Wednesday, November 09, 2005

 
November 9th, 1977

Fred Haney Dies


In the past I've written about managers who had a bad first go around but improved with time. Fred Haney might be the most drastic example of this in all of managerial time. Haney's first go-round came with the St. Louis Browns from 1939 until 1941. Haney was taking over a team which had averaged one-hundred losses over the previous three seasons (this was still a 154 game schedule remember) but Haney's first season was nothing short of disaster, as the Browns went 43-111 (that's a .279 winning percentage) while finishing nearly sixty-five games out of first place, and they never won more than two games in a row all season. The Browns improved to 67-87 (.435) the next season, but after a 15-29 start in 1941, Haney was fired. He left the Browns with a 125-227 record (.355) record.

Perhaps inspired by the kind of thinking described in my earlier blog, Haney was hired by the Pirates in 1953 to manage their team. Haney was again taking over a relatively desperate squad; the Pirates hadn't lost fewer than ninety games since 1949 and had lost 112 the season before. Haney improved the Pirates' record, but only marginally as the team went 50-104 (.325) in Haney's first season. Things were little better in 1954 though the Pirates improved to 53-101 (.344) and while the team was brought under 100 losses for the first time by Haney in 1955, as they finished 60-94 (.390), he was nonetheless let go finishing with a lifetime record at Pittsburgh of 163-299 (.353).

Having now managed in the Majors for six years, Haney had managed a collective 288-814 (.353) record, or an average season of roughly 48 wins and eighty-eight losses, with only one full season of fewer than ninety losses. Despite all this, Haney was hired in the midst of the very next season, 1956, to manage the Milwaukee Braves, taking over for "Jolly Cholly" Grimm. Haney posted his first winning stretch ever in 1956 guiding the Braves to a 68-40 (.630) record and second place in the National League, just a game behind the Dodgers. In 1957 Haney's winning percentage would decrease slightly to .617 but across a full season that was good for ninety-five wins and a National League pennant and a trip to the World Series to face the Yankees. The series would go to seven games and in the seventh Haney choose to start Lew Burdette on just two days' rest in the final game. The decision paid off brilliantly as Burdette pitched a shutout and the Braves won their first and only title in
Milwaukee.

The Braves would drop to ninety-two wins in 1958 but that was again enough to secure the pennant. This year however, the Yankees took revenge in the World Series, when Burdette--again going on two days' rest in the final game--gave up four runs in the eighth. The Braves slumped to eighty-six wins in 1959 but finished tied with the Dodgers as the season came to a close. The Braves lost the pennant playoff series however, and the pennant. Still, after three and a half years in
Milwaukee, Haney had now won at an almost sixty percent pace, and had two pennants and one World Series victory to his credit. Despite all that, Haney was fired and would never manage again, moving on to the GM job with the expansion Angels.

Fred Haney then is the ultimate example of a manager in contrast. His first two times on the job were brutal, barely cracking a .350 winning percentage. Put in front of a talented team however, Haney showed he knew what he was doing and managed an almost .600 winning percentage. Interestingly, perhaps the most similar recent manager to Haney is one experiencing great success at this moment, but whose career started unsuccessfully where Haney had his best success,
Houston's Phil Garner.





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