Whitey Herzog

Ricky Horton and Ken Dayley share Whitey Herzog memories

For its May 2024 edition, the Cardinals Insider Podcast hosted by Brett McMillan spoke with former Cardinals pitchers Ricky Horton and Ken Dayley to share memories and thoughts regarding Whitey Herzog, who passed away in April.

Horton pointed to Herzog’s ability to make every player feel important, boosting their confidence and helping them understand their role on the club.

“You just felt like you were important,” Horton said, reflecting on Herzog’s inclusive management style that made every player feel vital to the team’s success, regardless of their role.

Ken Dayley shared insights into Herzog’s strategic use of the bullpen, a testament to his innovative approach to game management. Herzog communicated daily with his players, ensuring they knew their roles clearly, which helped them perform confidently under pressure.

“He would be the one to tell you that he always said good players make great managers,” Dayley said.

Horton shared a humorous account of how he learned that he made the Cardinals’ roster as a rookie. As spring training wound down, Herzog told coach Hal Lanier, who had managed Horton in the minors, that his final start would determine his fate: if he pitched well, he was on the club. If he didn’t, he was headed back to the minors to open the season.

Horton pitched well, but so did the player he was competing against for the final roster spot. At the urging of outfielder Andy Van Slyke, Horton entered Herzog’s office to ask his manager directly if he had made the team.

“I said, OK, I guess that’s how it works,” Horton said. “So I walk into his office and he comes around the corner fresh out of the shower, wearing nothing. And I said, ‘Hey, Whitey, I just want to know if I made the team.’ He said, ‘Yep.’ I said, ‘OK,’ and I ran right out. So that’s my moment that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It’s a different kind of experience than I would have imagined, but still important to me.”

Herzog’s sharp mind for the game was legendary. He was known for his detailed player charts and was ahead of the game when it came to charting pitches, playing match-ups, and putting his players in a position to succeed.

“The algorithm was in the head of Whitey Herzog,” Horton said, noting that Herzog was effectively doing what modern analytics try to achieve but with a personal touch and an acute understanding of the game’s nuances.

“Back then, USA Today was the paper that we looked at,” Dayley said. “When teams were going to come in, you started looking at players and seeing how they were swinging the bat and if they were going good at the time, you had to pitch them a little more carefully. But you could also go to Whitey’s charts and say, ‘What happened with this guy or that guy?’ Coming out of the bullpen, you kind of know the three or four guys that you’re going to come in and face and you could see if you’d faced them before where they’d hit the ball.”

Dayley recalled in spring training in 1986, when Major League Baseball decreased the active roster size from 25 to 24 players, Herzog approached both him and Todd Worrell and told them to be sure to take fly balls in the outfield.

“He said, ‘Because they took my extra guy off the bench and sometime this year, I’m going to bring one of you in and then put you in right field while the other one pitches and then take him out and put you back on the mound,’” Dayley recalled. “Sure enough, it happened against the Dodgers. I remember Tommy (Lasorda) was sort of flipping a wig. He didn’t want to give Todd the warm-up pitches the second time back in and he delayed the game probably 20 or 25 minutes. But Whitey was thinking of that in spring training because the way he played and used his bench, he knew that that was going to affect his game.”

Horton and Dayley recalled that Herzog had just three simple rules for his players: be on time, play hard, and, “if you get thrown in jail, call me first.”

“You know, I thought that was interesting,” Horton said. “I wasn’t planning on needing that (last) one, but it was just good to know.”


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