The White Rat
It would be easy to say the name “I-70 Baseball” may not exist without a fateful postseason that led to a memorable October for the two teams we cover. In 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals brought their young, speedy team to the World Series to face the “other team” in Missouri, the Kansas City Royals. What ensued was a series that will be remembered by Cardinal fans as a blown call and by Royal fans as a blowout deciding game seven.
There are many players, games, decisions, and developments that have connected the two teams over the years. Far more than one World Series in 1985. The website may have struggled for a name without that series, but I assure you the knowledge, information, and fan base would be there regardless of that sole October meeting.
When you look down the rosters and names of those people that connect these two teams, look no further than the Baseball Hall Of Fame induction ceremony this weekend and Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog. The rest of the world will acknowledge what the fans of the I-70 teams already knew, Whitey Herzog is one of the game’s best managers ever. He changed the way the game was played. He built rosters of players around speed, defense and pitching. He pushed his players to the point of frustrating the other teams with their constant movement and focus on the fundamentals. They won games based on starting pitching and base running and amazing defensive plays. Along the way, he had a few stops where he would perfect his trade.
Herzog would cut his teeth as a manager with the Texas Rangers and California Angels in 1973 and 1974. The Texas Rangers gave Whitey, at the age of 41, his first chance at managing in 1973. Herzog would not reward them with anything worth while, posting 47 wins and 91 loses before being fired and replaced with Billy Martin, who would turn the team around the following year. In 1974 the Angels would fire Bobby Winkles and ask Herzog to hold the reigns temporarily until they hired Dick Williams. Herzog would manage only four games that year for the California Angels and posted a .500 record, winning and losing two games.
In 1975 the Kansas City Royals would fire manager Jack McKeon and Whitey would take the reigns of the franchise for his first successful endeavor. Whitey would manage the final 66 games of the 1975 season, posting a 41 win and 25 loss record and finishing in second place in the American League West.
The next three seasons would not see Herzog play second fiddle in his division again. He would lead the Royals to seasons of 90, 102, and 92 wins from 1976-1978, claiming first place in the division each year. Where he would not find success, however, was in the postseason. The New York Yankees would send the Royals out of the American League Championship Series for three straight seasons. 1979 would see Whitey and his Royals fall short of the division title, posting a 85 win and 77 loss season and finishing second. Later that year, with a career record for the Royals of 410 wins and 304 losses, Herzog was fired and replaced by Jim Frey. The Royals would find their best success to date in 1980, achieving an appearance in the World Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1980, Whitey would take his managerial expertise and roster management skills across the state of Missouri to our other I-70 team. After taking the reigns from Ken Boyer, Whitey would show the Cardinals had the ability to be successful, leading them to 38 wins and 35 losses. Herzog’s desire to build his team began to take hold as he turned over the managerial role to Red Schoendienst and assumed the role of general manager for the club. Herzog would return to the field as manager in 1981 and continue to serve as the team’s general manager through 1982. While he made many moves within the organization that would propel them to their success in the decade, none was larger than the trade that brought future Hall Of Famer Ozzie Smith to the Cardinals in 1982. Herzog would enjoy many winning seasons during his 11 years in St. Louis and would lead them to a World Championship in 1982 and World Series appearances in 1985 and 1987. In addition to this success, Herzog would also lead the Cardinals to a statistical anomaly in 1981. During a strike shortened season that lead to a strange post season scenario rewarding winners of the two halves of the season, the Cardinals would not make the playoffs, despite posting the best overall record in the National League. Herzog would leave the club in 1990 at the age of 58 with a career record for the Cardinals of 822 wins and 728 losses.
That season would mark the end of Whiteyball, the end of Herzog’s managerial career, and the end of a career that found the most success in the two cities that this very website was built to acknowledge. He would retire with a career record of 1281 wins, 1125 losses, three league pennants and one world series championship.
On Sunday, July 25, 2010 Whitey Herzog will be inducted into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. A man that produced winning ball clubs from franchises that were not expected to compete. A man that posted a highly successful career with more than 1,000 wins. A man that knew the importance of defense, speed, and solid hitting in an era that was beginning to give way to the long ball.
Both sides of the interstate that span the width of Missouri will celebrate one of their best managers being acknowledged as one of the best the game has ever seen. I-70 Baseball would like to say congratulations to the White Rat for his career achievements. Our staff would also like to say “Thank You” for all of the memories that you brought to two franchises that we follow and study.
Bill Ivie is the Editor here at I-70 Baseball.
You can find Bill’s work at our parent site, Baseball Digest, on a regular basis as well as on More Hardball every Monday.
Listen in every Monday night as Bill hosts I-70 Baseball Radio at 10pm CST.