December 15, 2017

Ralph Houk un manager que dejó huella. (Ralph Houk: A skipper in a mission)

July 29, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

El pasado miércoles 21 de julio de 2010 falleció en su casa de Winter Haven, Fla el manager de los Yanquis de Nueva York, Tigres de Detroit y Medias Rojas de Boston. De inmediato imágenes de mis lecturas sobre los Yanquis de comienzos de los años sesenta tintinearon en la pantalla de mis recuerdos. El eco de sus declaraciones y de algunos de los peloteros de esos equipos resonó en algún lugar de mi cráneo.

 “Algunas veces cuando tienes grandes jugadores, puedes echarlo a perder todo, él nunca hizo eso. Nunca se excedía en sus funciones. Era probablemente, más que un estratega, un psicólogo”, dijo Tony Kubek el campocorto de los Mulos de Manhattan a principios de los sesenta.

 Para mí sencillamente era aquel estoico hombre que resistía en el dugout todos esos momentos difíciles que le tocó vivir entre 1966 y 1973. Me tocó escuchar y leer los juegos de sus últimas 4 temporadas con los Yanquis. En 1970 llegó segundo de Baltimore y los años siguientes mantuvo al equipo sobre .500 a excepción de 1973. Houk fue quién le insufló a Thurman Munson en su temporada de novato (1970), la confianza para establecerse en la Gran Carpa. Le dijo que podía ganar más juegos con su defensa, que se despreocupara del bateo. Munson terminó bateando .302 ese año, además de ganar el premio de Novato del Año.

 Sus mejores temporadas como manager fueron las tres primeras con los Yanquis. Conquistó la Serie Mundial de 1961 amparado por los bates de Mickey Mantle y Roger Maris, y tambien la de 1962. En el séptimo juego de aquel Clásico de Octubre ante los Gigantes de San Francisco y ganando 1-0 en el cierre del noveno, Houk salió a conversar con su pitcher Ralph Terry,  Matty Alou corría en tercera, Willie Mays en segunda. Con dos outs, Houk le preguntó a Terry si prefería lanzarle o pasar por bolas a Willie McCovey. El pitcher contestó que quería lanzarle y Houk confió en él. McCovey bateó una línea trepidante que se incrustó en el guante del segunda base Bobby Richardson.

 “Ralph fue un gran hombre de béisbol que manejaba bien a sus peloteros y estos daban lo mejor por él”, dijo el inquilino del Salón de la Fama de los Tigres Al Kaline en una declaración emitida por el equipo. “Era muy respetado y a todos les gustaba compartir con él. Disfruté mucho jugando para él mi último año”.

 Houk se comió las verdes en Detroit desde 1974 hasta 1977 cuando la mejor ubicación que obtuvo fue un cuarto lugar. En 1978 terminó con marca de 86-76. Esa temporada le dio la oportunidad de jugar al camarero Lou Whitaker y al campocorto Alan Trammell, quienes se convertirían en la piedra angular del equipo que ganó la Serie Mundial de 1984. En 1976 Houk tambien le dio la oportunidad de lanzar a un joven llamado Mark “El Pájaro” Fydrich y este fue capaz de terminar la campaña con marca de 19-9, 2.34 de efectividad (tope en Grandes Ligas), ganó el premio Novato del Año, lider de la Liga Americana en juegos completos (24), quinto en la Liga Americana en boletos por cada 9 innings (1.91), quinto en la Liga Americana en blanqueos (5), tercero en la Liga Americana en WHIP (1.079).

 En 1981 se convirtió en manager de los Medias Rojas de Boston. El cuarto manager hasta ese momento de cinco que han dirigido a los Yanquis y los Medias Rojas. Frank Chance dirigió a los Yanquis en 1913 y 1914 y a Boston en 1923. Joe McCarthy Yanquis: 1930-46. 8 Series Mundiales. Medias Rojas: 1948-50. 2 segundos y un tercer lugar. Bucky Harris. Medias Rojas: 1934. cuarto lugar. Yanquis: 1947-48. 1 Serie Mundial. Cuarto lugar. Don Zimmer. Medias Rojas: 1976-80. 1 quinto. 2 segundos y dos terceros lugares. Yanquis: 1999. interino de Joe Torre.

 Houk dejó los siguientes números con los Yanquis ante los Medias Rojas: 100 ganados, 98 perdidos (1961-63, 1966-73). Ganó 5 de 11 series particulares y una quedó igualada.

Los números de Houk con los Medias Rojas ante los Yanquis: 24 ganados, 21 perdidos (1981-1984). Se adjudicó tres de las 4 series particulares la otra quedó igualada.

  La marca general de Houk como manager de los Yanquis fue: 944 ganados, 806 perdidos (.539). Tres primeros lugares entre 1961 y 1963. Último lugar en 1966. Noveno lugar en 1967. Quinto lugar en 1968 y 1969. Segundo en 1970. Cuarto del ‘71 al ‘73.

 La marca general de Houk como dirigente de los Medias Rojas fue: 283 victorias, 259 derrotas (.522). Quinto lugar en 1981. Tercero en 1982. Sexto en 1983. Cuarto en 1984.

  Durante su estadía en Boston le dio la oportunidad de empezar a mostrar su capacidad a peloteros como Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst y Marty Barrett, parte de la espina dorsal del equipo que ganó el banderín de la Liga Americana en 1986

 Houk se retiró del béisbol  luego de servir como asistente especial del gerente general de los Mellizos de Minnesota Andy MacPhail, entre 1987 y 1989. Allí disfrutó del triun fo en la Serie Mundial de 1987 ante los Cardenales de San Luis.

 Alfonso L. Tusa C.

On July 21st, 2010; Ralph Houk, the skipper of the New York Yankees, the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox died in his Winter Haven, Fla.  home. Immediately the images of my readings about the Yankees from the beginning of the sixties flashed in my mind. The reflected sound of his statements and of some of his players’ bounced against the back of my skull.

 “Sometimes when you have good players, you can mess it up and he didn’t do that,” Tony Kubeck, the short stop of those Yankees, said. “He didn’t overmanage. He was probably, more than a strategist, a handler of men.”

 According to what I watched from the Tv, Houk was that stoic man who resisted in the Yankees dugout all those hard times he had to deal with from 1966 through 1973. I listened to the radio and read about his last four seasons with the Yanks. In 1970 he arrived second to Baltimore and the next years he kept the team playing over .500 but 1973. Houk was the one who inspired Thurman Munson in his rookie season (1970) by telling him that he didn’t have to worry about hitting because he could win more games with his defense behind the plate. Munson finished hitting for .302 that season and won the Rookie of the Year Award.

 His best seasons as manager were his first three with the Yankees. He won the 1961 World Series behind Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris bats and Whitey Ford pitching. He repeated the World Series in 1962. In the seventh game of that October Classic before the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees won 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Houk jogged to the mound to talk to his pitcher Ralph Terry. Matty Alou ran in third, Willie Mays in second with 2 outs. Houk asked Terry what he wanted to do. To walk Willie McCovey or to face him. Terry said that he wanted to face McCovey. Houk trusted Terry. McCovey hit a powerful line drive that stopped in the second baseman glove Bobby Richardson.

 “Ralph was a great baseball man who handled his players well and they played hard for him,” Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline said in a statement released by the team. “He was well respected and a fun guy to be around. I enjoyed playing for him during my last year.”

 Houk assumed the revamping process of the Detroit Tigres from 1974 to 1977. The best classification he got was a fourth place in 1977. In 1978 he finished with an 86-76 record, the only time he finished over .500 (winning percentage) during his period in Detroit. That season Houk gave the chance of playing everyday to second baseman Lou Whitaker and short stop Alan Trammell who later became the cornerstone of the team that won the World Series in 1984. In 1976, Houk also gave the chance of pitching in the Tigers rotation to a young man named Mark “The Bird” Fydrich. Fydrich finished the season with a 19-9 record, 2.34 ERA (the best in MLB), won the Rookie of the Year Award, completed 24 games (leader in the American League), fifth in the AL with 1.91 walks per nine innings pitched, fifth in the AL with 5 shutouts, third in the AL with a 1.079 WHIP.

 In 1981 Houk accepted to manage the Boston Red Sox. He became the fourth skipper who has managed both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. There have been five skippers who have managed both teams: Frank Chance managed the Yanks in 1913 and 1914, and the Red Sox  in 1923. Joe McCarthy, Yankees: 1930-46. 8 World Series. Red Sox: 1948-50. 2 second places and a third one. Bucky Harris. Red Sox: 1934. fourth place. Yankees: 1947-48. 1 World Series. Fourth place. Don Zimmer. Red Sox: 1976-80. 1 fifth place. 2 seconds and two thirds places. Yankees: 1999. substitute of Joe Torre.

 The record of Ralph Houk as the Yankees skipper before the Boston Red Sox was: 100 wins, 98 losses (1961-1963, 1966-1973). He won 5 of 11 particular series between the 2 teams. One series ended tied.

 The record of Houk as the Red Sox skipper before the New York Yankees was: 24 wins, 21 losses. He won 3 of the 4 particular series. One series ended tied.

 The general record of Houk as the Yankees skipper was: 944 wins, 806 losses (.539).Three first places from 1961 through 1963. Last place in 1966. Ninth place in 1967. Fifth places in 1968 and 1969. Second place in 1970. Fourth places in 1971, 1972, 1973.

 The general record of Houk as the Red Sox skipper was: 283 wins, 259 losses (.522). Fifth place in 1981. Third place in 1982. Sixth place in 1983. Fourth place in 1984.

 During his period in Boston, Houk gave the chance of beginning to play regularly to players as Wade Boggs,  Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst and Marty Barrett, part of the core of the team that won the American League pennant in 1986.

 Houk retired from baseball after serving as special assistant of the Minnesota Twins general manager Andy MacPhail between 1987 and 1989. He enjoyed the victory in the 1987 World Series versus the Saint Louis Cardinals.

 Alfonso L. Tusa C.

Alfonso is a writer whose work has been featured in Venezuela’s daily newspaper, El Nacional and in the magazine Gente en Ambiente, and he’s collaborated on several articles for newspapers, including the daily paper Tal Cual. He’s also written three books and biographies for SABR’s BioProject.

Comments

One Response to “Ralph Houk un manager que dejó huella. (Ralph Houk: A skipper in a mission)”
  1. Al Featherston says:

    I became a baseball — and a Yankee — fan in 1960, the last year of Casey Stengel. No question that Stengel was a great manager, but he botched the 1960 World Series badly.

    His replacement was necessary — and Houk proved an inspired choice. His two greatest decisions were to pitch Whitey Ford every fourth day (Stengel used to spot start his best pitcher) and to establish Clete Boyer at third (Stengel used him primarily as a defensive player). Houk also showed his poise when the ’61 Yankees got off to a slow start. He tweaked the batting order, flip-flopping Mantle and Maris from 3rd/4th to 4th/3rd — an adjustment that paid huge dividends.

    Of course, a lot of guys could have managed the ’61 Yankees to the World title. I give Houk more credit for winning pennants in ’62 and ’63 with Yankee teams that were decimated by injuries. He did a great job integrating young players such as Tresh, Pepitone, Bouton and Downing.

    Houk’s great career mistake was in agreeing to replace Roy Hamey as GM after the 1963 season. Houk, a superb manager, proved an inept general manager — laying the groundwork for the Yankee collapse that followed ’64. He didn’t give Berra the support he needed or deserved as the new manager … his reluctance to make the Ramos deal (which Berra begged for) until after Sept. 1 probably cost the Yankees the ’64 World Series. His awkard replacement of Berra with Johnny Keane was a devastating mistake.

    Houk returned to the Yankee bench early in the 1965 season was too little, too late. The team had already collapsed due to his mismanagement (I’m not sure how much he had to do with such diastrous decisions as pressuring Maris, Tresh and Bouton try to play through their injuries … all of which ruined careers). During his first managerial stint, players loved him because they thought he was on their side and would defend them from management. When he became GM, they were shocked to find him on the other side — and when he returned as manager, his relationship with several players (especially Pepitone) was fatally damaged.

    I think if Houk had stayed Yankee manager in 1964, he’d be in the Hall of Fame today. I believe he would have slowed the Yankee collapse after 1964 (despite the myth that the Yankees “got old” they were in fact a relatively young team in ’64).

    Interesting that his death comes only a short while after Tony LaRussa announced his coming retirement and people debated his HOF credentials. Houk and LaRussa have pretty similar records — LaRussa is 14th all-time in wins … Houk is 15th. But Houk has two titles to LaRussa’s one.

    One final thing. We can’t let Ralph Houk go without honoring his military service. “The Major” was an authentic WWII hero — a decorated combat veteran.

    RIP

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