St. Louis Cardinals
"BILLY THE KID" IGNORED BY BASEBALL'S HALL OF FAME VETERANS COMMITTEE
by Raymond Mileur
The St. Louis Cardinals were well represented, with a total of 11 Cardinal alumni, in the recent announcement of Hall of Fame Candidates for 2003. The first question that comes to mind when reading this impressive list is that, is there anyone missing?
The former Cardinal candidates included are, Ken Boyer, Marty Marion, Roger Maris, Joe Torre, August Busch Jr., Whitey Herzog, Bill White, Curt Flood, Lee Smith, Dick Allen, Minnie Minoso and Vada Pinson. Whos missing? Former Cardinal Player/Manager, Billy Southworth also known as Billy the Kid or the Little General.
Southworth began his managing career with the cardinals in 1928, after a playing career of 13 years with a lifetime batting average of .297 with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, New York and St. Louis. In 1928 while managing the St. Louis Cardinals, Rochester minor league team, Southworth led his team to the pennant before returning to the majors in 1929 as a player-manager. The hardcore Southworth was considered too tough on the players and as such the players resisted his discipline and the changes Southworth was committed to make to turn the Cardinals into contenders. Southworth was returned to Rochester, where he went on to win three more pennants.
In 1940 Southworth got another chance with the Cardinals, when manager Ray Blades was fired. The new skipper moved the Cardinals from sixth place to third that season and finished second in 1941. From there he took the Cardinals to three straight pennants from 1942 through 1944. The Cards won the World Series in 1942 and 1944. During this span Southworth's Cardinals won 106 games in 1942, and 105 games in both the 1943 and 1944 seasons.
During the 1942 season, the Dodgers or Reds were picked to win the pennant, "If the Cardinals can beat Brooklyn," one writer mused "it will be a triumph of courage, harmony, youth and speed over seemingly superior forces." World War II, wreck havoc over the Cardinals' roster during this period as they lost several players to the military to include, second baseman, Frank Crespi, popular outfielder, Terry Moore, future Hall of Famer, outfielder Enos Slaughter and staff ace Johnny Beazley as well as starting pitcher Hollie Pollet who had an 8-4 record when he entered the armed services.
In 1944, the Cardinals had to make do without, Harry Walker, Lou Klein and pitchers Al Brazzle, Howie Kirst and Ernie White. The ability of Southworth to manage through these difficult times was truly that triumph of courage, harmony, youth and speed over superior forces.
After finishing second in 1945, Southworth moved to Boston with the blessings of the Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, when the then .Boston Braves offered him $50,000 considerably more than the salary the Cardinals were paying of $16,000. Southworth left the team that he loved so much, that he even had a picture of a Cardinal sitting on a bat, inlaid in the linoleum of the kitchen floor in his home.
"The Little General" finished his career in St. Louis with 620 wins and only 346 losses with 15 ties for a .642 career winning percentage as a Cardinal manager compared to this years nominee to the National Hall of Fame, Whitey The White Rat Herzog, record of 822-728 and one tie, a winning percentage of just .530, 112 points less than The Little General, an amazing statistic considering most Cardinals fans today could not tell you anything Billy Southworth, but Herzog is a household name and a Cardinal fan favorite, and he deserves it as does Billy Southworth.
Southworth went on to turn the Braves into a winner as well. They won the pennant in 1948, theyre first in 34 years, despite not having the best talent in the league.
Southworth continued to managed until 1951, when he quit halfway through the season. He scouted from Nova Scotia to Macon, Georgia for the Braves where he discovered future Hall of Famer and Home Run Champion, Hank Aaron. He also had significant influence on the development and careers of Hall of Famers, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter,
Southworth won 620 games and three National League titles, and two World Series while with the Cardinals and another pennant with the Boston Braves in 1948. His .642 winning percentage with the Redbirds, is the best in Cardinal team history and he ranks fifth overall with an overall career winning percentage of .597 in 13 seasons in the major leagues.
Harry Walker, a perfectionist in his long-term career as a player, coach and manager once said "Billy was the best manager I ever played for," said Harry "Billy was the best manager I was ever around. Winning as much as he did, he had to do something right.
Southworth was named Sporting News Manager of the Year in 1941 and 1942. He is the only manager to win four pennants since 1901 and not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Billy Southworth died on November 15, 1969 at the age of 76 in Columbus, Ohio. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. Nominated 1946, Billy never received more the 18 votes he got in 1958, far below the 75% needed for induction into the Hall of Fame. This year the great Cardinal manager failed to even make the final ballot for consideration.
In addition Southworth was instrumental in the Cardinals World Championship in 1926, traded from New York Giants to the Cardinals after 36 games into the season, Southworth played right field for the Redbirds in 99 games. In 391 at bats, he hit .317 with 11 home runs and 69 RBI along with 13 stolen bases.
To put in perspective his impact on the Cardinals, he finished among the league leaders in runs scored, third with 99, in RBI with 99 for fourth place and 182 runs produced for fourth place and he was fifth among league leaders with his 16 home runs.
The Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees, 4 games to 3in the 1926 World Series. Billy played in all seven games and hit .345 during the Series and led the team in runs scored with six and hits with ten. Billy also played for the Cardinals in 1927 and again briefly in 1929, his final season as a player.
In response to correspondence from the St. Louis Cardinals Birdhouse, a fan based and operated website at http://thestlcardinals.homestead.com the Hall of Fame responded to the fans concerns about Billy Southworths exclusion from the Hall of Fame with the following remarks;
Certainly, there are many worthy candidates among the 60 managers, umpires and executives that were considered for the final players' ballot by the Baseball Writers' Association of America Screening Committee, a group completely independent of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This Screening Committee of 60, consisting of two writers from each city with one team, and two writers from each region with two teams pared down the list to the 15 candidates that each individual felt to be most deserving. Though Billy Southworth is not eligible for consideration by the Hall of Fame Committee on Baseball Veterans in 2003, he will be again in 2007 when the process is repeated, and every four years thereafter. Please do note that election to Cooperstown is very difficult. While he is not currently a member of the Hall of Fame, he is represented in the Museum and Library as an important figure in baseball history. We will announce the results of the Veterans Committee election on February 26 at www.baseballhalloffame.org.
Billy Southworth was the best manager in all of baseball during the 1940s. Winning when his teams were not even expected to compete, a Billy Southworth team never once finished in the second division in any season. His career record of 340 games above .500 ranks him 5th all time among major league baseball managers and is remarkable considering Whitey Herzogs career games above .500 record is just 156 games. Billy Southworth led the Cardinals to three National League Pennants and two World Championships, as compared to Whiteys three National League Pennants and one World Championship.
Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog is one of the eleven former Cardinals that will be considered for election this year into the Hall of Fame, this year and best wishes to him, but one must ask how can The White Rat go in before Billy the Kid?
Raymond Mileur is the webmaster of the St. Louis Cardinals' Birdhouse, the home of the Cardinals' Fans, where they are Preserving the past, Promoting the present and Projecting the future of the Cardinals.