Rookie managers who won the World Series

November 6th, 2022

Leading a team to a championship is never an easy task, but doing so in your first season managing a Major League team is an even greater challenge. Phillies manager Rob Thomson, who took over after the club parted ways with Joe Girardi in early June, made a run at adding his name to an exclusive list in 2022, taking his club all the way to the World Series before the Phillies fell to the Astros in six games. 

Only five times in baseball history has a rookie manager pulled off the feat and won the World Series. This exclusive club does not include Dallas Green (1980 Phillies) or Tom Kelly ('87 Twins), who won Fall Classics in their first full seasons as manager, after taking over as skipper midway through the previous campaign.

Here is a look at these five successful rookie managers.

Alex Cora, 2018 Red Sox
Cora joined the club with a five-game World Series victory over the Dodgers in his first season as the Red Sox's manager, a year removed from nabbing a ring as the Astros' bench coach in 2017. Prior to coaching with Houston, Cora played 14 seasons in the Majors from 1998-2011. He played for the Dodgers, Cleveland, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers and Nationals. Cora won a World Series title with Boston as a player in '07.

Bob Brenly, 2001 D-backs
A big league catcher for nine seasons, Brenly spent time as a coach with the Giants and then shifted into a role as a D-backs television analyst. That put him in position to move down to the dugout when expansion Arizona parted with its original manager, Buck Showalter, after backsliding from 100 wins to 85 in its third season, missing the playoffs.

Under Brenly, a D-backs club loaded with accomplished veterans such as Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez and Mark Grace rebounded to go 92-70 and win the National League West. Arizona got past St. Louis and Atlanta before winning a classic World Series against the Yankees on Gonzalez's walk-off bloop single against Mariano Rivera in Game 7. That was the peak for Brenly, who was let go in 2004 and returned to the broadcast booth.

Ralph Houk, 1961 Yankees
Houk's career as a backup catcher consisted of 91 games for the Yankees over eight seasons, coincidentally playing under Bucky Harris (more on him below) in 1947-48. Houk found more success as a manager, after filling that role in the Minors and serving as a Yanks coach.

New York fired Hall of Fame skipper Casey Stengel after the 1960 team lost to Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the World Series, and it handed the reins to Houk. The cupboard was hardly bare, with the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Whitey Ford helping Houk win 109 games. The Yankees beat the Reds in five games in the Fall Classic, and they repeated in '62 against the Giants. Houk managed 18 more seasons with the Yanks, Tigers and Red Sox, but he never won another championship.

Eddie Dyer, 1946 Cardinals
Dyer was a middling pitcher for St. Louis before retiring in 1928 and joining Branch Rickey's revolutionary farm system and managing the Western Association's Topeka ballclub. Dyer continued managing ballclubs all over the eastern United States until finally getting the chance to skipper his former big league club in '46.

"I consider him the best judge of young players in the country," said Cardinals owner Sam Breadon of Dyer, "which I consider priceless at a time like this."

Dyer inherited a Cards club that had won three straight pennants from 1942-44, but the Redbirds fell behind the Dodgers early on in '45, dropping as far as 7 1/2 games back at the beginning of July. But St. Louis roared back to claim the NL lead within a span of three weeks, and ultimately prevailed over Brooklyn in a three-game tiebreaker at season's end to return to the World Series. Enos Slaughter completed his "mad dash" home to score the Series-winning run in Game 7, giving Dyer a title in his first year at the helm.

Bucky Harris, 1924 Senators
Washington's baseball club was often chided for being "first in war, first in peace and last in the American League" over its first several decades. In 1923, Senators owner Clark Griffith knew he needed to turn the tide, so he took a chance and made his 26-year-old second baseman, Harris, the team's player-manager.

The gamble couldn't have paid off any better. The "boy manager" piloted a team filled with stars -- including Hall of Famers Goose Goslin, Sam Rice and Walter Johnson -- to 92 wins and the franchise's first AL pennant, setting up a World Series matchup with the Giants in which Harris would play a major role. Not only did Harris hit .333 and knock two home runs, he also outmaneuvered the great John McGraw in Game 7 with a starting pitcher trick, and later brought in the aging Johnson for a heroic closing effort in the Senators' dramatic 12-inning victory.

Harris became the youngest manager to win the World Series in 1924, and he led the Senators back to the Fall Classic in '25 before falling to the Pirates in another seven-game set. Harris went on to win a World Series in his debut season with the Yankees in '47.