Baseball Cards of Team Managers – Do Nice Guys Finish Last?
March 7, 2008
by William Szczepanek
They don’t make as much money as players. They usually had very mediocre baseball careers. But, they often have played a substantial role in bringing out the best in their players and directing their teams to postseason play. But, not much is said for baseball cards of team managers. The manager is often the edge a good team needs to be great. Why then are there very few manager cards with significant value.
For many years cards for managers were not printed at all. In other years certain managers had cards, but most didn’t. In 1960 every team manager was represented in the Topps set. In 1961 only some were printed. In 1962, all the managers were again represented and scattered throughout the set with all of the players.
From the Baseball Hall of Fame website we have the following inducted for their managerial talent.
Some of these managers have great records, some have significant longevity as managers, some as assessors of talent, and most are represented as managers who were able to take their teams to the World Series. While their cards as players may have some extra value, their manager cards are not valued as highly. Some of these managers were thinkers and strategists, like Earl Weaver and Al Lopez. Some were arrogant, abrasive butt kickers like John “Little Napoleon” McGraw, or Leo “The Lip” Durocher. “Some had tempers like Durocher and Weaver which made them seem less intelligent,” remarked George Will in his book Men at Work. In the world of highly paid CEOs I’m a little surprised managers haven’t gotten a bit more exposure on baseball cards.
While on the subject of managers, in general, let me comment on an incident that gave me 2 minutes of fame. When I was eighteen years old in 1966 I had the opportunity to attend a television program in Chicago called Sports Open Line, which was hosted by Jack Brickhouse, the Hall of Fame announcer. The show had a regular weekly guest of Leo Durocher, who was in his first year of managing the Chicago Cubs.
I was waiting with friends in the lobby of WGN TV studios, then located on Addison Avenue in Chicago across from Lane Technical High School, when someone from the studio passed out cards seeking questions from the audience. The pressure was on, and I felt I had to write something that would get my question read on the air. I had heard an interview earlier in the season where Leo Durocher mentioned, “The Cubs are not an eighth-place ball club,” referring to the previous year when eight teams populated the league. I then wrote on my card, Mr. Durocher, you mentioned earlier in the year that the Cubs were not an eighth-place ball club. Now that the Cubs are in tenth place, (an expansion year), would you settle for an eighth place finish? I knew he could not accept an eighth-place finish, and he did as I expected and expounded on how good the team really was and that he expected them to finish much higher in the standings. I did not expect the press would latch onto this story for the rest of the season. The Chicago Tribune never let him forget his comments. His quote “This is not an eighth-place ball club” was in the papers, written in books and is on the Internet. If he ever knew that I was the one who wrote that question he would have hunted me down and killed me. Durocher, who is responsible for the saying, “Nice guys finish last,” finished last that year.
I have cherished the fact that I had tamed Leo “The Lip” if just for a short while. I, in fact, liked Leo a lot. He shot from the hip and appeared to tell it like it was. Despite his last place finish in 1966, he did manage to get the 1969 Cubs to a glorious second place finish, behind the “Amazing Mets” with memories and stories that Cub fans will cherish for a long time to come. So, for that, Mr. Durocher, I thank you.