Tuesday, January 4, 2011

#78 - Charlie Fox/Giant Manager and Coaches

These cards are always hard to label. Do I use "Charlie Fox", the front of the card, "Giants Field Leaders", the back of the card, "Giants: Mgr./Coaches", the regular checklist name, or "Charlie Fox & Co'h's", the team checklist name? Sometimes these blog posts can be quite a semantic exercise.

For people of a certain age, Charlie Fox approached iconic status, since he was the only manager to take the Giants to post-season play for an interval of 25 years. And Charlie was a company man: he was nearing the end of an affiliation with the Giants that had run over 30 years. But '73 was no picnic. Despite a nice pickup record-wise from '72, the Giants did their annual June fade, his star pitcher had a teddy bear, the rest of the pitching wasn't so hot, and he got in a fight with the Dodger third base coach, a guy named Tommy Lasorda. He probably spent a bunch of the season longing for '71. Plus it wouldn't be great again to be a liberal - which I assume he was since his card leans to the left - until later in '74 when it really hit the fan.

Charlie was a lifelong Giants fan who grew up in the Bronx and was a mean American Legion ball catcher, signed with the team in '42, played three games in the majors, hitting .429, and went down to class D ball. Those three games turned out to be his whole major league playing career. He went to the Navy late that year where he worked the North Atlantic and came back to baseball in '46 about 35 pounds heavier. Those pounds really crimped his playing time so after a year of part-time catcher duty at class B he took on managing in the minors along with playing at the ripe old age of 25. His playing career lasted through '56 and he finished with a .279 average in over 3,000 minor league at bats. From '47 through '70 the only times he was not managing in the minors he was either scouting ('57 to '63) or coaching in the majors ('65 to '68). He got called up to manage the Giants in mid-season '70 and during his tenure that season had the best record in the NL West. That continued in '71 when he won the division crown and also won Manager of the Year. '72 was tough as both Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal got hurt and Bobby Bonds slumped after Willie Mays was traded to the Mets. '73 was the rebound year that ultimately failed and after a poor start in '74 Charlie was let go. He then moved to Montreal where he initially did admin work, managed in '76, and then was GM through '78. He then left Montreal for Chicago, again in an admin role, until in '83 he again did the transitional managerial stint. After that he was primarily a scout and coach, moving to the Yankees in '89, and then Houston in the early '90s. Charlie passed away in 2004 at age 82. For his managerial career he was 377-371 up top and 981-731 in the minors.

Joey Amalfitano was another guy with a long Giants affiliation, being signed by them in '54 as a bonus baby out of his junior year of Loyola after growing up in California. Any player signed as a bonus baby had to stay on the major league roster for two years or go through waivers, which meant that Joey got a full Series share that year even though he only had five at bats. After not playing very much again in '55 he went to the minors. He spent time at every level from A to Triple A over the next four seasons and generally hit well with not too much power while splitting time between second and third. He peaked in his '59 Triple A season, posting a .308/7/43 line. He then returned to the Giants - now in San Francisco - in '60 and for the next two seasons spent time all over the infield as a semi-regular, putting up a combined .265/3/50 line in just over 700 at bats. In '62 he went to Houston in the expansion draft, spent a year as the Colt .45 starter at second (hitting .237), and returned to the Giants the following season for Manny Mota where he hit only .176 in his backup role. He then got sold to the Cubs for whom he split time at second in '64 and then played out his career as a player/coach, finishing in '67. For his career he hit .244 in 643 games. He immediately started his coaching career with the Cubs, with whom he stayed through '71. The Giants followed, from '72 to '75, then the Padres ('76-'77), then the Cubs again. He managed the team for a bit in '79 and then from the second half of '80 through '81, although not terribly well (his record as manager was 66-116). After a year with the Reds he went to LA where he was the third base coach from '83 until '98. He has since done some special assignment work, mostly with the Giants.

Andy Gilbert had cups of coffee with the Red Sox in '42 and '46 sandwiched around time in the military for WW II. He was signed by the Sox in '37 out of semi-pro ball in PA and played pretty much every outfield and infield position except shortstop. That first year he was going great guns in D ball when he broke his neck mid-season sliding into second and missed the rest of the season. He returned the next year to post another big average at that level and generally hit well at the lower levels before a .296, 87 RBI year at Double A in '42 got him that short look in Boston. Then it was all Navy in WW II until '46. He was 31 when he came back that year so his future was pretty much written. After a couple decent Triple A seasons - one in '47 when he was traded to NY -  he began managing at the minor level in 1950. He continued playing a bit through the '59 season and put up a lifetime .290 average with 206 homers in the minors (.083 in his twelve MLB at bats). As a manager he taught Juan Marichal how to throw a slider and a change-up and was quite successful. By '72 he had won five league championships and from then until '75 he coached at the major league level. He then returned to manage in the minors, first for the Giants and then the Braves. He retired after the '82 season with a lifetime record of 2,009-1,899. He then coached at St. Vincent College and helped out in the Latrobe Little League, both in PA, until he passed away in '92 at age 78 from complications of Alzheimer's and respiratory disease.

Don McMahon actually could have had a player card in '73. Although already a pitching coach he was activated when the bullpen fell apart and pitched in 22 games, going 4-0 with six saves and a 1.48 ERA. He was 43. McMahon was another NY guy and was signed by the Boston Braves in 1950, also out of semi-pro ball where he played third base. Converted to a pitcher, he started his career well, going 20-9 his first year in D ball. Then after a couple games, Don missed the better part of two and a half seasons to Korea. He got back late in '53, had a couple middling seasons and then in '55 had a disappointing Triple A one (2-13 with a 5.01 ERA). The next year he was turned into a reliever, his numbers improved, and after a nice season in the Triple A pen in '57 came up to Milwaukee, just in time to make the Series roster. He pitched well at the MLB level right away and enjoyed his sole All-Star selection in '58. In '59 he led the league in games finished and saves. A tough '60 and a very good '61 followed and in early '62 he was sold to Houston and then his travels started. During the Sixties he went to the Indians, Red Sox, White Sox, and Tigers (another Series), all of for whom he pitched well. In '69 he landed at San Francisco and he stayed there the duration of his playing career (he actually pitched again in '74). He finished with a 90-68 record, a 2.96 ERA, and 153 saves. He has some nice career rankings including in hits per nine innings (19th all time). games finished (39th), and saves (75th). He became the pitching coach for the in '72 and remained it through '75, then moved to the Twins ('76-'77), back to the Giants ('80-'82), and then Cleveland ('82-'85). From '78 to '80 he was a salesman for Rawlings. He was also a long-time football scout for the Riders; he and owner Al Davis were high school buddies. In '85 he took a gig as a scout and batting practice pitcher for the Dodgers.In '87 he was performing that latter role prior to a game when he had a fatal heart attack. He was 57.

John McNamara was signed by the Cards in 1951 and got in about a year of C and B ball before he went into the service the following year. He returned in '55 and then more-or-less established himself as a light-hitting minor league catcher. His career average in the minors - he never made it to the majors - was .238 so his directional path if he wanted to stay in baseball was pretty clear. During that time he moved to the Giants, the Phillies, and finally the A's for whom he began managing in the minors in '59. He played through '64 and continued to manage in the KC system through '67 and by then was a league champ three times. He came up to coach for Oakland in '68 and '69 and was made manager the tail end of the latter season. In '70 he had a great year, again finishing second to the Twins, and that sparked his firing by owner Charlie O. He moved to coach the Giants from '71 to '73. Then came managerial stints with the Padres ('74-'77), Reds ('79 -'82), Angels ('83-'84), Red Sox ('85-'88), Indians ('90-'91), and back in California ('96). He was named Manager of the Year in '86 and then had the heart-breaking Series loss to the Mets. He ended his managerial career with an MLB record of 1,160-1,233 and in the minors of 647-631 and is one of a handful of guys to pilot six major league franchises.

All these guys have SABR bios.

I am going to do the double link again, first for Fox as manager:

1. Fox and Mike Caldwell '74 Giants;
2. Caldwell and Rich Troedson '73 Padres.

Now for Fox as a player:

1. Fox and Mel Ott '42 Giants;
2. Ott and Whitey Lockman '45 to '46 Giants;
3. Lockman and Orlando Cepeda '58 Giants;
4. Cepeda and Tony Gonzalez '69 - '70 Braves;
5. Gonzalez and Cito Gaston '69 Padres;
6. Gaston and Rich Troedson '73 Padres.

Now that's a record.

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