Here in the Rhode Island baseball community, I love to see posts and media with former collegiate or professional baseball players helping our youth athletes. Giving back to your local league or high school or community is such a priceless gift and I applaud all who do so. A few local retired professional baseball players that have been active in Rhode Island Baseball for some time now include Ken Ryan, Mark Cahill, and Lenny DiNardo (just to name a few.) In the past year or two, I have shared posts about Nick Burdi, Oil Can Boyd, and Jeff Diehl who have given back to AAU and other youth baseball leagues around Rhode Island. Having played the game at a very high level, and having been coached at a very high level gives these former players a unique set of skills and knowledge about the game of baseball. And the fact that they are now sharing their techniques, drills, and visions with the youth of Rhode Island is just awesome.
I was looking through my baseball card collection this past weekend (ok don’t bust my chops, there is no baseball happening right now) and came across a number of former players who became managers. Most of these players were average at best. Some only played 1 or 2 seasons in the Major Leagues and logged a ton of seasons in the Minor Leagues. A few made All-Star teams but for the most part they were average professional baseball players. Here are a few in my collection that caught my eye:
Don Zimmer was a career .235 hitter and slugged a total of 91 home runs in his 12 year career. Zimmer would go on to manage over 1700 games in the Majors for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, among others.
Bobby Valentine parts of 10 seasons as a utility player with a career batting average of .260. His managerial career was much more spectacular and people got to see Bobby V manage over 2300 professional game for the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, and one regrettable season with the Boston Red Sox, among others.
Dusty Baker was actually a really good baseball player. Baker was an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, and hit a respectable .278. He played parts of 19 seasons and even help the Los Angeles Dodgers win the 1981 World Series. As a manager, Baker has managed almost 3500 games and has been Manager of the Year three times.
Joe Torre was also a really, really good player. He was a 9 time All-Star, a batting champion, and an NL MVP. Then, as a manager of the New York Yankees, Torre was the captain who steered his team to 4 World Series titles and helped secure the Yankees as the team of the 1990’s. Torre managed over 4,300 games in the Major Leagues.
Lou Piniella played parts of 16 seasons with a number of professional baseball teams. He was Rookie of the Year in 1969. Piniella hit a very respectable .291 for his career that included stops in Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland, and New York. He won the World Series twice as a player for the New York Yankees. As a manager, Piniella took the helm for Yankees, Cubs, Reds, and Devil Rays. Piniella managed in over 3,500 games.
So many to name over the years, so no offense to any that I missed. These were the only baseball cards in my collection that included players who became managers. One thing is sure, these players who became managers brought decades of experience to their positions as manager. All of the practices, tryouts, cuts, makes, minor league stops, and Spring Trainings added up to give these players the knowledge base to become a manager. Books, videos, and online courses are great for gardening, playing a song on your guitar, or learning a new language. I will take the advice of a former professional baseball player, in person, any day of the week!!!