"The Matheny Seven"

Prior to Mike Matheny, seven previous St. Louis Cardinals managers lacked major league coaching and minor league managerial experience. We look into the background and results of each.

Mike Matheny is the first manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in 60 years to lack two important line items on his resume. The ex-catcher has neither been a major league coach nor a minor league manager.

In the first installment of this series, we looked at the 21 managers to precede Matheny in the job over the last century. This time, we drill down into the seven who lacked that same experience base as the new skipper.

Two, Frankie Frisch and Rogers Hornsby, went on to win the ultimate prize as Cardinals manager – the World Series. They inherited solid rosters, accomplishing the feat in their first full season as skipper after having assumed the role during the prior summer.

Four of the seven went on to become Hall of Famers. Roger Bresnahan and Miller Huggins joined Frisch and Hornsby, though much of their career successes occurred elsewhere.

We'll look at the seven in chronological order. Their years as Cardinals manager follow their name.

Roger Bresnahan (1909-1912, Hall of Fame). Consider if Yadier Molina had been acquired by a new club and was named their manager. That is how Bresnahan arrived in St. Louis.

At 29 years of age in December 1908, the catcher was acquired in trade from the Giants. Considered the game's top backstop, he had interned in New York under future Hall of Fame skipper John McGraw.

Taking over a dreadful 49-win club, Bresnahan led his Cardinals teams to an improved record in three consecutive seasons. They posted a winning mark in 1911, the first time the Cards finished over .500 in a decade. The player-manager was rewarded with a new, five-year contract, but the harmony with owner Helene Britton did not last long.

A sixth-place finish and disagreement over a number of club operational matters contributed to his firing following the 1912 season. Bresnahan sued the Cardinals over non-payment of the final four years of his contract and won $20,000 in settlement. Bresnahan signed with the Cubs as a catcher in 1913 and managed them during the 1915 season.

Miller Huggins (1913-1917, HoF). Huggins, who had earned a law degree, reached the Hall of Fame as a manager. However, it was due to his later success with the Yankees, not his time leading the Cardinals.

At the age of 33 when promoted to player-manager, Huggins had been with the Cards since 1910 as a scrappy second baseman. The firing of his managerial predecessor, Bresnahan, was not a popular move.

Huggins did not get off well, as his first St. Louis club finished in last place. Though his teams later forged two winning seasons, his overall record as Cardinals skipper was just 346-415. It was a time when owner Helene Britton was struggling with finances and Huggins was reportedly upset that he was not allowed to purchase the team. He resigned following the 1917 season to take over managing the Bombers.

Rogers Hornsby (1925-1926, 1926 World Series, HoF). Considered by many to be the greatest second baseman of all time and our fourth-ranked Cardinals player of all time, "Rajah" had less success as a leader of men. Hornsby lasted less than two seasons as St. Louis' manager after replacing another future Hall of Famer. Branch Rickey was forced by owner Sam Breadon to focus on his front office duties and discontinue managing the team on the field 38 games into the 1925 season.

Though his stint was short, it was productive. Hornsby played and managed the Cardinals to their first-ever World Championship before running cross-ways with Breadon. After a contract dispute and amid concerns about Hornsby's gambling, the owner dealt his best player and only manager to the Giants two months after winning the 1926 title.

The fact that St. Louis received another second base standout, Frankie Frisch (and pitcher Jimmy Ring), in return did not soothe angry Cardinals fans, livid that their superstar was traded away. Ultimately, St. Louis got the better of the deal.

Bob O'Farrell (1927). 30 years old and coming off the 1926 National League Most Valuable Player award for the World Champion Cardinals, the catcher should have been on top of the world. Instead, he found himself having to replace the immensely popular Hornsby as player-manager and with the expectation of repeating.

His 1927 club improved by three wins, going 92-61 and finishing a close second to Pittsburgh. That wasn't good enough as O'Farrell was axed by Breadon. He was replaced by coach Bill McKechnie, who had piloted the 1925 Pirates to a World Series win before being fired. O'Farrell was given a raise and remained with the Cardinals as a player until he was traded away the next May.

Frankie Frisch (1933-1938, 1934 World Series, HoF). "The Fordham Flash" later earned his place in the Hall of Fame, but on July 23, 1933, he was simply the Cardinals' star second baseman. The next day, he was promoted to player-manager, replacing Gabby Street. Street had won pennants in his first two years as skipper but posted a losing record since winning the 1931 World Series. Frisch had played under Street during the latter's entire stint as well as starred for the 1928 NL champions prior.

Oddly, the Cardinals' former manager Hornsby was also back on the team as a veteran reserve in 1933. Perhaps in part to help the new manager get his feet on the ground, Rajah did remain around very long. In fact, just two days after Frisch was promoted, Hornsby was released so he could become the player-manager of the Browns.

Already popular as a player, Frisch became even more so as the leader of the "Gas House Gang," winner of the 1934 World Series. His clubs continued to contend until the latter part of the 1937 season, but the aging 1938 Cardinals were just 63-72 when Frisch was fired that September. Frisch later managed the Pirates (1940-1946) and Cubs (1949-51), but could not repeat his St. Louis success.

"Slats" Marion
Marty Marion (1951). Despite a World Championship in his first season (1946) and five consecutive winning years, manager Eddie Dyer resigned before he could be fired following the 1950 campaign. Owner Fred Saigh then hired his 32-year-old shortstop, Marion, as the new skipper.

Prematurely slowed by back and knee ailments, Marion did not play during his year managing the Cardinals. He had been the NL Most Valuable Player in 1943. Though the 1951 Cardinals won three more games than Dyer's final club, it wasn't enough. Saigh fired Marion that October.

Despite Saigh's belief that Marion lacked the fire he thought necessary to be a major league manager, "Slats" later managed both the Browns (1952-1953) and the White Sox (1954-1956).

Eddie Stanky (1952-1955). After a decade as the combative shortstop of the hated Brooklyn Dodgers as well as the Braves and Giants, Stanky was acquired in trade from the latter club in December 1951. Saigh immediately named him Cardinals manager, filling the opening created when Marion was sent packing.

Then 35 years of age, "The Brat" was a player-manager in 1952 and 1953 before hanging up his cleats. Stanky's first Cardinals club won 88 games, a seven-game improvement over the 1951 team, but still finished 8 ½ games out.

A 72-82 record in 1954 culminated three consecutive declining years. The straw that broke the camel's back was that it represented the first losing season for the proud franchise since 1938. Stanky lasted 36 games into the 1955 campaign before being fired by Gussie Busch, who had taken over control of the club in early 1953.

Triple-A manager Harry "The Hat" Walker replaced Stanky, who later returned to the Cardinals from 1958-1964 as director of player personnel.

In conclusion

There you have it – the seven former managers of the Cardinals who like Mike Matheny did not have previous minor league managerial experience or had been a major league coach.

Though all were from a different era, two World Championships and four Hall of Famers out of seven set a pretty high bar for Matheny to reach. When he took the job, he had to know the rich history of the club and its skippers. Let's hope he is up to the challenge.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his minor league features during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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