Results tagged ‘ Tony LaRussa ’

End of an era

 
Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

In the 1990s, the Braves came into households all across the nation each night on TBS and became America’s Team. I was one of those youngsters who tuned in almost every night to root on the Braves… and Bobby Cox is largely the reason why.

10-12-10-Carr_Cox.jpgRetiring at the end of the season, Cox managed his final game last night as the Braves were eliminated from the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. It seems fitting that they showed a feisty disposition and flair for the dramatic all season – winning games on late inning home runs and clawing their way back for come from behind wins, much like their manager Bobby Cox who’s been ejected more than any other Major League manager in history. But they just couldn’t close it out this year.

“They’ve come a long way with this team,” Cox said. “They played their hearts out, and I’ll miss them.”

In the top of the seventh inning, Cox made the walk he’s made so many times before to the mound to remove a starting pitcher and bring on relief. But as he approached the mound, veteran righty Derek Lowe pled his case and soon Cox jogged back to the dugout without asking for the ball.

It couldn’t have been a more emblematic moment for the man eternally called a “player’s manager”.

10-12-10-Carr_CoxPlayer.jpg“The guys wanted so bad to get Bobby back to the playoffs,” said Chipper Jones, who has played 2,261 games for Cox, the second-most player/manager duo in history behind Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke. “And once we got a chance to go to the playoffs, we wanted so bad to get him back to the World Series. All those things contributed to the grit and guts this team played with all year.”

The Braves players had T-shirts made up for the playoffs that said 11 for 6. It takes 11 wins to become World Champions and the Braves would do it all for Cox’s No. 6.

“He is one of a kind,” Braves closer Billy Wagner said. “There will never be another Bobby Cox, who has so much influence not just on your life, but your career. Even when you played against him, you were a fan of the Braves.”

Cox spent 25 years as the Braves skipper and four more in Toronto. He has also served as the Braves’ general manager and between playing and coaching, spent 50 years in baseball. He finished his career fourth all-time in regular season games (4,508) and wins (2,504). The Braves’ playoff appearance this year is a record setting 16th appearance for Cox. He has won four Manager of the Year Awards and one World Series in 1995 which came in the middle of a 14-year division title run.

In 2010, the Braves won 91 games during the regular seasons. It’s the 15th time that a Bobby Cox-managed team has won at least 90 games in a season. Only 2 other managers in major-league history had that many 90-win seasons: John McGraw (16) and Joe McCarthy (15) – both Hall of Famers.

Bobby Cox will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction when Expansion Era Committee next considers managers for the Class of 2014. That same year will feature two Cox-era Braves players: Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. All three have Hall of Fame credentials on their list of career accomplishments.

10-12-10-Carr_CoxWS.jpgOf course Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston managed their final regular-season games this year and Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa’s future statuses remains unclear. They would all join the list in 2014 as their first eligible election. To date, there have been only two instances of three former World Series-winning managers sharing the same final major-league season.

In 1950, the managerial careers of Connie Mack (Philadelphia Athletics), Joe McCarthy (Red Sox) and Eddie Dyer (Cardinals) all came to an end. Mack and McCarthy went on to Hall of Fame election. The other year in which three World Series winning managers left the major-league stage was 1988, with Dick Williams (Mariners), Billy Martin (Yankees) and Chuck Tanner (Braves). Williams was inducted in 2008.

Despite the end of the Braves season last night, fans stayed in the stadium not to watch the Giants celebrate but to chant “Bobby, Bobby” until their favorite skipper came out of the dugout to doff his cap. In the press conference following the game, Cox found it hard to keep it together and his emotions got the best of him as he reflected on his career in baseball.

Many fans on the other side of the television had a similar reaction. As a kid growing up during the 1990s, Bobby Cox helped make me a baseball fan. The only way to sum it up is to say: Thanks, Bobby!

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Old rumors become new at Hall of Fame Library

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Rumors are nothing new to baseball.

But no matter how unsubstantiated they may be or at least may seem to be, they had to come from somewhere. Earlier this week we saw yet another example: Albert Pujols, arguably the biggest name in the game, considered in a trade for Ryan Howard, the slugging St. Louis native.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams.jpgBoth stars balked. They say haven’t heard anything and the clubs aren’t saying anything. When the report surfaced, it also spawned references to Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams, another famous non-deal.

In 1946, the Yankees and the Red Sox both denied the idea – in the media at least. Combing through the Library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, you can find a number of items about what could have been – a blockbuster that would “set the American League on its ear!” as Richard Ben Cramer put it in the DiMaggio biography “The Hero’s Life.”

The Sporting News headlines just before and during the 1946 World Series show both teams denying interest. But after trading Joe Gordon – another future Hall of Famer – to Cleveland, accounts hint the Bombers needed an overhaul with the Yankee Clipper on the trading block.

The dynamics of DiMaggio for Williams were much simpler than Howard for Pujols. Both pull hitters could have easily taken advantage of their new parks: Williams hitting into the short porch in right wearing pinstripes, and DiMaggio banging hits and lofting flies over the Green Monster in crimson stockings.

Gossip started swirling before the Series started, but denial on both sides all-but-signaled the death of the story. In the Oct. 16, 1946, Sporting News, Red Sox management said Williams wasn’t for sale while the Yankees expressed a lack of interest.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams2.jpgThat set the stage for one of the most inconspicuous conversations in baseball history at Toots Shor’s in New York City. Sometime in December 1946, the future Hall of Fame executives of the two rivals sat down for a long night at the tavern. After several hours, Yankee owner Larry MacPhail proposed the swap to Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. MacPhail said DiMaggio could play next to his brother, Dom, and let fly over the Monster – just 315 feet away. Yawkey suggested Williams could crush Ruth’s record aiming at stands just 296 feet away. Before the night ended, the two shook – DiMaggio for Williams, straight up.

But the next morning, Yawkey called MacPhail to nix the deal. According to the book “The Era” by Roger Kahn, Yawkey said: “I can’t do it. They let Babe Ruth out of Boston. If I let Williams go, the fans will crucify me.”

Some versions of the story, like the one in “Emperors and Idiots” by Mike Vaccaro, say Yawkey tried to salvage the deal by asking for “the kid catcher from Newark” but MacPhail declared: “You’re out of your mind,” to throw in Yogi Berra, who would also be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It goes to show that you can never be sure about baseball rumors. Howard for Pujols? It could happen. DiMaggio for Williams almost did.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Managing greatness

 
Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Noted baseball author and historian Harold Seymour penned the book “The Golden Age of Baseball” about early 20th century baseball – a time when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were the stars of the game. Some would say that what we are experiencing now is the golden age of the baseball manager.

03-17-10-Berowski_LaRusaCoxTorre.jpgEntering the 2010 season, three of baseball’s five all-time winningest managers are active. At 2,552 wins, Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa sits about three seasons away from moving into second-place all-time, ahead of New York Giants Hall of Fame manager John McGraw. Thirteen times LaRussa has piloted clubs to a playoff birth, including two World Championships.

Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Dodgers, with a combined five World Series championships and 29 postseason appearances, come in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, on the all-time manager win list. With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Cox lead Atlanta to a first-place finish every season from 1991 to 2005, a mark that is unparalleled in Major League Baseball history.

Meanwhile, for 14 seasons beginning in 1996, Torre has lead either the Yankees or the Dodgers to the postseason with either a first-place finish or a wild-card berth.

To find the last time that three of baseball’s top five winningest managers were active in a season, we have to go back 60 years. The 1950 season was the last for Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, and also marked the beginning of Bucky Harris’ third stint with the Washington Senators.

At 3,731 wins, no one will be closing in on Mack’s spot at No. 1 on the list anytime soon. But if history holds true it is only a matter of time before Cooperstown comes calling for LaRussa, Cox and Torre. Other than those three active skippers, the rest of the top 11 all-time winningest managers are already enshrined in Cooperstown.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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