|Tuesday, June 4
Tosca rare manager who never played
By Rob Neyer
Carlos Tosca just joined a pretty exclusive fraternity.
By my count, Tosca is just the sixth major-league manager since 1900 who never played professional baseball.
Without further ado, the first five:
Years Record Ed Barrow 1903-1920 310-320 Hugo Bezdek 1917-1919 166-187 Judge Fuchs 1929 56- 98 Ted Turner 1977 0- 1 John Boles 1996-2001 205-241
Two of those managers deserve asterisks, because they hired themselves. Ted Turner managed the Atlanta Braves for one game (after which commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered him to cease and desist, per MLB rules). Emil Fuchs managed the Boston Braves for an entire season. The Braves finished with a decent enough record -- well, no worse than their typical record those days -- and Fuchs did actually order a substantial number of the moves during the season, though he was assisted by Johnny Evers. Fuchs made his smartest move after the season, when he fired himself and hired future Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie.
Ed Barrow is in the Hall of Fame (though not as a manager). Growing up in Des Moines, Barrow loved baseball, but his dreams of playing professionally were dashed early on. As he remembered many years later,
I fancied myself a pitcher and played with a local pickup team. I was about seventeen or eighteen. We had a pretty good game going one Sunday afternoon and I was pitching steadily when along about the fifth inning my arm began to hurt. At the same time a cold rain began to fall, but as we were winning I kept right on pitching and finished the game. However, that night my arm and shoulder were sore and swollen and never were any good for throwing a ball hard after that. My pitching career was over and I never tried to be a player again.
Barrow was probably too ambitious to be a player anyway. Before long he was managing, both on and off the field, his own team. Eventually -- after discovering a pretty good ballplayer named Honus Wagner -- Barrow managed the Tigers, with middling success, in 1903 and 1904. Next, he managed in the American Association and the Eastern League, became president of the latter circuit and renamed it the International League.
During World War I, Red Sox manager Jack Barry went into the service. For Barry's replacement, American League president Ban Johnson recommended Barrow to Sox owner Harry Frazee. Barrow got the job, and managed the Red Sox to their fourth World Series victory in seven years. That was in 1918, the same season that Barrow sent Babe Ruth to the outfield for the first time. And the next year, again at Barrow's behest, Ruth became a full-time outfielder.
Ruth went to the Yankees in 1920, and a year later Barrow followed him. But not as manager; the Yankees already had a capable man in Miller Huggins for that job. Barrow took over as business manager, and over the next 25 years built some of the greatest teams in the history of the game.
During two of the same seasons that Barrow was managing the Red Sox, a huge Chicagoan named Hugo Bezdek was managing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
During the 1917 season, Honus Wagner, 43 years old but still active as a player, reluctantly hired on as manager. At the same time, the Pirates hired Bezdek -- a football coach at the University of Oregon who scouted for the Pirates in his spare time -- to assist Wagner and take care of the business side of things.
Wagner lasted five games -- one win, four losses -- by which point everybody realized just what a terrible mistake they'd made, and Bezdek took over. He'd never played or managed in professional sports, but by most accounts he did a pretty good job in his two-plus years on the job. He left after the 1920 season, though, for the head coaching job of the Penn State football team, and went on to great success with the Nittany Lions and other teams.
After Bezdek came Fuchs, and then nearly half a century passed between Fuchs and Turner. I thought about including Harold "Lefty" Phillips, who managed the Angels in the early 1970s. Phillips' professional career consisted of just a few innings in the Arizona-Texas League, back in 1939. But when times got tough, Phillips could always fall back on "Boys, back in '39 when I was pitchin' for the ol' Bisbee Bees ..."
And that's something John Boles could never do. He knew more about baseball than 99 percent of the players in the major leagues, yet some of his major leaguers just couldn't forget that their manager hadn't ever played pro ball. He'd managed for most of six seasons in the minor leagues, but in 1986 he moved into administration and player development. In '96 the Marlins fired their manager, and Boles took over on an interim basis, guiding the Marlins to a 40-35 record in the second half. Jim Leyland came aboard in 1997 and took the Marlins all the way to a World Championship that season.
In 1998, Wayne Huizenga took the Marlins all the way to a 54-108 record, and Leyland quit at the conclusion of that ugly debacle. Boles took the job again, and this time he hung around for a while. Boles did about as well as could have been expected, but lost control of his team last May, thanks to some bad actors in the clubhouse and at least a lingering perception that if you never played professional baseball, you can't manage professional baseball.
And now it's Carlos Tosca's turn. Born in Cuba nearly 49 years ago, Tosca graduated from the University of Southern Florida with a degree in physical education, and began his coaching career in 1976. I have no idea how it happened, but just two years later Tosca got a job coaching for the Yankees' farm team in Oneonta, New York. He was 24 years old, and had made a career jump that few other men have made. And now, nearly 25 years later, he's made another.
Tosca's been in professional baseball for a long time. He managed in the minor leagues for 17 years, and his teams won 53 percent of their games. No, he never played the game. But if his players give him a chance -- and given their situation, they don't have any reason to be choosy -- there's no obvious reason he can't be a good major-league manager.