The idea seems preposterous now—a 24-year-old shortstop sweet-talking an owner into handing him the manager's job—but it wasn't always so. In November 1941, before the biggest concern of a player with 2� years of major league experience was whether he was eligible for arbitration as a "super two," Lou Boudreau convinced Cleveland owner Alva Bradley that he was ready to become the youngest manager in baseball history. No mere stopgap, Boudreau, the Hall of Famer who died last Friday at age 84, managed and played short for the Indians for nine more years and, in 1948, led them to the World Series title, their last to date.
Apart from his age, Boudreau was hardly out of the ordinary. Player-managers were common in the first half of the century. In 1935, for instance, nine major league managers were players, and in the '42 season, Boudreau, Joe Cronin, Mel Ott and Luke Sewell were working both jobs. Since '62, though, just four players have also skippered their clubs, the last being the Reds' Pete Rose from '84 to '86.
"Everything about the game then was more conducive to player-managers," says Mariners skipper Lou Piniella. "There were no pregame meetings with trainers and doctors. There wasn't as much travel. There was little media attention. Today a large part of a manager's day is consumed by dealing with the media. That alone negates having the time to do both jobs. And these days no one needs the supplemental money to get by." (In 1942 Boudreau got $5,000 for playing and $20,000 for managing.)
Playing while managing had other advantages. When Boudreau the manager made a call, he knew he had Boudreau the player to cover his back. After the Indians finished the 1948 regular season tied with the Red Sox, Boudreau chose rookie Gene Bearden over Bob Feller and Bob Lemon to start the one-game playoff at Fenway. Bearden beat Boston 8-3; it helped that Boudreau went 4 for 4 with two homers.
Cleveland went on to defeat the Braves in six games, making Boudreau the only man to manage a World Series winner in the same year he was named MVP. Safe to say, that's a feat that won't be repeated anytime soon.