Felber: Baseball’s Nietzschean Superman

From SABR member Bill Felber at The National Pastime Museum on July 19, 2016:

George Stallings was an archetype of the manager with a dual personality: genteel, courteous, and refined away from the ballpark, a profane tyrant in it. A wealthy, mannered Georgia cotton farmer during the winter, Stallings managed for 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, compiling a sub-.500 record. Yet the single pennant he won—with the miraculous Boston Braves of 1914—transformed Stallings’s image from egomaniac to personnel genius. At his death in 1929, The Sporting News described him as “a great reader of personal qualities [who] battled his way through more than one disagreement but he was respected always for his convictions.”

Johnny Evers, Stallings’s equally hard-edged second baseman for the Braves, said his boss would “crab and rave on the bench with any of them,” but conceded that Stallings knew “more baseball than any man with whom I have ever come in contact.” He was, wrote Harvey T. Woodruff in the Chicago Tribune, “a pitiless and abusive critic while the game is on. When the game is over, he is mingling with his players, among whom he is immensely popular, laughing and jollying them in preparation for the morrow.”

Stallings took over the last-place Braves in 1913 and booted them home an inconspicuous fifth. During 1914 spring training at Macon, Georgia, he praised his ball club acerbically, remarking that “if I had a pitcher like Joe Wood, Walter Johnson or Christy Mathewson—in fact if I had one pitcher I could depend upon—I would not take a million dollars for my pennant chances.” His price went down once the season started: the Braves lost 16 of their first 19 games, settling into last place with a collective .219 batting average through mid-May. Stallings caustically blamed “bad weather and a worse outfield,” and there was a basis for the latter. To that point he had already run through a half-dozen outfielders, getting a collective .173 batting average out of them.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/baseball-s-nietzschean-superman

Originally published: July 19, 2016. Last Updated: July 19, 2016.