Saturday, December 12, 2009

Whiteyball


In the St. Louis American, a couple writers reflect on the significance of Whitey Herzog's Hall of Fame-worthy managerial career, including his development of African American players.

Mike Claiborne:

One thing Herzog may not be recognized for in St. Louis but that should not be forgotten is the night in 1989 when he started nine players of color, with names like Smith, Coleman, McGee, Pendleton, Ford, Hill, Booker and Durham (and Pena). It is a far cry from what you see now, when some teams have a hard time finding African Americans to make the roster let alone stock their farm team. For Whitey it was about giving his team the best chance to win. Granted, some of these men were players who would come off the bench, but when the injury bug would bite Herzog had no reservations. He was the one manager in St. Louis who could pull it off and there would be no backlash, because Whitey was golden for all the right reasons.

Earl Austin, Jr.:

It was also a wonderful time for African-American fans who had a chance to cheer on the exploits of great black stars such as Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Terry Pendleton, George Hendrick, and Lonnie Smith and so many others during the Herzog era in St. Louis.

I can still remember the days when fans would call the talk shows on KMOX radio complaining that the Cardinals had too many black players on the field, but that mattered little to Whitey, who flooded the field with great African-American stars throughout his tenure in St. Louis.

1 comment:

civitas said...

With Hal McRae having been fired by the Cardinals and Joe Thurston sent to Memphis, the Cardinals may have no African-Americans in their dugout next year. While there is no evidence that Tony LaRussa & Co. are intentionally ridding the team of blacks, we should remember that when Tony arrived we had Ozzie, Willie, Ron Gant, Ray Lankford, Royce Clayton, and others.

The late David Halberstam wrote a book called '1964' in which he contrasted the highly integrated Cardinal team to the nearly-all-white Yankee team that they defeated in the W.S. It was very exciting through the 60s, 70s, and 80s to have the Cardinals stay one or two steps ahead of the civil rights movement. The game was more than a game; it was positive social change in action. I miss those days. There are plenty of outstanding African-American players now; three of the four final playoff teams (Phillies, Dodgers, Angels) had numerous African-Americans on their rosters. Again, I'm not sure that what the Cardinals are doing is intentional, but I think that an intentional effort is needed to bring the ingredients of Whiteyball back to St. Louis.