Stanky as player-manager of the Cardinals
|Second baseman / Manager|
|Born: September 3, 1915|
|Died: June 6, 1999 (aged 83)|
|April 21, 1943, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 25, 1953, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Runs batted in||364|
|Career highlights and awards|
Edward Raymond Stanky (September 3, 1915 - June 6, 1999) was an American professional baseball second baseman, shortstop and manager. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, New York Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals between 1943 and 1953. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It took Stanky eight years to reach the major leagues at age 27, after starting out at Greenville, Mississippi, in the East Dixie League, where he was a teammate of future St. Louis Cardinals star Harry Brecheen, whom Stanky would manage in St. Louis in 1952.
Stanky was famous for his ability to draw walks; he drew 100 or more walks in each of six different seasons, 140 or more in two of them. In 1946, he hit just .273 but his 137 walks allowed him to lead the league in OBP with .436, edging out Stan Musial—who led in more than ten hitting categories. His best season was probably 1950 with the Giants, when he hit an even .300 and led the league in walks (144) and OBP (.460). On August 30, he tied a major league record when he walked in seven consecutive at-bats (in two games).
Leo Durocher, who managed him with the Dodgers and Giants, once summed up Stanky's talents: "He can't hit, can't run, can't field. He's no nice guy ... all the little SOB can do is win." Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto still complained years later about a notorious play during Game 3 of the 1951 World Series in which Stanky kicked the ball loose from Rizzuto's glove as he slid into second base, instrumental in the Giant win that put them ahead two games to one, although they lost the next three and the Series with it.
As a runner at third base with less than two out, he would station himself several feet back of the bag, in shallow left field. He would time the arc of any outfield fly and then take off running, step on third as the catch was being made and continue to run at full speed, making it almost impossible to throw him out at home, a tactic eventually outlawed as a result. He was also (in)famous for what came to be called "the Stanky maneuver", distracting opposing hitters by jumping up and down and waving his arms behind the pitcher from his second base position.
Stanky was also a master of the "delayed steal" in which the runner feigns disinterest after the pitch; but instead of walking back to first breaks for second as soon as the infielders return to their normal positions. As Cardinal player-manager, he would hold up games close to being called on account of darkness or curfew when that would benefit his team, by walking leisurely to the mound from second base or the dugout (when not playing) after every pitch to confer with his pitcher, eventually resulting in the one-trip-per-inning rule.
Stanky contributed to the breaking of the color barrier as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Upon first meeting Jackie Robinson at spring training, Stanky told him he was not in favor of integrating baseball, and that he was unhappy that it was his own team doing it, but that despite his own personal feelings, Robinson was now his teammate, and Stanky promised he would have his back. When Robinson began playing that season, he was treated harshly and discriminated against, and frequently taunted with insults and threats by players from the opposing teams. Stanky stayed silent at first, but finally yelled back at Ben Chapman's racist insults during a game. Not long afterward, the other Dodgers began to stand up for Robinson as well. The incident is portrayed in the film 42. Stanky is played by Jesse Luken.
Robinson, a natural second baseman, was shifted to first base in his rookie season as Stanky was already the Dodgers' second baseman and leadoff hitter. Robinson credited Stanky with giving him tips that made the transition to first base easier. Before the 1948 season began, Stanky was traded to the Boston Braves so that Robinson could return to his natural position and also bat leadoff.
He appeared in three World Series in the five years between 1947 and 1951 -- with three different National League champions, the Dodgers, Braves and Giants, all of whom lost to their American League opponents. Following the 1951 World Series, in which he played in all six games for the Giants but hit an anemic .136, he was traded to the Cardinals as player-manager.
In 1952, his Cardinals won seven more games than they had in 1951 and he was chosen Major League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News. The Cards advanced from fourth to third place in the National League standings, although finishing 15 games behind the pennant-winning Dodgers. But his time as Cardinal manager coincided with the slow decline of the team and its farm system from its glory days in the 1940s and the ownership transition from Fred Saigh to August "Gussie" Busch. On May 27, 1955, after a 17-19 start, he was fired.
Stanky then managed the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers (1956) before returning to the Majors as a coach for the Cleveland Indians (1957-58). He then spent almost six seasons in the Cardinal front office in charge of player development (1959-64), moving on to the New York Mets in a similar capacity in 1965.
In 1966, he succeeded Al López as the Chicago White Sox' manager. The White Sox had been runners-up in the American League for three successive seasons (1963-65), averaging almost 96 victories per year, but Stanky's maiden squad won only 83 games and fell to fourth place. However, his 1967 White Sox team -- built on speed and pitching but hampered by an impotent offense -- contended for the pennant until the last week of the season in a thrilling four-team race. But they lost their last five games to the lowly Kansas City Athletics and Washington Senators, and finished three games behind the surprise pennant winners, the "Impossible Dream" Boston Red Sox.
In 1968, the White Sox got off to a terrible start, losing their first ten games (extending their regular-season losing streak to 15 games dating from 1967). They recovered slightly but were only 34-45 on July 11, when Stanky was fired and López came out of retirement to reclaim his old job.
After his firing in Chicago, Stanky became the head baseball coach of the University of South Alabama in 1969, compiling a 490-195-2 (.714) record with five NCAA Baseball Tournament appearances over 14 seasons. He returned to the professional arena briefly in 1977 as manager of the Texas Rangers, succeeding Frank Lucchesi in midseason. He won his first game on June 22, but had second thoughts about leaving his adopted state of Alabama and resigned after a mere 18 hours on the job (one of the shortest managerial stints in MLB history) and went back to college coaching at South Alabama. According to Leo Durocher's autobiography, Stanky quit because he couldn't adapt to the attitudes of modern baseball players. His career MLB managerial mark was 467-435 (.518).
Stanky was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. He died of a heart attack in 1999 at age 83 in Fairhope, Alabama, leaving four children: Beverly, Kay, Mariann and Mike. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery of Mobile, alongside his father-in-law, Milt Stock, a Major League infielder and coach in the first half of the twentieth century.