Casey Stengel’s Grandson- Clint Hurdle

Over the weekend I was watching the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirate game on television and when Pirate third baseman Pedro Alvarez came to the plate one of the announcers mentioned that Alvarez and Pirate manager Clint Hurdle had a lot in common.  At that moment the phone rang and I missed the conversation but I figured I knew what they were going to talk about.

Back in the last 1970’s Clint Hurdle was one of the top prospects in major league baseball. John Schuerholz who was director of player development at the time [he would later go on to be the GM in Kansas City and would go on to built the great teams in Atlanta in the 90’s} said “I bubble inside when I think of his potential” Legendary hitting coach Charlie Lau said “He the best hitting prospect I’ve seen in our organization” Keep in mind- a few years earlier a guy named George Brett had come along. General Manager Joe Burke said about Hurdle “He’s one of the top prospects I’ve seen in the 17 years I’ve been in the major league” In other words this guy was a can’t miss. But he missed. Clint Hurdle would play ten years in the majors but he was a journeyman ballplayer. He was nothing special. During all those years and after when I heard the name Clint Hurdle- I would remember that cover of Sports Illustrated that he was on, he was this years phenom.

Back to Pedro Alvarez for a second. Alvarez has been the Pirates “can’t miss” prospect for the past few years. A first round pick out of Vanderbilt {Vanderbilt a great academic school- at this point I will mention that Hurdle out of high school turned down an academic scholarship to Harvard to sign with the Royals} Alvarez when he came to the majors in 2010 had some success at the end of the season when he came up. Last year was a disaster. He was awful and that is putting it nicely. A lot of people were saying he was a wash out. He was terrible in spring training. He started the season slowly. The chorus to replace him was growing louder and louder but Hurdle stuck with him. It has paid off, in the past 3 1/2 weeks Pedro Alvarez has been on fire. I think the stat I saw is he’s hit more home runs and had more RBI’s than anyone in baseball since mid-June. He’s on pace for a 30 home run 100 RBI season. He’s one of the main reasons the Pirates are in first place. I think a lot of credit goes to Hurdle’s having patience with him when everyone else had given up on Alvarez.

I was thinking about Clint Hurdle and the job he’s done with the Pirates this year. The Pirates haven’t had a  winning team since 1992. A generation “The Lost Generation” has never seen the Pirates have a winning season. Think about it. If you are 27 today you were 7 when they last won. I do not think a manager in baseball is as critical as say a head coach in football. Having said that I think Hurdle has done a great job with the Pirates. Watching his post game news conferences, hearing the man interviewed- he seems like a confident man who knows what he’s doing. { Pirate managers since Jimmy Leyland left in the mid-90’s have always given me the impression of what Custer must have looked like towards the end at Little Bighorn or a man facing the electric chair} It hit me the other day that how Hurdle handles himself reminded me of- Whitey Herzog. Herzog was Hurdle’s manager back when Hurdle came up with the Royals. The same Whitey Herzog who in 1977 called Clint Hurdle “The best player in the minors last year” I then started to think. OK I remember Hurdle flaming out with the Royals. He played with the Mets, the Cardinals. Yes- he was with Whitey Herzog for a couple seasons in St.Louis in the mid 80’s.  Clint Hurdle spent 3 seasons with this great hall of fame manager. Something had to rub off. Hurdle had to be heavily influenced by Whitey.

I thought of Whitey and I remember reading in his biography-which is a very good read- that he was a  young prospect with the Yankees in the early 50’s. He went to a couple spring trainings with the Yanks but was traded and never played in the majors with the Yanks. But in the short time he was with the Yanks, Casey Stengel had a great influence on him. Herzog learned a lot from the great Stengel. The baseball generations of influence. Clint Hurdle- the grandson of Casey Stengel. Who did Casey Stengel play for? In the early 1920’s he played for the man considered by most to be the greatest manager of them all- John McGraw.

2 responses to “Casey Stengel’s Grandson- Clint Hurdle

Comments are closed.