William "Billy the Kid" Southworth. The odds are, you probably never of the former St. Louis Cardinals manager.
Even the most diehard citizen of Cardinal Nation will be surprised to find that Billy Southworth's won-loss percentage as a Cardinal Manager is an amazing .642, well over 100 points higher than the legendary, fan favorite manager, Whitey Herzog‘s .530 won-loss percentage.
Southworth's career record of 340 games above .500, ranks him 5th among major league baseball managers and is remarkable considering current future Hall of Famer Cardinals' Manager, Tony La Russa teams have played 306 games above .500, after back-to-back National League Central Division Championships and 100-win seasons in St. Louis.
Billy Southworth had a very successful career, both as a player and manager. As a player he had a career .297 batting average and as a manager he had .597-career. As a manager, a Billy Southworth team never once finished in the second division in any season.
Southworth began his managing career with the Cardinals in 1928, after a playing career of 13 years with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, New York and St. Louis. In 1928 while managing the Rochester minor league team, Southworth led his team to the pennant before returning to the majors in 1929 as a player-manager.
The hardcore Southworth was committed to take the Cardinals to a pennant, his
players considered him too tough and resisted the discipline and changes from
the manager. As a result, Southworth was sent back down to the minors and at
Rochester he won three more pennants.
In 1940 Southworth got another chance with the Cardinals, when manager Ray Blades was fired. The new skipper moved the Cardinals from sixth place to third that season and finished second in 1941. From there he took the Cardinals to three straight pennants from 1942 through 1944. The Cards won the World Series in 1942 and 1944. During this span Southworth's Cardinals won 106 games in 1942, and 105 games in both the 1943 and 1944 seasons.
World War II wreaked havoc over the Cardinals' roster during this period as
they lost second baseman Frank Crespi, popular outfielder Terry Moore, future
Hall of Fame outfielder Enos Slaughter and staff ace Johnny Beazley as well as
starting pitcher Hollie Pollet, who had an 8-4 record when he entered the armed
In 1944, the Cardinals had to make do without Harry Walker, Lou Klein and pitchers Al Brazzle, Howie Kirst and Ernie White. The ability of Southworth to manage through these difficult times and win 105 games was truly that triumph of courage, harmony, youth and speed over superior forces.
After finishing second in 1945, Southworth moved to Boston with the blessings of the Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, when the then-Boston Braves offered him $50,000 - considerably more than the $16,000 salary the Cardinals were paying. Southworth reluctantly left the team that he loved so much that he even had a picture of a Cardinal sitting on a bat inlaid in the linoleum of the kitchen floor in his home.
Southworth went on to turn the Braves into a winner as well. They won the pennant in 1948, their first in 34 years, despite not having the best talent in the league, nor given much of a chance to win.
Southworth managed until 1951, when he quit halfway through the season. He became a baseball scout and began beating the bushes from Nova Scotia to Macon, Georgia for the Braves. He discovered future Hall of Famer and all-time home run champion Hank Aaron, among others. The former Cardinal manager also had significant influence in the development of the careers of Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.
Southworth won 620 games and three National League titles, and two World Series while with the Cardinals and another pennant with the Boston Braves in 1948. He was named Sporting News Manager of the Year in 1941 and 1942.
Harry Walker, a perfectionist in his long-term career as a player, coach and manager once said, "Billy was the best manager I ever played for. Billy was the best manager I was ever around. Winning as much as he did, he had to do something right."
He is the only manager to win four pennants since 1901 and not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nominated in 1946, Billy never received more than the 18 votes he got in 1958, (a disgrace) far below the 75% needed for induction into the Hall of Fame.
Billy Southworth died on November 15, 1969 at the age of 76 in Columbus, Ohio. It took 32 years before he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
He will be eligible for consideration by the Hall of Fame Committee on
Baseball Veterans in 2007 and again when the process is repeated every four
In my opinion, Billy Southworth was the best manager in all of baseball during the 1940s and is perhaps the best manager in St. Louis Cardinals history.
How it is possible for the only manager since 1901 to have won four pennants and not be inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame, was not even on the ballot in 2003, the last time the HOF Baseball Veterans Committee met, is way beyond me.
"Billy the Kid" the outlaw, was wanted, "Billy the Kid" the manager, apparently not.