Part of my ongoing effort to catalog my Hall of Fame-related coverage at SI.com for this site.
Part 1: Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, Joe Torre
Marvin Miller snubbed (managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre elected)
This was the rare year that I did not get to profile every candidate before the election. However, I did cover the trio of managers briefly for SI’s Hall of Fame Commemorative Issue, which was designed to capitalize primarily on the election of the Braves’ Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Cox. Since it never made it online, here’s the section on the managers:
Before moving to managing, Torre accumulated a near-Hall of Fame resume as a player, earning All-Star honors nine times with the Braves (1960-1968), Cardinals (1969-1974) and Mets (1975-1977). He won the NL batting title and MVP honors in 1971, and finished his career with a .297/.365/.452 line (129 OPS+), 2,342 hits and 252 homers. Retiring in June 1977, shortly after being anointed player-manager of the Mets, he didn’t find much success in parts of five seasons at the helm in Flushing, but led the Braves to an NL West flag in 1982, and to an 88-win near-miss the following year before the axe fell at the end of 1984. He took to the broadcast booth from 1985-1990 before returning to the dugout with the Cardinals, but the best he could do in parts of six seasons at the helm in St. Louis was a second-place finish.
Torre was a career 109 games below .500 when he was hired to manage the Yankees in November 1995; the New York Daily News hailed him as “Clueless Joe” when he took the job with a team that had only just returned to the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Overseeing a homegrown nucleus that had begun developing during George Steinbrenner’s suspension — Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada — and unafraid to stand up to a boss who had changed managers 17 times since their last title, he guided the Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in the Bronx via 10 AL East flags and two Wild Card appearances. In his first year, he led the team to their first championship since 1978 with a World Series victory over Cox’s Braves. The Yankees went on to win four straight pennants from 1998-2001, winning the first three of those World Series and coming three outs away from the fourth; they added another pennant in 2003. They won 100 games four times, topped by a record 114 wins in 19998. After Torre fell out of favor in the Broxn following the 2007 season, he took over the Dodgers, guiding them to to NL West flags and Championship Series appearances before finally retiring in 2010 with a 2326-1997 record and a .538 winning percentage. His win total ranks fifth all-time, while his 15 postseason appearances are second (thanks to the advent of the current format), his four titles tied for fourth, and his six pennants tied for sixth.
A fiery dugout leader who eventually set the major league record with 159 managerial ejections, Cox spent 25 years as the manager of the Braves plus another four (1982-1985) piloting the Blue Jays, who won 99 games and the AL East flag in his final season there. He led the Braves to 14 NL East flags and one Wild Card appearance, giving him a record 16 postseason appearances in all. The Braves notched at least 100 wins on his watch six times, and took pennants in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999, but despite their stellar core of starting pitching, they won just one Fall Classic. They did bring home plenty of hardware, with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz combining for five Cy Youngs under Cox, Terry Pendleton and Chipper Jones both winning MVPs, and David Justice and Rafael Furcal claiming Rookie of the Year honors. Cox retired with a 2504-2001 record — the fourth-highest win total of all time — and a .556 winning percentage.
La Russa was just 34 years old when he took over as the manager of the White Sox in mid-1979, one year after he earned a law degree from Florida Sate University. During his 33 years at the helm of the White Sox (1979-1986), A’s (1986-1995) and Cardinals (1996-2011), he changed the game via his innovative bullpen management. Once his starter tired, he used a parade of left- and right-handed specialists, strikeout artists and groundball machines, to create favorable matchups. While he didn’t invent the closer role, he refined it via his attempt to turn the game over to relief ace Dennis Eckersley with a clean slate at the start of the ninth inning. He won an AL West title with the White Sox in 1983, and led the A’s to three straight pennants from 1988-1990 — winning it all in 1989 — plus an AL West flag in 1992. In St. Louis, he led the Cardinals to seven NL Central titles, two Wild Card appearances, three pennants and two World Series wins. The last of those came in 2011 over the Rangers; La Russa promptly retired, thus becoming the first manager ever to go out on top. In all he compiled a record of 2728-2365 and a .536 winning percentage. Only Connie Mack managed (and lost) more games, only Mack and John McGraw won more, and only Cox and Torre took more teams to the postseason.