Miller Huggins: The Mighty Mite
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
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
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.
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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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
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"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
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