With less than 36 hours left in his reign over the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner pulled a surprise Sunday by rehiring a manager instead of firing one.
Stump Merrill’s contract was extended through the 1992 season, the team announced. If Merrill were to stay until the end, it would be the longest tenure for a Yankees’ manager since Billy Martin’s first stint, from August 1975 until July 1978.
Steinbrenner, who has changed managers 18 times in 18 seasons, must resign as the team’s general partner by midnight tonight under an agreement reached with Commissioner Fay Vincent.
Merrill was hired June 6 after Steinbrenner fired Bucky Dent. The Yankees were 18-31 under Dent and are 31-39 with Merrill after Sunday’s victory over Seattle.
“Stump has done a fine job with the club and worked hard with the young players,” Steinbrenner said in a statement. He showed up after the game to meet with General Manager Pete Peterson.
Merrill, 46, is in his 14th consecutive season in the Yankees’ organization. He began his minor league managing career at double-A West Haven in 1978, and this year led triple-A Columbus to a 33-25 record and first place in the International League’s West Division before joining the Yankees.
“It is the first time in 14 years I have more than a one-year contract,” Merrill said. “I am absolutely elated and, as I stated before, I’ll be indebted to this man (Steinbrenner) for the rest of my life.”