THE MAN IN THE DUGOUT by Leonard Koppett

THE MAN IN THE DUGOUT

Baseball's Top Managers and How They Got That Way

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Veteran sports journalist Koppett (Sports Illusion, Sports Reality, 1981, etc.) breaks new ground with this massive study of baseball managers from the 1840's to the present. The first manager, says Koppett, was Harry Wright, a former cricket star who founded the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. But the real history of managing begins in the early 20th century with three founding fathers: Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Branch Rickey. Mack was quiet and dignified, a brilliant tactician in a stiff-collared suit who was still managing in 1950 at the age of 88. McGraw, by contrast, was a brawler and a bully, a tyrant obsessed with winning. Rickey, a genius at organization, developed the farm system and the widely imitated Dodger approach to baseball, emphasizing speed, pitching, and intense practice. From these seminal figures, Koppett traces lines of descent--Rickey to Sparky Anderson, McGraw to Chuck Tanner, etc. In each case, the sage teaches his tricks firsthand to the protÇgÇ, who then improves (or tries to) upon the master. Numerous giants pass under Koppett's gaze: Casey Stengel, ever the clown, with his hunches, platooning, and flamboyant double-talk; loudmouth Leo Durocher, always looking for an edge; gentle Al Rosen; Walter Alston, who had ``absolutely no charisma''; upbeat Ralph Houk; Billy Martin (``more victim than culprit''); Earl Weaver; Tommy Lasorda, and more. Drawing on decades of baseball experience (including personal acquaintance, and often friendship, with most of the managers discussed here), Koppett delivers lively portraits packed with baseball lore and dimmed, if at all, only by his unwillingness to criticize (many figures widely held to be mediocre, like John McNamara and Bill Virdon, he describes as ``underrated''). A first-rate resource from which even lifelong fans will learn something new.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-58545-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993




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