Many a player today plays for more then one team in their career, often throughout the year a player might play for more then one team, this is a common occurrence, however this has not always been a normal event, especially the shift between leagues. In the 1972 Sporting News Baseball Guide there is a list of players who labored in each league that season, the list was short (around 16) and was highlighted by the presence of all of the Alou Brothers.
The list for managers who have skippered two clubs in one season is a short one however, and it is one usually fraught with volatile personalities, new employees and style clashes. And that leads us to actually ponder, who was luck enough to land on their feet the same year they had them cut out from beneath them.
McGraw – Orioles – Giants
The Situation: Part owner, manager and player John McGraw was hosting what he termed as a flagship franchise in the young American League. This was not marked without some problems. McGraw was and remains a prime example of what was wrong with major league baseball and the National League in the 1890’s, this pugilist image was what the American League was trying to combat in their early years. AL czar Ban Johnson had McGraw on a short leash and had suspended him for abusive behavior early in the season when he was confronted with another incident.
The Trigger: Steaming about his suspension and nursing a spike wound McGraw was unable to make the road trip with the team. Seeing (in his mind) that Johnson was after him McGraw began to explore leaving the Orioles and heading back to the National League. This plan was compounded by the wide held belief that Johnson was planning on shifting the Baltimore franchise north into New York at the first opportunity.
The Move: After returning from his injury, McGraw is thrown out of his first game back (He was tossed from opening day as well) Using the subsequent suspension to throw more wood on the fire Ban Johnson lobbed off this volley,
“Rowdyism will not be tolerated in the American League and the men who disregard the organization rules must suffer the consequences.”
To which McGraw replied:
“I would be a fool to stay here and have a dog made of myself by a man who makes no pretence to investigating or giving a gearing to both sides.”
The Result: McGraw secured his release from Baltimore and he and several other NL representatives (Freedman, John Brush) pillaged the Orioles franchise of most of their good players. Causing the AL to scramble as they did their best to keep the franchise running. McGraw took over the Giants and the rest is history.
His Legacy: McGraw is perhaps the biggest reason that the American League had an uphill battle in New York for the first 2 decades of its existence. His personality and anti Johnson sentiment burned bright for years, only to be extinguished by the sheer brilliance of Babe Ruth
Durocher – Dodgers – Giants
The Situation: Leo Durocher was the longtime manager of the Dodgers, and public enemy number one in most Giant fans eyes. He was also fresh off a years suspension, a year he spent watching Burt Shotton take his team to the World Series. That and an already shaky relationship with GM Branch Rickey made the spring a little tense in Brooklyn
The Trigger: Floating near .500 as the All Star game approached Rickey was doing his best to get the guts to fire Durocher, who claims Rickey ignored his pleas for Campanella and other help that the Dodgers minors was churning out at that time. Adding into the weirdness of Leo’s return was that Shotton being the manager of the returning champs should be managing the NL during the All Star game, instead he was going to make a nominal appearance at game acknowledging his existence.
The Move: Meanwhile over at the Polo Grounds the Giants were undergoing a change and went to Rickey to see if Shotton was available for an interview. “Sure he is said Rickey, but just so you know, Leo’s available too… just choose one.”
The Result: Many a manager leaves when they see the writing on the wall, that’s what Durocher did and it wasn’t very long until Rickey himself was chased out of New York by Walter O’Malley. The biggest winner in the deal was the press, who ate the move up like cotton candy. The fans had a bucketful of ideas about the deal and the press made sure we got to see them.
It means the pennant, Durocher is the best manager in baseball, with that Giant Power he’ll blow the league apart.
Without Leo, the Dodgers aren’t the Dodgers anymore as far as I’m concerned. Look me up at the Polo Grounds anytime you want to find me mourned one Dodger fan to a friend.
His Legacy: Leo reignited the Giants franchise after more then a decade of slumber, he later remerges in Chicago and Houston (and as a coach in LA) Why he even shows up on this list later on!
Hornsby – Browns – Reds
The Situation: Browns Owner feels his team needs a guiding hand, a firm hand and against advice he hires legendary baseball player and curmudgeon Rogers Hornsby, a man who had been fired by the very same Browns 15 years earlier, in fact he had been fired by Bills father 20 years earlier in Chicago. The next day he received a telegram from his mother:
What makes you think you’re smarter then your daddy was?
The Trigger: Fear of becoming the Cleveland Crybabies was perhaps the main reason, that and the fact that Hornsby was loathed by everyone in the organization from the ticket sellers to the players. After weeks of fretting Veeck cut his losses and let Hornsby go. He left with a 3 year contract and no job.
The Move: Meanwhile in Cincinnati an angry Luke Sewell was losing control of his team, oddly enough he felt part of the blame lay in the press and especially a new reporter for the Times Star, named Earl Lawson. Veeck then recieved another telegram from his mother:
I told you so.
The Result: Luke’s departure made Gabe Paul think his team needed a steady hand, a firm hand. So he hired recently fired Rogers Hornsby, despite is friends warnings, well you know the story.
His Legacy: Hornsby enraged the Reds players and press with his indifference and the next year he was to find himself unemployed again. In the span of two years Rogers was able to sign two 3 year contracts to manage a team in major league baseball, and get fired from both positions. He never got another job managing in the big leagues.
Durocher – Cubs – Astros
The Situation: Player Revolt, generation gap, the creation of the players association, old money and old mind set. This story has it all. Durocher had arrived in the late 60’s his dynamic personality and the emergence of some decent Cubs teams after years and years of despair had burned bright, but never the brightest in the league during his tenure.
The Trigger: As the Cubs window closed the tensions ran high in the clubhouse, the end of the 1971 season had seen a full page ad by Wrigley slamming the Cubs players who wanted Durocher out, and as the 1972 season plodded on the rumblings echo hung over the club, the performance was cloaked in the pall of the dimming and it was evident to all in the northside.
The Move: On the eve of the All Star Game Durocher stepped aside, insisting that it was his move, whispers around town pointed at Wrigley as the prodder in the event. His goal was to achieve stability, something that seemed to be lacking in the Durocher clubhouse. This was lost on the Astros however. A team that itself was experiencing a year of turmoil, in the front office Spec Richardson was dealing with the losing grip that manager Harry Walker was exhibiting in the Astros clubhouse. His remedy was replacing Walker with Durocher, who longed to save face after his departure in Chicago.
The Result: Houston as a team was much younger then the Cubs, Leo never fit in and struggled to understand the new breed of ballplayer that was playing on plastic grass in a covered stadium that looked like a space ship. All of that had to be bewildering to guy who grew up idolizing Rabbit Maranville and who broke in playing at Yankee Stadium with Babe Ruth.
His Legacy: Along with Billy Martin Leo is the only man on the list twice and one of the games greatest personalities and managers.
Martin – Tigers – Rangers
The Situation: Only a year removed from winning the AL East Martin was already losing his second ML clubhouse, he had angered GM Jim Campbell earlier in the year when he didn’t fly with the team out of the west coast one evening. He nearly missed the next game as the team waited for the lineup to be posted. A much older team then most Martin’s act had worn thin and the strain was starting to show throughout the organization.
The Trigger: 8/30/73 Gaylord Perry shuts down the Tigers 3-0, he gets 14 ground ball outs, including 9 to second. Playing on the fact that Perry is a known spitball pitcher Martin tells the press that he’s just going to go ahead and order his pitchers to throw the spitter as well when facing the Indians.
The Move: This was the incident that Campbell had been waiting for, he knew it would come and he took no time in executing the managerial career of Billy Martin in Detroit. Meanwhile down in Texas former Reds GM’s Daddy Dan O’Brien Senior and Ranger owner Bob Short were busy making Whitey Herzog’s first year as a major league manager memorable when they fired him before it ended. Also in their sites that year was a young flamethrower named David Clyde, he unlike Whitey wouldn’t fair too well after his Ranger tenure. Seeing the freshly cut Martin on the market was the perfect idea for the promotion minded Short, a man who knew more about fleecing teams from cities then most.
The Result: Martin and his favorite coaches all arrived in Texas where the like so many later on failed to bring the Rangers to the World Series. He was fired in 1975 and reemerged the same year as the Yankee manager
His Legacy: Martin’s legacy was in flux as Ranger manager, it becomes more enhanced in New York and later again in Oakland. However most will always remember Martin as a Yankee only.
Virdon – Yankees – Astros
The Situation: New owner George Steinbrenner was not allowed to hire his manager of choice Dick Williams, so in the pinch he let Gabe Paul choose a man who played for the Pirates back when Paul was the GM of the Reds in the late 1950’s. Bill was a pure National League guy and Graig Nettles said he ran the toughest camp he ever attended. Under Virdon the Yankees began their slow climb back to respectability, finishing 2nd in 1974. This included Virdon having the guts to move the slowing Murcer out of CF.
The Trigger: The wildcard in Virdon’s employment was the 45 year old Steinbrenner, who had recently been suspended by baseball because of campaign contributions to Nixon. Though suspended George was slowly resting control of the team away from his other partners, with this came front office and managerial movements based on George’s whims. Virdon was just the first to experience it.
The Move: 104 games into the season and in third place with stories of his job being in jeopardy Virdon could look back at the 11-18 record in July as being the straw that broke the weak back of the Yankees will to lose. Add in injuries to Bobby Bonds and closer Sparky Lyle and the Yankees hopes were dashed a bit more when they dropped a doubleheader to the first place Red Sox in late July. These were the days the Yankees shared Shea with the Mets while Yankee Stadium underwent work, at it was in Shea that Virdon the old National Leaguer was fired by his first American League team.
The Result: This move was the beginning of the Steinbrenner era in NYC, it also was a move that was not endorsed by GM Gabe Paul, who despite his dislike of the move was a loyal soldier and talked a good game to the press, ” We’re not blaming Bill for a thing, This is an exciting move that became possible when Martin became available.” Meanwhile change in the Astros front office occurred when longtime owner Judge Roy Hofneiz lost control of the Astros, with this release of power came the firing of long time GM Spec Richardson. His replacement Tal Smith had recently worked for the New York Yankees after cutting his teeth as the Astros GM in the late sixties. Tal had grown to respect Bill Virdon and his managerial style and 9 days after he took the GM job in Houston he fired Preston Gomez and hired Bill Virdon
His Legacy: Virdon a quiet man forged his legacy as a manger in Houston where he took the Astros to their first playoff appearance in 1980, he later managed the Expos in 1983 and 1984. However, he never won more then the respect of baseball men all around the game.
Martin – Rangers – Yankees
The Situation: There are always two sides to a story, with Martin chances are his side is colored with a bit more BS then the other side. Suffice to say martin has always burned bright and fast, in Texas it was no different, According to Billy, Bob Short was friend and when he took the managerial job there he was in heaven. This of course was short lived, there was attendance issues and a constant lack of real talent. This was masked by the Rangers finishing second in 1974 to the A’s and Martin winning the Manager of the Year award. Despite the team having a negative 8 run differential.
The Trigger: Short sold the team and the new owner Brad Corbett hires Bobby Brown a former Yankee teammate of Martin as the president. The relationship never jelled and by mid summer 1975 The Rangers (like the Tigers and the Twins before) had tired of Martin and they severed their relationship. According to Martin, they would not listen to his superb scouting and trade ideas. According to a staff member “He wanted to run everything in the organization, including the music they played.”
The Move: Most new ownership allows themselves the privilege of choosing their own guy. According to Martin, Frank Lucchesi was the conduit between the dugout and the front office, and it was Frank who got Billy’s job when he was let go
The Result: Martin like a cat had many lives, and the biggest stage was waiting for him after he was let go by Texas. George Steinbrenner was slowly buying out the 16 partners he had purchased the Yankees with in 1973. Plus George craved the stage that the Yankees provided him. Like any good director or producer George knew that sexy sells in New York and nothing in the 70’s was sexier then the volatile Martin, who was also a Yankee from back in the day.
His Legacy: The Steinbrenner/Martin relationships is one of the more interesting stories in baseball history, volumes of material involving the biggest names in the sport in the 70’s and 80’s have and will continue to be written as long as most of us live.
LaRussa – White Sox – A’s
The Situation: Another example of ruining a good thing can be found in the White Sox’s handling of Tony LaRussa. This can be traced back to the instability in the ownership ranks and the need for them to combat the growing Cubs popularity spurned on by WGN and the torrid 1984 Cubs team. With envy often comes irrational decisions, and the white Sox appointment of Ken Harrelson the team’s announcer was just the sort of irrational move this game sees too often.
The Trigger: Firing Roland Hemond and replacing him with the inexperienced and opinionated Harrelson who immediately began to be the thrust of the Sox brain trust and marketing (Team ads called out “The Hawk Wants You” he also started meddling with LaRussa’s coaching staff, trying to replace LaRussa soldier Dave Duncan with Moe Drawbosky and also pushing Willie Horton on the team as “Home Run Coach” Rumors of Harrelson looking for Billy Martin as a possible replacement was met by the usual icy stare that LaRussa owned, but also a realization that crazy was something he didn’t have to participate in if he didn’t want to.
The Move: The rumbling of not only Martin being interviewed, but Jim Fregosi as well didn’t bode well with LaRussa eventually Harrelson made his move and fired the only man to take the White Sox to the playoffs since 1959. Meanwhile in Oakland the innovative Sandy Alderson had hit the wall again on his second managerial choice after jettisoning the aforementioned Billy Martin. Watching Jackie Moore lose the grip on his team didn’t bode well for Alderson, and he wanted a more experienced hand guiding the A’s, one that was open to new conventions, both traits were possessed by the recently fired Tony LaRussa.
His Legacy: LaRussa and the A’s had the 2nd highest winning percentage in the AL from his arrival to the strike. Hem later moved on to St. Louis where he has enriched his reputation and continues to taunt opposing fans with his icy glare and sometimes dramatic responses to situations.
Rodgers – Expos – Angels
The Situation: Buck Rodgers entering his 7th year as Expos manager, however above him is a new GM, the young David Dombrowski.
The Trigger: Too many times the bridesmaid for the Expos in their brief history and their suddenly dwindling fan turnout was a concern. Plus Dombrowski had his own choice in Tom Runnells waiting in the wings.
The Move: This is the classic case of a new GM wanting his own man in the job, Rodgers was caught in between a power play and he was plowed under by that and a bad team
The Result: Rodgers was a long time Angel in the 1960’s and was always a favorite of owner Gene Autry. Mike Port the GM, was looking to fix a down turn only 2 years since a 91 win season. When that emergence of Rodgers as the new manager didn’t swing the ledger more into the black Port met his professional demise. In stepped Dan O’Brien Senior, who like all GM’s had his own ideas. Unlucky for Rodgers a bus accident caused him to miss a significant amount of time as the manager and that eventually was the catalyst to him losing his job the following season.
His Legacy: Buck was known as a more innovative manager then an old schooler, his legacy though is bookended by tragedy. He received his first job managing the Milwaukee Brewers after manager George Bamberger had a heart attack. He then went out when he himself was seriously injured in the afore mentioned bus accident.
The Odd balls
Dykes/Gordon – Tigers – A’s
The Situation: With each having played at least 105 games the Tigers and the Indians both felt they were out of the race. The Indians were 12.5 games back, having lost 3.5 games in the past 4 days. The Tigers were 14 back, yet still had scored more then they had given up, a task the Indians could not claim to have achieved to date.
The Trigger: DeWitt and Trader Frank Lane had earlier cut the Harvey Kuhn – Rocky Colavito deal in a phone conversation DeWitt joked that they should trade managers, Lane didn’t just chuckle back.
The Move: The deal was contingent on each manager agreeing to sign an extension so they essentially switched jobs as if each had been fired. They also took their respective staff with them.
The Result: They met on August 6th and 7th with the Indians taking both games, later in Detroit the Tigers were able to take 2 of 3 from the Indians. The Tigers maintained their positive run differential and eventually passed Dykes and the Indians, finishing 10.5 back of the Yankees, the Indians finished 16 back.
The Legacy: The only “Trade” of Major League managers in the history of the game.
Honorable Mention – Gus Schmeltz managed the National League Cleveland team only to be fired, he ended up in his home town ( Columbus ) where he managed the American Association Columbus Solons, why and how it occurred, I don’t know….. but it did, making Gus the only man to ever manage two different teams in one year in the 19th century…. Unless any of you know better.