So when my father was finally able to read my "best of" series, he mentioned managers - and I agreed that I should probably add one more addendum to the series...here it is.
There have been 15 people lucky enough to have managed the St. Louis Cardinals in 500 or more games - OR - made the playoffs as a manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Charlie Comiskey did both, although his World Series title does not count, as it occurred before the beginning of the true World Series - pre-1903.
Out of those 15, only four managers had a win percentage of less than .500. Those four were Joe Torre, Branch Rickey, Miller Huggins, and Roger Bresnahan. They are also the only who did not lead their teams to a single playoff berth. Out of the remaining men, Bill McKechnie managed only 217 games and went 0-4 in his lone playoff appearance. Coincidentally, the last 10 men standing all led their club to a World Series title (or 2) wearing the Birds on the Bat.*
*includes Charlie Comiskey, who led his team to a title, although his title does not count as a World Series win, as it occurred before the beginning of the true World Series - pre-1903.
We will now take a look at those 10 managers and where they place in Cardinals' lore. Now that the criteria are set, I would like to explain what I looked at in order to rate and place these managers on this list. The foremost things were World Series titles and regular season win %. After that I looked closely at regular season wins, longevity by games played, and percentage of games won in the playoffs. Lastly, I took a look at regular season losses, playoff appearances, playoff wins, and playoff losses. I then ranked everyone else against each other and came up with a total score for each manager - highest score wins.
10) Charles Evard "Gabby" Street played for 6 teams from 1904 to 1912. He then managed the St. Louis Cardinals in 1929-1933 after learning the craft in the minors. He led the Cards to two National League Championships - back to back - in 1930 and 1931, winning the World Series in 1931. He later became an announcer for the Cardinals and Browns - eventually working with Harry Caray. After his baseball career was over, he battled cancer; winning that battle before succumbing to heart failure in Joplin, MO in 1951. He finished his Cardinals' managing career with 312 wins, a .563 win %, and one successful playoff run - making him the tenth best manager for the St. Louis Cardinals.
9) Rogers Hornsby was previously noted as the best second baseman in Cardinals history. The Rajah then managed the Cardinals for a brief amount of time (1925-1926, a player-manager). He was the NL MVP in 1925 and won the World Series as the player-manager in 1926. Hornsby won 153 games and had a .569 win % as a Cardinals' manager. The Cards won the World Series in his only playoff appearance in the role. This makes him the 9th best manager for the Cardinals.
8) Johnny Keane was the manager of the most unlikely World Series Champions in history - at least until the 2011 World Series Champs came along. In 1964, it took the Phillies' massive losing streak and the Cardinals' massive winning streak - after Gussie Busch cleaned house (leaving Keane in place as the manager, but getting rid of numerous executives in the organization) for the Cardinals to pull off the NL Crown. The Cards beat the Yankees four games to three in the World Series that year...the only year Keane's teams made the World Series. Keane would leave the Cardinals to take over for the team he beat in that World Series after the season, but from 1961-1964, Keane was the 8th best manager in Cardinals history; he compiled a .560 win % with 317 wins in those three and a half seasons.
7) Frankie Frisch was noted in the Best of Series already, as well. "The Fordham Flash" was one of the top second basemen to play for the Cards, and then became the manager for just over 5 seasons with the Redbirds. He had a .564 win % in those years as a player-manager, winning 96 and 95 games in back to back years, the second of which was a World Series Title Season. Frisch's WS title (in the only time he made it there) and his 458 total wins helps put him at #7 on the list of all-time Cardinals managers.
6) The last of the men who won one title in one attempt is Eddie Dyer, the 6th best manager of all-time in the Cardinals' organization. Dyer was a true Cardinal. He played from 1922-1927; his only team was the Cardinals. He then managed them from 1946-1950. His World Series title was over the Brooklyn Dodgers in his first year as manager. He took over a team that had won 2 of the last four World Series and had been to three of the last four under Billy Southworth - who left for Boston to coach the Braves for an exorbitant amount of money. His capable skills gave the club their third WS title in 5 seasons - best ever for the franchise. He went on to have three more great seasons, finishing second in the NL before finishing fifth in his last season as manager. He went on to win 446 games, at a .578 clip in his five seasons with the club.
5) Moving right on into the top 5 brings us to Charlie Comiskey. Comiskey managed the two best Cardinal teams in history - the only two teams to win over 70% of their games (563 in all) - in 1885 and 1887. Sandwiched in the middle was the 1886 "World Series" championship club. 1888 was his 4th straight AA pennant winning team. He would finish his St. Louis Cardinals' (actually Browns back then) managerial career with a franchise-best .685 win % - astounding. Comiskey was later the owner of the Chicago White Sox, having overseen the building of Comiskey Park and having it named after him. He was also the owner during the 1919 "Black Sox Scandal" World Series...but that doesn't tarnish his legacy in St. Louis in the very early years of organized professional baseball. He helped give the St. Louis Cardinals' franchise the legs with which to build the best organization in National League history.
4) Dorrel Norman Elvert "Whitey" Herzog is from New Athens, IL - just down the road (IL-15 to IL-13) from St. Louis, MO, home of the Cardinals. "The White Rat" never got to play for his beloved Cardinals, but in 1980 he left the Kansas City Royals' managerial position to become entrenched in the Cardinals' bench role for the next 11 seasons and 1553 games. He won 822 of those games (for a .530 win %). The Cardinals may have expected even more from the man, having won 57% of his games in Kansas City with the Royals - but his post-season success with the Cardinals far surpassed his lack of success, never making the World Series, with the Royals. Herzog came over for the 1980 season - while his Royals went to (and lost) the World Series in his absence. In 1981, a strike shortened season, he had a .600 win % before the season was shut down - 2nd in the league at the time. The Cards also finished 2nd in the second half of the season...missing the playoffs because of it (much to the chagrin of the Cardinals' faithful since they had the best record in the NL East overall.) "Whiteyball" was working wonders in St. Louis - even if it did not lead to a playoff berth in 1980 or 1981. By the time 1982 rolled around, the Cardinals were rocking and rolling - the pitching, defense, and speed (oh the SPEED) were in full effect. The 1982 Cards went to the World Series and upended the Brewers, who had won 3 more regular season games than the Redbirds. Herzog would lead the Cardinals back to the 1985 and 1987 World Series, but failed to dispatch of the Royals or the Twins in the same manner that he pushed aside the Brew Crew in '82. His 822 wins, at a .530 clip, occurred during my childhood and have a special place in my heart.
3) While I was sad to see Whitey finish outside the top 3, you'll see why it is a deserved ranking of #4. At #3 is one of the players/managers most commonly associated with the Cardinals' brand. Albert Fred "Red" Schoendienst managed the St. Louis Cardinals from 1965 to 1976, again for 37 games in 1980, and for 24 games in 1990. Schoendienst still is a part of the Cardinals' organization, as he has been since his 74 games in the D-league (minors) in 1942. His 70 years with the club has to be the longest tenure in any sports league - ever. I'm pretty sure it even beats out Joe Pa at Penn State. Under Schoendienst, the Cardinals had a .522 win%, the lowest of anyone on the list. However, based on the length of tenure, Red was able to accumulate 1,041 wins in 1,996 games. Schoendienst took over for #8 on this list, Johnny Keane, in 1965. Red led the 1967 squad to a 7-game World Series win before leading them to a 7-game World Series loss in 1968. He would never again make the World Series, finishing second in the league three more times before his main stint as manager with the Redbirds.
2) Billy Southworth managed the Cardinals for 88 games in the 1929 season - after leading the top farm team to an International League title in 1928. Bill McKechnie had led the Cards to the World Series that season, getting swept by the Yankees in four straight. Southworth was a hard-nosed manager, who imposed tough discipline, and it just didn't work with the 1929 team - he was nearly the same age as the players, having played with several of them and having retired from his playing days after the 1927 season. He went back to the minors (after a brief stint away from the game) to hone his craft and get some distance between he and the players he would be coaching - and came back just over a decade later, coaching the Cards from 1940-1945. (In his absence, Gabby Street and Frankie Frisch - both on this list - managed the club for the most part.) The second time around, Billy Southworth's hiring turned into absolute gold. He 69 of his first 109 games to finish the 1940 season. He improved to 97-56 the next year. He upped himself again, garnering 106 wins (a franchise record) in the 1942 season, bringing home a WS title. He would then lose the WS the following year, despite a 105-win regular season. He followed up that with an identical 105-win season, this time with his second World Series title as a Redbird. In 1945, he "only" won 95 games before leaving for the big money in Boston. His 5-season stretch of 508 wins is easily the best in team history. It was the only 5 year stretch in franchise history with 90+ wins a season (and averaging over 100 a season.) Eddie Dyer's first season stretched the 90+ win season streak to 6 in his first year. The only thing keeping him out of the first spot on this list is his longevity.
1) Truthfully, looking at the statistics, I thought that Billy Southworth might overtake our #1 man, but it was not to be...not after his second World Series title in 2011, right before his retirement. Tony LaRussa (TLR) honed his managerial craft for 8 years in Chicago with the White Sox and 10 years with the Oakland Athletics before bringing his brand of baseball to St. Louis in 1996. He took Joe Torre's perennially underachieving squad, added Dennis Eckersley from his A's teams to the back end of the bullpen, and led them to the NLCS (and nearly the World Series) in his first year at the helm. In 1997, Brian Jordan (who had led the team in WAR the previous two seasons) went down with an injury and played less than a 3rd of the season - and the team suffered mightily. TLR used his incredible influences on general manager Walt Jocketty to bring Mark McGwire to STL (in one of Jocketty's many shrewd moves during the TLR/Jocketty era.) There would also be much controversy surrounding Tony's infamous battles with players - leading to their ouster from the club at several times. I would argue that Tony's positive influence in the front office in bringing in players far outweighed his negative influence during his tenure in St. Louis. 1998 was the year of McGwire and Sosa. The Cards only finished 4 games over .500 and failed to make it to the playoffs for the second straight season - and it would become three the next year. However, Tony was just building up the arms in the rotation and pen, plus adding some more firepower in the lineup, for one of the best runs in Cardinals' history. From 2000-2005, the Cardinals would win 575 games (95.8 per season), before winning just 83 in 2006, but garnering TLR's first WS title with the club. La Russa would go on to make the playoffs in 9 of 16 seasons, make it to 3 World Series and win 2 World Series with the Cardinals. He was 50-42 in the playoffs in those 9 years (incredibly high numbers compared to the others due to the invention of the Wild Card). Tony had only 3 losing seasons in his 16 years in St. Louis, paling in comparison to his seven 90-win seasons, having two seasons in which he won 100+ games (2004, 2005). His 1,408 wins and 2,590 games played are most in franchise history and his 50 playoff wins (whilst inflated) are more than the next three top managers combined. TLR led 7 of his 16 teams to first place division finishes, and 2 more wild card entries into the playoffs, winning the WS once as a division winner and this past season as the wild card entry into the NLDS. In 16 years, there was 45 times in which his players got to attend the All-Star game as a Cardinal (34 position players and 11 pitchers). The batting order under Tony LaRussa finished in the top 5 of the NL in runs scored per game in 8 of Tony's 16 seasons (and finished in the top 10 of 16 all but two seasons). The pitching under Tony LaRussa (some would argue under Dave Duncan) finished in the top 5 of the NL in runs allowed per game in 8 of Tony's 16 seasons (and finished in the top 10 of 16 in all but 2 seasons, as well.)
Congratulations to those great managers of the St. Louis Cardinals!
As always, the rankings:
Tony LaRussa - 34.867
Billy Southworth -29.857
Red Schoendienst - 25.458
Whitey Herzog - 24.715
Charlie Comiskey - 24.162
Eddie Dyer - 23.058
Frankie Frisch - 22.946
Johnny Keane - 22.051
Rogers Hornsby - 21.560
Gabby Street - 20.685