If the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series, would Mike Matheny be the first rookie manager to win baseball's most coveted prize? -- D.S., of Maryville
Not even close -- but I'll bet Cardinal fans will thank you for this brief walk down a memory lane of great Cardinal skippers.
In the 107-year history of the World Series, only 95 men have led a team into the Fall Classic, according to www.baseball-reference.com. Of those, four won it all as what I call pure rookies -- and one was a Redbird.
That's not all. There have been six other managers who led their teams to World Series crowns in their first complete season after taking over a team at some point the previous year -- and two of those were Cardinals.
That means of the 10 managers who took all the marbles in their first complete season, 30 percent were Cardinals, a figure unmatched even by those darn Yankees. Do you know who they were?
Let's start with the pure rookie. In 1940, the struggling Birds decided to give Billy Southworth another chance. With a lineup that boasted Slaughter, Musial, Marion, et al., Southworth won 316 games and two Series from 1942-1944. But after finishing second to the Cubs in 1945, Southworth jumped ship, signing a $50,000 deal with the Boston Braves.
Suddenly, the Cardinal fortunes were placed in the hands of rookie skipper Eddie Dyer. As a Cardinal pitcher, he had compiled a forgettable 15-15 record and a 4.75 ERA through a six-season career that had ended way back in 1927.
But nobody will ever forget his first season as a rookie manager in 1946. First, he had to solve the delicate problem of mixing young players with returning war vets. Then, he watched the Mexican League steal three top players.
No matter. Battling a rejuvenated Brooklyn squad, the Cards made up a five-game All-Star deficit to tie dose Brooklyn Bums on the final day of the season before sweeping the Dodgers in a three-game playoff.
Then, in the seventh and deciding game of the Series came the play that is still called the "Mad Dash." Enos Slaughter scored from first on Harry Walker's double in the eighth inning to give the Cardinals a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Unfortunately, Dyer's success was short-lived. Some blame it on the Cardinals' early reluctance to sign black players; others say the farm system declined after Branch Rickey left for Brooklyn in 1943. Whatever the reason, Dyer finished second from 1947-1949 -- and resigned after a fifth-place collapse in 1950.
Three other managers also worked magic the first time they were given the helm. The first was in 1924, when 27-year-old player/manager Raymond "Bucky" Harris led the Washington Senators past New York as Harris outdueled veteran Giant skipper John McGraw four games to three.
Naturally, you have to have a Yankee manager in the mix, so we can't forget 41-year-old Ralph Houk, who not only ripped Cincinnati 4-1 in 1961 but followed it up with a 4-3 encore over San Francisco in 1962 and an A.L. pennant in 1963. The final rookie manager to win his first time out was Bob Brenly, whose 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks stopped the Yanks, 4-3 -- before he was fired after the first 79 games of the 2004 season.
Now about those two Cardinal near-rookies. After managing 115 games in 1925, Rogers Hornsby guided the Birds to a 4-3 win over the Yanks in 1926. Eight years later, Frankie Frisch, with 63 games under his belt from 1933, led the Cards to a 4-3 Series victory over Detroit rookie manager Mickey Cochrane in 1934.
Others in this category include Tris Speaker (1920, Cleveland over Brooklyn), Bill Terry (1933, Giants over Washington) and Tom Kelly (whose Minnesota Twins topped Whitey Herzog's Cards in 1987). And, in 1980, Philadelphia near-rookie Dallas Green outfoxed Kansas City pure rookie Jim Frey, 4-2.
If you're interested, 10 rookie managers went to the Series and lost. In addition to Cochrane and Frey, the American League has had Kid Gleason (1919 White Sox), Joe Cronin (1933 Washington), New York's Yogi Berra (who lost to Johnny Keane's Cardinals, 4-3, in 1964), and Boston's Dick Williams (who lost to Red Schoendienst's Cardinals, 4-3, in 1967).
National League rookie losers were Pat Moran (1915 Philadelphia), Charlie Grimm (1932 Cubs) -- and Sparky Anderson (1970 Cincinnati).
What manager(s) has/have the best World Series winning percentage?
Answer to Tuesday's trivia: On Nov. 17, 1938, Belleville Township High School officials announced that the federal Works Progress Administration and the district were going to spend $135,200 to build a new football stadium. Two years later -- on Sept. 13, 1940, BTHS defeated Sparta 19-12 in the first game ever played at what is now Lindenwood Stadium. Two weeks after that, Dupo blanked Cathedral, 14-0, in the Catholic high school's initial game. And, on Oct. 11, the stadium was formally dedicated before BTHS and Cathedral fought to a 0-0 tie. (Cathedral halfback Jimmy Schmidt had scampered 39 yards for a TD, but it was called back on an offside.)
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com