Niagara Gazette — I’m old-fashioned enough to be irked by inclusion of managers, and worse, bosses or even labor organizers in baseball’s Hall of Fame. The Hall should be for players, period. Simultaneously, I can’t agree with former star Dave Winfield’s 5 percent rule — that managers can never make more than that amount of difference to a team’s fortunes.
As another ball season heats up, you’ll find certain managers bringing new life to formerly moribund teams, simply by doing things or more important, not doing things previously done, and instilling a better clubhouse chemistry, along with enhanced respect for discipline and fundamentals. This is true of skippers from Niagara Power to the big leagues!
My favorite managerial memoir is by the late curmudgeon, Dick Williams (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”), and I think any claims he makes there for his record are more than validated. One could start with the miracle of ‘67 he wrought with a Boston club that had finished ninth of 10 in the American League the previous season and was deemed a 100 to 1 shot for the ‘67 pennant.
But on taking the team’s helm that year, Williams immediately swept away the “country club” atmosphere he initially encountered, and old baseball fans know the rest: his underestimated roster of stars like Yaz and pitcher Jim Lonborg (in a sole standout season, before breaking his leg skiing), along with young unsung molded by Williams, made it to the Series, where they were only bested in the seventh game by St. Louis’ Bob Gibson.
In the latter town, a fine manager of the ‘80s, Whitey Herzog, also made a real difference. As blunt as Williams, but not as spiteful or temperamental, this German-American from the Midwest became an accomplished manager because he let his charges be themselves to the fullest.