College of Coaches

The College of Coaches was an unorthodox baseball organizational practice employed by the National League's Chicago Cubs in 1961 and 1962. After the Cubs finished 60–94 in 1960, their 14th straight NL second-division finish, Cubs owner P. K. Wrigley announced in December 1960 that the Cubs would no longer have a sole field manager, but would be led by an eight-man committee. The experiment, widely ridiculed in baseball circles, was effectively ended in 1962 before being completely abandoned in 1965.

Concept

After the 1960 season, Wrigley went to backup catcher and coach El Tappe for his input on a successor to Lou Boudreau, who had managed the Cubs from May 5 through the end of the campaign.[1] Tappe said years later that he suggested Wrigley not allow the incoming manager to bring in his own coaches, as was standard practice. Rather, he suggested Wrigley bring in eight veterans from the Cubs organization as coaches—four for the minors and four for the Cubs. Tappe believed that if the coaches remained the same during inevitable managerial changes, the franchise would still have some consistency. Wrigley liked this idea, but added a twist—one of the coaches should also fill the manager's role.[2]

The Cubs officially rolled out the College of Coaches during 1961 spring training. The original "faculty" included Tappe, Charlie Grimm, Goldie Holt, Bobby Adams, Harry Craft, Verlon Walker, Ripper Collins and Vedie Himsl. Each coach would serve as "head coach" for part of the season. The original concept called for the eight coaches to rotate through the entire organization from the low minors all the way to the Cubs, ensuring a standard system of play. Additionally, Wrigley argued that it would be better for the players to be exposed to the wisdom and experience of eight men rather than just one.

In announcing the experiment, Wrigley argued, "Managers are expendable. I believe there should be relief managers just like relief pitchers." He also contended that the manager system was nepotistic and led to constant turnover.

Chaos (1961–62)

However, there was no discernible pattern in the coaching rotation. The head coach position rotated among four different men in 1961 and three more in 1962. Occasionally the various coaches were at odds with each other. Each coach brought a different playing style and a different lineup. Additionally, according to relief pitcher Don Elston, the other coaches didn't bother to help the "head coach", leaving whoever was in charge to fend for himself.[3] Without firm and consistent leadership, chaos reigned in the Cubs' dugout.

Most of the Cubs farm teams also employed multiple managers because of the College of Coaches concept. For instance, Lou Klein, who joined the College midway through the 1961 season, found himself leading teams ranging from Class D (the equivalent of a Rookie-level team today) to the parent club during the 1961 season.

Under the circumstances, the result was predictable. In 1961, the Cubs finished with a 64–90 record, seventh in the eight-team National League, which was actually a slight improvement over the previous year. The 1962 season brought the worst record in Cubs history, as they finished 59–103, in ninth place in the expanded NL; only the first-year New York Mets, who lost 120 games, finished lower. Chicago finished six games behind the second expansion team, the Houston Colt .45s, in the standings. One anonymous player told the Chicago Tribune that he'd never been on a club with lower morale in his career.

Stability and one winning season (1963–65)

Before the 1963 season, Wrigley designated one member of the College, Bob Kennedy, as sole head coach for at least two seasons. As early as the 1961–62 offseason, however, Wrigley had hinted that the Cubs might have a single head coach for an entire season.

At the same time, Wrigley named an "athletic director" to coordinate the system, a concept borrowed from American universities. He hired Bob Whitlow, a former United States Air Force colonel with no baseball experience, to fill the post, although team vice president John Holland remained the club's nominal general manager.[4] Whitlow was disliked by the players for a number of reasons. In a move that particularly rankled the players, he tried to improve the batters' background at Wrigley Field by constructing a fence atop the wall in straightaway center field and allowed the ivy to twine its way up, thus forming a solid background of ivy. This resulted in several would-be home runs staying in play. To the minds of players, sportswriters and fans, this was proof that Whitlow was in over his head.

Under Kennedy, the Cubs finished 82–80 in 1963—their first winning campaign since 1946. This led Kennedy to assert a more traditional managerial authority over the team, though he still retained the title of head coach. However, they would sink back toward the bottom of the NL standings in 1964, when they went 76–86 and finished eighth.

Kennedy was shifted to the front office in June 1965 and replaced by Klein, who finished out the season; the Cubs went 72–90 and remained in eighth place. In November, Wrigley hired Leo Durocher to replace Klein. At his press conference, Durocher emphatically ended the College of Coaches experiment by declaring himself manager, with Wrigley's blessing.

The College of Coaches, which has never been attempted by another Major League Baseball team, remains widely ridiculed to this day. Despite having several Cubs legends and fan favorites in the lineup during this time—such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo—the Cubs never finished higher than seventh during the four-year experiment, tallied only one winning record, and were never fewer than 17 games out of first.

However, the concept of a "system" throughout all levels of the farm clubs, and of a significant number of specialty coaches, pioneered by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, and other teams before the College of Coaches was created, is used by every major league club today.

Members of the College of Coaches

* Craft, Himsl, Klein, Lockman, Tappe and Walker also served as Chicago coaches either immediately before or immediately after the College of Coaches experiment.

** In 1960, the season before the College was implemented, Grimm was the manager of the Cubs from April 12 to May 4; he then was succeeded by Lou Boudreau and finished the year as a Cubs' broadcaster, before returning to uniform as a coach in 1961.[5]

Head coaches

1961

  • Vedie Himsl, 10–21
  • Harry Craft, 7–9
  • El Tappe, 42–54
  • Lou Klein, 5–6

1962

  • El Tappe, 4–16
  • Lou Klein, 12–18
  • Charlie Metro, 43–69           

1963

  • Bob Kennedy, 82–80

1964

  • Bob Kennedy, 76–86

1965

  • Bob Kennedy, 24–32
  • Lou Klein, 48–58

References

  1. ^ Retrosheet: 1960 Chicago Cubs
  2. ^ Neyer, Rob (2006). Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders. New York City: Fireside. ISBN 0-7432-8491-7.
  3. ^ Golenbock, Peter (1996). Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs. New York City: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-15699-5.
  4. ^ Sports Illustrated, April 8, 1963
  5. ^ Retrosheet

External links

Preceded by
Lou Boudreau
Chicago Cubs manager
1961–1962
Succeeded by
Bob Kennedy
1961 Chicago Cubs season

The 1961 Chicago Cubs season was the 90th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 86th in the National League and the 46th at Wrigley Field. In the first season under their College of Coaches, the Cubs finished seventh in the National League with a record of 64–90, 29 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.

1962 Chicago Cubs season

The 1962 Chicago Cubs season was the 91st season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 87th in the National League and the 47th at Wrigley Field. In the second season under their College of Coaches, the Cubs finished ninth in the National League with a record of 59–103, 42½ games behind the NL Champion San Francisco Giants. The Cubs finished ahead of the expansion New York Mets and behind the expansion Houston Colt .45s in the NL's first-ever 162-game season.

1962 Major League Baseball season

The 1962 Major League Baseball season was contested from April 9 to October 16, 1962. The National League played a 162-game schedule for the first time, having added the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets as expansion teams. The American League had played its first 162-game schedule a year earlier.

The NL returned to New York City after a four-year absence, though the Mets would finish in last place.

The National League went to a tie-breaker series to decide the Pennant winner won by the San Francisco Giants over the Los Angeles Dodgers 2 games to 1.

In the World Series the New York Yankees defeated the San Francisco Giants 4 games to 3.

1963 Chicago Cubs season

The 1963 Chicago Cubs season was the 92nd season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 88th in the National League and the 48th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished seventh in the National League with a record of 82–80, marking their first winning season since 1946.

1965 Chicago Cubs season

The 1965 Chicago Cubs season was the 94th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 90th in the National League and the 50th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished eighth in the National League with a record of 72–90.

The 1965 Cubs tied a major league record by turning three triple plays. Bill Faul was on the mound on each occasion.

Bobby Adams

Robert Henry Adams (December 14, 1921 – February 13, 1997) was a third baseman/second baseman in Major League Baseball. He played for the Cincinnati Reds & Redlegs (1946-1955), Chicago White Sox (1955), Baltimore Orioles (1956) and Chicago Cubs (1957-1959). Adams batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Tuolumne County, California.

In a 14-season career, Adams posted a .269 batting average with 37 home runs and 303 RBI in 1281 games played.

Adams started his Major League career in 1946 with Cincinnati as their regular second baseman. Despite his infield background, the next five years he served mostly as a backup for Grady Hatton (3B) and Connie Ryan (2B). Finally, Adams became the regular third baseman for Cincinnati in 1951. His most productive season came in 1952, when he led the National League in singles (152), at-bats (637) and games (154), while batting .283 with career-numbers in hits (180) and doubles (25). He also was considered in National League MVP voting.

In the 1955 midseason, Adams was purchased by the Chicago White Sox. Traded to the Baltimore Orioles before 1956, he also played for the Chicago Cubs from 1957–59, helping young infielders improve their play.

Following his playing career, Adams continued as a coach with the Cubs and was a member of the team's experimental College of Coaches. In 1966, the organization named him club president of the Triple-A Tacoma Cubs of the Pacific Coast League. But Adams’ six-year tenure in Tacoma ended after the 1971 season, when Chicago moved its Triple-A affiliate to Wichita, Kansas. After that, he again coached for the Cubs, in 1973, then retired from baseball.

Bobby Adams died in Gig Harbor, Washington, at age 75.

El Tappe

Elvin Walter Tappe (May 21, 1927 – October 10, 1998) was an American professional baseball player, a catcher for the Chicago Cubs between 1954 and 1962, who was best known as a key figure in the Philip K. Wrigley-implemented College of Coaches during the 1961 and 1962 seasons.

Goldie Holt

Golden Desmond Holt (March 22, 1902 – June 11, 1991) was an American professional baseball player, scout, coach and manager. An outfielder and third baseman by trade, the native of Enloe, Texas, logged his playing and managing career exclusively in minor league baseball, but served the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs as a coach on the Major League level, and spent two separate terms scouting for the Dodgers in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

The 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m), 165 lb (75 kg) Holt played 23 years of minor league ball (1924–42; 1944–47), although he was a playing manager for six of those seasons. He came to the Majors as a coach under Billy Meyer of the Pirates from 1948–50, then scouted and managed in the farm system for the Dodgers from 1951–58. He switched to the Cubs' organization as a member of its College of Coaches experiment from 1961–65, then returned to the Dodgers as a scout through the early 1980s. During that time, he taught Charlie Hough how to throw a knuckleball.Goldie Holt died at age 89 in Burbank, California.

Joe Macko

Joseph John Macko (February 19, 1928 – December 26, 2014) was an American long-time minor league baseball first baseman who hit over 300 home runs at that level. He also managed in the minors for three seasons. He was born in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Macko played from 1948 to 1964 and again in 1970, hitting .272 with 306 home runs in 1,987 games. He eclipsed the 20-home run mark seven times and the 25-home run mark five times, hitting a career high of 37 in 1956, while splitting the season between the San Diego Padres and Dallas Eagles. He also pitched for parts of four seasons, compiling a record of 11-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 37 games (15 starts). For the 1948 Batavia Clippers, he was one of the primary starters.In 1961, he managed the St. Cloud Rox, leading the team to the league finals, which they lost. He managed the Wenatchee Chiefs in 1962 and again in 1964, leading them to a league championship victory in his first year with the team. In 1963, he skippered the Amarillo Gold Sox, and through those years managed multiple notable players, including Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock and major league All-Star slugger Roger Maris.

Following his playing and managerial career, Macko was the general manager of the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs in 1970 and 1971 before becoming the longtime clubhouse manager for the Texas Rangers.

He was also a member of the Chicago Cubs' College of Coaches in 1964.

On December 26, 2014, Joe Macko died at the age of 86.His son, Steve Macko, played for the Chicago Cubs in 1979 and 1980, but died in 1981 at age 27 as the result of testicular cancer.

John Holland (baseball executive)

John Davison Holland Jr. (February 18, 1910 – July 15, 1979) was an American baseball executive who served as general manager of the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball from 1956 to 1975.

Les Peden

Leslie Earl Peden (September 17, 1923 – February 11, 2002) nicknamed "Gooch", was an American professional baseball player and manager. A catcher, he appeared in nine Major League games for the 1953 Washington Senators. He threw and batted right-handed, stood 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighed 212 pounds (96 kg).

The native of Azle, Texas, attended Texas A&M University and served in the United States Army in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. His minor league playing career lasted all or parts of 18 seasons, largely in the organizations of the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Athletics. He was selected by Washington in the 1952 Rule 5 draft after he batted .279 with 18 home runs in 153 games for the Open-Classification Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League.

For the first month of the 1953 MLB season, Peden was a member of the Senators' 28-man roster. Of his nine games, eight were as Washington's starting catcher. On April 29, he hit his only Major League home run, a solo shot off Saul Rogovin of the Chicago White Sox, in a 3–0 Washington victory at Comiskey Park. Peden caught Bob Porterfield's complete game, five-hit shutout that day. He collected his second extra-base hit, a double, off the Detroit Tigers' Hal Erickson on May 5, as he caught another complete game win for Porterfield. The double was the last of Peden's seven MLB hits and raised his batting average to .292.

After going hitless on May 6 against Detroit's Ned Garver, Peden was returned to the Cubs' organization and the PCL Angels when rosters were reduced to 25 men at the May 15 cutdown. Peden then continued his lengthy minor league career, spending ten seasons as a playing manager in the Cubs and Athletics' farm systems. In 1965, he was listed as a member of the Cubs' College of Coaches, although he worked as manager of the Short-season Class A Wenatchee Chiefs of the Northwest League that season. He managed in Triple-A for three seasons, with the Portland Beavers (1962–63) and Tacoma Cubs (1966). After 1966, he served the Cubs as a scout.

List of Chicago Cubs managers

The Chicago Cubs are a Major League Baseball team that plays in the National League (NL) Central Division. Since their inception as the White Stockings in 1876, the Cubs have employed 60 managers. The duties of the team manager include team strategy and leadership on and off the field. The Cubs have had 13 general managers. The general manager controls player transactions, hiring and firing of the coaching staff, and negotiates with players and agents regarding contracts. The first person to officially hold the title of general manager for the Cubs was Charles Weber, who assumed the title in 1934. The franchise's first manager was Baseball Hall of Famer Albert Spalding, who helped the White Stockings become the first champions of the newly formed National League.After co-managing with Silver Flint during the 1879 Chicago White Stockings season, Hall of Famer Cap Anson began an 18-year managerial tenure in 1880, the longest in franchise history. Under Anson, the team won five more NL pennants — in 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885 and 1886—tying the 1885 World Series and losing the 1886 World Series in the process. Anson won 1,283 games as the White Stockings' manager, the most in franchise history. After taking over for Hall of Fame manager Frank Selee in 1905, Frank Chance — another Hall of Famer — managed the team through the 1912 season. During his tenure, the franchise won four more NL pennants in 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1910, winning its only two World Series titles in 1907 and 1908 until 2016 Chance's .664 career winning percentage is the highest of any Cubs manager. After Chance, from 1913 through 1960, the Cubs employed nineteen managers, nine of which were inducted into the Hall of Fame. During this period, the Cubs won six more NL pennants, including three under manager Charlie Grimm. Split between Grimm's two managerial stints in the 1930s and 1940s, plus a brief appearance as manager in 1960, Grimm accumulated 946 career wins, second-most in franchise history behind Anson.Owner P. K. Wrigley then began experimenting with the managerial position and in December 1960, announced that Cubs would not have only one manager for the coming season. Instead, the team implemented a new managerial system known as the "College of Coaches". The system was meant to blend ideas from several individuals instead of relying on one manager. During its first year, the team rotated four different managers into the role: Vedie Himsl, Harry Craft, El Tappe and Lou Klein. The next year, under the guidance of Tappe, Klein and Charlie Metro, the Cubs lost a franchise-record 103 games. Bob Kennedy managed the team for the next three seasons until Hall of Famer Leo Durocher assumed the managerial role for the 1966 season, effectively ending the five-year-long "College of Coaches" experiment. During his first season as manager, Durocher's Cubs tied the franchise's 103-game loss record set four years earlier by the "College"; however, he maintained a winning record for the rest of his seven-year tenure.In the last 37 seasons since Durocher, the Cubs have had 22 managers. Jim Frey and Don Zimmer led the team to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) in 1984 and 1989, respectively. In both of those seasons, the team's manager won a Manager of the Year Award. Jim Riggleman managed the team for five years from 1995 through 1999, earning the team's first and only wild card playoff spot in 1998. Dusty Baker's Cubs lost in the 2003 NLCS during the first year of a four-year managing tenure. Baker's successor, Lou Piniella, led the team to two consecutive National League Central Division titles during his first two years with the team and was awarded the 2008 Manager of the Year Award. On July 20, 2010, Piniella announced his intention to retire as manager of the Cubs following the end of the season. However, on August 22, 2010, Piniella announced he would resign after that day's game with the Atlanta Braves, citing family reasons. Third base coach Mike Quade would finish the rest of the season as manager. The Cubs' current general manager is Jed Hoyer, who replaced Jim Hendry.On November 7, 2013, the Cubs hired Rick Renteria as their new manager. He replaced Dale Sveum. He was fired on October 31, 2014 as the team prepared to hire Joe Maddon.

Lou Klein

Louis Frank Klein (October 22, 1918 – June 20, 1976) was an American professional baseball player, manager, coach and scout. During his active career he was an infielder in the Major Leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Athletics, and was known as one of the players who "jumped" to the Mexican League in 1946. He was subsequently suspended by Commissioner of Baseball Happy Chandler for a five-year span (though the suspension was later reduced). Born in New Orleans, he attended Peters High School in that city. As a player, he was listed as 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) tall and 167 pounds (76 kg) and threw and batted right-handed.

Mel Wright

Melvin James Wright, Jr. (May 11, 1928 – May 16, 1983) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher, pitching coach and scout. A native of Manila, Arkansas, who attended Ouachita Baptist University, Wright threw and batted right-handed and was measured during his playing days at 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) tall and 210 lb (95 kg).

Wright was a longtime associate of former MLB center fielder and manager Bill Virdon. Originally signed by the New York Yankees in 1950, Wright was traded with Virdon to the St. Louis Cardinals on April 11, 1954, in a multiplayer transaction that sent eventual Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Enos Slaughter to the Yanks. But while Virdon enjoyed a decade-plus-long Major League playing tenure, Wright spent most of his pitching career at the Triple-A minor league level. In 543 minor league games, he won 85 games, losing 61 with an earned run average of 3.01.

Wright appeared in 58 games with the Cardinals (1954–55) and Chicago Cubs (1960–61), winning two of six decisions, surrendering 119 hits in 84 innings pitched, and compiling a poor earned run average of 7.61.

Wright began his coaching career in 1962 with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, then was a member of the Cubs' experimental College of Coaches in 1963–64 before becoming a Chicago scout, minor league pitching instructor, then Major League pitching coach for one season (1971) on the staff of Leo Durocher. In 1973, Virdon, then in his second and final season as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, named Wright as his Major League pitching coach. Virdon then appointed Wright to posts with the Yankees (1974–75, as bullpen coach), Houston Astros (1976–82) and Montreal Expos (1983).

However, Wright was suffering from cancer when Virdon asked him to join the Montreal coaching staff. He was hospitalized one week into the 1983 season and died of heart failure on May 16, in Houston, Texas, at age 55.

Philip K. Wrigley

Philip Knight Wrigley (December 5, 1894 – April 12, 1977), sometimes also called P.K. or Phil, was an American chewing gum manufacturer and executive in Major League Baseball, inheriting both those roles as the quiet son of his much more flamboyant father, William Wrigley, Jr..

Ripper Collins

James Anthony "Ripper" Collins (March 30, 1904 – April 15, 1970) was an American Major League Baseball first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. A switch hitter who threw left-handed, Collins was listed as 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall and weighed 165 pounds (75 kg). Despite his stature, he was a power hitter who in 1934 co-led the National League in home runs with 35.

Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, he grew up in nearby Nanty Glo, where he was a standout in sandlot baseball in his youth. Collins started his professional baseball career in 1923. He played in various minor leagues for eight seasons until 1930, when he hit .376 with 40 home runs for the Rochester Red Wings of the International League. His 180 runs batted in set an IL record.

For that performance, Collins was called up to the majors. As a member of the Gashouse Gang Cardinals teams, Collins had a breakout season in 1934 with 35 homers (sharing the league's long-ball championship with future Baseball Hall of Famer Mel Ott), 128 runs batted in, and a .333 batting average. He also hit .367 in the World Series, which the Cardinals won in seven games.

Collins is the only first baseman to have twice recorded no putouts in a nine-inning game – once for the Cardinals in 1935, and again for the Cubs in 1937. Between his time with the Cubs and the Pirates, Collins spent two years with the Los Angeles Angels, and played in 346 games during that time.

In 1084 games played Collins compiled a .296 batting average (1121-3784) with 615 runs scored, 135 home runs and 659 RBI. His on-base percentage was .360 and slugging percentage was .492. He hit better than .300 four times in a nine-year major league career. In 13 World Series games, he posted a .277 (13-47) batting average. Defensively, he recorded a .991 fielding percentage.

Collins played in the Pacific Coast League and Eastern League after his major league career was over. In 1944, he was named Minor League Player of the Year as the player-manager of the Albany Senators of the Eastern League. That season—at the age of 40—Collins hit .396 with a league-leading 40 doubles.

He returned to the major leagues as a member of the Cubs' College of Coaches from 1961–63, and was a scout for the Cardinals at the time of his death at age 66 in 1970.

Vedie Himsl

Avitus Bernard "Vedie" Himsl (April 2, 1917 – March 15, 2004) was an American professional baseball player, manager, coach and scout. He was born in Plevna, Montana. Himsl was a member of the class of 1938 from Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Verlon Walker

Verlon Lee Walker (March 7, 1929 – March 24, 1971) was an American catcher in minor league baseball and a coach for the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball from 1961 through 1970. He was also known as Rube Walker, nicknamed after his more famous older brother Albert, who preceded him as a catcher in the Chicago farm system. Albert played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers, and was an MLB pitching coach for three clubs, most notably the New York Mets.

Born in Lenoir, North Carolina, Verlon Walker never rose higher than eleven total games in the Double-A Texas League and Southern Association as a minor league catcher (1948–50; 1953–61). He turned to managing in 1957 as the playing skipper of the Paris Lakers of the Class D Midwest League, where he enjoyed his finest season as a hitter, batting .321 with 20 home runs. A left-handed batter who threw right-handed, Walker stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and weighed 210 pounds (95 kg).

In 1961, he was appointed to the Cubs' College of Coaches, a rotating team of instructors and "head coaches" created as an experimental alternative to the traditional baseball hierarchy of a manager and a coaching staff. He was a member of this group for the five years of its existence, then was retained as the Cubs' bullpen coach when Leo Durocher was named manager for 1966. However, that year Walker discovered he was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia. After treatments offered a remission from the illness, he served under Durocher through the 1970 season, and was poised to become the Cubs' new pitching coach for 1971. But a recurrence of leukemia caused his death on March 24, 1971, in Chicago at the age of 42.

Upon his death, the Cubs established the Verlon "Rube" Walker Leukemia Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which still exists today as the Rube Walker Blood Center.

Walt Dixon

Walter Edward Dixon (November 25, 1920 – September 25, 2003) was an American pitcher, outfielder, first baseman, coach and manager in minor league baseball. He threw and batted right-handed, stood 6 ft 1 1⁄2 in (1.87 m) (187 cm) tall and weighed 185 pounds (84 kg). He was a native of Chatham County, North Carolina.

Dixon attended the College of William and Mary before signing with the Boston Red Sox farm system in 1940 as a right-handed pitcher. Despite losing three seasons (1943–45) to military service during World War II, Dixon progressed as far as the Scranton Red Sox of the Class A Eastern League before his release by the Red Sox at the end of the 1946 campaign. When he returned to the game in 1947 he pitched for unaffiliated clubs in the mid-minors until he became predominantly an outfielder and first baseman in 1949. That season — also his first as a manager — Dixon batted .368 for the Shelby Farmers of the Class D Western Carolina League. His best minor league season, however, would come in 1953 when, as the manager and first baseman of the Norton Braves of the Class D Mountain States League, he led the loop in home runs (37) and hits (194), while batting .415 and driving home 162 RBI. Incredibly, Dixon did not lead the MSL in RBI or batting, finishing behind Willie Kirkland (164 RBI) and Leo "Muscle" Shoals (.427).

In 1956, Dixon began a 20-year-long tenure with the Chicago Cubs as a manager in their farm system. Apart from three separate stints in the Double A Texas League, Dixon usually managed in the lower minor leagues. Dixon also served as a member of the Cubs' College of Coaches in 1964 and 1965 (concurrently, he managed the Class A St. Cloud Rox and Quincy Cubs, respectively) and scouted for the club. During the 1980s, Dixon also served as an area scout for the New York Yankees based in Florence, South Carolina.

He compiled a 27-year managing record of 1,484 wins and 1,521 defeats (.484). As a minor league hitter, however, Dixon's numbers were far more formidable: a career batting average of .324 in 1,237 games, with 1,273 hits and 208 home runs, even though he was a full-time position player for only 10½ seasons.

Dixon died in Florence at the age of 82.

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