Schuckman: Quincy connection gives local Cardinals fans additional reason to revere Herzog


Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, who played minor league baseball for the Quincy Gems in 1952, died Monday at the age of 92.

QUINCY — Seated at a table just a few feet from the dais, Whitey Herzog looked across the room at legendary St. Louis Post-Dispatch baseball writer Rick Hummel and pointed out the Quincy native was more than likely the smartest person in the room.

The Hall of Fame manager then leaned forward and said, “But he can’t catch fish like me.”

Herzog’s humor, his storytelling and his general gregarious personality is why Hummel jokingly assumed Herzog always would steal the show. That happened 17 years ago when Herzog joined Hummel at Tony’s East Room in Quincy to celebrate “A Night With the Commish,” which honored Hummel for receiving the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

“He should never be the opening act,” Hummel quipped that night. “It’s too hard to follow.”

Every St. Louis Cardinals manager to have come after Herzog knows that all too well.

Even Tony La Russa, the winningest manager in franchise history who led the Cardinals to two World Series championships, never has been as loved or revered as the architect of “Whiteyball.”

Herzog passed away Monday at the age of 92. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, the White Rat injected new life in the Cardinals franchise when he arrived as manager in 1980. Over 11 seasons at the helm, his teams won three National League pennants and the 1982 World Series championship.

Not only did he introduce us to “Whiteyball,” which used speed and defense to the Cardinals’ advantage on Busch Stadium’s famed Astroturf, but Herzog was as downhome and Midwestern as any other manager to ever grace the St. Louis dugout.

A native of New Athens, Ill., Herzog enjoyed fishing and beer drinking as much as he did baseball. It made him one of us, the kind of skipper you’d want to play for and then invite to your house for a Sunday cookout. You knew he’d be as comfortable sitting around a fire telling stories as he was filling out a lineup card.

He proved that time and again throughout a lifetime love affair with America’s pastime.

Signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Yankees in 1949, Herzog steadily climbed the organizational ladder, reaching the Triple-A level in 1952. Before he was assigned to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association that August, Herzog spent a majority of the summer in the Three-I League with the Quincy Gems.

Herzog played 68 games in Quincy, hitting .289 with seven home runs, six triples and nine doubles. 

Herzog was promoted to the Blues, on Aug. 15, 1952, and played 14 games with a .296 average at the Triple-A level that season.

Because the nickname “Whitey” hadn’t become commonplace by 1952, Herzog was referred to as “Relly” throughout the summer by the Quincy Herald-Whig. Herzog’s given name was Dorrel Normal Elvert, but he went by Relly growing up. 

Herzog reached the big leagues in 1956 with the Washington Senators, and his first baseball card, which was produced in 1957 by Topps, referred him to “Whitey Herzog” across the front.

Herzog never played in Quincy following the summer of 1952, but upon his visit to the Gem City in 2007, he talked about running into QU Stadium’s rock walls while playing outfield for the Gems.

“Hit that wall running full speed and you’ll never forget it,” Herzog said.

And we won’t forget him, a truly one-of-a-kind skipper and personality we wanted to have as our uncle or grandfather as much as we did the manager of our favorite team.

Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?

Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.

Related Articles