Wednesday, July 06, 2005

July 6th, 1925

Rabbit Maranville Appointed Cubs' Manager

Sometimes, you can put the exact wrong man in the exact wrong position. Such as the case of Rabbit Maranville and being made Cubs' manager. For one thing, he was almost certainly an alcoholic, although by the standards of the time he was simply considered a heavy drinker. More to the point Maranville was a character; there are several good stories about him, but he simple wasn't cut out for managing. He had a certain relaxed attitude towards the game--personified perhaps in his trademark ‘vest pocket catch’ on pop flies when he would allow the ball to hit his chest and roll down into the glove--which didn't work for managing. One writer at the time (quoted later by Bill James) noted "probably the only manager in history who would run up and down the aisles of the train throwing buckets of ice on complete strangers." His tenure, unsurprisingly, would not last the season as he was relieved of his duties after just over fifty games.

On the plus side, this allows me to tell some of the fun Maranville stories. On a trip to
Japan in the early 30s Maranville was invited to watch a military parade and decided it looked like so much fun that he stole a uniform and attempted to march. Maranville, not surprisingly, failed to pass himself off as Japanese and was promptly arrested. He later explained, a trifle feebly, that "I can march in English [he would later serve in the Marines] but I'm damned if I know how to march in Japanese." He was fond of pantomime on the bases and in the field; if a pitcher was taking too long he would check an imaginary watch or yawn and stretch in the manner of someone who had just woken up. He was also a fan of mocking the umpire, copying his hand gestures and such until the crowd started laughing (or the umpire noticed) at which point he would stop, only to pick it up later in the game. That doesn't really cover half the Maranville stories, and doesn't at all cover his career--he's a Hall of Famer--but I'll save those for another day, because I like to think I've created a pretty good idea of why Rabbit Maranville made for some good stories, but a lousy manager.

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