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When crazy managers roamed the Earth

Feb 20, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

Gene Mauch

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle has a wonderful column up about an all but extinct species: the volcanic, red-ass manager. The guys who barked at the press and the players and smoked and grunted and did all of those wonderful/awful things. Guys like Gene Mauch and Jim Fregosi and Ralph Houk and Billy Martin. Ostler shares some stories about these guys from his 30+ years on the beat:

Mauch could flip a spread. A few years earlier he had flung a platter of barbecued spareribs after a game, splattering a row of lockers and decorating the dress suits of several players. The Jackson Pollock of managers.

Stuff like that.

Ostler is right that the culture has changed. And it makes sense. Managers are now smoother. CEO-types. Or, more often, delegates of the front office as opposed to generals or, in Houk’s case, majors. Frankly, that’s what their job demands and how most of us, if we ran a team, would want our managers to behave.

But boy, it’s way less fun for those of us not directly in their line of fire.

  1. karlkolchak - Feb 20, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    I recently read the book, “Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s.” Frankly, the whole sport was far more colorful (literally in the case of the Astros) back then. Oh, for the days of giant afros, pitchers throwing no-hitters while tripping on acid, DJs blowing up piles of disco records onthe field between games of a doubleheader, pitchers swapping wives and other pitchers being banished from Boston to Montreal because they wouldn’t shut up about their love for smoking weed.

    Sigh. Now I sould like an old fogey.

    • sethcohenplayedsomeball - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      “Coach Tanner had a special bed check for me every night on road trips. No problem. My bed was always there…” -Jim Rooker ; )

    • bigharold - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      “..between games of a doubleheader..” “Now I sould like an old fogey.”

      That right there got you “Olf Fogey” status by itself. I actually went to a double header at the old old Yankee stadium, .. pre-renovation. So, I’m right there with you.

    • 4cornersfan - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:13 AM

      I have always said that members of the present generation are the only people that have less fun and are less cool than their grandparents. The flappers of the 1920s were certainly cooler than their mothers and grandmothers. The jitterbug and swing music of the 30s and 40s stepped it up a notch, and segued into the beatniks, cool jazz and Ginsberg of the 50s. Then came the 60s and 70s, with sex, drugs and rock and roll, from Dylan to Cream to Metallica. Something happened to youth in the 1980s, it stopped being young. The 80s and 90s morphed into the present day where a great many of the young people appear to be either politically correct professionals or tattooed meth-heads. Not much fun there.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Feb 20, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Yea….not just the managers either. There is a famed story of Phillies GM Paul Owens flipping out on the 1980 Phillies mired in an August slump. No way would any GM get away with it today

  3. thedoubleentandres - Feb 20, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    From Billy Martins playing days

    “Martin was nominated as the Yankees’ team enforcer in 1952 and charged with taking on fights for the good of the tribe. He took to his job with zeal, as on July 12, when he went after St. Louis catcher Clint Courtney. Courtney was disliked for using his spikes against opponents, which Martin knew from his experience in the minor leagues. Martin took his revenge: “Courtney was coming down to second. Instead of tagging him, I wound up and hit him right between the eyes with the ball.” The blow knocked Courtney’s cap off and broke his glasses. Courtney went after Martin, throwing a left, but Martin punched him in the jaw repeatedly before an ump could get there (and be knocked down by the players). Courtney was ejected, but Martin was allowed to stay in the game, ostensibly because he’d only been defending himself, but also because his retaliation for Courtney’s spiking was within bounds and open fighting was not. Courtney was fined and suspended for three days; Martin escaped punishment from the league. The Yankees won 5-4 in extra innings over a Browns team without their best catcher. He could fight, but he could also provoke opponents into actions that would cause them to be ejected.”

    • jwbiii - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      Fun fact: Clint Courtney hit the first home run in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.

  4. ricardorobertasq - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Why do today’s managers still have to wear the same uniforms as the players. Those uniforms are not that flatterring to an old guy; if they are more like CEO’s, let them dress like them.

  5. happytwinsfan - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    at least we still have manager tantrums. i hope the instant replay doesn’t make that a thing of the past.

  6. nymets4ever - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    I hate seeing perfectly good food go to waste. Any idiot manager or player who flips a spread like that should be required to do community service feeding the hungry. Enough of these spoiled testosterone/steroid-fueled jackasses thinking they can act any old way they want just because some silly game didn’t go their way. Get some perspective you freaking morons.

  7. asimonetti88 - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Lou Pinella was always good for a blow up or two.

    • thedoubleentandres - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Aw man his ejection against the Braves in like 07, when he kicked dirt on the third-base umpire’s shoes and kicked his hat across the diamond as the crowd bellowed “Loooooooo!”

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        I liked when he threw bases

      • thedoubleentandres - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        There’s some great stories about him in the Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers were always trying to get him to blow up cos he was such a hot-head.
        Theres a bit where he was quite clearly thrown out, everyone in the whole stadium could see it but he started screaming at the umpire, all the other yankees in the dugout were laughin their a$$£s off cos they knew he was out by a mile but they started acting enraged and screaming encouragement to him as he went berserk at the poor umpire.

      • yahmule - Feb 23, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        That was such a fun book.

  8. NatsLady - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    This is pretty wild also.

  9. pastabelly - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    I always thought the Gerbil was a a little crazy, but maybe not as much as some of these other guys.

  10. jwbiii - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Mr. Ostler, I would like to introduce to Mr. Guillen. . .

  11. drewy44 - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    We live in a society that’s too PC anymore. The fines / suspensions have watered these characters down. I bet Dusty could throw a decent one if the reins were taken off.

    When Wellman (minor league, apologies) threw his tantrum a few years ago, they sent him to anger management. Still my favorite manager tirade of all time:

  12. historiophiliac - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    I’m pretty sure Brad Ausome isn’t going to give us a show like Leyland. 😦

  13. jkaflagg - Feb 21, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    References to Gene Mauch are always interesting…..probably the smartest baseball guy I’ve ever seen before or since, but could never get a break….the 64 Phillies collapse taught him to curtail his over-managing a bit, but then in 1986, with one out to get to the World Series, he makes a perfectly defensible move – Rich Gedman couldn’t hit Gary Lucas if his life depended on it, but Lucas hits Gedman….and the rest is agonizing Mauch and Angels history….

  14. derklempner - Feb 21, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    A bit disappointing to see Lee Elia’s name absent from that article.

    • sportsfan18 - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      What about Earl Weaver? He was great at kicking dirt on umps etc… Where do people think Lou Pinella learned this from?

      Tribe fans may remember the night of June 18, 1979. Yes, the evening Weaver tore up the rulebook at the old Cleveland Stadium.

      The three writers who traveled knew it was coming the moment he stormed out of the dugout with a rulebook. Weaver had been saying for months that the umpires didn’t know the rules, and threatened to “rip the book to shreds” during a game.

      Over the years, he had been ejected for kicking dirt on home plate. For kicking dirt on umpires’ shoes. For pulling up third base and carrying it off the field. For bobbing his head back-and-forth and pecking at an umpire’s chin with the beak of his baseball cap.

      Those were just some of the reasons former umpire Jim Evans called Weaver “baseball’s Son of Sam.” That night in Cleveland, he tossed pages of the rulebook above his head, and watched them fluttering down — all because umpire Larry Barnett failed to call catcher’s interference.

  15. sparkyxproof - Feb 23, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Gene Mauch once Kicked the ball out of Thurman Munson’s glove after he caught the foul ball and fell into the opposing teams dugout. I believe the Umpires tried to rule the hitter still out but Mauch challenged them and won (The catcher falling into the dugout after catching the foul ball was the same as a fielder going into the stands to catch a foul ball… That’s considered NO Mans Land.).

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