Remembering Whitey Herzog: Former Mets Director of Player Development (1966 - 1972)

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 manager Casey Stengel.

Military Service: Herzog went off to serve two years Military Service during the Korea War conflict returning to baseball by 1956. 

By then Herzog had been traded to the Washington Senators, where he played for three seasons, as an outfielder / first baseman, batting .230 in 161 games. 

He moved on to play as a part time player with the Kansas City A’s (1958-1960) Baltimore Orioles (1961-1962) & Detroit Tigers (1963). In an eight-year career he batted .254 with 414 hits 60 doubles 20 triples 25 HRs & 172 RBIs. He posted a .354 on base % & .719 OPS. Whitey played 450 games in the outfield & 37 games at first base.

Retirement & Coaching:
After his playing days he started out as a big-league scout & then a coach for the Kansas City A’s in 1965. 

Mets Minor Leagues Director: In 1966 he was he was hired by the New York Mets serving as third base coach for one season. He then moved into the Mets front office. Herzog soon became the Director of Player Development, making the decisions for club President Johnny Murphy. 

Herzog was great at developing young players & seeing their strong points as well as the flaws that needed to be worked on. His biggest obstacle in the Mets organization was the team' s General Manager, M. Donald Grant. To Herzog, Grant was a businessman who knew nothing about baseball operations. He saw that Grant would give up on young talented players, not waiting for them to develop. He would then trade that young player for a big named payer whose best days were behind him. So were the Mets in the sixties

Herzog was instrumental in building the Mets 1969 Amazing Mets World Championship team & the 1973 NL Pennant winners. He would spend eight years in his position developing young Mets players. 

He also told the organization when to let a player go that he felt was not coming along. Herzog helped develop the talented young pitchers that the Mets organization kept bringing up to the big leagues in the late sixties & early seventies. He also had a hand in some of the big young hitters within the organization that the team would let go.

There was also Jerry Koosman (20 game winner) Jon Matlack (1972 Rookie of the Year) Tug McGraw (one of the 1970s best Relievers) Buzz Capra (1974 NL ERA leader) & Craig Swan (1978 ERA leader). Gary Gentry, Jim McAndrew, Bob Apodaca, Danny Frisella, Steve Renko, Rich Folkers & Nino Espinosa just to name a few.

In 1972 when Gil Hodges tragically passed away from a fatal heart attack, Whitey Herzog was probably the best man to fill that managerial spot. But M. Donald Grant who always went with the big name or popular player, chose to promote Mets Coach Yogi Berra for the job. 

At Gil Hodges funeral in Brooklyn, Whitey was instructed to stay away from Grant so the media wouldn’t think he was getting the position. Herzog was hurt & would never forgive the Mets for what they did to him.

In that time Herzog became even more furious, as the Mets gave away some of their top young talent in terrible deals. Nolan Ryan, Ken Singleton, Amos Otis, & Tim Foli were all traded away. 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. After these moves & the disrespect Herzog had enough. 

By 1973 Herzog couldn’t take Mr. Grant or the Mets anymore, he left the organization for good. Although he became a rival of the Mets in the 1980's he must be remembered for all the great work he did for the organization. One cant help to wonder what might have been. 

Post Mets Career- Coach & Manager: 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 manager 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 manage the Kansas City Royals (1975 - 1979) leading them to three straight AL Western Division titles. He lost each time in the ALCS & finished in second place to the California Angels in 1979.

In 1980 he went to the St. Louis Cardinals & remained there for the next decade (1980-1990).
Herzog would win one World Series with Cardinals (1982) two NL pennants (1985 & 1987) and six NL Eastern Division titles.

Whitey Ball: His style of play in St. Louis became known as Whitey Ball. He used patient hitters, with good on base% & good speed at the top of his lineup. He then put his power hitters in the third & fourth spots. Speed & aggressive base running on the base paths proved successful at Royals & Busch Stadium's artificial turf, leading to lots of runs scored.

He & his Cardinals became the Mets biggest rivals in the 1980’s as Whitey was out for vengeance against his old organization. He also had a personal feud with New York All Star Keith Hernandez, who won an MVP Award with Herzog in St. Louis in 1979. 

Whitey was very outspoken about Keith in his Cardinal days, calling him lax and too easy going on the field. 
Herzog also did not like the way Keith would party & his love of the night life. 
Finally, when the drug rumors swirled around Hernandez, Whitey wanted him gone. Hernandez was traded to the Mets & the two were both bitter about their past relationship.

Hernandez came to New York & vowed to prove his old manager wrong. He led by example & helped turn the Mets into a winner & won a Championship with them in 1986. The two men made peace at a Cardinals event in the 2010's.

In 1990 he left the Cardinals ending his long managerial career compiling a 1281-1125 record with a .532 winning %. He was 26-25 in nine post seasons.

After that he worked in the Anaheim Angels front office as GM (1993-1994). In Anaheim he had issues with team owner Gene Autrey & VP Dave O'Brien.

Honors: In 2009 Herzog was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.

Family: Whitey married his high school sweetheart Mary Lou (Sinn) in 1952. They had three children together & have been married for over seventy years.


Popular posts from this blog

Fictional Mets Infielder Chico Escuela ( of SNL) Visits Mets Spring Training (1979)

Remembering Bobby Ojeda's Tragic Boating Accident (1993)

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

Remembering Mets History (1979) SNL's Chico Escuela Visits Mets Spring Training & Attempts a Career Comeback

Remembering Mets History: (1977) The Felix Millan / Ed Ott Brawl In Pittsburgh