Whitey Herzog, Cardinals Hall of Fame manager credited with innovative ‘Whiteyball,’ dies at 92

Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog, who also played in the majors and served as a general manager during his prolific career, has died, the Cardinals announced on Tuesday. He was 92 years old.

“On behalf of the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization, I would like to offer our condolences to the family and many friends of Whitey Herzog,” Cardinals’ CEO Bill DeWitt, Jr said in a statement. “Whitey and his teams played a big part in changing the direction of the Cardinals franchise in the early 1980s with an exciting style of play that would become known as “Whiteyball” throughout baseball. Whitey loved the Cardinals, their fans, and St. Louis. He will be sorely missed.”

Herzog, whose real name was Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog, rose to prominence beginning in the mid-70s, when he was the skipper of the Kansas City Royals. He led the Royals to four consecutive winning campaigns, including a standout 102-win effort in 1977. Nevertheless, he was dismissed after an 85-win showing in 1979.

It didn’t take long for Herzog to find a new home. He would soon serve his first of several stints as interim skipper with the St. Louis Cardinals. He would also become the team’s general manager for a time, acquiring the likes of Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith, among others. Herzog would give up his executive duties to become a full-time manager in 1982. That decision paid off mightily.

The Cardinals won the World Series that fall. They would win two more pennants under Herzog’s watch, in 1985 and 1987. He would win 53% of his reglar season contests with the Cardinals. Overall, including interim stints with the Texas Rangers and California Angels, Herzog finished his managerial career with a 53.2% win percentage.

“Whitey Herzog was one of the most accomplished managers of his generation and a consistent winner with both ‘I-70′ franchises. He made a significant impact on the St. Louis Cardinals as both a manager and a general manager, with the Kansas City Royals as a manager, and with the New York Mets in player development. Whitey’s Cardinals’ teams reached the World Series three times in the 1980s, winning the Championship in 1982, by leaning on an identity of speed and defense that resonated with baseball fans across the world,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Whitey’s family, his friends across the game, and the fans of the Cardinals and the Royals.”

Herzog’s influence on the game extended beyond his wins and accomplishments. He cemented “Whiteyball” as a popular roster-building approach. That is, he made it socially acceptable to assemble rosters that were fast and defensively capable rather than overindexing on slugging. Baseball scribe Bill James also credited Herzog for embracing platoons and being willing to shift defensively.

James also observed that Herzog may have been the modern manager who deployed the Waxahachie Swap most often. (For those unfamiliar, that’s when a team would move its pitcher to another defensive position before returning them to the mound when a more favorable matchup presented itself.)

After leaving the Cardinals following the 1990 season, Herzog would never again manage. He did serve for a period as the general manager of the California Angels. 

Before becoming a manager, Herzog enjoyed an eight-year career as an outfielder. He batted .257/.354/.365 (97 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases. His contributions were worth an estimated 2.8 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference’s calculations.

Herzog was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

“Whitey spent his last few days surrounded by his family,” his family said in a statement. “We have so appreciated all of the prayers and support from friends who knew he was very ill. Although it is hard for us to say goodbye, his peaceful passing was a blessing for him.”

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