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The Big Cheese Of The Cardinals
Steve Wulf
October 04, 1982
Whitey (The White Rat) Herzog brought in new players to execute an old system and made St. Louis the best team in the National League East
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October 04, 1982

The Big Cheese Of The Cardinals

Whitey (The White Rat) Herzog brought in new players to execute an old system and made St. Louis the best team in the National League East

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Herzog still remains a very popular figure in Kansas City, both in the community and in the clubhouse. "He was a great strategist, even on defense," says White. "All the guys enjoyed playing for him." Brett, a friend of Herzog's, says, "If I ever managed, I'd try to do the things Whitey did. He gave players confidence, but he wasn't afraid to stand up to them. He'd play hearts with you. I remember once going to his house for a quail dinner. Next game I went four-for-four. Later in the season I was struggling a little and one day Whitey walks into the clubhouse with a couple of quail that Mary Lou had sent me."

That ability to be a player's friend and still be his boss is Herzog's secret. A lot of managers know talent and a lot of them know when to hit and run, but Herzog combines those assets. "He's a great manager," says Reliever Bruce Sutter, who Herzog admits has been the Cardinals' salvation. "He tells everybody straight out what their job is. He doesn't put any pressure on you or second-guess. And he's one of the guys." Leftfielder Lonnie Smith says, "The only thing I don't like is we can't have music in the clubhouse. But at least we can have Walkmans."

One day recently Herzog took Sutter, Porter and utility man Gene Tenace to his favorite fishing spot in Freeburg, Ill., not far from New Athens. The four of them were fishing from a pontoon boat when Tenace, reeling in his line, accidentally snagged Herzog's line. "Whitey's there shouting, 'I got one, got a big one,' " says Tenace. "When he finds out what's really going on, we all start laughing. I wish I had it on film, you know, This Week in Fishing."

On some mornings when the Cardinals are at home Herzog will get up at five, drive out to his friend Herb Fox's cabin in Freeburg and fish for large-mouth bass by himself till 9:30. A week ago Wednesday he had a good day, bringing home 14 bass. "First of all, I like to eat them," he says. "Second, it's the most relaxing thing I can think of. No phones, no baseball, just some deep thinking. I also like the challenge of finding out what they're hitting on." Just then Porter stops by to recommend a green jig with a black frog. "They must be down deep," says Herzog.

Herzog's coaches are even more taken by him than his players. "In all the years I've been with him," says Third Base Coach Chuck Hiller, who was on Herzog's staff in Texas and Kansas City, "I've never known him to mistreat a player." Says Red Schoendienst, who was the Cardinal manager for 12 years and is now a coach, "He doesn't criticize players. He talks to them. He knows what he's doing, I'll tell you that. Except when he's fishing. He always yells, 'That's a keeper,' and then pulls up a fish four inches long." Butch Yatkeman, the clubhouse man who's retiring this year after 59 years with the Cardinals, says, "He's the best man I've worked for, and there have been a lot of nice ones. Last year I was supposed to retire. When we were about to resume the second season, Whitey and I were alone in the clubhouse one day, and he said, 'Butch, you don't want to retire after this kind of a season. Why don't you stay on another year?' It wasn't like I was indispensable—he was just thinking of me."

Gussie Busch rarely talks to his manager about baseball. "When he hired me that June," says Herzog, "I was afraid he might bring in a general manager who I couldn't get along with. I think he was thinking along the same lines when he offered to make me general manager." At the winter meetings that December, Herzog set about clearing house, acquiring Sutter and assorted others. During the season he added Joaquin Andujar. Before this season he got Lonnie and Ozzie Smith. Lonnie has a chance to be the first player since Ty Cobb to have 70 RBIs and 70 stolen bases in a season, and Herzog estimates that Ozzie's spectacular play at shortstop has saved the Cardinals 100 runs. Andujar, who wasn't a regular starter in Houston, was 15-10 through Sunday. Somehow Herzog traded away the 1981 American League Cy Young and MVP winner, Rollie Fingers, and a strong 1982 Cy Young candidate, Pete Vuckovich, and came up smelling like a rose.

On Friday he told the luncheon crowd, "I've got a wife who's been pretty good to me, five of the greatest coaches a manager could have and my players. Good players make a good manager, and you can't be a smart manager without a good bullpen. I am worried about our hitting, though. We haven't done much yet, unless we win the world championship."

Give 'em hell, Whitey.

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