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Miller Huggins: The Mighty Mite Manager

On May 30, 1932 the first monument ever at Yankee Stadium was dedicated to "the odd little man," in Waite Hoyt's phrase, "the greatest manager who ever lived" who moved the New York Yankees franchise from mediocrity to greatness.
At first Yankee owner Jake Ruppert did not want Miller Huggins to manage the Yankees and Miller Huggins did not want to manage the Yankees for he viewed the American League as a step down from his days as St. Louis Cardinal pilot in the National League.

When the two first met, Ruppert looked at what he called "the worker's clothes, the cap perched oddly on Huggins head, the smallness of the man."
Truth be told, Miller Huggins was an unlikely Yankee. The Cincinnati native was 5'4", 140 pounds, a sufferer from real and imagined medical problems, aloof, superstitious. He had a law degree but never practiced law.    
Dwarfed by Babe Ruth and other Yankees in reputation and size, Huggins said: "New York is a hell of a town. Everywhere I go in St. Louis or Cincinnati, it's always 'Hiya Hug.' But here in New York I can walk the length of 42nd Street and not a soul knows me."   In 1918, his first year as manager, the Yankees finished fourth. There were third place finishes the next two seasons. Then in 1921, the Yankees won 98 games and their first American League pennant, but lost to the Giants in the World Series. 
There was another pennant in 1922. But again no world championship. There was another pennant in 1923 and this time, finally, a World Series victory over the Giants. 
A seventh place finish in 1925 had Huggins presiding over the re-shaping of the team for the 1926 season. The Yankees won l6 straight games in May, wound up with 91 victories and Huggins had another pennant winner. There was another in 1927 and a world championship as Huggins presided over Murderer's Row.
"Huggins was almost like a school master in the dugout," hurler Waite Hoyt noted. "There was no goofing off.  You watched the game and you kept track not only of the score and the number of outs, but of the count on the batter.  At any moment Hug might ask you what the situation was. "
In 1928, Miller Huggins piloted the Yankees to their third straight pennant, its sixth in eight seasons. A four game sweep over St. Louis gave the Yanks a string of eight straight World Series game victories.
The two sweeps in the World Series, the half dozen pennants in just eight years - had never taken place before.  The "Mite Manager" was the mighty manager. He was also self-effacing claiming "Great players make great managers."
The superstitious Huggins would change his seat on the bench to change the luck of the Yankees. Day in and day out throughout the 1929 season he moved about, squirming to change the Yankee luck. Nothing worked.
The powerful Philadelphia Athletics kept widening their lead. With each setback, the health of Huggins declined. By the middle of August the Yankees were 25 games over the .500 mark, but the Athletics were 45 games over.  He was diagnosed as having severe blood poisoning caused by a carbuncle. He refused medical treatment, finally receiving it when it was too late.
On September 25, 1929, Miller James Huggins passed away at age 50. 
Baseball Hall of Fame admission came for him in 1964.   


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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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