Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Donovan's About-Face Recalls That Of Stanky's

For about a week in 1977, the Texas Rangers' managerial job was treated like a hot potato, as it was tossed about four times in eight days.

I got to thinking about the Rangers and their bizarre managing carousel for two reasons: the Tigers are playing in Texas currently, and I was bemused at University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan and his decision to quit the Orlando Magic after a weekend as their "conflicted" coach.

Actually, the first person I though of in the Rangers' debacle of '77 was Eddie Stanky. "Stinky," they called him, and "The Brat" (NOT short for bratwurst, either; Stanky was a pest as a player).

Stanky as a Boston Brave; doubt there are too many photos of him as a Rangers manager

The Rangers fired manager Frank Luchessi with a not-so-bad 31-31 record in late June, almost 30 years ago to the day. Then they turned to Stanky, who hadn't managed in the big leagues in nine years -- but who also had a winning overall record in a career that included parts of eight seasons with the Cardinals and White Sox.

June 22, 1977 -- according to That was the day Stanky managed his first -- and only -- game for the Rangers. His team was in Minnesota, and despite falling behind 4-0 in the first inning, the Rangers ended up winning 10-8.

But almost immediately after the game the 60-year-old Stanky began feeling homesick. He didn't mess around; he quit the Rangers the next day, unbeaten as their skipper.

Next, the Rangers tabbed Connie Ryan, whose only managerial experience had been a 27-game stint as the Braves' interim guy in 1975 (he went 9-18). Ryan went 2-4 with the Rangers, but parted ways with the team when he announced he would not be interested in the job beyond finishing the '77 season.

Manager-hunting for the third time in a week, the Rangers hired Billy Hunter (no pun intended). Hunter had even less experience than Ryan: he had none at all. Yet he was the most successful of the Rangers' managing quartet, going 60-33 and bringing the team in second behind the Kansas City Royals. And Hunter did what Ryan would not: commit to managing the team in 1978 -- which he did, until being fired with one game left in the season.

But it's Stanky that came to mind as I followed Donovan's odyssey the past couple of days. The Brat missed his family. Donovan feared he would miss his, too -- his college family. Of course, Billy Donovan said "no" to a lot more money than Stanky did back in 1977.

Fun fact: Willie Horton was on that 1977 Rangers team. He batted cleanup in Stanky's only game. He went 0-for-3. Maybe Stanky figured the team wouldn't do much if he couldn't get Horton to hit!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hehehe Stanky.

Shut up Beavis this blog is about sports.

Heh. Stanky.

2:30 PM  
Blogger CharlieH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:18 AM  
Blogger CharlieH said...

I think Stanky never really recovered from wrestling Durocher to the ground after Thomson's homer...

10:19 AM  

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