Ever since Whitey left Anaheim in 1975 to become manager of the Kansas City Royals (three division titles in four full seasons) and then manager and, briefly, general manager of St. Louis (three National League pennants, one World Series championship), the Cowboy has wanted him back in Anaheim. So when Herzog quit as manager of the Cardinals in July 1990, the Autrys came after him in a serious way. At first Whitey stoutly resisted "getting back in the damn rat race. I was fishing in the morning and playing golf in the afternoon and making a helluva lot of money." But last summer Jackie called with a sweetheart deal: Whitey could name his own job title and his duties, and he could work out of his Missouri home during the winter.
So Herzog, at 60, is now senior vice-president, player personnel for the Angels, which means he's the guy in charge of finding the talent who will win one for the Cowboy. So far he has had a rough time doing that. Over the winter the Angels lost Wally Joyner, their best hitter, to free agency, and failed to sign either of two other prize free agents they had set their sights on, Bobby Bonilla and Danny Tartabull. "I still haven't got a handle on this thing," Whitey laments, "but, hell, I didn't get here until September."
What he has in April is an offense that was 13th in the league in run production last season and might be even worse this year. Herzog says glumly, "We're gonna have a helluva time scoring runs."
To plug some of the holes in the roster, the Angels traded for outfielders Von Hayes and Hubie Brooks, and acquired free agent Alvin Davis. But all three represent an Angel tradition that Herzog deplores: the signing of older players on the downside of good careers. California's alltime roster is a veritable galaxy of fading stars—Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winlield—who failed to win one for the Cowboy.
About all the Angels can pin their hopes on are the three superb lefthanded starters—Jim Abbott, Chuck Finley and Mark Langston—so, in Whitey's view, "we'll be good at least three days out of five, and that won't make us doormats." It will be up to Buck, the other hired hand, to get through the rest of the week.
Rodgers, 53, is an impressively burly but agreeable man who spent his entire nine-year big league playing career as an Angel. After getting canned as manager of the Montreal Expos last June, he was hired on in Anaheim in August. "It was always my dream to manage the team I started with," he says. "I do believe there is some sentiment left in the game." But he entertains few illusions about his team's prospects. "We've got a lot of older guys with great track records who are coming off bad years," he says. "If we can get two thirds of them to have average years, we'll be all right. If they all have bad years, we're in the outhouse." And, once more, the Cowboy will be out of luck.
At the Angels' spring training complex in Mesa, Ariz., Autry, though frail, looks chipper and, as always, dapper, outfitted this day in a beige 10-gallon hat, checked sport coat, tan slacks and brown cowboy boots. He recently underwent a corneal transplant, so he wears dark glasses much of the time, indoors and out. Six years ago he broke his hip in a fall, so he now walks with an ominous-looking gnarled cane that is actually the petrified penis of a Brahma bull.
Later that day Autry watches his team play from a box in the San Francisco Giants' fancy new spring ballpark in Scotts-dale, Ariz. He had visited with the Angels before the game in their clubhouse, calling most by their first names. Now, as the game progresses, visitors drop by to wish him well. Autry has a word for everybody. The Cowboy is a courtly man who obviously enjoys company.
"I grew up in Tioga, Texas, a little town north of Dallas," he says between interruptions. "My dad, Delbert Autry, was a horse trader. Oh, he did other things, but at heart that's what he was: a horse trader. I played baseball in high school and loved the game. I always sang and played guitar, too, and after school I'd work on the railroad. Did all kinds of jobs, but eventually I learned how to be a telegraph operator. That got me to traveling around north Texas and Oklahoma, and wherever I went, I brought my guitar.... Now, will you look at that down there. Line drive right through the box. Nice to see that young fella [Lee] Stevens hit like that....
"Anyway, I started singing around Tulsa, and I met a lot of ballplayers. The Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, and Pepper Martin, too. And a pretty fair country pitcher name of Dizzy Dean. I don't know what it is, but I think ballplayers like being around a fella who can sing and play the guitar.