Archives recount the legacy of Whitey Herzog with the Cardinals

ST. LOUIS – As FOX 2 staff went through the archives after learning of the death of Hall of Fame Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog, it was realized that Whitey’s story was truly told best by none other than himself.

Herzog was a native of New Athens, IL, about 30 miles from St. Louis. “Gussie” Busch, who owned Anheuser-Busch and the Cardinals at the time, hired him to turn around the beloved hometown team.

“I knew what (Gussie) wanted; he wanted another world championship,” Whitey said just after the Cardinals World Series win in 1982. “He’s 83 years old. Man, I said, ‘I’m just going to bust my tail to see if I can get that for him.”

Steve Braun, Cardinals pinch-hitter at the time, said he didn’t think people really realized what Whitey had done for the organization.

He was right.

Herzog and his team of “Whitey-ballers” would go on to play in two more World Series’ in 1985 and 1987.

15 long years had passed since St. Louis was a championship city. The success of Whitey and the Cardinals depended more on stolen bases and stellar defense than home runs.

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“I think it’s because it’s a city that likes dirty uniforms,” Whitey said in 2016 of St. Louis’s affection for his teams’ style of play. “They loved the way we played ball.”

They were a reflection of their manager, who played and coached in the Major Leagues all over the United States, yet never truly left home. He never seemed to forget what it was like to be a kid who just loved playing baseball in good old New Athens.

After Whitey’s retirement, he would pop in at kids’ baseball camps in the area, entertain the adults at golf tournaments, and always stay with his favorite team, the Cardinals.

“I don’t think the Cardinals are out of it yet,” he told FOX 2 at a golf tournament in September 2010.

The Cardinals finished second and missed the playoffs a few weeks later.

The pinnacle of Whitey’s career was his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, in 2010. He said it meant even more going in as a Cardinal and having his number retired in St. Louis.

“It really means a lot,” he told fans at Busch Stadium during the ceremony to retire his number. “Because for the next 100 years, everybody I know in southern Illinois, people I grew up with, when they go through the ballpark, they’ll see my name and number out there.

“When they do, they’ll speak of a man who accomplished great things but was always “one of us.”

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