Cubs 101 - Pt 8 The College of Coaches
By the time 1960 had rolled around, an entire generation of Cub fans had been born and grown up without a single World Series appearance. It must have seemed excruciating to them -- and we've seen that 15-year-drought double. And triple. And quadruple. And we're a quarter of the way into a quintuple. But I digress - the point is that P.K. Wrigley, in his infinite wisdom, saw that the Cubs had a problem and knew what they needed to do.
By God, they'd stop horsing around and start pumping some of that prodigious Wrigley money into the farm system! They'd get rid of long-time Cubs men in the front office and replace them with the most brilliant minds of that era! They'd take the league by storm, dammit! By storm!
Either that or he could go with the radical, never-before-seen approach of managers-as-professors, taking turns running the team and spending their "off-time" dispensing their baseball wisdom in a communal experience with all the young Cublings in the minor league system. A College of Coaches, if you will. And the Athletic Director who "coordinated" the system would be some douche with absolutely zero baseball experience but with a glare that was harder than steel.
Between the two, we'll let you guess which one P.K. went with. Naturally it was a disaster.
The original faculty of coaches consisted of the hilariously-named El Tappe, the equally ridiculously-handled Goldie Holt, Bobby Adams, Harry Craft, Verlon Walker (Verlon. Avon for men.), Ripper* Collins, Verdie Himsl, and Charlie Grimm. Later additions included Charlie Metro and Bob Kennedy. With a crew like that, apparently all one needed to have for their resume to stand out was ridiculous nickname.
The problem - well, "a" problem; one of many problems - was that to have a communal learning experience there must actually be a shared philosophy involved. The Cubs didn't have a shared philosophy. They had eight coaches with eight ideas on how to run a baseball team directed by a guy who didn't know enough about baseball to direct anybody. The coaches didn't help one another, they agreed on little-to-nothing, and as a result a team with incredibly talented players (four of whom were Hall of Fame level) never did better than win 82 games during the experiment. Like the White Sox with their game-shorts, the Cubs trotted out an aimless, confused, and embarassed team.
Admittedly, behind the gumwad of Wrigley's idea was a tiny hint of glorious flavor, but it's a small reward for the Cubs. After all, years later every team encorporates a solitary philosophy on baseball and employs roving instructors to teach that philosophy to the young players. But no team has a rotating manager. No team ever will again. And not many teams have such talent only to squander it on dumb ideas like the Cubs.
Next week we'll talk about the talent of the 60's, Leo the Lip, and perhaps even ... the '69 Cubs.
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