Whitey Herzog, whose brand of running baseball brought the St. Louis Cardinals three National League pennants and one World Series championship in 11 seasons, resigned as manager Friday, saying he could no longer motivate his last-place team.
“I don’t think I’ve done a good job as a manager this year,” Herzog said. “I just can’t get the guys to play. I think anybody could do a better job.
“I’m not happy the way the ballclub has played. I’m the manager and I take full responsibility for it.”
Herzog will be replaced as manager on an interim basis by Red Schoendienst, General Manager Dal Maxvill said.
Herzog, 58, said he would remain with the Cardinals as a vice president, primarily advising on player personnel matters. But he said he is not necessarily ending his career as a manager.
“I wouldn’t want to sit here and tell anyone that I wouldn’t want to manage again,” Herzog said. “I don’t know how I am going to feel two years from now. I don’t want to manage this year. I really don’t think I want to manage next year. But I don’t want that etched in stone, because I might get the itch to do that.”
Herzog said the Cardinals have agreed to honor his contract, which runs through 1992, but have told him they would let him out of the deal for a job with another team.
Herzog showed no emotion during the 25-minute news conference at the team’s hotel in downtown San Diego. But after leaving the podium, he became teary when he was hugged by first baseman Pedro Guerrero, the former Dodger.
“I feel bad because a lot of things that Whitey said are right,” Guerrero said. “We should be in a better situation with the ballclub that we have, but we just haven’t been getting the job done.”
The Cardinals entered Friday night’s game against the San Diego Padres in last place in the National League East with a 33-47 record, 14 1/2 games behind first-place Pittsburgh.
Despite the poor start, Herzog’s announcement apparently came as a surprise to all but a few club executives who knew of his misgivings. Herzog said he tried to resign about three weeks ago but was talked out of it by Maxvill and Fred Kuhlmann, the Cardinals’ president.
“He told us then it could get a lot uglier,” Maxvill said.
The low point, Herzog said, came earlier in the week when the Cardinals were swept in a three-game series in San Francisco by a combined score of 16-4. The last loss was by a 9-2 score in a game in which the Giants scored eight runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
“I was totally embarrassed by the way my ballclub played up there,” Herzog said. “I can stand losing, if the team is playing up to its capabilities. But I was bewildered a little bit. I just can’t believe that we can have players that as a team are playing as bad as they have.
“I don’t know what it is. I’ve never been through a situation like this. The effort is there . . . but sometimes I don’t know if their minds are there. We make so many bad plays fundamentally. I think that is a reflection on me.”
He said he told Kuhlmann of his decision Friday morning. This time, Kuhlmann said, he did not try to dissuade Herzog.
“We were reluctant to accept his resignation,” Kuhlmann said. “It’s too bad we had to reach this point.” Herzog said the decision was entirely his, and that he was under no pressure from management to step down. His resignation brought to an end one of the most successful eras in Cardinal history.
Herzog came to the team in June of 1980 after five seasons in Kansas City that included three American League West titles. He managed the Cardinals until the last six weeks of the 1980 season, then became general manager. He served as both manager and general manager in 1981 and relinquished his front-office duties a year later.
He went on to lead the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title and NL pennants in 1985 and ’87. His last game was a 4-1 victory over the Padres Thursday. His 822 victories with the Cardinals are second only to Schoendienst’s 1,028.
This is the third time Schoendienst, 67, has managed the Cardinals. The first was for a club-record 12 seasons beginning in 1965, and the Cardinals won consecutive National League pennants in 1967-68 and the 1967 World Series. He also took over on an interim basis for Herzog in the final stages of the 1980 season. He has been a coach with the team since 1979.
Herzog is the fourth major league manager to leave his job this season. Bucky Dent was fired by the New York Yankees and replaced by Stump Merrill; Russ Nixon was fired by the Atlanta Braves and replaced by General Manager Bobby Cox, and Davey Johnson was fired by the Mets and replaced by Bud Harrelson.
Herzog was to leave San Diego Friday and said he plans to take some time off.
Herzog has managed for at least a part of the past 18 seasons, compiling a record of 1,281-1,125 with the Texas Rangers, the Angels, Kansas City and St. Louis. Only Sparky Anderson of Detroit (1,797) has more victories among active managers.