The KC Royals are known for some great players. They’ve also had several players who became big league managers.
There will be no baseball played this Thursday, the day the KC Royals were scheduled to open their first season under new manager Mike Matheny in Chicago. Instead, Matheny, the Royals, the country and the world will continue to await a return to normalcy. When baseball does resume, Matheny will become the 19th man to manage the Royals.
Like so many other managers, Matheny is a former big league player who earned his baseball stripes on the field before taking a permanent seat in the dugout. Only four KC managers–Jack McKeon, Jim Frey, Bob Schaefer and Trey Hillman–didn’t play in the big leagues. The three winningest managers in club history, however, all made it to the majors as players, but distinguished themselves more as managers.
Ned Yost caught six years for Milwaukee, Texas and Montreal; his .212 average explains why he wasn’t a regular catcher. He managed the Brewers for almost six seasons before they fired him in the heat of the 2008 pennant race. He took over the downtrodden Royals in 2010 and eventually led them to two American League pennants and a World Series title before retiring after last season with a club leading 687 wins.
Whitey Herzog hit 25 homers and .257 across eight seasons with the Senators, Orioles, Tigers and old Kansas City A’s, then returned to town in 1975 to manage Ewing Kauffman’s Royals. He won three straight West Division titles and never had a losing record in 4½ seasons; his 410 wins rank second to Yost. The “White Rat” also skippered Texas and California and won a World Series (and lost another to the Royals) and two NL pennants with St. Louis.
Dick Howser hit .248 in eight campaigns with Cleveland, the Yankees and the KC A’s. Only Yost and Herzog have more than the 404 victories Howser collected in six seasons. His Royals captured the “second half” West Division title during the strike-interrupted 1981 season and won the Division again in ’84. Howser then led the Royals to their first World Series title in ’85; brain cancer forced him out of the game in ’87.
But what of the several Royals who became big league managers when their playing careers ended? Some managed other clubs, some went on to manage the Royals, and two won World Series titles.