Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog passes away at 92

April 16th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- Whitey Herzog, whose keen eye for talent evaluation and unique creativity in building baseball rosters led to a Hall of Fame MLB managing career, died on Tuesday. He was 92 years old.

Herzog won World Series titles in 1969 and 1982 -- first, with the Mets as a farm system director and, later, as the dynamic manager of the speed-driven Cardinals. Like with the Mets, when his fingerprints were all over the franchise’s first crown in 1969, Herzog reimagined the Cardinals into a team built around speed, defense and a strong bullpen with a series of player acquisitions. A roster recreated by Herzog’s moves -- his deals involved 22 players during the 1980 Winter Meetings -- would ultimately win the World Series in 1982 and capture two more pennants for the Cardinals in ’85 and ’87.

“Whitey Herzog was one of the most accomplished managers of his generation and a consistent winner with both ‘I-70’ franchises," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "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.

“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.”

Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog was born on Nov. 9, 1931, in New Athens, Ill., 40 miles east of St. Louis. A short-lived career as a player gave way to his true calling -- time as a scout, coach, farm system director and manager from 1963-90 where he used his abilities as a talent evaluator and team builder to find major success.

“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,” said Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. “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 “Whitey Ball” throughout baseball. Whitey loved the Cardinals, their fans and St. Louis. He will be sorely missed.”

As a manager, Herzog won six division titles, three pennants and one World Series and finished with a record of 1,281-1,125 (.532). He was 21-16 (.538) in 37 postseason games with the Cardinals. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, he’s a member of the Royals and Cardinals Halls of Fame, and his No. 24 is retired in St. Louis.

“Baseball has been very good to me since I stopped playing it,” reads one of Herzog’s most famous quotes, which hangs across a beam in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Herzog, who continued to live in suburban St. Louis following his 1990 retirement from baseball, was a regular at Opening Day at Busch Stadium through the years. Even after his 90th birthday, Herzog was back at Busch Stadium in August 2022, when the Cardinals celebrated the 40-year anniversary of the 1982 championship team with more than 20 players and 100 family members returning for the festivities.

“Whitey spent his last few days surrounded by his family," the Herzog 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.”

Herzog, who had success early in his career as a manager with the Rangers, Angels and Royals, created a dynasty of sorts in St. Louis in the 1980s, when the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series and two other National League pennants. Playing a style of baseball dubbed “Whiteyball,” St. Louis beat teams with speed, defense and a strong bullpen under the direction of Herzog, a good-natured manager who prided himself on his strong communication skills with his players. Using his wry humor, a twangy schtick and the many voice impersonations he could pull off to needle foes, Herzog didn’t mind twisting a proverbial knife into opponents that the Cardinals had outplayed and defeated.

Some of Herzog’s greatest work in baseball came as a general manager when he masterfully reworked the Cardinals from a last-place team in 1979 to a World Series champion in 1982. In a span of three days during the 1980 Winter Meetings, Herzog signed Darrell Porter as a free agent, pulled off an 11-player deal with the Padres, acquired Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter from the Cubs and then swung a seven-player deal with the Brewers. When the Cardinals and Brewers met in the 1982 World Series -- one St. Louis won in seven games over Milwaukee -- Herzog joked that he couldn’t lose because he had built both teams through trades.

Herzog’s 1982 Cardinals were built around speed and defense, and those attributes proved to be perfect complements to the quick artificial turf and the expansive gaps at Busch Stadium. The ’82 Cardinals won the NL and beat the Brewers in the World Series with nearly three times as many stolen bases (200) as home runs (67). Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Jim Kaat, Sutter and Herzog were big parts of that team, as too were Cardinals Hall of Famers Willie McGee, Tom Herr and Keith Hernandez. Herzog used that talent to prove that championships could be won with speed and defense instead of solely relying on power hitters.

“They said what I did was right, but no one had the guts to do it, or the authority to do it before,” Herzog said in 2022 in his famously folksy manner. “It made it a lot easier that we won. I don’t know how it would have turned out if we had fallen on our rear ends.”