Billy Southworth

William Harold Southworth
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 2008
Primary team: St. Louis Cardinals
Primary position: Manager

Though the St. Louis Cardinals three winningest managers are truly legendary – Tony La Russa, Red Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog each have guided their St. Louis teams to a title – the trio represents only part of the great tradition of Cardinals managers.

In alphabetical order, the 13 Hall of Fame managers are Roger Bresnahan, Roger Connor, Frankie Frisch, Herzog, Rogers Hornsby, Miller Huggins, La Russa, Bill McKechnie, "Kid" Nichols, Branch Rickey, Schoendienst, Joe Torre - and the man who guided the Cardinals' dynasty in the 1940s, Billy Southworth.

Southworth might be the most underrated Cardinals manager of all time. In five full seasons and parts of two others with the Cardinals, Southworth compiled a .642 winning percentage and won three straight National League championships from 1942 to 1944, including beating the New York Yankees to win the 1942 World Series and the city-rival St. Louis Browns to capture the 1944 "Streetcar Series."

Southworth's Cardinals won 106, 105 and 105 games in succession from 1942 to 1944, marking the only time in history that a team has won 105 games or more in three straight seasons. Even his second place teams in 1941 and 1945 did well, winning 97 and 95 games respectively.

Herzog, who grew up just across the Mississippi River in Illinois, was an early fan of Southworth. "He was kind of my idol in high school," said Herzog. "He won three pennants with the Cardinals and another with the Braves in 1948. And in those days, you had to manage and coach third base."

Hall of Famer Stan Musial joined the Cardinals in late-1941 and spearheaded the team’s three straight N.L. pennants from 1942 to 1944. "We had some great clubs with him as our manager," Musial said. "And he was a very good manager. We were all young but he treated everybody fairly."

Schoendienst cracked the big leagues in 1945, which was Southworth's last year as the Cardinals manager. "I liked Billy. He was a good man," Schoendienst said. "He relied on some of the older guys with him. For instance, he had Terry Moore as the captain of club. But if you missed a sign, he'd grab you right now."

Schoendienst also credited Southworth with a different use of the bullpen than was customary: "He was one of the first managers who changed pitchers in middle of the inning in the eighth or ninth innings."

Dick Williams, a St. Louis native who along with Southworth was a member of the Class of 2008, also admired "Billy the Kid" as he was growing up. A member of the Cardinals and St. Louis Browns Knothole Gangs, Williams even got a Southworth autograph.

And, when he was managing the Oakland Athletics in the 1972 World Series, Williams revived a Southworth trick maneuver, the fake intentional walk, which Williams had read about Southworth doing.

"It worked," said Williams, who bamboozled Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench by having catcher Gene Tenace fake as if he was going to call for an intentional ball before the pitcher threw a strike. "He lost his game, and I lost my game that day, but it still worked," said Williams.

Southworth broke into the big leagues as an outfielder with the Cleveland Naps in 1913 and then went to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Boston Braves and New York Giants before being acquired by the Cardinals from the Giants in June 1926. He hit .317 with the Cardinals that season and helped lead them to the city's first World Series championship.

Three years later, at age 36, "Billy the Kid" was the Cardinals manager, in effect having been traded for Bill McKechnie, who was dispatched to replace Southworth at Rochester (AA) of the International League. Southworth won the pennant in Rochester, but McKechnie won the pennant with the Cardinals. However, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon had become disenchanted that the Cardinals had lost the World Series to the New York Yankees in four games and that McKechnie had walked Babe Ruth only once, as opposed to the 11 free passes Ruth received in 1926 when the Cardinals beat the Yankees.

After Ruth went 10 for 16 in the Series, hitting three home runs in Game Four off the Cardinals, Breadon decided McKechnie needed a change.

But Southworth alienated some of the players, who thought their new manager was too harsh and aloof. When the club was struggling in July, Breadon reversed the switch, bringing McKechnie back to the majors and farming out Southworth again.

More than a decade later, Southworth improbably was brought back from Rochester in 1940 to replace Ray Blades. After being demoted in 1929, Southworth won three straight pennants at Rochester before going back to the Giants organization as a coach in 1933.

Southworth left the Giants after getting into a disagreement with manager Bill Terry but had resurfaced with the Cardinals when General Manager Branch Rickey hired him as a special instructor for his famed tryout camps. One of the players Southworth discovered in 1935 at one of the camps was future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter.

Returning as Cardinals manager, a mellower Southworth brought the Cardinals home a third-place finish in 1940 and led the "St. Louis Swifties" to a second-place finish and 97 wins in 1941.

Musial joined the club that September and would lead Southworth's clubs to three straight N.L. pennants from 1942 to 1944 and World Series championships in 1942 and 1944.

Without both Slaughter and Musial in the war year of 1945, the Cardinals still won 95 games and finished just three games behind the Chicago Cubs for the N.L. title. Southworth left the Cardinals after the season to take a better offer from owner Lou Perini with the Boston Braves and managed that club into the World Series, too.

In 1948, Southworth's Braves won the N.L. pennant behind the "Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain" combination of 24-game winner Johnny Sain and 15-game winner Warren Spahn.

But the Braves lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians four games to two as Sain and Spahn won once each but got little help.

Southworth took a leave of absence because of illness two-thirds of the way through the Braves 1949 season but, even then, his record still was 55-54. He returned for another full season in 1950, going 83-71 before lasting just 60 games in 1951 then stepping down again.

His record parallels any of the all-time great managers. In six of his nine full seasons, Southworth's teams won 90 or more games. In four of his nine full seasons, Southworth's teams reached the World Series. In a managing career of 1,748 games, Southworth's teams were 340 games above .500.

"Billy's offensive philosophy was to bunt the ball and get the runner over. That's why we won. He taught the fundamentals. "
Danny Litwhiler

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Career stats

Year Inducted: 2008
Primary Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Position Played: Manager
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Birth place: Harvard, Nebraska
Birth year: 1893
Died: 1969, Columbus, Ohio
St. Louis Cardinals (1929-1929)
St. Louis Cardinals (1940-1945)
Boston Braves (1946-1951)
Winning %Winning %