The Man Who Led the Yankees to Their First Pennant
How Miller Huggins, the Much Misjudged and Little Understood Midget Manager on Out in the Face of Discouraging Difficulties
By F. C. Lane
BASEBALL MAGAZINE, December 1921
Miller Huggins, unlike McGraw, has lacked that aggressive force and colorful personality which impress the New York Public. Furthermore he has had a serious problem in handling some of his players whose temperamental attitude toward baseball has been an open secret. These and similar handicaps have conspired to make his task of managing a winner doubly difficult. But whatever happens now, nothing can deprive Huggins of the credit for leading the Yankees to their first pennant. And that's credit enough for one season.
A disconsolate figure sat huddled in the farthest recess of his dressing room at the Yankee Clubhouse. Around his shoulders was loosely thrown the coat of his recently discarded uniform.
The last game of the World's Series was over. From the neighboring club house came sounds of jollification as crowds of admirers pressed forward to congratulate the victorious Giants on their new-won Championship. Before the closed doors of the Giants club house uniformed policeman kept back the dense crowds which were shouting for Rawlings and Nehf and Burns and McGraw. Before the Yankee club house there was a vacant space. Three or four scribes pressed silently forward through the nearly deserted club house but paused before the half-opened door of the dressing room. The disconsolate figure stirred. He looked at the waiting group for a, moment without apparent emotion. Then he said, "Come in, boys. It's all over now." It was Miller Huggins and in the hour of defeat it was very evident that he preferred to be alone.
"What can I say," he queried. "There is nothing to say. They beat us, that's all. We made as good a fight as we could and we lost. The absence of Ruth from our line-up hurt, of course, but the boys weren't hitting anyway and that tells the story. It was close and it's easy to speculate on what might have been. But that does no good now. The series is history. They won. We lost. There you have it in four words and that's all there is to the story. Give 'em credit." And shifting in his chair he lapsed once more into his own moody reveries as the scribes backed silently out of the dressing room.
In every victory someone must lose. The satisfaction which came to John McGraw at the realization of a hope long deferred had its counterpart in the dejected air of Miller Huggins. And yet the latter's very defeat was a type of success. For in order to lose a World's Series he had at least to pilot his club to a pennant and that pennant happened to be the first that the Yankees had won in their eighteen seasons in the American League.
Huggins has been perhaps the most discussed and the least understood manager in baseball. Even now few people know him intimately for he is neither by taste nor inclination what is commonly called a good mixer.
"I wish I had the knack of salving newspaper men", Huggins once said to me. "But I haven't and that's all there is to the story. I work and if my work won't speak for me why I guess I sha'n't make much of a holler myself."
New York is a big city and demands in its public characters a certain positive quality known as "color." Miller Huggins is singularly unfortunate in that he is one of the most colorless of baseball men. Furthermore, his small stature and unimpressive ways do not help to get him in the limelight. Huggins knows this and no doubt he feels keenly the criticisms that have been made of him. But he keeps his troubles to himself. Lacking both the personality which appeals to the sport writer and the touch of the theatrical which fires the enthusiasm of the public, Huggins has gone quietly about his business, handled his affairs as best he could in the face of many discouragements and little public appreciation and has given New York the only American League pennant the world metropolis has ever known. For that he deserves and should receive full credit. Nor can his ineffectual fight to win the Championship be held against him. With only two dependable pitchers, he doubtless did as well as anyone could have done and the deciding games which went against him were very, very close.
Not all of Huggins' difficulties have been confined to the criticism of the writers or the apathy of the general public. He has had problems in his own club house which would tax the patience and diplomacy of any manager. It is no easy thing to pilot a group of unruly ball players to a championship in a city like New York with its many distracting features.
To preserve strict discipline on such a club and instill the harmony which alone wins games has been a genuine problem. The recent open defiance of the highest baseball authority by some of these very players is a fair evidence of the trials a winning manager has to keep his club a fighting unit.
In a calmer hour, when the first sting of defeat had past, Huggins commented upon his managerial problems in brief as follows. "I don't deny that this season has been a trying one. I am glad that it is over and I am more than glad that things turned out as well as they did. Naturally to lead the club to a pennant was a great satisfaction to me personally. It would be, of course, to any manager.
"I have been criticized a good deal this season, but I really have no comments to make. None of us knows it all and I am learning daily. But I have tried by hard work to get resuIts and think the results have equaled expectations. Some of the criticism of me has seemed unjust, but I have no counter criticisms to make and if I did I shouldn't make them publicly. Some of the blame which has been given me has been on my method of handling pitchers. I guess it is now no secret that I have had an uncertain pitching staff. During the close of the seasons I had but two pitchers who could be depended upon to go the full nine innings and that fact was very evident during the series. I have told people that all I wanted was four pitchers, but two is just exactly half of four.
"Handling pitchers is, perhaps the most difficult part of a manager's job. Naturally opinions differ on this problem. I have listened to the opinions of my players at times and handled pitchers their way. I am not too set to take good advice or advice that seems to warrant a trial. Then I have handled pitchers my way and it seems to me with better results.
"In general there is a tendency on the part of pitchers to complain of overwork. Pitching is a strain I won't deny and the strongest man's arm can get sore with too much exercise. I frankly confess that when I couldn't seem to avoid it, I have overworked my pitchers. I was obliged to overwork Mays during the present season, but gave him a rest to get back in shape. But the manager who spends his time in coddling glass arms won't do much else.
"In the main my attention as a manager has been centered on winning today's game. I think the public present is entitled to feel that every effort is being made to win today's game and besides I consider it good baseball. Today's troubles will fully occupy a manager's attention. Tomorrow is another day and tomorrow it may rain. The system of working pitchers in regular rotation is good, if you have the pitchers. But if one of my pitchers is going bad I want to put in a better man in his place, if possible. If Hoyt had got knocked out of the box in the eighth game of the World's Series I would unhesitatingly have sent Mays in to relieve him. What would I have done for a pitcher for the ninth game? That's a different story. The ninth game never happened.
"The main difference between managing a team at the top and one which is further down the ladder is this. At the top you have to play more carefully and keep your players keyed up to the occasion, but not keyed Up too tight. It's a case of the happy medium. They must be confident to win, but not over?confident. One is about as bad as the other and I have seen good clubs lose from both causes.
"The Series Itself is hard to manage because the least slip is likely to be fatal. Then again every least little thing that you do is so prominently before the public. It is as though all the spot lights in the big city were suddenly turned on you. The players feel this as much us the manager I suppose. On the other hand the Series is like a short sprint when you can exert yourself to the utmost without figuring what you are going to do next week. Even the pitcher with a sore arm is liable to forget his chronic alibi and work in the knowledge that there is a long lay off ahead of him. But as this is my first experience as a World's Series manager and I wasn't fated to win, I had, perhaps, better say no more. There are other managers with much more World's Series experience than I have had, to do the talking.