Tom Trebelhorn is, in my recollection, a generic place holder manager. I remember he was a manager for the Brewers and briefly the Cubs. He was a minor league manager and a big league coach.
Baseball is filled with Trebelhorns, guys with tons of baseball wisdom and the misfortune of never being the manager of a team when all the pieces are in place.
And along the way, Trebelhorn coached and managed many players and imparted wisdom and guidance.
How do I know that?
Rickey Henderson mentioned him in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Trebelhorn coached Rickey in the instructional league about the basics of base stealing. He must have known SOMETHING as his student became the greatest base stealer of them all.
The playing career of Trebelhorn, a native of Oregon, was not on par with Rickey Henderson. He played 5 years in the minor leagues but never got to the show. Instead he became a lifelong coach and manager.
He bounced between the minor league systems of the Pirates, A’s and Indians. He managed in Boise in 1975 and 1976, where he was Henderson’s manager.
In 1977, he managed in Modesto where he had Henderson again along with future Giants pitcher Ernie Camacho.
In 1979, he managed at Batvia in the Indians system. Future big leaguer Carmello Castillo was on that team.
In 1982, he went home to Portland to manage the Pirates farm team there. He managed a combination of young future big leaguers, like Brian Harper, Junior Ortiz and Jose DeLeon, as well as veterans hanging on, like Odell Jones, Willie Horton and Paul Dade.
When the Pirates moved their Triple A team from Portland to Hawaii, Trebelhorn went with them in 1983. Once again he had a mix of older and younger players including Don Stanhouse and Joe Orsulak.
After managing in Vancouver for the Brewers in 1985, he was promoted to manage the major league squad to finish the 1986 season.
In 1987, things looked like they might be going Tom Trebelhorn’s way. The Brewers started the season by winning their first 13 games and they stayed in contention for the AL East for much of the season.
They finished with 91 wins but far behind the AL East champion Tigers and the runner up Blue Jays. But his first season in the bigs as a manager was quite an accomplishment.
He would never come close to duplicating it. He would have a few more winning seasons but he was let go after the 1991 season.
Trebelhorn’s final big league managerial job was during the 1994 strike year with the Cubs. The team did not fare well and Trebelhorn’s lone highlight was following through on a dare that he would take questions from fans after the game at a firestation if the Cubs lost.
He spent years in the Orioles system, both in the front office and as a third base coach and bench coach. Eventually, he would return to managing in the Pacific Northwest, managing the Salem Volcanoes in Oregon.
The Giants affiliate had Trebelhorn manage such players as Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Gary Brown, Joe Panik and Matt Duffy. All of them won World Series titles and played in those Octobers for San Francisco.
The manager, like Bruce Bochy, gets the lionshare of the credit for developing those players. But they all had managers who molded them before they got to the bigs.
Sometimes it is the Tom Trebelhorns of the world who help turn minor leaguers into Major Leaguers.
Just ask Rickey Henderson.
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