More than one success formula for Series managers
Who has more likelihood of success as a major league manager, the former star who commands instant respect because of his own athletic reputation, or the ex-journeyman who perhaps spent more time learning the little nuances that helped him get by with marginal talent?Skip to next paragraph
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Is it the coach who labors in obscurity for a dozen years for one team, learning the personnel and the ways of that organization, or the mover and shaker who comes to a club after gaining fame and success elsewhere?
Finally, is it the easygoing leader with the laid back approach to the game or the well known strategist and thinker, who wheels and deals to put together his kind of team and then runs it according to his own well documented theories?
You can't answer any of these questions by studying the two men who manage this year's World Series opponents - or then again, perhaps you can answer all of them. Indeed, these contrasting sketches of Milwaukee's Harvey Kuenn and St. Louis's Whitey Herzog make it clear that there's more than one road to the job, and more than one way to succeed once you get there. It's mainly a case of being the right man in the right place at the right time - and both of them have demonstrated that they fit into this category.
For Kuenn, who respresents the first half of all the above questions, the right place was the Brewers organization. He'd been part of it since 1971 - the loyal coach and hitting instructor who gave his council when asked, but otherwise stayed in the background. Managers came and went, but he never bucked for the job, figuring that, as he puts it now, ''If they wanted me, they'd ask me.''
One reason management hadn't asked him earlier was its concern about whether he was up to it physically in the wake of several serious problems over the past six years. Apparently satisfying himself on that count this spring, general manager Harry Dalton decided the former Detroit Tiger star, who batted .303 in his 15-year big league career, was indeed the man to manage this hitting-oriented club.
The right time came in early June. The Brewers, preseason favorites in the American League East, were struggling in fifth place, seven games out of first place. Buck Rodgers, despite his success in leading virtually the same cast to the second-half title a year ago, couldn't seem to get things turned around this time. Somehow the loose, free-swinging crew of 1981 had turned into a group of uptight, unhappy athletes, playing without enthusiasm, and Dalton decided that an easygoing type like Kuenn was what they needed to get into their old groove again.
The choice was a most popular one with the players, especially when Harvey started right out with his now famous advice to ''Just go out there, play ball, and have fun.'' But would such an approach translate into success on the field?
It did, of course, as the team went 72-43 the rest of the way, held off Baltimore at the end, then made an unprecedented comeback from an 0-2 deficit in the playoffs to reach this final plateau.
Kuenn's presence undoubtedly helped hold the club together during times of adversity, but Harvey wasn't just pushing the buttons, patting his sluggers on the back, and watching them whale away. Indeed, during the playoffs when the Brewer bats went silent at times, and when he had to operate without injured relief ace Rollie Fingers, he had the managerial wheels turning as well as anybody - making key defensive replacements, juggling his starting rotation, and finding the right people in his depleted bullpen when it counted most.
In the other dugout, of course, there is Herzog, who represents the second hypothetical manager in all those opening questions. And the job Whitey has done in leading the Cardinals to their first pennant since 1969 shows that his way works pretty well too.
After his major league playing days as a rather ordinary .257-hitting outfielder, Whitey was a coach and a scout, quickly gaining recognition in baseball circles for his now legendary eye for talent. Then for six years he was director of player development for the New York Mets, helping them build the 1969 and 1973 pennant winners.
Herzog's first managing opportunity came in 1972 with a pitiful Texas team that even he couldn't do anything with. The next time, though, he was handed the reins of Kansas City's budding powerhouse, and under his direction the Royals won three straight AL West titles, in 1976, '77, and '78.
It was in Kansas City that Herzog perfected his theories on how to win in a spacious ballpark that has artificial turf - forget about the long ball and the big inning, concentrating instead on speed, defense, and pitching. And now under very similar circumstances at St. Louis, where he was hired as manager in 1980 and given full authority as general manager too last year, he has followed the same formula.
The once-proud Cardinals were at low ebb when Herzog started his latest restructuring project, but still it didn't take long to bear fruit. Even in 1981 they had the best record in their division, only to miss the playoffs under that year's bizarre split-season format. This year he put the final pieces in place, adding even more speed via the acquisition of Lonnie Smith and strengthening his infield defense by trading for shortstop wizard Ozzie Smith. And in perhaps the biggest move of all, he obtained Bruce Sutter as the late-inning relief ace he believes any team needs for ultimate success - and the one key ingredient he feels was missing from those Kansas City teams of his that lost three straight playoffs to the Yankees. The combination certainly proved to be the right one this year.