of them.

Quite a few ignominous endings in there, but nothing quite like the 16-5 drubbing Piniella took home with him yesterday.

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