Chapter Two from “Forging Genius”
By Steven Goldman
(Part Two of Two; click here for Part One)
In 1841, the United States had three presidents. In the Bronx, 1946 was the year of three managers. McCarthy’s replacement, veteran Yankees catcher Bill Dickey, refused to finish out the season under MacPhail. The season was completed under interim manager/organization man Johnny Neun. Neun “had let it be known after about a week that he knew now what McCarthy and Dickey had been talking about and, by God, he didn’t have to take that from anybody either.” The second-division Cincinnati Reds seemed a better option, and off he went.
That September, Stanley Raymond “Bucky” Harris was hired to serve in an undefined executive capacity (MacPhail acted as his own general manager, and Weiss, the club’s farm director since 1932, was on hand to take care of anything that might escape his notice. Barrow, ostensibly a consultant to the club, was also available, though MacPhail never called) and asked to evaluate the team. Almost a quarter century earlier, Harris had been the twenty-eight-year-old “boy manager” who had guided the Washington Senators to consecutive pennants in his initial seasons at the helm. After that the going was not nearly so smooth. Harris’s initial command of the Senators lasted until 1928, at which time owner Clark Griffith terminated him, in part for not following up on his earlier success, and in part for failing to recognize the talents of second base prospect Buddy Myer.
Harris moved on to Detroit, where in five seasons he failed to produce a first-division finish. Still in demand, in 1934 he became the first manager hired by Tom Yawkey as owner of the Boston Red Sox. The team’s 76–76 record was its best since 1918, but Harris clashed with general manager Eddie Collins and was dismissed. He returned to Washington, where sentimental Senators owner Clark Griffith was never loathe to reemploy an old pal. In the following eight seasons, the club finished fourth once and otherwise could be counted on for a sixth or seventh place finish. Harris made way for another Griffith buddy, Ossie Bleuge.
Harris then briefly managed the Philadelphia Phillies under owner Bill Cox, whose own term was foreshortened by Commissioner of Baseball Judge Landis after it was revealed that Cox had bet on his own club. Cox fired Harris after ninety-two games, claiming that he had called his players “a bunch of jerks.” In fact, the players threatened to strike when informed of Harris’s termination. Said Harris, “If there is any jerk connected with this ball club, it’s the president of it.” That seemed to have been the last encore for the graying, forty-six-year-old, non-boy manager. When MacPhail hired him, Harris had been serving as the general manager of the International League’s Buffalo club. This was actually fine with Harris; after two decades on the managerial merry-go-round, he desired to become an executive—preferably with the Detroit Tigers, but if their general manager’s job wasn’t open, a job with the Yankees would have to do.