Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 1964: Johnny Keane Is Hired to Manage The Yankees

On October 20, 1964, Johnny Keane shocked the world of baseball by signing a deal to manage the New York Yankees. Just days earlier he had guided the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in a hard fought 7 game battle against those same Yankees. One day after the Cardinals had won the title, a press conference was assembled in St. Louis to announce that the skipper would be getting an extension. Keane arrived 15 minutes late and handed a letter to the owner of the team August Busch that explained his reason why he would not be returning to manage the Cardinals. Busch had shaken things up in the front office in August of that year, he parted ways with general manager Big Devine as well as business manager Art Rouzong, and the director of player development Eddie Stanky. When the owner let those three go, Keane sensed he would be next. There were rumors that Busch wanted to bring in Leo Durocher to manage the club. Durocher was a member of the Dodgers coaching staff and had already informed the team he would not be returning for the '65 season as it looked like the Cardinals job would be his. He had been a part of the Gashouse Gang and it seemed like the owner of the Birds had his sights set on the former Cardinal who had previously managed the Dodgers and the Giants. The one thing Busch didn't count on was an unbelievable turnaround by his club in the last two weeks of the season, in the last couple weeks of the campaign the Cardinals erased a 6 1/2 game deficit that was assisted by an epic collapse by the Philadelphia Phillies leading to a National League Pennant for the Redbirds. Then came the victory over the Yankees in the Fall Classic that gave Busch one choice which was to extend his manager's contract. Keane had other ideas, he no longer wanted to work for Busch and just like that he was gone. The Yankees had  been managed by Yogi Berra during that '64 season, there had been some issues with Berra during the regular season that had the GM of the club ready to replace him by mid season. However, he had guided the club to 99 wins and an American League pennant before losing in 7 games in the World Series. It seemed like the minds had been made up when it came to Berra's future as the Yankees skipper, the only thing that might have saved his job would have been a victory in that seventh game which didn't happen so they moved onto Keane. It didn't prove to be the wisest move for Keane. The Yankees who had been the class of the American League were in a downtrend with aging superstars that had seen their best day pass. He lasted just two full seasons on the Bronx before he was replaced 20 games into the '66 season after posting a 4-16 record to kick off the campaign. Surprisingly the Cardinals didn't hire Durocher like many had speculated, on the same day that  Keane announced that he would be going to the Yankee the Busch announced that fan favorite Red Schoendienst would be the skipper in St. Louis, he remained at the helm from '65 to '76. His tenure as the Cards skipper included a World Series Championship in 1967. Even today Schoendienst is a big part of the Cardinals organization, while it might have been a bit shocking for Keane to leave St. Louis, it simply opened a door for one of the legends of the organization to put his mark on that club.

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