View Full Version : Life after managing the Yankees has its fair share of perks

10-19-01, 06:44 PM
By Mark Herrmann

October 19, 2001
Seattle - Stump Merrill was in the middle of a telephone conversation yesterday about Lou Piniella and about how getting fired as Yankees manager isn't the end of the world. Then Merrill, at home in Maine, had to excuse himself to answer the door.

The UPS driver delivered a package from Tampa and suggested Merrill might be getting one just like it next year. "I sure hope so," said Merrill, knowing that it was the package he had been waiting for. It was his 2000 World Series ring, which finally caught up with him.

He received it because he still has a job in the Yankees' organization 10 years after he was ousted as manager. He still gets to take pride in seeing some of his former players win postseason games. He still gets championship mementos.

It was Exhibit A, showing that former Yankees managers do just fine.

Sure, it seemed like the job from hell when they were sitting in that basement office at Yankee Stadium, waiting for phone calls from George Steinbrenner. But even if the position chewed up managers before Joe Torre, it didn't swallow them. In retrospect, it doesn't seem so bad.

"Without a doubt, if there was one job that a baseball person can have," said Merrill, who had it in 1990 and 1991, and who managed the Class AA Norwich Navigators this season, "that particular job would be it."

Gene Michael (two separate stints in 1981 and 1982), who has found enjoyment and fulfillment and a sterling reputation in his role as a Yankees superscout, said: "You can't put your finger on what it was; it wasn't any one thing. But there are a lot of experiences that you gain from having worked in New York. It's a stressful job at times, but, boy, it's just a fantastic place to learn."

No member of Steinbrenner's managerial alumni club is thriving more than Piniella, who has a three-year, $7-million contract as the Seattle Mariners' manager and a reputation crystalized by his club's 116-win regular season. He is Exhibit A-1.

At Safeco Field yesterday before Game 2 of the American League Championship
Series, he wasn't in the mood to ruminate on how much he learned when he succeeded, preceded and succeeded Billy Martin in 1986-88. "The opportunity was the big thing," said the manager who trailed in the series, one game to none. But earlier in the week, he had said: "The owner gave me an opportunity to manage at the big-league level when I was not too far removed from [being] a player. I've always been exceedingly appreciative of that."

Michael, Piniella's former manager and longtime friend, thought it was no coincidence that the man won a World Series as manager of the Cincinnati Reds after having worked in the Bronx. "I remember when Lou started, he wasn't a good manager," Michael said. "He had been a hitting instructor and he was great. Absolutely terrific. But by the time he left us, he was a good manager."

Managing the Yankees never hurt anyone's resume.

Martin (1975-78, '79, '83, '85, '88) always seemed to have more allure when he was the ex-manager, especially when he brought the Oakland Athletics to the playoffs.

The late Dick Howser (1980) learned big lessons after he was dismissed following a 103-win season. He overcame the indignity of Steinbrenner announcing that the manager left to pursue a Florida real-estate deal that he just couldn't refuse. Howser subsequently advised Michael, "Get a good contract; have a strong stomach." Howser also won a World Series as manager of the Kansas City Royals.

Buck Showalter (1992-95), the last manager to get fired by Steinbrenner, recouped pretty quickly by signing a seven-year, $7-million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He now is an analyst on ESPN, biding his time before the next job offer comes along.

Ralph Houk (1973), the first manager to leave Steinbrenner's employ, later managed the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, and is enjoying retirement in Florida. He was at Oldtimers Day at the Stadium this summer, appearing very trim and asserting that Steinbrenner "treated me right."

Yogi Berra (1984-85) is still a Yankees icon and good-luck charm. His boycott of Yankee Stadium even won him an apology from Steinbrenner.

Dallas Green (1989) went on to manage the Mets and now works as a high-level adviser for the Philadelphia Phillies. He lives and works on a sprawling, vibrant farm. Bucky Dent (1989) still is in the majors as bench coach of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Merrill is perhaps as fortunate as anyone. He is an organization man who has been with the Yankees for 25 years. He was lucky to have been promoted to the big-league managing job, and he did not have a successful tenure. But the Yankees always have found a place for him.

He gets to feel good for Piniella - "I was on his staff. He's a hell of a manager," Merrill said. He gets to feel proud when he watches Derek Jeter, whom he managed in Columbus, and Bernie Williams, whom he brought to the majors. He gets to feel he did something to help. "Even if it was just writing their names in the lineup," he said.

Plus, once a year, he gets a ring in the mail. "The only one I wear is the first one I got, from 1977," Merrill said. The rest he mounts in a specially designed oak desk at home.

Being an ex-Yankees manager isn't quite like being an ex-President, but there is a certain something about membership in a club that has endured a crucible.

Michael said, "Didn't Frank Sinatra write that song: If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere?"

No, Sinatra didn't write the song. But his recording of it is played at the end of games at Yankee Stadium, as managers head off the field and sometimes wait for a phone call.

DW Fan
10-21-01, 12:18 AM
Just one big happy family. ;)