Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
2. Whitey Herzog
The Kansas City Royals managed to go from being an expansion franchise to a perennial contender in an astonishingly short amount of time. Leading the way as the Royals become one of the model franchises in baseball was Whitey Herzog.
Herzog, who was 47-91 during his stint managing the Texas Rangers in 1973, proved to be the perfect fit for the up and coming Royals. With his brand of baseball, or “Whiteyball” as it came to be known, he formulated his teams around pitching, speed and defense (sounds like the current Royals, come to think of it). He was the catalyst behind players like Frank White and Al Cowens getting their chance, and was exactly what the Royals needed.
However, despite never having a losing record or finishing worse than second during his time in Kansas City, Herzog was let go after the 1979 season. His argumentative nature, and constant criticism that the Royals front office would not spend to acquire top talent, led to Ewing Kauffman dismissing Herzog for Jim Frey. While Herzog won a World Series with the cross state Cardinals in 1982, the Royals had the last laugh in 1985, defeating Herzog’s Cardinals in seven games.
Yet, that championship would not have come without Whitey Herzog forming the basis for the Golden Era of Kansas City Royals baseball. He may not have reached the World Series in Kansas City, but he set the stage for those runs during the 1980’s.
Next: A brilliant career cut off too soon