Mary Lou is a splendid woman, as candid and talkative as her husband. They must have some wonderful fights. They fish and ski together, and even talk baseball. She sits right behind the plate and roots, roots, roots for the home team: "He does bring the game home with him, and he'll sit around the table talking things over with me and our sons, David and Jim.... C'mon, John [Stuper], don't lose him!—John's having control problems tonight, probably nervous.... I don't think he takes my suggestions very seriously. I did tell him he should use Mike Ramsey a little more, but that was about the time Ozzie Smith got injured anyway.... Pop him up, John!"
Herzog may take the game home with him, but he once forgot to take his son home. "When Whitey was managing in the Instructional League for the Mets, he once took Jim, who was about nine, to the ball park," says Mary Lou. "At the end of the day Jim told Whitey he had to go to the bathroom.... C'mon, Lonnie! [Smith strikes out]. Oh, baloney!...and Whitey forgot about it and left him."
Although Whitey doesn't mind being called Rat, Mary Lou is not too crazy about it. "In school they'd call our children the little white mice," she says. "One of our neighbors in Independence used to put a sign on our lawn that said WHITE RAT. Whenever Whitey went away, I'd take it down. People thought we were selling them critters.... I never noticed Darrell [Porter] crouching that low before."
Actually, zoologists tell us that the white rat has some admirable qualities. He is easily handled if not misused, and he will fight to protect his nest.
Herzog is even proud of some of the Rat caricatures drawn of him by 70-year-old cartoonist Amadee Wohlschlaeger of St. Louis. They hang on an office wall with the pictures of Casey Stengel, Stan Musial and current Cardinal players, a gag trophy honoring Herzog as New Athens Man of the Year 1980 and a reminder from a Marine general that says DFIU—Don't Foul It Up. "I'm going to have a lot of moving to do when I get my butt canned from this job," says Herzog.
Burke knew Herzog had gotten a raw deal in Texas, so after he became general manager of the Royals, he hired Herzog to replace Jack McKeon as manager in the middle of the '75 season. Kansas City finished second that year and then won the next three American League West titles. Herzog installed Frank White at second, made George Brett his No. 3 hitter, put Larry Gura in the rotation, started Willie Wilson, etc. He made a lot of changes, stressing speed and defense, and the Royals still bear his stamp. Indeed, the Cardinals were made in the Royals' image.
After K.C.'s second division title in 1977, Herzog was honored on the courthouse steps of Independence. The only other to have "that honor was Truman. Actually, Herzog had met Truman several times when he played for the A's. And he was in the Truman house shortly before the President died in 1972. "It was eight days before Christmas," says Herzog. "I was quail hunting on a friend's farm just north of Independence when an ice storm hit. The friend asked me to do him a favor. He said he sent a turkey to the Trumans every year at Christmas, but that he was afraid he couldn't get through, and he asked me to take it. I said sure, but when I was driving back, I realized I couldn't go to the Truman house dressed in my hunting clothes. So I put the turkey in the freezer, and the next day I put my suit on and took the turkey over there. I just drove around to the back. Bess answered the door; she was on the phone at the time. Harry was upstairs, I guess. When she got off the phone, she thanked me—they were terrific people—and asked me to wish my friend a merry Christmas. Then I left.
"What bothered me was how easy I got into their house. But that spring I was playing golf in a foursome down in Texas. When I introduced myself to this guy, he said, 'Yes, Whitey Herzog. You delivered a turkey to the Trumans on December 17.' Turns out he was a Secret Service man stationed in the house across the street. The Trumans didn't want any more surveillance than that."
On the day Herzog was honored in Independence he was given a Jeep and an English pointer, and Royals owner Ewing Kauffman said, "He can be my manager forever."
Forever lasted two more years. Burke and Herzog quarreled over some personnel moves in 1979, and Herzog also openly criticized the one-year contracts the Royals always offered him. Kauffman chided Herzog for bunting too much, once in the manager's office, once in the press hospitality room. Herzog had lost the respect of some of his players for his harsh treatment of First Baseman John Mayberry, who was also a Kauffman favorite. Hostilities built and never disappeared, and Herzog got fired. He actually criticized Burke for not firing him earlier, when the Royals could have used the spark a new manager often brings.