July 5, 2022

The Boss for One Day

August 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

According to BaseballReference.com, thirteen different people have managed a major league team for just a single game. What separates six of those individuals from the Ted Turners of the baseball world is that they won their only game filling out a major league lineup card. Here is a quick look at those six managers:
 

Bibb Falk – Managed the Cleveland Indians on June 10th, 1933 vs. St. Louis Browns
On June 6th, the Cleveland Indians fired manager Roger Peckinpaugh during an off-day in their series against the St. Louis Browns. It was Peckinpaugh’s sixth season at the helm of the Tribe but the club hadn’t placed higher then third during his regime. Now, a slow start to the ’33 season (26-25) cost him his job. Replacing him would be one of his closer friends and one of those most dominating pitchers of all-time, Walter Johnson.

However, Johnson would not be able to arrive in Cleveland on time for their June 10th game against the St. Louis Browns. In his one-game absence, the Indians told bench coach Bibb Falk that he would control the Indians for the second game of the series against St. Louis. Falk broke into the major leagues in 1920, replacing the banished ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson on the Chicago White Sox. He spent the last three years of his solid 12 season career with Cleveland and retired from the majors in 1931. In 1932, he was the player-manager of the American Association’s Toledo Mud Hens before coming back to Ohio to help coach the Indians. Now as the manager, Falk sent Wes Ferrell to the mound and he responded by allowing only two runs over nine innings in a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Browns. The next day, he was replaced by Johnson but the club kept winning, a 1-0 decision this time.

Falk left Cleveland after the season and he spent the rest of the decade as a scout for the Boston Red Sox, Falk went back to his alma mater and became the head baseball coach at the University of Texas. There, he spent the greater part of three decades coaching the Longhorns, racking up 20 Southwest Conference titles and back-to-back College World Series championships in 1949 and 1950. In 1975, the University named it’s new baseball park Disch-Falk Field after him and another former coach.

Bill Burwell – Managed the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 28th, 1947 vs. Cincinnati Reds
Billy Herman was a 10-time all-star in his playing days and in 1946, he ended his playing career, one which would get him elected into the hall-of-fame, to become the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But things didn’t go well for Herman in Pittsburgh; he complied a 61-92 record and was forced to play a few games himself. Despite having the fans, players, and team management all behind him, Herman decided to resign a game before the 1947 season was finished.

The Pirates announced that pitching coach Bill Burwell would be the manager for the final game of the regular season. A former veteran minor league pitcher, Burwell had managed 12 seasons in the minor leagues before his current appointment as Pirates pitching coach. In 1939 and 1940, Burwell led the Louisville Colonels to back-to-back American Association pennants. In his only game as Pirates manager, he led the team to victory with a little help from a guy he coached everyday all season, pitcher Tiny Bonham. The hurler pitched a complete game, two-hitter in a 7-0 victory over Cincinnati. He also pitched in offensively with a pair of hits. Third baseman Frankie Gustine also racked up a pair of hits, one being a two-run home run in the third to get the scoring started. The win also allowed Pittsburgh to jump up from the National League cellar to a tie for seventh place with Philadelphia.

Burwell remained the pitching coach under new manager Billy Meyer in 1948. Burwell stayed with the club until his death. He coached until 1962, alternating between minor league coaching jobs and the Pirates as a pitching coach. From 1963 on, he was a scout for the organization.

Andy Cohen – Managed the Philadelphia Phillies on April 14th, 1960 vs. Milwaukee Braves
Phillie fans didn’t think it was going to take long for general manager John Quinn to fire manager Eddie Sawyer. Well, they were correct on one front, it didn’t take long for Sawyer to depart but Quinn had nothing to do with it. On the morning before their home opener against Milwaukee, Sawyer resigned as Philadelphia manager – after only one game in the 1960 season. “I don’t care to manage…any club.” Sawyer told reporters when the news broke. Some people thought that Sawyer saw the writing on the wall and quit before he was fired but Quinn scoffed at that suggestion, saying, “He’d still be managing if he wanted to.”

The Phillies announced the hiring of Gene Mauch, giving him a start to what would turn out to become a 26-year managerial career in the majors. While awaiting his arrival from Minneapolis, where he was coaching in the minors, the Phillies gave the job to long-time minor league manager Andy Cohen on an interim basis. In his only contest managing in the majors, Cohen played a major league chess match with Milwaukee manager Charley Dressen.

With the game tied up at fours, Bobby Del Greco led of the bottom of the tenth inning with a walk against Juan Pizarro. Cohen then ordered him to steal second base, which he did successfully. Catcher Jim Coker flied out for the first out and brought up the pitcher’s spot. Cohen sent right-handed pinch hitter Ted Lepcio to the plate to hit against the southpaw Pizarro. Dressen then removed Pizarro for right-handed hurler Bob Giggie; a move which was then countered by Cohen, who sent up left-handed batter John Callison to hit for Lepcio. After all of that, Dressen decided to intentionally walk Callison. However, the next batter, Joe Koppe, lined a pitch into left-center to score Del Greco for the game-winning run.

Cohen’s life after his major league managerial victory was much like Falk’s. He returned home to coach collegiate baseball at the University of Texas-El Paso, a place he remained for 17 years. In 1989, the minor league El Paso Diablos named their new stadium Cohen Stadium after Andy and his brother Syd, another ex-minor league pitcher.

Jo-Jo White – Managed the Cleveland Indians on August 3rd, 1960 @ Washington Senators
The reason Jo-Jo White got an opportunity to manage was very unusual. The previous manager wasn’t fired, didn’t resign, or wasn’t given a leave of absence. No the previous manager was traded. For another manager. In one of the stranger deals in major league history, the Cleveland Indians traded manager Joe Gordon to the Detroit Tigers for their manager Jimmy Dykes. While Dykes was packing up his things in Detroit, the Indians gave White the opportunity to manage in the big leagues for one game in Washington.

White sent pitcher Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant to the bump in Washington and just with that move, victory could almost be assured for White. In his last sixteen decisions against the Senators, Grant had won fifteen of them. This one was no different as the Indians won 7-4 on the back of a complete game performance from Grant. The game was tied at 4-4 until Sens shortstop Billy Consolo made two errors in the seventh, which allowed three Indians to plate runs. The next day, White was replaced by Dykes.

White continued his coaching career with Cleveland during the new Dykes regime. Later on, he coached the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals, those teams joining his resume along with his previous stops in Detroit and Kansas City (Athletics). Meanwhile in Detroit, Billy Hitchcock was named acting manager while the Tigers awaited the arrivial of Gordon. Hitchcock won his game too, but didn’t qualify for the list because he later went on to manage Baltimore and Atlanta.

Del Wilber – Managed the Texas Rangers on September 7th, 1973 vs. Oakland Athletics
Before he went on to manage, with success, the St. Louis Cardinals in the ’80s, Whitey Herzog got his major league managerial start in Arlington with the Texas Rangers. Herzog though, never even lasted the entire season in Texas. On September 7th, Herzog became the third skipper in the last six days to be fired when Bob Short let him go in an effort to “revitalize” the team. Short announced a press conference for the next day where it was expected he would name Billy Martin the new manager of the team (he did).

In the short term however, the Rangers had a game as the club opened up a series against Oakland on the day Herzog was canned. Del Wilber, who had just completed the season managing the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Spokane, was called up for a one game stint. In fact Wilber, who was in Arlington, was told just an hour before the game that he was going to managing the Rangers. Thanks to a six run fourth inning, Wilber became a winner in the major leagues, defeating Oakland 10-8.

After his coaching career, Wilber scouted for three major league clubs: Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Minnesota.

Vern Benson – Managed the Atlanta Braves on May 12th, 1977 @ Pittsburgh Pirates
The 1977 Atlanta Braves are the only team in major league history to have two managers coach only one game apiece and it was all because of owner Ted Turner. On May 11th, with the Braves on a sixteen game losing skid, Turner gave manager Dave Bristol a 10-day ‘leave of absence’ so he could take over the club as manager. With Turner in charge, the Braves dropped a 3-2 decision to Pittsburgh and their losing streak extended to 17 games. However, after the spectacle, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League president Chub Feeney told Turner he could no longer manage the Braves because anyone who owned stock in the club could not play or coach the team.

While Turner was trying to convince Bristol to return as manager, the team needed someone to manage the club in the interim. Bench coach Vern Benson, with tons of minor league managerial experience, was asked to step in. Benson recorded the victory for the Braves, ending the massive losing slid at 17 games thanks to pitcher Max Leon, who pitched seven innings for the victory and drove in three runs as the Braves beat the Pirates, 6-1. Bristol returned the next day and the Braves continued their losing ways, getting shut out by the Cardinals 3-0. They finished the season 61-101.

Benson left the Braves’ coaching staff at the end of the ’77 season when Turner fired Bristol for good this time. Bristol brought Benson back as a coach in 1980 when he was hired as the manager of the San Francisco Giants.

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