Feb 5, 2016

Former Mets Director of Player Development In the Sixties / Early Seventies: Whitey Herzog

Dorrel Norman Elvert "Whitey" Herzog was born November 9, 1931 in New Athens, Illinois. His pro baseball career began as a prospect for the A.L. New York team in the early 1950’s.

Although he never cracked the big league squad, he spent Spring Training with the team and was highly influenced by Casey Stengel.

Herzog went off to serve two years Military Service in the Korea War returning to baseball by 1956. By then he had been traded to the Washington Senators & played there for three seasons.

He moved to the Kansas City A’s (1958-1960) Baltimore Orioles (1961-1962) & Detroit Tigers (1963) finishing an eight year career batting .254 lifetime with 414 hits 25 HRs & 172 RBIs. He played 450 games in the outfield & 37 games at first base.

After his playing days he started out as a big league scout & then a coach for the Kansas City A’s in 1965. In 1966 he was he was hired by the New York Mets serving as third base coach for one season, before moving into the Mets front office. Herzog soon became the Director of Player Development, making the decisions for club President Johnny Murphy. Herzog's biggest problem in the organization was the team' s General Manager, M. Donald Grant.

In Herzog eyes, Grant knew nothing about baseball operations. He felt Grant would give up young talent tin exchange for a big named payer who's best days were behind him.

Herzog was instrumental in building the Mets 1969 Amazing Mets World Championship team & the 1973 NL Pennant winners. He would spend eight years developing young Mets players and trying to let go all the players he felt disposable. Herzog helped develop the young 1969 pitching staff and many of its young players within the organization in the years following.

The crop of young arms to come out of the Mets organization in the late sixties, early seventies is incredible. Tom Seaver (three Cy Young Awards / Hall of Fame ), Nolan Ryan (Seven No Hitters / All Time MLB Strike out leader / Hall of Fame).


Also Mets stars; Jerry Koosman (20 game winner) Jon Matlack (1972 Rookie of the Year) Tug McGraw (one of the 1970s best Relievers) & Craig Swan (1978 ERA leader). Add In successful pitchers; Gary Gentry, Jim McAndrew, Bob Apodaca, Buzz Capra (1974 NL ERA leader), Danny Frisella, Steve Renko, Rich Folkers & Nino Espinosa.

In 1972 when Gil Hodges tragically passed away from a fatal heart attack, Whitey Herzog was probably the best man to fill the spot.

But M. Donald Grant who always went with an old New York Player from yesteryear chose to promote Hodges Coach Yogi Berra to the position. At Hodges funeral, Whitey was instructed to stay away from Grant so the media wouldn’t think he was getting the position. It’s something Herzog never forgave the Mets for.

Then Herzog was even more furious, as in the coming years the Mets gave away some of their top young talent; Nolan Ryan, Ken Singleton, Amos Otis, & Tim Foli. He believed that the Mets would have had a dynasty type team through the seventies if they had held on to these players. He certainly has a good point. It was the trades of Ryan & those players that made Herzog have enough.

By 1973 Herzog couldn’t take Mr. Grant or the Mets anymore, he left the organization for good. But he must be remembered for all the great work he did. Whitey Herzog moved on & became a Hall of Fame manager with a fantastic career.

In 1973 he began his managerial career with the Texas Rangers, going 47--91 before getting replaced by Del Webner for one game, until Billy Martin took over. From there he coached with the California Angels under Bobby Winkles in 1974. When Winkles got fired, Herzog became the interim manager for four games, until Dick Williams took over.

From there Herzog went to the Kansas City Royals & led them to three straight AL Western Division titles. He lost each time in the ALCS & finished in second place to the Angels in 1979.

In 1980 he went to the St. Louis Cardinals & stayed there for the next decade. Herzog would win one World Series with Cardinals (1982) , two NL pennants (1985 & 1987) and six NL Eastern titles.

His style of play in St. Louis became known as Whitey Ball. He used patient hitters, with good on base percentages at the top of his lineup. Speed & aggressive base running on the base paths of the Busch Stadium artificial turf led to a lot of runs scored.

He became one of the Mets biggest enemies in the 1980’s as he was out for vengeance against his old organization. He also had a personal feud with New York's Keith Hernandez, who won an MVP Award with Herzog in St. Luis in 1979, but then traded him to the Mets just three years later.

Whitey was very outspoken about Keith in his Cardinal days, calling him lax and easy going on the field. Hernandez came to New York and vowed to prove Herzog wrong. After leaving the Cardinals in 1990 he worked in the Anaheim Angels front office through the 1990’s before retiring.

Honors: In 2010 Herzog was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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