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From our archives: 'Birds will bust their tails,' new manager Herzog says

From our archives: 'Birds will bust their tails,' new manager Herzog says

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Whitey Herzog named Cardinals manager

New Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog appears at a news conference on June 10, 1980 at Grant's Farm. He managed for 73 games, then moved into the club's front office as GM on August 26, turning the team over to Red Schoendienst. Post-Dispatch photo. 

Editor's note: Whitey Herzog was hired as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals  on June 9, 1980. This article first was published the same day in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which at the time was an afternoon newspaper.

Whitey Herzog, a self-described "very opinionated, hard-headed Dutchman" takes over the bottomed-out baseball Cardinals tonight in Atlanta as the man August A. Busch Jr., director of the board and chief executive officer of the Redbirds, describes as "My type of manager, without any argument."

After having introduced Herzog as his first choice to replace the unfrocked Ken Boyer, Busch said Sunday that he had been "so impressed with Whitey, I felt we had to make (a change) right now. Something had to be done, in my opinion."

He said, too, that, "I know damn good and well that the players will be delighted."

Busch termed Herzog "aggressive" and called him "one of the greatest baseball guys in the world." In response, the Cardinals third manager since 1978 said, "I have only two things I ask of players: be at the ballpark on time and bust your tail when you're in the uniform."

"I've prepared myself for this," Boyer said after getting the word. "I have no emotion," he added.

Boyer said there were no internal problems on the club. "The guys were busting their butts ... I don't think there was anything (more) I could do."

Herzog, 49, has been a manager-in-waiting since being deposed by the Kansas City Royals last Oct. 24, after failing to win a fourth consecutive Western Division title in the American League. He agreed to a Cardinals contract that runs through the 1982 season. No salary terms were disclosed.

What provoked the dismissal of Boyer in his second full season as manager was the depth to which the Cardinals had dropped. Coming off a third-place finish in the National League East last year, Busch thought the Redbirds this season might win the pennant, something they haven't done since 1967-68. But after losing five games in succession, including a doubleheader at Montreal Sunday, and 22 of their last 27, the Cardinals have the worst record in major league baseball (18-34) going into tonight's opener of a three-game series at Atlanta that will complete what now is a 2-5 trip.

Said Herzog at a press conference on the elegant back porch of what is known as the Big House at Grant's Farm, Busch's estate in south St. Louis County:

"The only people who can turn this around are the players.

"I like to make things happen. We have a big ballpark here, and you can't sit around waiting for home runs. I didn't at Kansas City, and I won't here. We'll steal bases; hit and run. I try to keep people moving; make things happen."

As for how he plans to greet his new charges, Herzog said: I'm going to tell them how easy I am to get along with, if they're doing the job."

Critics of late have said the Cardinals, who have had as many as five of the National League's top 10 batsmen in the early season, lack a leader on the field and have exhibited some disdain for running our groundballs hit to the infield. In answer to how he might cope with such alleged malpractice, Herzog replied:

"There's only one team leader. That's me."

"I don't need a captain ... a manager doesn't need a team leader.

"They will run. I understand that's been a problem.

"They hit four times a day. I understand they get tired, and it's tough to run four times a day.

"They will run."

Herzog indicated he planned no changes in the coaching staff left by Boyer - Claude Osteen, Jack Krol, Dal Maxvill, Dave Ricketts and Red Schoendienst.

"I'm going to pick their brains," said Herzog, whose record of 459 victories and 397 defeats as a manager has been achieved in the American League (with the Texas Rangers and California in addition to Kansas City) and who spent his eight-year major league career as an outfielder-first baseman in the AL.

He is not unfamiliar, however, with John Claiborne, the Cardinals' general manager. Claiborne was an administrative assistant with the New York Mets in 1967-68 when Herzog also was in the National League clubs' front office as an assistant and director of player development.

It was during that time, Herzog said, that Claiborne told him: "If I ever become a general manager, I want you to be my manager."

And it was Claiborne who had approached Herzog last fall after the Royals did not renew his one-year contract. Claiborne "wanted me to work for the Cardinals," Herzog said. "He told me, 'You can pick your job.' I wanted nothing but the managing job."

"Then about two weeks ago, Claiborne called me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was just sitting around. That's when I started considering the Cardinals. I wanted to manage at only two places: Texas or St. Louis."

Louis B. Susman, Busch's attorney, said that latter contact by Claiborne had come about three days before Busch had a clubhouse meeting with his players a week ago last Saturday.

"Claiborne wanted to sound him out," Susman said. "If the club's situation didn't change, he wanted to know who would be available" as a replacement manager.

As things turned out, Herzog was selected before Boyer was aware he had been rejected.

Susman said the "decision to terminate Boyer" was reached Saturday morning, and Claiborne left by plane for Montreal. Because of weather conditions, however, Claiborne didn't reach Montreal until Sunday - and told Boyer of his dismissal between games at Olympic Stadium.

Susman contacted Herzog by telephone Saturday at the Lake of the Ozarks, where he was teeing off in a celebrity golf tournament. Herzog and Busch reached agreement at Grant's Farm Sunday morning.

Herzog said Boyer was "a very good friend ... a good manager. Unfortunately, these things happen."

Boyer has been offered another position within the Cardinals organization, an offer, Busch said, with which "Boyer is going to be pleased."

Boyer, also 49 but six months younger than Herzog, replaced Vern Rapp as manager of the Cardinals after 18 games in the 1978 season, a year in which the Redbirds finished fifth (69-93). Rapp had taken over the year before from Schoendienst, who had two pennant winners and one championship in his 12 seasons.

The author of this article, Ed Wilks, covered baseball and wrote sports columns for the Post-Dispatch. He also had a stint as a sports director for KTVI Channel 2. Wilks was sports editor of the Post-Dispatch upon his death in 1984 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 56.

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