After more than a decade of anticipation, Herzog was notified on Monday that he has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in recognition of his 18 successful years as a Major League manager. Herzog is best known for helming the Cardinals from 1980-90, but he also spent five years managing the Royals and parts of a season each with the Rangers and Angels.
"It took a little while, but I'm very elated," Herzog said at a news conference at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. "I'm very happy and glad I'm still on this side of the grass to enjoy it."
Herzog had been close to election at various times since the late 1990s. He came one vote short in 2007, the last time the Veterans Committee announced its choices.
"I really never, ever as a player, as a manager, or an executive, I never did give any thought to the Hall of Fame," he said. "The last few years, when I [saw] I was getting close in the voting and I [saw] some of the other guys getting in, I said, 'Maybe I do deserve to be in there.'"
Herzog's selection is an extremely popular one among Cardinals fans, who fell in love with not only Herzog's teams of the 1980s but also the way those teams played baseball. "Whiteyball" came to describe an offensive approach centered on getting on base and running the bases aggressively, a style that endeared his St. Louis clubs to a generation of fans.
They assuredly still remember, and so does Herzog.
"The 10 years of [managing] St. Louis were the happiest years of my life and my baseball career," Herzog said. "I haven't lost a game in 19 years. I haven't won one either, that's the problem. But the thing is, I go to a filling station, I go to a bank, I go to a grocery store, and the people recognize me ... and thank me for 10 years of exciting baseball."
In typical fashion, Herzog didn't hesitate to weigh in on a wide range of baseball topics. He took a swipe at current attendance totals, which are based on tickets sold rather than the number of fans in the seats. He made what sounded a lot like a veiled shot at current Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, saying that one of his proudest accomplishments as manager is never keeping his clubhouse closed to the media for more than 10 minutes.
And he even jabbed at fellow honoree Doug Harvey, an umpire who Herzog said ejected him more than any other ump.
VETERANS COMMITTEE VOTING MANAGERS/UMPIRES BALLOT
|Davey Johnson||Fewer than 3|
|Tom Kelly||Fewer than 3|
|Billy Martin||Fewer than 3|
|Gene Mauch||Fewer than 3|
|Steve O'Neill||Fewer than 3|
"He was a very good umpire, but he's the worst ... weatherman I ever knew," Herzog said, referring to ongoing disputes as to when to delay games for rain.
Herzog, however, said he has let any beef he might have had with another umpire go. Don Denkinger, whose missed call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series contributed to St. Louis' defeat in that series, was spared any barbs from Herzog.
"I'm not bitter at Denkinger. ... He's a good guy," Herzog said. "He knows he made a mistake. And he's a human being. It happened at an inopportune time."
Still, Herzog's session with St. Louis media was marked by plenty of gratitude and delight. He said the honor was especially meaningful to his wife, Mary Lou, and took an opportunity to thank not only the media who covered him, but also the current Cardinals ownership as well as St. Louis fans.
"Although I became a Hall of Famer today in Cooperstown," Herzog said, "the Cardinal organization, the new owners, in the past 10 years have treated me like a Hall of Famer so many times when I knew I didn't belong with Lou Brock and Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst and Bob Gibson and then Ozzie [Smith]. They would invite me to a lot of functions, and they have treated me like a king."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.