came over to Detroit last year. Because you were new to the organization did
you manage worse than you did with the Yankees?"
managed just about the same as I ever did," says Houk, smiling just about
as seriously as ever.
explanation offered as to why the same managers keep popping up like the same
ducks in a shooting gallery is that the job is a very simple one and therefore
can be filled as well by old cronies as anyone else. Bob Scheffing, very much
of the club, subscribes at least in part to that notion. "I am not sure
that a manager has ever actually won a game. On the other hand, a dumb one can
lose you five or six games a year that a smart one won't."
Mulling over the
matter, Bucky Harris once remarked that there were only two things a baseball
manager needed to know: when to change pitchers and how to get along with his
players. Over a 29-year span, Harris set an all time record for times as
manager—eight ( Washington three times, Detroit twice, and once each with the
Red Sox, Phillies and Yankees). Only Connie Mack and John McGraw won more games
as manager than Harris, but only one—Mack—lost more.
finally pulled away in the TAM department, he had some stiff competition from
his contemporaries, notably Jimmy Dykes with six TAMs, and Chuck Dressen, Bill
McKechnie, Bill Rigney and Hornsby with five each.
During the late
1950s and early '60s there was something of a changing of the guard as the
Harrises, Dykeses, Dressens, Charlie Grimms and Steve O'Neills quit for good. A
simple lack of time has kept their replacements from getting up there in TAM.
Alvin Dark, with four, is the current leader, but perhaps the most promising
newcomer is Billy Martin, who appears to have a lot of natural restlessness and
volatility. Though only in his sixth managerial year, Martin has racked up
three TAMs and may just be hitting his stride.
football coaches are hired and fired just about as frequently as baseball
managers, and 1974 was a vintage year in this respect with six NFL and very
likely a leagueful of WFL head coaches losing their jobs. However, the
professional game is too new and there is too large a pool of assistant
coaches—into which fired head coaches are apt to sink and often disappear—for
football to have produced the kind of big TAM men that baseball has. The NFL
leader in this department is Sid Gillman with three, followed by Lou Saban with
two, plus three in the AFL. ( Gillman is now retired from the game.)
Professional basketball shows a promising instability, but balanced against
this is the tendency of coaches to hop back and forth between collegiate and
professional jobs, which at least for purists makes their TAM marks suspect.
Nevertheless, Butch van Breda Kolff, who has five TAMs in six years of
professional coaching to go along with three collegiate TAMs, is a coach well
Through the years
a considerable body of etiquette has evolved to govern what is proper in firing
situations. Certainly the neatest way to effect a change, at least from the
front-office standpoint, is to have the manager resign. If, as is often the
case, a nice, clean resignation cannot be arranged, a firing is really the only
alternative, and sports people have formed some fairly strong opinions on what
constitutes good and bad firings. The parting of Jerry Colangelo and Butch van
Breda Kolff serves as an example of what is generally regarded as a good
firing. Van Breda Kolff insists that the Phoenix job was the only one from
which he was fired. "The others I left on my own," he says. "At
Phoenix there was a situation in which a change was probably the best thing for
everyone. There is no point in going into the details."
response of van Breda Kolff may be the classiest one, but other, more
demonstrative, reactions are permissible. For example, a little manly grief,
indicating that the deposed coach or manager really cares, is not regarded as
unseemly. Two back-to-back Detroit Tiger managers showed talent in this
direction. After he was fired in Boston, Jack Tighe retired to his hotel room
where, near tears, he accepted condolences from friends, admirers and
associates. The gloom was dispelled by Sam Greene, sports editor of The Detroit
News, who bustled into the room, held out his hand to Tighe and said simply,
replaced in Detroit by Bill Norman. The next spring, after managing the Tigers
to a 2-15 start, Norman was canned. After his last game, a terrible shellacking
administered by the Washington Senators, Norman retreated to the clubhouse,
stripped down to his skivvies and set to work on several cases of beer. Much
later when he was helped from the clubhouse, observers reported that he seemed
to be in a maudlin state.