•Are you talkin'
to me? In 1925, Yankee manager Miller Huggins suspended Babe Ruth for various
acts of insubordination, and when Ruth went running to owner Jake Ruppert,
Ruppert backed Huggins. Nowadays, if the superstar doesn't like you, you're
gone. Ask Paul Westhead, who was fired by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981, at
least partly because Magic Johnson wasn't crazy about the way he coached.
Very few managers
or coaches have unbridled authority. Sather, who also serves as his team's
president and general manager, is one who does, and he has won four Stanley
Cups in five years. Whitey Herzog is another, and his St. Louis Cardinals have
been in three of the last six World Series.
As for the rest
of the coaching fraternity, pity its members for they have so many egos to
contend with. Last year Davey Johnson, manager of the 1986 world champion New
York Mets, had to beg his players to spend more time in the dugout during the
game. He also cracked down by prohibiting cardplaying 15 minutes before infield
practice. Sometimes it seems as if the inmates are running the asylum.
In the closing
minutes of Game 7 of the Boston-Atlanta NBA playoff game on May 22, Celtic
coach Jones had guard Dirk Minniefield all set to enter the game. But Larry
Bird shooed Minniefield back to the bench, thus making it quite apparent who
was running the team. Compare that with the scene before Game 1 of the 1929
World Series, when Philadelphia A's star Al Simmons pointed to surprise starter
Howard Ehmke and said to manager Connie Mack, "You're not going to pitch
him, are you?" Mack threw a withering glance back at Simmons and said,
"Is it all right with you, Al?" Simmons nodded his assent, and Ehmke
struck out 13 in a 3-1 win. Of course, Mack was the owner as well as the
manager, which also explains why he was more secure than present-day skippers.
He held the job in Philadelphia for 50 years.
•It's my ball.
George Steinbrenner has come to symbolize the tyrannical, petulant owner, but
the Yankee boss is only one of many in a breed of nouveau riche moguls. These
big kids with their toys like to tinker around and play God. They don't give
much thought to another person's pride or dignity. Some of them don't deserve
their luck. Take Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who has been blessed with three
winning coaches in succession: Jack McKinney, Westhead and Pat Riley. McKinney
was the real architect of the champion Lakers, modeling them after the
fast-breaking teams he had worked with as an assistant in Portland in the late
'70s. McKinney suffered a serious head injury in a bicycle accident early in
the 1979-80 season, and his assistant, Westhead, became his interim
replacement. Months after McKinney had completed an arduous therapy program.
Buss fired him. Why? The Lakers won the NBA championship under Westhead.
Eighteen months later, Westhead was gone, too.
me rewrite. Media coverage has greatly increased over the years, and as Texas
Rangers general manager Tom Grieve says, "If a manager can't deal with the
media, he's already in trouble." Since the manager or coach is under
constant scrutiny, it helps him to be on friendly terms with sports-writers.
The press also acts as a conduit for any player who has a complaint, so
newspapers sometimes become the clothesline from which to hang dirty laundry.
Casey Stengel used to say, "The secret to managing is to keep the five guys
who hate you away from the five who are undecided." These days the manager
or coach has to keep the five who hate him away from reporters.
There's a new
danger for mentors: the poll. In Toronto, polls conducted by both CTV and The
Toronto Sun determined that fans wanted Jimy Williams fired, by a ratio of 2 to
1. Still, the Blue Jays are resisting public opinion, in part because they
don't want to be perceived as having bowed to pressure from the players and
fans. But then general manager Pat Gillick is very high on Lou Piniella, and on
Saturday Piniella resigned as general manager of the Yankees because he
couldn't get along with Billy Martin. So it may be time for a change in
•It's not easy
being green. Bowa's crime was being a young skipper (42) of a young team. He
had manager written all over him even when he was just starting out as a
Phillies shortstop. When he retired after 16 years as a player, Padres general
manager Jack McKeon gave him a year's audition running San Diego's Triple A
affiliate in Las Vegas, and he led that club to the Pacific Coast League
championship. Given the Padres job at the start of last season, Bowa ranted and
raved as the team, divided between aging veterans and raw rookies, got off to a
12-42 start. But from June 5 to Sept. 23, the Padres went 52-45, and it seemed
that Bowa had turned them around. In September, the club president, Chub
Feeney, extended Bowa's contract through 1988. He also asked Bowa to mellow out
a little, and Bowa did. But Feeney and Bowa did not see eye-to-eye on personnel
The Padres got
off to a slow start again this year—they were stuck in fifth place as of last
Thursday—but that probably had less to do with Bowa's managing than with
injuries to Tony Gwynn and John Kruk, San Diego's two best players. Bowa seemed
almost certain that something was in the works after the Los Angeles Times
reported Thursday that the Padres' nine-game Eastern swing would decide the
manager's fate. According to the Times, on the team plane from Montreal to New
York that night, Bowa handed his car keys and the keys to his San Diego home to
coach Greg Riddoch; Bowa would be heading to his home in Bryn Mawr, Pa., if and
when he got fired.
meanwhile, had already made up his mind that it was, yes, time for a change. He
and McKeon flew to New York for Friday night's game against the Mets. The
Padres' 3-0 victory must have buoyed Bowa because he filled out the lineup card
for Saturday night's game before leaving Shea Stadium. At 7 a.m. a reporter
called Bowa's hotel room to tell him that McKeon was in town, probably to take
his job. So Bowa was not surprised when Feeney called at 8:30 a.m. and asked
him to come up to his room. "Is this about firing me?" asked Bowa.
Feeney said it was. Bowa hung up on him.