On This Day: Jack McKeon out, Whitey Herzog in as KC Royals manager

The future Hall of Fame manager began managing his third team back on July 24, 1975.

Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Long-time KC Royals and baseball fans alike will know the name Whitey Herzog well. The creator of "Whiteyball" is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Royals and Cardinals Halls of Fame. The World Series-winning manager had a nearly 20-year managerial career, with most of it in the state of Missouri. But that may not have happened without the firing of then-Royals manager Jack McKeon on July 24, 1975.

On July 24, 1975, the KC Royals began a new part of their story.

McKeon made his managerial debut with the Royals in 1973 when the Royals went 88-74 in their first season at Royals Stadium. That was the best record in franchise history at the time, setting a high watermark for McKeon. 1974 did not go as well, but McKeon lost the clubhouse beyond repair. Star pitcher Steve Bsuby allegedly threatened to quit the team over McKeon's managerial choices as well. With postseason hopes nearly gone and the clubhouse not getting any better, the Royals fired McKeon and hired Herzog. McKeon finished his Royals tenure with a 215-205 record, one of six Royals managers to have a winning percentage above .500.

Herzog came over from the California Angels, where he was the third base coach. He took over a Royals team at 50-46 that was filled with stars like George Brett, Busby, and more. The team still finished second to the Oakland Athletics, but Herzog was 41-25 in his first 66 games as the Royals manager. The .621 winning percentage had fans excited to see what he could do at the top for an entire season. That excitement quickly went from intangible hopes to real results. 

The Royals had a great run from 1976 to 1978. They posted three straight seasons of at least 90 wins and also won the division three years in a row. The 1977 team posted a 102-60 record and is still the only Royals squad with more than 100 wins. Despite all that, the Royals were 5-9 in the postseason with no pennants or World Series trophies to show for it. That, a second-place finish in 1979, and friction with owner Ewing Kauffman saw Herzog leave Kansas City after the 1979 season. His 410-304 record makes for a .574 winning percentage, by far the highest among all Royals managers with at least 10 appearances. Still, the Royals do not fully recognize Herzog's contributions to the team.

That was just a chapter in Herzog's Hall of Fame story. He went across the state to manage the St. Louis Cardinals in 1980. During his tenure with the Cardinals, Herzog transformed the team into a powerhouse, leading them to three World Series appearances and a championship in 1982. His aggressive style of play revolutionized the game on turf and solidified his legacy as one of the great managers in baseball, especially in Royals history.  

dark. Next. KC Royals: Still not baseball's worst team, but hitting like it. KC Royals: Still not baseball's worst team, but hitting like it