Whitey Herzog 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 27, 2017


I love this card of Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog. I am pretty sure he is jawing at someone.

But there is part of me that looks at his picture and it looks like he is yawning.

His brand of baseball used to drive me crazy in the 1980’s. His team was made up of base stealers and one slugger, often Jack Clark.

Guy would get on base. Steal second. Go to third on a ground out. Score on a sacrifice fly. 1-0.

Do that 4 or 5 times a game, and boom! You’ve won the game without an offensive highlight.

Was he yawning watching his own game?

Herzog came up in the 1950’s through the Yankees farm system but never played for the parent team. He made his big league debut with the Senators in 1956. The left handed hitting outfielder bounced between Washington, Kansas City, Baltimore and Detroit before playing his final game with the 1963 Tigers.

Eventually he landed in the Mets organization as a coach and then became a successful Director of Player Development. Several solid big league players were produced through the Mets farm system in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The team itself won the 1969 World Series while Herzog’s farm produced Amos Otis, Ken Singleton and Jon Matlack among others.

He was considered for the role of manager when Gil Hodges died but the job went to Yogi Berra, who led the team to the 1973 World Series.

That started a trend in Herzog’s early managerial career. He was passed over for the more famous name until he became a famous manager himself.

In 1973, he managed the Texas Rangers but was fired mid season in time for the team to bring in Billy Martin. In 1974, he managed the California Angels but was dropped so the Angels could hire Dick Williams

Finally in 1975, he got a chance with the Kansas City Royals and things clicked. After finishing the 1975 season with the team, he managed the club to a 90 win season in 1976. They won the AL West title and locked horns with the Yankees in a dramatic 5 game ALCS.

Led by George Brett and Dennis Leonard, the Royals won three straight AL West titles, peaking with with the 102 win campaign in 1977. That team was 3 outs away from the World Series but lost another heart breaker to the Yankees.

The 1978 squad also lost the ALCS to the Yankees. Seeing a pattern was developing, the Royals let Herzog walk after the 1979 season. While Jim Frey was leading the Royals to the World Series, Herzog was gobbled up by the Cardinals and a proud franchise was about to get a new identity for the 1980’s.

Lou Brock retired and with him went all connections to the great teams of the 1960’s. With the arrival of Herzog, the Cardinals became one of the great teams of the 1980’s.

His first season in St. Louis, 1981, they had the best record in the National League East. But because the strike split the season into first half and second half, the Phillies and Expos played in October and the Cardinals played golf.

The injustice was corrected in 1982. Ozzie Smith came over from San Diego and Bruce Sutter was now the closer. 1979 Co-MVP Keith Hernandez was still there and Rookie of the Year Willie McGee was about to make his mark along side Lonnie Smith in the outfield.

Joaquin Andujar anchored a rotation the may have lacked a Cy Young candidate but had depth with the likes of Bob Forsch and John Stuper.

They won 90 games and swept the Braves in the NLCS. But in the World Series, the Cardinals were clobbered by Milwaukee in Game 1 and fell behind 3-2 heading into Game 6.

Stuper pitched a gem in Game 6 and the bats came to life with a 13-1 blowout forcing a Game 7 showdown. Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead into the 6th. But RBI singles from Keith Hernandez and George Hendrick put the Cardinals on top for good. Bruce Sutter threw the final two innings and Herzog had delivered a title to the state of Missouri… just not the Royals.

The Cardinals would win three pennants in the 1980’s and come tantalizingly close to a second World Series title. The famous blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series haunted the team for decades. In 1987, an hobbled Cardinals team beat the Giants and had a lead in Game 7 of the World Series before the Twins came back.

The only names who played in all three World Series were Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tom Herr and Bob Forsch. Ken Oberkfell and Keith Hernandez gave way to Terry Pendleton and Jack Clark (who was injured in the 1987 World Series.) Joaquin Andujar gave way to John Tudor. Lonnie Smith left and Vince Coleman arrived. Darrell Porter was the MVP of the 1982 World Series but Tony Pena was behind the plate in 1987.

But the changing cast had the steady pilot at the helm. He was The White Rat, a name he prefers to Dorrel, his real first name.

His brand of baseball narrowly beat out the Mets in 1985 and 1987, years where it looked like New York had the superior team. The two teams had a not so friendly rivalry and the 1986 World Series for the Mets was bookended by Cardinals pennants that seemed to show the Mets were underachievers.

That might not be fair, but Whitey Herzog is in the Hall of Fame and Davey Johnson is not.

Eventually, Herzog resigned from the team in 1990 when he felt like he lost his influence.

The 1980’s were a strange time without a dynasty and a dominant franchise. Herzog’s Cardinals and Lasorda’s Dodgers were the closest thing to a dynasty in the decade. The Cardinals won a World Series and had two other pennants. Los Angeles won a pair of World Series. Head to head, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers in one of the most thrilling NLCS ever played.

Advantage Herzog.

The White Rat’s style of play for the Cardinals in the 1980’s may have driven me bonkers. But there is no denying it worked.