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Fred Haney

Fred Haney

Stating he wants to spend more time with his family, on October 4, 1959 Fred Haney resigns as the Braves manager and will be replaced by Charlie Dressen. During his tenure of a little more than three-and-one-half seasons, Haney led the only two pennant winners, and the only World Champion, during the 13-year existence (1953–65) of the Milwaukee Braves. With his other two clubs “near misses”, Haney stands as by far the most successful manager of the Braves’ years in Milwaukee.

Harvey’s career managing record — tarnished by his poor teams in St. Louis and Pittsburgh — was 629–757 (.454). However, with the Braves, he won 341 games and lost 231 (.596).

In 1957, with a lineup that included future Baseball Hall of Fame members Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, and Red Schoendienst – and stars such as the pitchers Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl, and the regular players Johnny Logan and Del Crandall – the Braves won the National League pennant by eight games over the St. Louis Cardinals. During the regular season, Haney led the Braves in overcoming season-ending injuries to their star first baseman, Joe Adcock, and their fleet center fielder Bill Bruton, and slow starts to the season by their starting left fielder and second baseman, both of whom were traded in mid-June for Schoendienst.

Then, led by Burdette’s three complete-game victories in the World Series, the Braves defeated the New York Yankees in seven games – including winning the crucial seventh game 5–0 in Yankee Stadium with Burdette pitching – thus making him the World Series Most Valuable Player.

Two highlights of the 1957 season were Haney managing Aaron to the National League Most Valuable Player award, and Spahn to the lone Major League Cy Young Award (two of these latter awards were not given out per year until 1967).

In 1958, the Milwaukee Braves repeated as the National League champions, this time again by a margin of eight games. (This time, it was a victory over Haney’s old friends in Pittsburgh, back in contention under their manager Danny Murtaugh). The core of the Braves team was once again Aaron, Matthews, Adcock, Spahn, and Burdette; and Bruton come back from his season-ending injury in 1957 to play in 100 games. Logan played a full season with 145 games. Aaron led the team with 196 hits, 109 runs scored, and 95 runs batted in, and Matthews led the team with 31 home runs.

However, in 1958 their starting pitcher Bob Buhl was injured after pitching in just 11 games, winning five, and that put even more pressure on Haney, Spahn, and Burdette to win. Also because of injuries, Adcock played in only 105 games, and Wes Covington played in just 90. Schoendienst played in just 106 games, including some as just a pinch hitter, and it was discovered the next year that he had tuberculosis. In that difficult situation, Haney managed Spahn to a 22–11 record in 290 innings pitched and 23 complete games, and Burdette to a 20–10 record in 275 innings. The Braves finished first in the National League with a 92–62 record and returned to the World Series.

The Yankees again won the American League, hence the two teams faced off against each other again in the World Series. The Braves roared ahead by winning three of the first four games for a 3–1 lead in the series. However, the Yankees then regrouped, and they won games five, six, and seven to win the World Championship, with the final two games being played in Milwaukee County Stadium, the Braves’ home stadium.

In 1959, the Milwaukee Braves were back in the thick of contention again, with the same core of regular players, and a stronger pitching staff, since Buhl came back to pitch 200 innings in 31 games, with a 15–9 record. Spahn and Burdette both shone, each with a 21–15 record, 290 innings pitched, and a combined total of 41 complete games. Adcock played in 115 games, Bruton played in 133, and Aaron and Matthews had incredible seasons.[according to whom?] Aaron led the league with careers highs in 223 hits, a 0.355 batting average, and 400 total bases, and he also led the league in slugging percentage. Aaron also hit 39 home runs and had 123 runs batted in. However, Matthews led the team with 46 home runs, and batted in 114 runs.

On the minus side of the equation, second baseman Schoendienst played in only five games and then went into a long, but successful, treatment for tuberculosis, and outfielder Wes Covington played in just 105 games.

Still, Haney managed the Braves to an end-of-the-season tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place, with records of 86 wins and 68 losses. This forced the two teams into a best two-out-of-three-games playoff. The Dodgers, who had lost playoffs for the pennant in both 1946 and 1951, were not to be denied in 1959. The Dodgers swept the first two games of the playoff, and they won their first pennant in their new home city – Haney’s hometown of Los Angeles.

On October 4, Haney, approaching the age of 61, was dismissed as the manager of the Braves, and he was replaced by the former Dodger coach Chuck Dressen.

In his guide to baseball managers, author Bill James makes a detailed case for considering Haney’s 1959 season at the helm of the Braves as the worst-ever performance by a Major League manager. As he puts it: “Without exaggeration, the 1959 Dodgers shouldn’t have been within 20 games of the Braves”. In reality, the two teams ended up playing a three-game playoff, which the Dodgers swept in two games. Among Haney’s mistakes that season: riding his two top pitchers, Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette into the ground while ignoring a number of talented youngsters who were available to pitch; platooning Joe Adcock with the awful Frank Torre long after Torre had demonstrated he was in a year-long slump; failing to settle on a solution when 2B Red Schoendienst was lost for the season; and loading his bench with a group of grumpy and over-the-hill veterans from which he failed to get any production.

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