A little more than two years after he led the Cardinals to an improbabe win in the 1964 World Series, former St. Louis manager Johnny Keane on this date 45 years ago died in Houston, Texas.
Keane, who was in Texas working as a scout with the Angels, was 55 years old.
A long-time coach in the Cardinals organization, Keane was in his third full season of managing the club when Redbirds chairman August Busch Jr. became impatient with the Birds' position 11 games out and in fifth place in late August 1964. He allegedly contacted former Gashouse Gang shortstop Leo Durocher and worked out a secret deal in which Leo the Lip would take over as skipper for the Cardinals in 1965.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the season. Keane's Cards won 28 or their remaining 39 games to clinch the pennant on the last day of the campaign. The Cardinals faced off against the powerful Yankees in the World Series and won in seven games to turn Keane from a sacrificial lamb to the most popular guy in St. Louis.
Busch had no choice but to go back on his word to Durocher and offer Keane a contract for 1965. A miffed Durocher sought work elsewhere.
Keane, however, had other plans. He, too, had a secret deal in the works. On to the Cardinals plans, the skipper allegedly had a mid-season meeting with the Yankees in which he agreed to take over as manager to replace Yogi Berra for 1965. He met Busch's offer of a contract with the submission of his resignation.
The Cardinals had few experienced options for skipper in 1965 after the implosion of their plans. So they turned to long-time coach Red Schoendienst to skipper the club. The Redhead guided the Redbirds to consecutive pennants in 1967 and '68 and won the World Series over the Red Sox. Schoendiesnt went on to be the winningest manager in St. Louis history, a record that stood for three decades before being broken by Tony La Russa.
Unfortunately for Keane, the grass wasn't greener in the Big Apple. The againg Yankees started to come apart at the seams and he was the fall guy. When the club got off to a lousy start in 1966, he was canned.