Jewish World Review
April 9, 2007
/ 20 Nissan, 5767
The Sultan of Skokie
On a plane to Denver, back in the mid 80's, I had the privilege of sitting next to the then manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Whitey Herzog. He was known as the white rat for his yellow/white mane and conniving brilliant winning ways known as "Whiteyball."
Herzog was at the top of his game, after winning the 82' series against the Milwaukee Brewers, after a brilliant comeback game 7. It was the most memorable sporting event my son, Aaron and I, have been to before or since.
Whitey won two more pennants, leading the Redbirds to the '85 and '87 World Series.
Amongst other honors, Herzog was chosen Sport's Illustrated Manager of the decade in the 80's.
I was eager to talk baseball.
The conversation went over recent and potential acquisitions. Jose Canseco? Whitey: "He doesn't have the power to hit in Busch Stadium" as he winked.
Then we talked about a manager that used a lot of Whitey's tactics…and more.
"The key to being a good manager is to keep the players that hate me away from the ones that are still undecided" Casey Stengel
This leader won many championships over a long career. He was known as a tough disciplinarian, running his players relentlessly for not hustling or making errors (three boo-boos and you ran the entire park). He made sure his minions were well versed in fundamentals like sliding properly and bunting.
As I told Herzog about his fellow coach's escapades, his eyes widened in amazement and disbelief. If he had paper and pen, he may have taken notes.
Not only did he utilize the running game, sacrifices, and squeeze plays, that Whitey was genius at, he:
Used pickoff plays to second where the pitcher would throw to second with out stepping, while looking at home plate. Got many an unsuspecting runner out.
Had the batter drop the bat on ball three with the bases loaded and calmly trot to first base while the other base runners slowly loped to their next base. By the time everyone, including the ump, figured out it was only ball three, a triple steal was recorded, including the theft of home. Cha-Ching! Run scored! Mayhem induced!
Once, in a tied playoff game, with the winning run on third, our batter dropped his bat in mid windup and began to retie his shoes. You can guess the rest. The pitcher stopped his motion midway thru. The umpire had no choice but to call a balk. Run scored, championship won…riots ensued!
Opposing managers hated him, yet emulated his tactics. Fans loved or hated him depending on who was on the team.
Hear about the army baseball player that was court marshaled? He was caught off base.
No, he's not in the Hall of Fame. He never did make it to the Majors…Hell, not even the minors. I'm not even sure he played organized baseball, although he did a stint as a basketball guard in the US Air Force in WW2.
I haven't a clue where he learned the strategies that earned him so many victories and accolades.
When he died in 1993, men that played for him 30-40 years earlier appeared at his funeral with tears in their eyes and stories on their lips.
My father, Melvin Weinbaum, was the winning manager of more little league and American legion championships than anyone in Skokie's boy's baseball's history.
He made a huge difference in many lives…most importantly, his sons, my brother, Marty and me.
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JWR contributor Dave Weinbaum, originally from Chicago, is a businessman, writer and part-time stand-up comic. He resides in a Midwest red state. Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, Dave Weinbaum