Skip to main content

'56 of the month: Alex Grammas


I'm sure that even the young baseball fans know that managers Don Mattingly, Paul Molitor, Matt Williams and Robin Ventura were defined by their playing careers long before they became "known" as managers.

But what about managers like Clint Hurdle or Bruce Bochy or Lloyd McClendon? Does anyone under 30 think of them as a player first, manager second? I know I do. I grew up with those guys on the playing field. Same with Walt Weiss and Ned Yost and Joe Girardi.

But I understand the perspective. When I was a young baseball fan in the 1970s, I was perpetually surprised that these "old" men with bellies, waddling out to the pitchers' mound, were actually once players with -- baseball cards!

Time after time, once I discovered vintage, I stumbled across current managers as players. Chuck Tanner was a player! So was Jeff Torborg and Whitey Herzog and Joe Altobelli! Even Don Zimmer, for crying out loud, had baseball cards where he's fielding and hitting and stuff!

The more obscure the name, the more surprising it was. For instance, Alex Grammas.

I had no idea who Alex Grammas was, other than that he was the tiny "old" man in the inset picture on the Brewers' team cards.



Like so.

As far as I was concerned, Topps could have made him up and plastered some random picture on a baseball card. "Sure, Alex Grammas? I'll go along with that." Only two years earlier I believed that a giant bunny broke into my house and opened cupboards and drawers to hide baskets of candy. Alex Grammas I could handle, too.

But Alex Grammas was very real. And pretty notable, too.



His playing career diminished after this card. After two years as pretty much the starter at shortstop for the Cardinals (combining with Red Schoendienst on double plays), he fell into a utility role for not only the Cardinals, but the Reds and Cubs. He last a full decade in the majors, though, unbeknownst to me.

Then, he built a reputation as the best third base coach in the game, directing the Big Red Machine during the early '70s, and then later following Sparky Anderson over to Detroit to do the same with the perennial playoff-contending Tigers in the '80s. Along the way, he shaped the careers of Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Davey Concepcion, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.

In fact, the managing period -- the period where I knew him -- didn't turn out so well.

He managed the Brewers to consecutive last-place finishes in 1976 and 1977. In between, he instituted the Reds' "no facial hair" policy in Milwaukee, which led Brewers players going from this:


To this:


(Trust me, clean-shaven Broberg and Bevacqua are wearing Brewers unis under that airbrushing, and don't appear too happy about it).

All of this was going on while I didn't know whether Alex Grammas was real or not.

But he was real, made his mark -- he's the first Greek-American to manage a major league team -- and had an impact on what your baseball card photos look like. After exiting the game at age 65, he's still around at 89 years old.


Oh, and he also played.

There's more to a manager than the dumb decisions he makes in the dugout.

Comments

AdamE said…
When mentioning 70s managers that were players you left off one.

Hint: AL Manager of the Year
Hint: NL Manager of the Year
Hint: ROY
Hint: I'm the one leaving this comment...
Tony L. said…
George Scott looks quite unhappy about the no facial hair policy, and Gorman Thomas looks like no one who ever played for the Brewers. I especially like the #3 that Thomas is wearing. He had to give up 44 when Hank Aaron came to Milwaukee, so he switched to 3. At some point in 1976/1977, the Brewers had pretty much given up on him till Harry Dalton and George Bamberger came in to replace the old regime. Gorman came back, put on number 20, and led the AL in home runs in 1979 and 1982.
Mark Hoyle said…
Del Crandell. Whitey Lockman

Popular posts from this blog

This guy was everywhere

It's interesting how athletes from the past are remembered and whether they remain in the public conscious or not.

Hall of Fame players usually survive in baseball conversations long after they've played because they've been immortalized in Cooperstown. Then there are players who didn't reach the Hall but were still very good and somehow, some way, are still remembered.

Players like Dick Allen, Rusty Staub, Vida Blue and Mickey Rivers live on decades later as younger generations pick up on their legacies. Then there are all-stars like Bert Campaneris, who almost never get discussed anymore.

There is just one memory of Campaneris that younger fans most assuredly know. I don't even need to mention it. You know what's coming, even if Lerrin LaGrow didn't.

But there was much more to Campaneris than one momentary loss of reason.

A couple of months ago, when watching old baseball games on youtube hadn't gotten old yet, I was watching a World Series game from…

Some of you have wandered into a giveaway

Thanks to all who voted in the comments for their favorite 1970s Topps card of Bert Campaneris.

I didn't know how this little project would go, since I wasn't installing a poll and, let's face it, the whole theme of the post is how Campaneris these days doesn't get the respect he once did. (Also, I was stunned by the amount of folks who never heard about the bat-throwing moment. Where am I hanging out that I see that mentioned at least every other month?)

A surprising 31 people voted for their favorite Campy and the one with the most votes was the one I saw first, the '75 Topps Campy card above.

The voting totals:

'75 Campy - 11 votes
'70 Campy - 4
'72 Campy - 4
'73 Campy - 4
'76 Campy - 4
'74 Campy - 3
'78 Campy - 1

My thanks to the readers who indulged me with their votes, or even if they didn't vote, their comments on that post. To show my appreciation -- for reading, for commenting, for joining in my card talk even if it might …

Return of the king

(If you haven't voted for your favorite Bert Campaneris '70s card in the last post, I invite you to do so).

So you've been away for a few years and want everyone to know that you're back.

How do you do that?

Do what The Diamond King did when he returned to card blogging last month: Bombard readers with contests and giveaways! Well, you've certainly gotten MY attention, sir!

I'll start with the giveaways first. Since he returned, the Diamond King has issued multiple "Diamond King 9" giveaways, straight out of the chute and rapid fire in the last month-plus. As I've said before, I am very slow to get to these "first come, first serve" giveaways. I used to think "I spend too much time on the computer" and now I realize "I don't spend enough time on the computer at all!"

But I was able to nab two cards out of the many giveaways.


I won this key 1981 Fleer Star Sticker of The Hawk. I have since acquired several more &#…