The Minneapolis Star from Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 10, 1967 · Page 12
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Minneapolis Star from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page 12

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Issue Date:
Saturday, June 10, 1967
Page 12
Start Free Trial

NEW TWINS BOSS if f I E I ( f A . ,v; A?wi,A :4::f:l: fCp- ) A : fey P - "'V - A , - t l ' A A I X i Jill MANAGER CAL ERMER Shortly after appointment I Mele's Biggest Mistake -Two I Year Contract THE FIRST THING a baseball manager does after signing a contract is to write his obituary. Baseball furnishes stock forms for each. More by being in the right place at the right time than by design, Sam Mele filled out both the first time June 23, 1961. He moved from coach to manager with the dismissal ot CooKie Lavageuo. a stop- BILL HENGEN Roaming Around Griffith Long Fdeal Proved EpKaei? By MAX NICHOLS Minneapolis Star Staff Writer Cal Ermer had never played baseball until he was 14 years old And he only played one day in the major leagues in his life. Before he became manager of the Twins Friday, he had spent only one year and three days in the majors in any capacity. Yet he has been training himself for this opportunity to manage the Twins since he was in high school. "My coach had me do things to help run the team," he said. "He brought things out in me." And Calvin Griffith was so convinced of Ermer's leadership ability that two years ago he told Ermer in effect: "When the time comes for the Twins to make a change, you're my man." And when Denver General Manager Jim Burris called Ermer into his office Friday to give him the news, Ermer was overwhelmed. T almost cried," Ermer said, his head down while revealing his emotion. "I couldn't believe it had finally happened." Leadership has been the dominant theme of Ermer's life. And there were no cushy jet flights, no hotel suites, no big salaries and no baseball pension to look forward to where he learned it. gap promotion. The last time he filled out forms was Oct. 16, 1965. These were to last two years at a salary of $48,000 a year. But now it took more time to write his obituary. Mele had just finished winning the American ' League pennant but losing the World Series. It is apparent, however, after the late Friday anounce-' ment by Minnesota Twins President Calvin Griffith, that whatever mistakes Mele may have made in direction, his ; biggest was asking and getting a two-year ; contract. ; Griffith, in introducing new manager Cal Ermer, said: "I have notified my junior executives or whoever may follow in my " place, that all future contracts will be for only one year." So local baseball now adds wills to its other stock forms. Griffith gave Mele, rather reluctantly, the two-year contract. It was not something that the organization believed in. One such experience with another manager, while holding the Washington franchise, had not been favorable. What then was the fear? "It changed him. He started to act like a two-year manager," was the answer offered by one of his more loyal k boosters within the organization. Perhaps Mele decided that he had earned the title of manager and started build-,' ing a personality of his own. Many Reasons THE FACT that Mele and the Twins parted company last night isn't startling. It might have happened a year - ago when the Twins were 19 games out of first and yet ! the club played the best American League baseball the ; second half of the season and finished second. It happened this time because the Twins didn't wish 1 to gamble on another possible situation of having the club out of contention by All-Star game time. I The schedule is such this year that too early and too often the Twins play the power in the league. "You don't draw people into the park in September," was another more-to-the-point comment. ; Mele leaves with a record of a pennant, two seconds, a third and a sixth. He also can leave with the knowledge that he wasn't all wrong. The Twins organization has 1 made its mistakes, too. i- It has talked communications within and then has . violated its own rules. From the public's angle, the ex-manager's handling of , pitchers during game situations drew considerable criti- cism. Too often he locked the barn door too late. Mele was not a hard-nosed manager. The fire was , internal more than external. But that was known back in - June, 1961. The announcement last night was inevitable. Mele ts knew he had to be directing a winner, or at least one in contention right from the start this year. The public sensed a change was coming. And anyone around Metropolitan r Stadium could hear the second guessers. Why then, along as it was destined to come, couldn't "it have been handled a little more diplomatically. Like Thursday the day the straw broke the back when mis- management of a pitching staff was so noticeable. Z At least Sam's family would not have made yesterday ; morning's trip here from Quincy, Mass., expecting a pleas- ant month's visit. Z A little thing, perhaps. But an excellent example of the lack of communications. Mele Felt He Lost Only One Sam Mele, fired as Twins baseball manager Friday, said today he felt there was only one game he "lost" during his tenure here as pilot. And that was the final game with Cleveland Thursday which led to his ouster. "I should have had Harmon Killebrew playing off the bag and not holding the runner on first with a meaningless run when (Fred) Whitfield was pinchitting in the ninth inning. yg, . WITH THE SLUGGERS . . . ; i" 11 m o ' 'AM fcli c.A l He spent six years in the heat of the Southern Association as Chattanooga manager, two years riding up and down the mountains on busses with Charlotte and even four years as coach of a champion University of Baltimore soccer team to learn his methods of leadership. . "I first hired him in 1947 to manage the Charlotte club (at 22 years old) because I liked his conversation, the way he talked about what it takes to win," said Twins President Calvin Griffith. "And I started considering him for a major league job years ago. ERMER (RIGHT) IN DUGOUT DURING MANAGERIAL DEBUT With Twins sluggers Harmon K illebrew (left) and Bob Allison Mele Ran Gamut From Nice Guy to Get-tough "His clubs have always played aggressive baseball. That's why I liked him." Ermer is known by the players who have been under him as a "friend," a "terrific hard worker" and an "instructor," but also as a "firm" disciplinarian who speaks his mind to his players. "He'll bawl you out privately, but never in front of the other players," said Jim Roland, Twin pitcher who played for Ermer at Denver two years ago. "He got on me twice, but good. And I respected him for it." THE - MINNEAPOLIS STAR SPORTS 12A Sat,JunelO,1967 And Frank Quilici added AND A FIELDER BY MAX NICHOLS Minneapolis Star Staff Writer There was a short clubhouse speech, with Sam Mele promising to be "firm but fair." Then Camilo Pascual shut out the New York Yankees 4-0. That's how Sam's as manager of the "But I was putting Whitfield's name on the lineup card and when I looked up (AI) Worthington was already in his stretch. I was too slow and that play cost u ti game." . career Twins baseball club started on June 23, 1961, at Metropolitan Stadium. The players had a warm feeling for him. He had been a man they could confide in when he was coach. "I told the players I will not criticize them publicly," Mele said that evening. And the Twins developed an outright affection for their "man of patience." That feeling reached its zenith when Mele was being criticized in 1964 by Twins President Calvin Griffith. The career ended Friday night in that same clubhouse when Mele said to Bob Allison: "I'll be seeing you." And Allison asked what he meant by that. "I've just been fired," Sam said. "You're kidding," said Allison. "No, I'm not," said Mele. And he was gone. In between that June Friday evening of 1961 and last night Mele led the club from seventh to second in 1962, was criticized by Griffith for being "too nice a guy" in 1964 when the club slipped to sixth and started getting tough in the pennant-winning season of 1965. Last year he took a stand for Coach Billy Martin in Martin's two - season squabble with Coach Johnny Sain. Pitcher Jim Kaat took a stand for Sain, and numerous players joined Kaat in their private feelings. This spring the players failed to respond to Mele's demands for improved play in fundamentals and tighter defense. He kept them late for post-game drills, fined them and pointed out their MELE RECORD WITH TWINS Sam Mele missed by only 14 days managing the Twins baseball club a full six years, starting June 23, 1961, and continuing until he was fired Friday by Twins President Calvin Griffith. His record as Twins manager was 522 wins and 431 defeats, a .558 percentage. His clubs finished first in 1962, second twice and third one in Sam's best years. Here is the Twins' record under him: Yar Po. W. t. Ptt. 1961 7th 45 49 .479 l6l 2nd 91 71 .562 1963 3rd 91 70 .565 1964 6th (tie) 79 83 .488 195 lit 102 60 .630 1966 2nd 89 73 .549 1967 6th 25 25 .500 World Series record Twins won 3 games, lost 4 in 1965 to Los Angeles Dodqeri. SAM mistakes. He was keeping a pledge to be a "take charge manager." And the club had seemed to be playing much better his last two weeks, winning nine of its last 16 games under Sam with 10 errorless games and several team-effort victories. But it was too late. Kaat had said the players "lost respect for Sam" last year. It s not fair to say that was true this year. But his old rapport with them was gone. And it showed yesterday when there were only a few goodbyes between him and the players. Most of them did not want THEN AND NOW SAM MELE In June, 1Q61 S AM MELE In June, 19G7 to comment on Sam s parture. Shortstop Zoilo Versalles, who had paid Mele's biggest fine of $300 in the spring of 1965, was one of the few who said: "Sam tried his best to do a good job. Harmon Killebrew said goodbye. Coach Billy Martin, the man who was supposed to have the "knife for Sam back in 1965, was obviously broken up by Griffiths decision. "Sam fought for me, and I fought for him," said Martin. Mele reached great extremes in his tenure as manager. His 1962 club jelled in the same type of brotherhood the 1965 club had. And the 1962 Twins were in the pennant race until the last 10 days before finishing second. When the 1963 club matched the 1962 record of winning 91 games but finished third, Mele's salary was cut in what must have been an all-time record performance by Griffith. Sam's patient way of absorbing defeats and problems became known as the "Mele Method of Managing." He stayed with his regulars and starting pitchers through their toughest moments. But he was forced to change. In 1965 he challenged problems openly, starting with the fining of Versalles in spring training. He even took a swing at an umpire and was fined $500 with a five-day suspension. That club stuck together as if it were glued and won in spite of injuries to nearly every player. But last spring there was a different feeling. It continued despite the Twins' second-half dash to second place. And evidently it continued this spring, when the players did not respond to Sam's demands. Mele never went to the public with his side of the story about last year's problems. He hoped to ride out the storm. But Griffith felt there was "an accumulation of problems." Kaat was being asked if he felt his "open letter" in defense of Sain had anything to do with the firing. "I've been treated fairly by Sam all spring," said Jim, who has been under pressure because of a 1-7 start. "We talked on the phone shortly after my letter. And we've never had a problem since then." Calvin had said last October, after he released Sain at Sam's request, that Mele was "on the spot" to win. And this spring he didn't, j de- f . . v. nJ rV-i'J . ; vaa;xX. - i Star photos by William Seaman ERMER (LEFT), ZOILO VERSALLES Gloomy during first defeat Orioles Know, Like Ex-coach Ermer, Too By DICK GORDON Minneapolis Star Staff Writer In the Baltimore dugout shortly before "Play Ball" at Metropolitan Stadium Friday night the news of Sam Mele's firing provided a different sort of pre - game t topic and" B. Robinson ff Hunter prompted Brooks Rob inson to ask who his re p 1 a c e m e nt would be. Informed Cal Ermer's ap pointment would likely soon become official. Robinson said, "I certainly hope so." Whv? Because the great Oriole third baseman liked and respected Ermer when he served in the Baltimore organization from 1962-64. That's one of baseball's coincidences. Ermer, as a Baltimore native, began his biggest and toughest job when his former teammates were there to spoil the debut. "Cal was quiet but he is dedicated to baseball and you'd learn a lot just talking to him," said Robinson. . Steve Barber was one of the few other Oriole players who was there when Ermer was coach under Manager Billy Hitchcock in 1962. "He didn't show much leadership then, but he was personable and I liked him," said Barber. "He's a nice guy," said Manager Hank Bauer who didn't join Baltimore until after Ermer became an Oriole scout in 1963. "He's a fine man, devoted to baseball," said Harry Brecheen, the veteran Baltimore coach. "He knows the game." Harry Dalton, now Balti more vice president and di rector of player personnel, remembers Ermer well. "We didn't want to let him go," said Dalton regarding Ermer's shift to the Twins affiliation in 1965. "But Cal vin Griffith came to me and asked permission to talk to Ermer about managing Denver. "Unfortunately, we had no Triple A managerial vacancy in our organization then. I talked to Cal about it and he wanted to take the job. We hated to lose him." Billy Hunter, another Baltimore coach, classes Ermer as "one of my good friends." Then he added, "But so was Sam Mele. So you might say I gained one friend here and lost another." You might also say, "That's baseball." that when Ermer takes a problem before the whole club, "he talks in general terms, saying how he wants certain situation handled, never using names. Both Ted Uhlaender and Sandy Valdespino ot the Twins were sent to Ermer at the low points of their baseball careers in 1966 after being sent down by the Twins. So was Quilici. All three responded to Ermer's methods with solid performances after bouncing out of depression. "I looked upon him as a friend,", said Uhlaender. "You always knew where you stood with him. When I was sent down last year, he told me I would be in the lineup and not to worry about it just play." Valdespino said Ermer was brief but direct: "He asked if I was ready to play," said Sandy. "I said I was. And I stayed in the lineup until I had a pulled muscle." Ron Clark said Ermer is always "corrective" when he bawls out a player. "He tells you how you can improve, not just what you have done wrong," Clark said. "He demands hard-nosed baseball all out 100 per cent play. And he'll battle for you all the way." There is no hesitation in Ermer's actions. He paces more in the dugout than Sam Mele did, now and then reaching for a fistful of chewing tobacco in difficult situations. He stands most of the time, clapping his hands when shouting encouragement. When Bob Allison struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth inning, he limited himself to a scraping of the floor with his feet, kind of a sidestep as if he were smoothing out dirt. But when he didn't like an umpire's decision, he was quick to shout his opinion And when Ermer changed pitchers, he walked directly to the mound with an aggressive step and gestured sharply with his left hand, as if grabbing a rope to pull his reliever in from the bullpen. Allison and Harmon Killebrew remember him from their days at Chattanooga in the 1950s for his hard work with them. "He must have hit me 9,000 ground balls," said Killebrew. "He came out mornings, any time to work with me," said Allison, "I don't know how many times ERMER Turn to Next Page ERMER'S BASEBALL RECORD Ermer, Calvin C, former second baseman. Height 6-foot-l; Weight 190; Batted right; threw right. Born November 10, 1923 in Baltimore, Md. ResidenceChattanooga, Tenn. Married. Graduated from Patterson Park (Baltimore) High School in 1942. As a second baseman he led 1942 Bi-State League in games (95), putouts (233) and fielding average (.965); 1946 Florida State in double plays (73); 1947 Tri-State League in games (135), assists (417), double plays (97) and fielding average (.963); 1949 South Atlantic League in games (153), putouts (414), assists (420) and double plays (100); 1951 Tri-State League in fielding average (.971). As third baseman he led 1950 Florida State League in games (140), putouts (227), assists (298), double plays (49) and fielding average (.947). All-Star second baseman, 1949 South Atlantic League and all-star third baseman, 1950 Florida State League. All-Star manager, 1951 Tri-State League and selected as 1958 Minor League Manager of Year by the Sporting News. Ermer's record: 73 92 72 136 0 0 25 30 68 95 YR. CLUB LEAGUE GB At 42 Orlando Fla. E. Cst. 28 103 Jacksonville So. Atlantic Burlineton Bi-State 95 368 43-45 Chattanooga So. Assn. 46 Orlando Fla. State 93 352 47 Charlotte Tri-State 136 488 Wash. American 1 3 48 Charlotte Tri-State 44 158 Haaerstown Inter-St. 83 334 49 Savannah Atlantic 153 612 84 141 50 Orlando Fla. St. 140 474 84 115 51 Charlotte Tri-State 128 418 80 124 Tied for lead 'Led League Y. CLUB LEAGUE W 47 Charlotte Tri-State 50 Orlando Fla. State 88 51 Charlotte Tri-State 100 52 Chattanooga So Assn 86 53 Chattanooga So Assn 73 54 Chattanooga So Assn 75 55 Chattanooga So Assn 80 56 Chattanooga So Assn 76 57 Chattanooga So Assn 83 58 Birmingham So Assn 91 59 Colum.. O. Internat'l 84 60 Colum., O. Internat'l 69 61 Richmond Internat'l 71 65 Denver Pacific C. 83 66 Denver Pacific C. 79 Coach Baltimore Orioles 64. PLAYER B H 2b 3b H RBI TB SO SB Pet. 19 28 2 2 0 20 18 8 2 .272 Less than 10 games 46 76 17 1 6 30 Military 17 5 4 47 27 8 0 0 3 0 18 4 28 6 30 5 23 4 82 0 27 28 60 86 77 MANAGER L FINISH PLAY-OFFS 4th (from July 2) 8-4 52 1st 1-4 40 1st 1-3 66 1st 0-4 81 6th 76 5th 74 3rd 2-4 78 6th 70 4th 2-4 62 1st 8-2 70 2nd 0-4 84 6th 83 6th 62 2nd (Eastern Div.) 68 4th (Eastern Div.) 27 51 1 .207 53 43 2 .261 45 52 5 .279 0 0 0 .000 19 27 2 .190 35 44 4 .284 61 99 3 .230 89 55 3 .243 99 56 0 .297 (Won) (Won Dixie) 1962; Scout Baltimore Orioles. 1964-

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 22,600+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra® Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the The Minneapolis Star
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free