One hundred and eleven players dressed in St. Louis Cardinal
red jerseys piled out of the Busch Complex clubhouse in St.
Petersburg, Fla., one day last week for the Cards' first
full-squad workout of spring training. Forming what looked like
an enormous blood clot, they gathered in rightfield and began to
jog along the warning track. ``They're going over the Verrazano
Bridge,'' St. Louis manager Joe Torre announced, pointing to the
bloated assemblage of minor leaguers and replacement players.
``The New York Marathon has begun.''
Torre folded his numerical roster -- an unnecessary reference
most springs but imperative this year -- smiled and yelled at
the mob, ``Hey, Bill, run faster!'' Torre recognized barely more
than a handful of the players, but he figured two or three of
them had to be named Bill. And if a guy turned his head in
response, Torre could at least match a name with a face, which
was important because duplicate numbers had been issued to
In 13 previous years as a manager, with the New York Mets, the
Atlanta Braves and the Cardinals, Torre had never had more than 58
players in spring training, but this year it will take two sizable
cut-downs just to get to that number. Also, instead of having to
fill two or three roster spots as he usually does each spring,
Torre will have to piece together an entire 32-man replacement
team if the major league players' strike continues into the
Like several other teams, St. Louis has signed everyone in
camp to a minor league contract, will not determine its Opening
Day replacement roster until the last moment and has essentially
turned over the running of the camp to its minor league staff
until exhibition games begin this week. Until then Torre will
wander the back diamonds of Busch Complex, idly watching these
strangers in Cardinal uniforms and waiting to assess their skills
in game situations.
March 6, 1995
``There's very little for me to do,'' Torre said. ``There's
not a lot to talk about or to observe. Any other spring I might
come to the ballpark early and formulate what I want to tell my
shortstop and my second baseman that day, but this year I don't
know who they are. All these names are blank faces. It's a
helpless feeling. There's more work to do this spring, but
there's less to do at this point. My job won't start until the
In 35 years as a major league player, broadcaster and manager,
Torre, 54, has never encountered anything like what is happening
this spring -- nothing even close. ``Every manager dreaded coming
to spring training,'' he said of the owners' decision to open
camps, and possibly start the season, without major leaguers.
``The unknown, the complexity of everything . . . it was so
muddled. I noticed the difference the first day I walked into that
clubhouse: How quiet it was. These guys didn't know what was going
It's a dilemma shared by all 28 major league managers, the men
stuck in the middle of baseball's labor strife. They are part of
management, yet 23 of them were big league players and the rest
were minor leaguers. They all pay union dues, receive a cut of
licensing fees and will eventually draw a pension from the Major
League Baseball Players Association. And while the managers must
answer to their bosses, the most important part of their job is to
build a relationship with their players to get the most out of the
Detroit Tiger manager Sparky Anderson found the idea of working
with replacement players so repellent that he left the team on the
first day of workouts, saying he would not ``bargain my
integrity.'' He says he won't return until the strike ends,
although the truth is that his walkout, which shocked the Detroit
front office, might cost him his job. Thus, in Tom Runnells, who
guided the Tigers' Double A team in Trenton, N.J., last year,
Detroit has a replacement manager.
``I've always wondered if something really important came up,
could I stand up?'' Anderson said from his daughter's home in
Sacramento last week. ``I didn't know. I'd never had to. This
time, I had to. I've managed 25 years. Don't I owe baseball
something? It has given me everything. I had to defend it. What
[baseball owners] are doing with replacement players is absolutely
Anderson seems certain he'll be back to manage in Detroit for a
17th season. ``I can't wait to manage the real Tigers,'' he says.
``I will manage again, for a few more years, I'm sure, and I'll be
better than ever because I know I stood up. I can walk in a room
now and face any owner or any player. An owner might be mad at me,
but he knows I'm for real.''
Anderson says he has received support from some of his fellow
managers, but privately few of the other skippers agree with his
decision, and at least two question his motives. ``I think he's in
a power struggle with the front office, and he's losing,'' says
one American League manager. Another skipper suggested that
Anderson's ego is so big that Anderson believes it is beneath him
to work with replacement players.
The 1994 managers of the year, Buck Showalter of the New York
Yankees in the American League and Felipe Alou of the Montreal
Expos in the National, have expressed misgivings about managing
replacement players, even in exhibition games. However, Yankee
owner George Steinbrenner was quick to say he expects Showalter to
honor his contract to the letter. Alou has yet to be pressured
publicly to manage exhibition games.
Elsewhere, Philadelphia Phillie manager Jim Fregosi, whose camp
was littered with replacement players whose careers ended years
ago (including grandfather-infielder Todd Cruz), watched the
pitchers throw every day but had interest in little else. The
Cincinnati Reds' Davey Johnson spent the hours leading up to
Cincy's first workout fishing on the pond at the Reds' complex.
The Cleveland Indians' Mike Hargrove said he had an ``attitude
crisis'' one day but went off by himself for 20 minutes ``and got
it squared away.''
Major league managers, coaches and trainers were invited to
meet on Feb. 16 in Orlando with Donald Fehr, the head of the
players' union, and to Fehr's surprise it became a loud,
contentious session. New York Met skipper Dallas Green and his
Pittsburgh Pirate counterpart, Jim Leyland, were among those
who upbraided union officials for having threatened to take away
licensing money from managers and coaches who worked with
replacement players. One manager said he thought Phillie coach
Larry Bowa ``was going to kill'' union general counsel Gene
Orza, who made the threats in January and then backed off them
two weeks later.
When Torre spoke at the meeting, he was the voice of reason.
A key figure in the growth of the players' union in the late
1960s, Torre offered insight into baseball's labor turmoil that
few in the game can match. In serving as a player representative
from 1964 to '77, including a stint as the National League's rep
in 1969, he took a prominent role at the bargaining table next to
then union leader Marvin Miller.
During spring training in '69 Torre was a holdout because
Atlanta general manager Paul Richards wanted to cut his salary
the maximum 20%, and Torre wanted the same money ($65,000) he'd
made the year before. In '68 Torre had batted .271 in 115 games
and was seriously injured when hit in the face by a pitch.
Richardswouldn't budge, so Torre gave Richards his business
card -- Torre had an off-season job with a municipal-bond firm
in New York City -- in case Richards changed his mind. According
to Torre, Richards dropped the card in the trash can and soon
thereafter said, ``I don't care if he stays out until
Thanksgiving.'' Two weeks later, on March 17, 1969, Torre was
traded to St. Louis for Orlando Cepeda. ``Player reps lost a lot
of jobs in those days,'' Torre says.
In '71, with the Cardinals, Torre led the National League in
batting (.363), hits (230) and RBIs (137), and was named the
league MVP. But when a player strike canceled the first 13 days of
the '72 season, he was booed at Busch Stadium on Opening Day.
``That hurt -- I really had trouble recovering from that,'' says
Torre, who was confronted by fans on the street, even in movie
theaters, who loudly questioned why players wanted more money (the
strike had been over pension benefits). He got lots of hate mail.
``I laughed at some of it,'' he says. ``I don't know if you could
laugh at the same mail today.''
Torre says if he were a player now, he might be as pro-union
as he was 30 years ago, but he acknowledges there has been a
change in the rank and file. ``We were players, we were
athletes,'' he says. ``Players today are celebrities. My problem
with the players is they don't understand the history of all
this. They think the players' association began when they got to
the big leagues. They think, I have it coming to me. That's a
bad attitude no matter where you work.''
At the same time, Torre wonders how an owner can cry poverty
and then sign a player to a $27 million contract. ``Obviously no
one forces someone to pay those numbers,'' he says. When this
strike's over, Torre says, ``both sides are going to get booed.''
Adding to the complexity of Torre's spring is the fact that
he is in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals. He was
nearly fired after last season, when St. Louis went 53-61 before
the strike, and if he doesn't win the Central Division this year,
he'll probably be out the door. If there's even a chance that
replacement-game standings will be carried over after the strike
ends, he had better put together a good team this spring. ``I'm
going into this like it's my last year in St. Louis,'' he says.
``If it's not, fine.''
Unlike most managers, Torre has had a surprisingly upbeat
attitude this spring. ``I don't get here at 6:45 every morning
anymore; now I get here at 6:55,'' he says with a laugh. ``I
can't help it. For me to be anything other than enthusiastic and
positive would be cheating the kids who are here. I can't walk
around with a chip on my shoulder. Yes, it is uncomfortable. But
my concern for the kids keeps me focused.''
He worries that many of the young players now in camp,
primarily those from the Cardinals' Double A and Class A levels,
will be caught in a squeeze of their own: St. Louis general
manager Walt Jocketty has strongly advised them to serve as
replacement players if asked, while the union has said they will
be regarded as scabs if they do. Torre doesn't know what advice
to give them. He also worries about the damage the strike has
done to the game in the eyes of the fans. But one person he is
not worried about is himself.
Last week, as Torre headed for his first meeting with the 111
players in camp, he waxed philosophical about the spot in which he
and other managers now find themselves. ``If you spent your whole
life doing exactly what you wanted, it would get boring,'' he
said. ``Sometimes you're going to get that call: You have to go to