Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Maury Wills: Much less of a menace in this uniform than a Mariner uniform.
There have been bad managers in baseball before. Ted Williams was, by most accounts, a bad manager. Frank Chance was universally disliked, as was Rogers Hornsby. Being a bad manager is still forgivable, unless you are Grady Little of the Red Sox.
But being a bad manager who also makes dumb moves is not too forgivable. Take the case of Maury Wills, a stealing machine who helped the Dodgers to two World Series titles with his baserunning. Here is an excerpt from an article written in the Beaver County Times by Steve Rudman.
The Seattle Mariners were looking for a name to go with a cast of largely unknown expansion-era players on a cellar-dwelling team. So they hired Maury Wills, and for 83 agonizing days, he pulled one terrible move after another. Here are just a few examples:
1) In an effort to improve his team's bunting, he ordered the groundskeepers to alter the size of the batter's box. It was so obvious that Billy Martin caught it as soon as he handed the lineup card to the umpire.
2) Wills, as a favor to a friend, tried to insert him in the game even though he had no contract. He was caught when the man began to run out to the outfield with no uniform number on his back.
3) According to the Beaver County Times, Wills chewed out his coaches for not making him ''look good.'' He also held team meetings where pitching coach Wes Stock was not allowed to attend. Then he ordered ''sore-armed Shane Rawley to throw in the bullpen, so it would look like he, Maury Wills, was making command decisions."
4) In a foreshadow of things to come, in his second game, he had a 4-3 lead and a pretty decent pitcher in Dave Heaverlo pitching to an anemic-hitting Rick Miller of the Angels. On deck was an even more anemic hitter, Dan Whitmir.
Instead of pitching to Miller, he ordered him walked, much to Heaverlo's dismay. Jim Fregosi then pulled Whitmir and had the .317-hitting Jason Thompson pinch hit. Thompson blasted a two-run double. When asked about the move later, Wills simply said, ''I was hoping Fregosi wouldn't use a pinch-hitter." (Courtesy of the Beaver County Times, May 11, 1981)
5) A month later, with the Mariners playing in Chicago and the tying and lead runs on second and third, respectively, All-Star left-handed batter Harold Baines stepped up against Manny Sarmiento, a right handed pitcher.
Instead of walking Baines to force an out at every base, Wills insisted on pitching to him. Baines roped a two-run double. When asked about it afterward, Wills answered with ''...whoever heard of Harold Baines?''
6) He went to the mound to take out his starting pitcher only to realize he hadn't warmed anyone up in the bullpen.
7) After telling the team in spring training that he wanted to build a ''winning attitude,'' he promptly went to the Ramada Inn and complained about the lack of posh service and moved to another hotel, away from the team.
8) Before the season began, Wills told members of the press that he was bringing non-roster player Steve Stroughter to camp. It would have been a good move had he not traded Stroughter just two weeks earlier.
9) He once made out a lineup card that had two third basemen and no center fielder.
10) He tried to insert the same pinch-hitter in a game twice.
11) In the sixth inning of a spring training game against the Padres in Yuma, Ariz., he simply skipped out on the rest of the game and caught a plane to see friends in California. No one knew where he went or why.
12) In another game, Wills waived outfielder Willie Norwood and decided not to tell him until the game was over. He then used Norwood as an outfielder in the game.
13) Finally, with the Mariners losing by three runs, Wills inserted a pitcher, Bryan Clark, into the game to pinch-run for Zisk. Not only did the mover backfire, but Wills wasted his only left-handed reliever.
Wills was asked the day after he became a manager why it took so long for him to land a job. "...I often think about that, but couldn't come up with anything reasonable."