Jul 31, 2016

Former Mets Manager: George Bamberger (1982-1983)

George Irvin Bamberger was born August 1, 1925 in Staten Island, New York. The six foot right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Giants in 1946. His dream came true as he made the 1951 home town New York Giants pitching staff. He only pitched in two games allowing four runs in two innings of work. Needless to say he didn’t make the World Series roster.

In 1952 he appeared briefly in five games, allowing four runs in four innings. He spent the next six years in the minors and fifteen years overall, mostly in the Pacific Coast League winning 216 games there overall. He had one last hurrah in the majors, pitching three games with the Baltimore Orioles in 1959. He stayed in their organization at various levels and then became one of the best pitching coaches in the game during the late sixties/ early seventies.

In 1968 he was first named pitching coach for a mighty Orioles team under manager Earl Weaver. He was a firm believer in the four man pitching rotation, feeling the more a pitcher used his arm without abusing it, the stronger it became. He would hold the position for the next decade, getting to three World Series, producing 18 twenty game winners, including a record of four on the same 1971 staff . That historic season Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, & Pat Dopson all won twenty games for Bamberger.

In his time as pitching coach he also had the privilege of coaching four Cy Young winners; two during his tenure- Mike Cuellar (1969) & Jim Palmer (1973 / 1975-1976) Then after his departure Mike Flanagan (1979) & Steve Stone (1980). Bamberger's pitching staff were first in the American League in ERA every season from 1968 through 1973. His staff was first in wins five times as well.

In 1969 he sat in the dugout at Shea Stadium during the Worland watched the young New York Mets staff out pitch his own mighty heavily favored Orioles staff. Little did he or anyone else, know he would be in the dugout managing the Mets 13 years later.

In 1978 he was hired as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and got them to over 90 wins for the first time in their ten year history. He won the A.L. Manager of the Year Award, with his team finishing in third place at 93-69. It was a tough division and the Brew Crew improved to finished second to his old Baltimore team in 1979, winning 95 games. In 1980 he suffered a heart attack during Spring Training, and was sidelined for a the first few months of the season. After 92 games the Brewers were only at .500, and he resigned as their manager.

Meanwhile, in New York a new ownership took over the Mets ball club and Joe Torre was fired as manager after five losing seasons. The new General Manager for the Mets was Frank Cashen, who had been the GM in Baltimore during Bamberger's years when he was the Pitching Coach. Cashen went right out and hired his old pal Bambi, as the Mets manager for the 1982 season.

Bamberger told The New York Times: ''My whole idea is to throw the ball over the plate. The most important pitch is a strike. But the trick is to change speeds. Trying to pinpoint a pitch is crazy. Throw the ball down the middle, but don't throw the same pitch twice. Change the speed.''

In 1982 the Mets started out a little better than the previous years. In June they were still at .500 and more fans were coming to the ballpark. There really wasn’t much pitching there for Bamberger to work with, the staff was led by Craig Swan who would win 11 games. Charlie Puleo (9-9) Pete Falcone (8-10) a young Mike Scott (7-13) & a veteran Randy Jones (7-10) made up the starting rotation. As Pat Zachary (6-9) & Ed Lynch (4-8) also saw some starts.

To Bamberger's credit, Jesse Orosco said Bambi helped him develop his slider while he was in his rookie season. As for the lineup Dave Kingman’s bat wasn’t enough to carry the team, although he hit 37 HRs & drove in 99 Runs he only batted .204. George Foster (13 HRs & 70 RBIs) & Ellis Valentine (8 HRs & 48 RBIs) both came to New York with expectations, but they neither proved too change the team around.

The few bright spots were youngsters Mookie Wilson & reliever Neil Allen. At the end of the year the Mets didn’t finish much better than the previous season, going 65-97 in last place 27 games back of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. 

In 1983 after a 16-30 last place start to the season, Bamberger resigned. He said “I probably suffered enough , I'm going fishing”, feeling all the stress of losing in New York was going to give him another heart attack. He was replaced by big Frank Howard for the rest of the 1983 season. In 1984 Davey Johnson would take over and enjoy a successful run throughout the 1980's.

Bamberger went back to Milwaukee & did two more years as the Brewers manager (1985-1986). His team finished last both seasons winning an identical 71 games each year. In 1986 he retired for good, moving to North Redington Beach, Florida with his wife of 53 years. In 2004 he passed away at age 80.

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