You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1990, Bobby Cox was named manager of the Braves.
Cox went from general manager to manager, took over a last-place team, and took it to the World Series the following season. That began a streak unprecedented in the history of managing: 14 consecutive first-place finishes. In 13 of those 14 years, the Braves won at least 90 games, and won at least 100 games six times. Cox and the Braves won five pennants and one World Series.
“Bobby is the greatest manager ever to put on a uniform,” ex-Braves pitcher Tim Hudson said.
Cox won 2,504 games, the fourth most all time, trailing Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony LaRussa. Of the 11 managers who won 2,000 games, only Joe McCarthy, McGraw and Walter Alston had a higher winning percentage than Cox’s .556. Cox began his managerial career with a ragged Braves’ team in 1978-81, went to Toronto to manage the Blue Jays, and helped turned them from terrible to terrific: They won 99 games in 1985 and came within one victory from going to the World Series. Then he revived the Braves. He always had great rapport with his players. Former Brave Mark Teixeira said, “Every player knew Bobby had his back. He allowed us to play loose, and not uptight. With Bobby, when you failed, you’d always get a smile and a, ‘You’ll get ’em the next time.”’
Cox was a brilliant strategist, as Buck Showalter said: “Bobby never got out-foxed. You would put on a play, you would look over in the other dugout, and he is looking right at you.”
David Ross, a backup catcher for Cox for two years, said: “He was always a step ahead of the other manager, we always knew we had the upper hand on the other team. I remember once, we got blown out, like 14-3, the game was over in the third inning. I was kind of messing around on the bench in the sixth inning because we knew we had already lost. When the game was over, I was walking behind Bobby in the runway to the dugout, he took the lineup card, threw it to the ground and dropped a big F-bomb. Even though that game was over early, he was still invested in that game. That showed me a lot. He never gave up on a game. He felt that he owed that much to all his players, and also to the game.”
Cox’s signature was his metal spikes, which he wore right to the end of his managerial career, at age 70, because, Chipper Jones said, “That’s what big leaguers do. And no one in a major league uniform personified what it meant to be a big leaguer more than Bobby Cox.”
Said Teixeira: “They were part of his aura, like the hat that Bear Bryant wore, the hoodie that Bill Belichick wears. Bobby wasn’t about to wear a sweatshirt over his jersey, and sneakers.That wasn’t what being a big leaguer meant to him. He was in full uniform at age 70. The players loved that he always wore metal spikes. The players loved Bobby Cox.”
Other baseball notes for June 22
In 1992, Mariners outfielder Dave Cochrane became, and still is, the only outfielder to ever make three errors and have two outfield assists in the same game.
In 1903, Carl Hubbell was born. Hall of Famer King Carl. He had maybe the best screwball of all time.
In 1995, Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill was born. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a baseball player over the past 40 years built more like a bodybuilder than him. His dad was a legendary weightlifter. He is a former Mr. Canada. O’Neill once told me, with a smile, that his dad is now “the most in-shape 60-year-old in the world.”
In 1982, Ian Kinsler was born. He was a good player, with 1,999 hits and 257 home runs. His father was a prison warden. “We had some interesting dinner conversations,” Kinsler said. Kinsler became teammates on the Tigers with pitcher Phil Coke, whose father was a prison guard. They never faced each other in the regular season (but once in the postseason), but they did combine for a 1-4 forceout in a game, which will always be known as the Shawshank Redemption Putout.