Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mondays with Murray

COOPERSTOWN BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
The 2010 Induction Ceremony will take place on Sunday at The Clark Sports Center located at 124 County Highway 52, Cooperstown, N.Y.
This year's inductees will be Andre Dawson, manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey.
New York Daily News baseball writer Bill Madden is the recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, and The Ford C. Frick Award goes to longtime baseball broadcaster Jon Miller (San Francisco Giants).

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 1986, SPORTS
Copyright 1986/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

He Speaks Only the Truth, Takes Consequences

"The trouble with Whitey," the pal of the Cardinal manager, Whitey Herzog, was saying, "is that he gets taken down with a case of terminal honesty from time to time."
  A baseball manager is supposed to be part con man, part psychologist, part leader, part pal, part tyrant, part father figure, part PR man, and all heart. St. Francis of Assisi would have trouble living up to that. A combination of John Wayne and Albert Schweitzer might just make it.
  They're never meant to let you know what they're thinking. They have to put the best face on things at all times.
  They're given a bunch of splay-footed misfits in spring training? Never mind. They tell the press that they're going to be in it all the way. The club starts to go bad in midseason? Point to the injuries. Blow an important game by mental mistakes? Blame the umpires.
  You're not supposed to knock the team even when it's going bad. Whitey is likely to knock it when it's going good.
  It's an unwritten law that you never chastise a star player publicly, no matter what he does. Whitey once assaulted one of his right on the dugout steps in full view of the press, the public and the television cameras.
  And when your team is 20 games behind at the end of June, custom calls for you to point out, "There's a lot of baseball left yet." Not Whitey. "It's over," he announced flatly. "We couldn't catch the Mets if they got hit by a bus."
  Said Whitey after that one: "It's surprising how much trouble you can get into by being honest."
  But what's equally surprising is how many games you can win.
  Herzog has managed in the major leagues eight full seasons. He has won a pennant or a division title in five of them. In another season, a strike-shortened one, he had the best record in his division over the whole season but got legislated out of it.
  You would think that candor would be more valuable in a dugout than a bunt sign but no one has yet detected an epidemic of it.
  Zoe Akins once said of actress Tallulah Bankhead: "She has proved it is possible to live life with success, without hypocrisy." Baseball could say the same of Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog.
  Whitey was a journeyman player himself — he hit .257 over eight seasons. But he came out of the game with one undisputed talent. No one, at least no one since Branch Rickey, has been able to look inside a player and recognize what he is capable of better than Whitey Herzog.
  Most managers hate to deal off superior players just because they have unfortunate or destructive personalities. Herzog unloaded a 20-game winner and an All-Star shortstop without a quibble. He broke up pennant winners with a shrug.
  Whitey doesn't expect his crew to be the Good Ship Lollipop but neither does he want a hell ship of mutineers.
  Baseball opinion when he came into the game was that Whitey Herzog was a career coach with a negative attitude. But in 1975, he took over a Kansas City team that was four games over .500 and sinking. Whitey went 41-25 the rest of the way and shook up the division.
  Then the Royals went on to win division titles three years in a row.
  "They had Frank White and Al Cowens sitting on the bench when I came over," Herzog said. "I put them in the lineup and we lost one playoff to the Yankees on a ninth-inning home run and another on a double play hit into by our fastest runner."
  Nevertheless, when the team slipped all the way to second the next year, Whitey was fired.
  He didn't go far — just across the state to St. Louis, where he took over the Cardinals when they had a 19-34 record. He moved them to 38-35 under his tenure that season.
  Whitey always felt misgivings about the, so to speak, Cards he was dealt. So, he persuaded owner Gussie Busch to make him general manager.
  At first, Whitey looked like an Indian trading furs for beads. Baseball was aghast. At the winter meeting, one general manager was looking for a power hitter. "Go down to Herzog's room," he was advised. "He'd give you Babe Ruth for Cookie Rojas and a player to be named later. It's like a fire sale."
  Whitey didn't deal off Babe Ruth but he did the next best thing. He traded Ted Simmons, a hard-socking catcher who had hit 47 home runs in two years and had just batted .303, for people no one had ever heard of.
  In all, Whitey traded 14 players for 12. But he ended up with Bruce Sutter and the 1982 World Series championship.
  Two years later, Whitey traded off George Hendrick, who had twice had 100-RBI seasons, for a left-handed, .500 pitcher named John Tudor and came within an umpire's call of another Series championship.
  For Whitey the danger is not the three-run homer, the Mets, or even an epidemic of sore arms or pulled muscles. For Whitey, it's the temptation to sugar-coat it. And that's not likely to happen.
  For Whitey, the truth not only makes you free, but first.

*Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247

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