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The Grandstand Manager Contest of 1949

In July of 1951 Bill Veeck acquired a majority stake in the St. Louis Browns organization. Soon after purchasing the team Veeck made it known that he was seeking a new manager to replace current Browns manager Zack Taylor. Taylor would be retained by the club but would serve in another capacity. After initially failing to find a manager to immediately take over the club due to the fact that Veeck’s preferred candidates were all “tied down with other posts (1)”, Veeck decided to wait until after the season was over to replace Taylor. However, the mentioning of a search for a new manager afforded Veeck aka “Baseball’s Master Showman” a promotional opportunity.

According to the St. Louis Globe Democrat, the newspaper had suggested to Veeck that he set aside a game in the Browns’ schedule to allow Browns fans to manage the team:

"Ever since Bill Veeck took over the ball club more than a month ago, he admittedly has been in a search for a new manager. Candidates have been mentioned from coast to coast, but as yet Veeck has not come up with a new pilot.

The Globe-Democrat, feeling that perhaps Veeck couldn’t see the forest for the trees, suggested he was looking too far afield. Perhaps there was someone in St. Louis who could handle the job.

Further, the Globe-Democrat suggested a one-game test of strategic ability of Browns’ grandstand managers (2).”

As for Zack Taylor, the Browns’ manager would “take the night off (3).” Instead of managing, Taylor would be provided a “rocking chair and slippers (4),” since “all he’ll be doing is watching the ball game (5).” Of course Veeck, who had held numerous promotions as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers (American Association) and then the Cleveland Indians, loved the idea. Veeck settled on August 24, 1951 as the date the promotion would be held. On that day the Browns were scheduled to host the Philadelphia Athletics at Sportsman’s Park.

Those interested in becoming grandstand managers were asked to submit a line-up card (excluding the starting pitcher) to the Globe-Democrat along with a self-addressed stamped envelope. If one was interested in being an on-field coach, a brief letter outlining why one should be considered for the role was also required.

Those that submitted line-up cards would have a Grandstand Manager’s Club membership card mailed back to them. The card would grant admission to the park as well as access to the seating reserved for grandstand managers located behind the Browns’ dugout. Over 1,200 entries were received from places “ranging from Honolulu to Frankfurt, Germany and back to Anchorage, Alaska (6).” The promotion ended up being a semi-success as the grandstand managed-Browns defeated the Athletics 5-3 in front of “6,065 fans including 3,925 cash paying customers (7).”

The St. Louis Browns/Veeck grandstand manager idea was not entirely original. Back in the summer of 1949 several newspapers ran a “Grandstand Manager” contest. In this contest fourteen different “baseball problems” were posted in the newspapers. Contestants were asked to submit answers as to how they would have handled the situation if they were managing the team. The contestant’s answers were judged by comparing the answers provided by actual big league managers. Those submitting the best answers according to the judges were deemed the winners of the contest. Second and third place prizes were also awarded.

Prizes ranged from $100 (approximate value- $1,100 in 2021) in cash to complementary tickets to a major league ball game. Twenty-seven year-old Guy Amato, a brick-layer and former GI was the winner of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph Grandstand Manager’s contest. Amato was awarded $100. In Michigan Clifford Metzger, a printing press operator, took first prize and $50 in cash in the Battle Creek Enquirer’s Grandstand Manager Contest. The winner of the St. Louis Star and Times’ contest was 18 year-old university student Nancy Klerman. Interestingly Klerman, who had entered all sorts of newspaper contests in the past, claimed to have prepared her answers for the Grandstand Manager Contest by listening to both Cardinals and Browns broadcasts and paying close attention to the moves managers Eddie Dyer and Zack Taylor had made in similar situations. Klerman was also the winner of $100.

The Tampa Bay Times ran the contest a little differently. Instead of naming an overall contest winner, the Times named an individual winner for each situation. Those winners were awarded a pair of box seat tickets for the first game of the Grapefruit League Season occurring the following spring.

Below each situation is presented as it appeared in the papers in 1949. The answers given by MLB managers such as Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy are provided; as well as the submissions made by various contest winners. Try answering the questions on your own and then compare your answers to the managers’ and contest winners’ to see how you’ve done:

Problem 1

Boston Braves playing the Pirates at Pittsburgh; Warren Spahn is leading Rip Sewell, 2 to 0, with one away in the last of the ninth. A double by Dixie Walker follows a pass to Stan Rojek. With Ralph Kiner at bat and the tying runs in scoring position, what would be your strategy if you were giving Billy Southworth, manager of the Braves, some advice from the grandstand?

Spahn you know is a left-hander. Kiner is a right-handed batter; Wally Westlake (right-handed batter) follows him.

Southworth: “Never in my life have I put the winning run on first base intentionally. So I would have to pitch to Kiner and with Spahn pitching a shutout I would leave him alone and hope for the best.”

Mr. Foley (Michigan): “I would pitch to Kiner and hope for a double play or an out because I would try to keep the potential winning run off base.”

Problem 2

Leo Durocher’s Giants are battling it out with the Dodgers in Leo's old stage in Brooklyn before a S.R.O. audience. Larry Jansen and Joe Hatten are tied, 3-3, with two out in the last half of the seventh when Jackie Robinson walks. Jansen misses the plate with two curves to Gil Hodges.

With the count two and nothing on Hodges and Robinson obviously planning an attempted steal on the next pitch, there are several quick decisions Durocher might make. Which one do you think is best?

Durocher: “I would order another curve, which is Hodges’ weakness, regardless of Robinson. He doesn’t enjoy too much success running against us. Even if he stole, we would have a chance to retire Hodges with the winning run on second. If Hodges walked there still would be another batter to work on.”

Mr. Dinwoodie (Florida): “I would instruct Jansen, a good pitcher with plenty of control, to throw a high fast pitch on the outside. With the fleet-footed Robinson on first and two out, I would not groove one to Hodges. There are two sound reasons for doing so: (1)- By pitching this high, fast outside pitch, it will give the Giant catcher a better chance to throw out Robinson in the event he tried to go down. (2)- The chances are that with the steal sign on, Hodges will take a cut at it, and he’ll likely put it over the fence if Jansen sent up a soft pitch. I would just as soon as walk Hodges, who is a dangerous man, and take a chance on a less dangerous Dodger hitter, not saying that any of them are easy touches.”

Problem 3

The St. Louis Browns are up against the Yankees in New York. Red Embree is trailing Ed Lopat 3-2, with one out in the top of the seventh inning. Eddie Pellagrini reaches first when Yogi Berra drops a third strike. A single by Bob Dillinger sends him to third. Now, with the tying run on third and Dick Kokos, although a better than average batter, coming up to bat left-handed against the southpaw Ed Lopat, what strategy do you as Grandstand Manager think it best for the Browns’ manager, Zack Taylor, to order?

Taylor: “Let Kokos hit. I have found that he hits left-handers pretty well, and he’ll hit that long fly that might bring in a run.”

Mr. Wolley (Florida): “Bat Kokos having him hit away. Being a left-handed batter he would less likely hit into a double-play. This is regardless of the fact that Lopat, a left-handed pitcher, has the advantage over the left-handed batter. A squeeze bunt would be worth consideration but would only tie the score if successful, whereas a base hit would score the run as well as advance Dillinger and would keep the rally alive. No need to play for the tying run with two more times left at bat.”

Problem 4

The Dodgers are on the road and playing the Cardinals at St. Louis. Don Newcombe, the Dodgers’ great rookie star, and Gerry Staley are engaged in a scoreless pitching duel. Then Marty Marion, first batter up in the ninth inning, walks on four pitches. Sometimes a situation like this would call for a bunt, sometimes for a hit-and-run, sometimes for the manager to signal the next batter to wait for another walk, and there are other alternatives.

With no outs, a man on first, Stan Musial at bat, and rookie Ed Kazak (right-handed) the next man up, what strategy would you decide on for Cardinals’ manager Eddie Dyer in your capacity as a Grandstand Manager?

Eddie Dyer: “Let Musial hit straightaway. Not only because he is a great hitter who might give us the homerun but it is unlikely that he would hit into a double play.”

Miss Klerman (Missouri): “Let Musial hit. Unlikely that Musial can bunt successfully against the Dodgers if they are playing in very close.”

Problem 5

Connie Mack’s men are playing the White Sox at Chicago. Bill Wight is leading Joe Coleman 4-3, with one out in the top of the eighth when Elmer Valo and Ferris Fain single, putting runners on first and third.

Southpaw Wight is pitching to right-handed batter Hank Majeski. As a Grandstand Manager, considering that the tying run is on third and there is only one out, what strategy do you think would be best for Manager Jack Onslow of the Sox to order?

Jack Onslow: “Bring in a right-hander to replace Bill Wight and play back for a double play.”

Mr. Campbell (Florida): “I would take out left-hander Bill Wight out in favor of a right-handed pitcher. I would do this because: (1) - The next three batters, Majeski, Chapman and Suder are right-handed batters; (2) - I would put the infield in double-play position with one out in hopes that Majeski would hit into a double-play and end the inning; (3) - If Majeski should hit a fly ball to the outfield, speedy Elmer Valo would probably score from third.”

Problem 6

The Cincinnati Reds are playing the Pirates at Forbes Field. The score is tied, 7-7 in the seventh inning of the second game of a Sunday doubleheader. When Danny Murtaugh and Ed Fitzgerald single off of Ewell Blackwell; there are only ten minutes left before the Pennsylvania curfew. Hugh Casey, who has pitched two good innings, uses up one minute, fouling off two bunts. With Casey facing a right-handed pitcher, no outs, two strikes on the batter, runners on first and second and only nine minutes to play, what should Pirates manager, Bill Meyer, do?

Bill Meyer: “Send up Walker (Dixie Walker, left-handed), a pull hitter and a good judge of balls at the plate. Losing Casey wouldn’t matter since we have to play another full inning in order to lose.”

Mr. Eskford (Florida): “I would substitute a pinch-hitter for the pitcher. In case he got on, I would have the next two batters hit away because a long fly ball would give me a run and a hit would give me two runs more.”

Problem 7

The Detroit Tigers are playing the Indians at Cleveland. Lou Kretlow is trailing Bob Lemon 2-1, in the fifth inning. Joe Gordon and Lou Boudreau get Cleveland’s fourth and fifth hits, both solid singles to right, off the Detroit right-hander who has struck out four batters. With one out, runners on first and third and right-handed Ken Keltner at bat, what strategic advice would you offer to the Tigers’ freshman manager Red Rolfe, in

your role as Grandstand Manager?

Red Rolfe: “In this situation, with one out and men on first and third, I would leave Kretlow in the game with orders to make Keltner hit a breaking ball in an effort to set up a possible double play and get out of the jam without having a run score. It is good strategy to show the hitter the fast ball but make it bad. Then make him hit your pitch, or the one with the best chance of producing a double pay. Keltner is slow and can be doubled on most any ball hit on the ground.”

Miss Klerman (Missouri): Pitch to Keltner and play my first and third basemen in on the grass and my shortstop and second baseman halfway. On a ground ball to short or second we have a chance for the double play or at the plate. To play back would almost mean a sure Indian run and Lemon is too tough a pitcher to be behind.”

Problem 8

The Boston Red Sox are challenging Casey Stengel’s men in Yankee Stadium. Mel Parnell is leading Vic Raschi 2 to 1, in the last half of the eighth inning when Yogi Berra, first man up, walks on four pitches. Bobby Brown, following Berra at bat, takes two high pitches.

With a two and nothing count on Brown, who is batting above .300, and a man on base, what strategy would you, in your role of Grandstand Manager, advise Stengel to signal and why?

Casey Stengel: “I would keep the sacrifice on because New York is the home club and it is percentage to play for a tie.”

Mr. Metzger (Michigan): “I would take the next pitch if it was a strike then bunt to put the tying run on second because Brown is a left-handed batter. Parnell is left-handed. Always try to tie at home.”

Problem 9

The St. Louis Cardinals are playing the Reds in Cincinnati. Johnny Vander Meer is leading Harry Brecheen, 2-1, with one out in the ninth when Stan Musial singles and Ed Kazak doubles.

So there are runners on second and third, and one out and Vander Meer is pitching to Enos Slaughter, a left-handed batter, who is due to be followed by Nippy Jones (right-handed). Eddie Dyer has Ron Northey (left-handed) available as a pinch-hitter. Harry Gumpert is in the Reds’ bullpen. What should Manager Bucky Walters do?

Bucky Walters: “I would play the infield back with Vander Meer pitching to Jones after intentionally walking Slaughter.”

Mr. Mastry (Florida): “Walk Slaughter, a dangerous hitter, to load the bases and set up a good double play situation or force out at the plate. If Pitcher Vander Meer has weakened considerably Gumbert should be put in and the same strategy employed. The Reds pitcher should try to make the next Cardinals’ batter hit on the ground and Manager Walters put his infield in position for a twin killing or force at the plate. This is the play whether the Cards put in a pinch-hitter or not.”

Problem 10

The Cubs are playing the Phillies at Philadelphia. Philadelphia is leading 5-3, with Hank Borowy on the mound and one out in the top of the ninth, when Harry Walker singles. An error on Emil Verban puts runners on second and third. Borowy, pitching too carefully, gets behind Phil Cavaretta. Borowy is a right-hander. Cavaretta bats left-handed. Of the number of possible decisions which would you, as Grandstand Manager, think it best for Eddie Sawyer to use in this case?

Sawyer: “I would order Borowy to get the fast ball over. Cavaretta is the winning run and Pafko, the next hitter, hits better against the Phillies’ pitchers.”

Mr. Michaels (Florida): “I would intentionally pass Cavaretta to fill the bases. Then, if the next batter were a right-hander, I would leave Borowy in. But if it were a left-hander, I would substitute a left-handed pitcher. With only one out and the bases full, a double-play would retire the side with no damage done. A fly ball would probably score one run but it would leave men on first and second, with two outs, for a possible force play.”

Problem 11

The Red Sox are playing the Indians before a big crowd in Cleveland. Boston is leading, 8-7, with Maurice (Mickey) McDermott, its third pitcher, having allowed no hits in two innings of relief. But Larry Doby opens the Indian seventh with a fluke infield hit and goes to third when Bobby Doerr fumbles a double play ball hit by Mickey Vernon.

With none out, runners on first and third, right-handed batter Allie Clark pinch-hitting for Jim Hegan against southpaw McDermott and pitcher Mike Garcia the next batter, what do you, as Grandstand Manager, think Joe McCarthy should order for the Red Sox?

Joe McCarthy: “McDermott should stay in the game. He was pitching good ball and it was not his fault that he got into trouble. Even if they score, the same kind of pitching could win for us.”

Mrs. Mook (Florida): “Have McDermott walk Clark to load the bases. With nobody out, this would make possible a play at any base as well as set up the double-play. Also it brings up the pitcher, increasing the chance of a double-play. Since the hit off McDermott was not solid, it seems reasonable to assume that he may pitch himself out of trouble without further use of McCarthy’s scarce relief hurlers.”

Problem 12

The Boston Braves are at Brooklyn. Johnny Sain and Ralph Branca are the pitchers and the score is 2-2 in the last half of the ninth inning with Gene Hermanski on third, Roy Campanella on first and two out.

With the winning run on third and Branca coming to bat, there are several things it might be advisable to do at this point. What would you, as Grandstand Manager, think would be best for Burt Shotton of the Dodgers to order?

Burt Shotton: “Branca would have to hit straightaway. You cannot take out a fellow who is pitching a ‘good game’ with the score tied. The setup is not ideal for a double steal.”

Mr. Foley (Michigan): “I would let Branca bat with instructions to get on base. Hit if necessary, may need him in the tenth. Reason: A hit, wild pitch, error or passed ball is the only way a run can score and the score is tied with another inning coming up and the top of the lineup.

Problem 13

The Washington Senators are playing at Detroit. Mickey Harris is leading Ted Gray of the Tigers 1-0, in the home-half of the seventh inning, with one out. The Tigers get John Groth to third base and Paul Campbell to first. Jake Early is the Washington catcher.

With Ted Gray coming to bat against a southpaw, two men on base and only one man out, what would you decide, as Grandstand Manager, Red Rolfe should order in this situation?

Red Rolfe: “Gray is a good bunter and, while a left-handed batter against a left-handed pitcher, Harris is not fast enough to be tough to bunt against. I would call for a squeeze play on the first pitch. If it is successful, the score is tied and the runner on first will move to second where he will be in scoring position with two out. My leadoff batter, Lipon, might then win the game with a base-hit. Should the play be broken up, I would immediately substitute a pinch-hitter for Gray. This would give us still a chance to tie the game. In addition, the head of the batting order would face Harris in the eighth and ninth.”

Mr. Fanand (Florida): I would have Ted Gray bunt down the first base line, away from the runner at third. You will score the runner from third, tying the score, and advance the runner from first to a better scoring position with another out to go. Ted is pitching a good game so why take him out? If you only tie the score in the seventh you still have two innings in which to try to win and the top of your batting order is coming up. At present you are interested only in getting that runner in from third. If you hit away you are most likely to hit into a double-play and that will end the inning.”

Problem 14

The modern “Gas House Gang” is playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field; Bob Rush leading George Munger of the Cardinals 3-2, with two out in the top of the ninth. Nippy Jones is on third, Tom Glaviano on second and Del Rice is batting, with the St. Louis pitcher coming up next. As Grandstand Manager, what strategy do you think it would be best for Frank Frisch to use to insure the Cubs keeping the lead?

Frank Frisch: “I would pitch straight to Rice rather than walk him and then have to pitch to a left-handed pinch-hitter for the pitcher.”

Miss Klearman: “Pitch to Rice. If we walk Rich Dyer (Cardinals’ manager) will bring in a left-handed pinch hitter for Munger and we will lose the percentage of facing a right-handed batter with a right-handed pitcher, Rush, but in all probability we will have to face a better batter than Rice.”


Pittsburgh Press, August 3 1951 (1)

St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 15, 1951 (2, 3, 4, 5)

St. Louis Dispatch, August 24, 1951 (6)

St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 25, 1951 (7)

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