Cooperstown Call For Kansas City…Again
Last week we received the good news that former Royals Manager Whitey Herzog had been elected for induction in Cooperstown by the Hall of Fame’s Veterans’ Committee. If you’ve been reading here for awhile you may have seen an earlier post here outlining all the Hall of Fame Members with ties directly to Kansas City – that number has now reached 43.
Much has been made about Whitey’s career as a manger on the east side of the state and for good reason. But the White Rat himself makes the case that his days in Kansas City were just as important to his managerial career. In fact when interviewed by mlb.com’s Dick Kaegel, Herzog goes a step further saying his chance with the Royals gave him a second opportunity he thought might never come after being fired by the Rangers in 1973:
“I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance, and that’s why I’ve got to thank (Royals GM) Joe Burke,” Herzog said. “I got in there at a very good time with a very good team, and they changed my whole career around. It was a good ballclub. Not only could we hit home runs, we could play defense, we could do a lot of things and run bases.”
True enough and Herzog was seemingly the perfect manager for that group of players. There is certainly no doubting the success as Whitey still holds the Royals all-time best managerial record at 410-304 (.574) including three straight AL West titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978.
After the Royals finished 85-77 just three games behind the Angels in 1979 Herzog’s time in Kansas City came to an abrupt end. There were clearly some hard feelings and philosophical differences bewtween Herzog and Royals owner Ewing Kauffman that eventually led to the breakup.
George Brett tells a great story of Whitey’s demise as Royals Manager. After the last game of the 1979 season (a tough 6-5 loss here at home), Brett invited Herzog on a fishing trip the next day. Always the avid angler Herzog agreed telling George:
“Sure lets meet here at the ballpark in the morning. I’ll go inside, they’ll fire me – it’ll only take a minute or two – then we can head to the lake.”
As it turned out that’s exactly what happened, though I’ve never heard if the fish were biting later that morning. Three decades later Herzog concedes there was fault on both sides:
“Part of it was my fault and part of it was not my fault,” Herzog said. “Me and Mr. Kauffman just didn’t hit it off that good. It was one of those things. I was a brash young guy and the next thing I know — we set an all-time attendance record after finishing three games out and winning three times in a row — and I’m looking for a job.”
He wasn’t looking for long and headed east to St. Louis in 1981 to begin another chapter in a managerial career that has now led to Cooperstown. Looking back it worked out for all involved. In the next decade Whitey had great success with the Redbirds reaching the postseason three times and capturing a World Series Championship. Mr. K and the Royals reached the postseason four times with a World Series title as well.
Interestingly, the Royals crown came in 1985 against – nah, you already know that story…
To a ‘Show-Me’ state legend with success from west to east, we offer a hearty and well deserved congratulations from all your fans and friends in Kansas City – Thanks Whitey!
(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)