World Series first: 'rookie' managers in both dugouts
World Series managers are not always holler guys, headline grabbers, umpire baiters, or personalities who cry out for a spot on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. In fact, sometimes they are quiet types like Jim Frey of the 1980 Kansas City Royals.
Frey is a manager whose approach to the game is much like that of his former mentor Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles -- only without the verbal fireworks.
Jim likes to platoon; seems to know instinctively when to go to his bullpen; and makes few technical mistakes.
Frey spent his last 15 seasons working in the Baltimore organization as a coach, troubleshooter, and minor league manager. Since 1970 Weaver had used him , at various times, as the Orioles' batting instructor, bullpen coordinator, and first base coach.
"Managers are always looking for coaches who understand what's happening in the dugout as well as on the field, and Frey is that kind of person," Weaver explained. "You always knew if you asked Jim to tell a player to change something that he'd try it, if only because it was Frey who suggested it. He is a good organization man and he's been ready to manage for a long time."
Frey probably appreciates the opportunity to run a big league club more than most people simply because he once was an outstanding minor league hitter who never got a single at-bat in the majors because of injuries.
But if you could get him to, Jim could point with more than ordinary pride to two minor league batting titles, plus being named the most valuable player in the Texas League in 1957.
When Frey took over the Royals this season, he inherited a team that, after winning the American League West three years in a row, finished second in 1979 to the California Angels. He replaced Whitey Herzog, who may have lost his magic with the front office, but who was still a big favorite with the fans.
Jim solved any potential problems early by getting the Royals off to a blazing start; showing a real flair for improving the team's pitching staff; and for always playing the game by the book.
What you have to understand is that the "book" referred to here is not the standard baseball edition, which says that a manager must always sacrifice the tying run to second base in the late innings, etc., if he expects to win.
Instead this is what is called the Bird Book -- a gathering of 25 years of information by Earl Weaver and other members of the Baltimore Orioles on how to run a game, when to make certain changes, and when to ignore the percentages.
This is the main reason why Baltimore, in the last 10 years, has compiled one of the most impressive won-lost records in baseball. Most of the time, of course, the Bird Book is no better than the intelligence of the man turning its pages -- in this case Weaver. But Frey apparently is cut from the same mold, at least when it comes to making player evaluations and quick decisions.
Jim, like Weaver, prefers the luxury of the big innings; knows full well how the home run can destroy an opposing pitching staff; and and generally uses the sacrifice at different times than most managers.
Late in the season when I asked Royals' second baseman Frank White to give me his opinion of Frey as a manager, he replied:
"How can I? Since he's been here, the man has never had to manage. We got our lead so quickly and held it so long that basically it was an easy year for us. I'm not saying he can't manage. All I'm saying is that you can't judge anybody until they have been in a number of pressure situations and won."
If sweeping the Yankees three straight in the American League playoffs hasn't made a believer of Mr. White, perhaps Frey can convince him in the World Series!