Bob Lemon continues managerial career
Over his five decades in baseball, Bob Lemon kept all the pundits guessing.
Think his career was over as an infielder? Lemon reinvented himself as a Hall of Fame pitcher.
Think he didn’t have what it took to be a manager? Lemon won a World Series title with the 1978 Yankees.
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Along the way, Lemon proved his baseball intellect was as good as the game has ever seen.
On Dec. 26, 1964, Lemon became the skipper of the Seattle Angels of the Pacific Coast League – the second stop of his managerial career. Following his debut with the Hawaii Islanders in 1964, Lemon moved to Seattle when the Los Angeles Angels relocated their Triple-A team.
“I remember the first time Lemon told me he wanted to become a manager someday,” wrote Hal Lebovitz, the 1999 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Although I knew him to be a fierce competitor and a brilliantly successful one, I didn’t think he had the temperament to put up with a manager’s problems – or wanted to.”
But Lemon quickly moved into coaching following his playing days. He retired in 1958 following a 15-year big league career that saw him start as a third baseman, suit up as the Indians’ Opening Day center fielder in 1946 and then move to the mound, where he won 207 games in what amounted to about 12 full seasons as a pitcher.
A seven-time 20-game winner, Lemon worked as a coach with the Indians and Phillies before taking over the Islanders and then managing Seattle in 1965 and 1966. After a stint on the Angels’ coaching staff and then more time as a minor league skipper with Vancouver of the PCL, Lemon landed the job as the Kansas City Royals manager midway through the 1970 season.
He led the Royals, then in just their third season, to an 85-76 record in 1971 before being dismissed following the 1972 season. After stops back in the minors, he became the Yankees pitching coach in 1976 – the same year he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t get too high, I don’t get too low,” Lemon said of his managerial style. “You let yourself get carried away, and then, when things blow up, you wind up with your head down.”
In 1977, Lemon managed the White Sox to a 90-72 mark before being let go on June 29, 1978. Less than a month later, he replaced Billy Martin as Yankees’ skipper, leading New York to a furious down-the-stretch charge that resulted in the Yankees winning the American League East in a one-game playoff over the Red Sox.
The Yankees went on to win the World Series, but Lemon was relieved of his job 65 games into the 1979 campaign.
He returned to manage the Yankees down the stretch in 1981, leading New York to the pennant before the Yankees lost in the World Series to the Dodgers.
Dismissed again 14 games into the 1982 season, Lemon called it a career. He passed away on Jan. 11, 2000.
“Managing is the closest thing to playing without actually playing,” Lemon said of his desire to be a manager. “I love the game.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum