Editor's note: When Whitey Herzog quit as the Cardinals manager back in 1990, he had a simple reason: "I can't get the guys to play." Hall of Fame baseball writer Rick Hummel wrote the story of the White Rat calling it quits for the next day's edition of the Post-Dispatch.
Whitey Herzog quit a baseball job for the first time in his life Friday when he resigned as manager of the Cardinals with 2 1/2 years remaining on his contract.
''I still enjoy managing,'' Herzog said. ''But I just don't feel like I've done the job. I feel like I've underachieved. I can't get the guys to play.'' Herzog, who will be a club vice president for the remainder of his contract, has been manager of the Cardinals since June 1980. That excludes the last five weeks of the 1980 season, when Red Schoendienst took over as Herzog became general manager. The next year, Herzog hired himself back as manager.
As in 1980, Schoendienst will take over as interim manager. General manager Dal Maxvill said he would begin a search immediately for a successor to Herzog and said he hoped to have a new manager in a couple of weeks.
The Cardinals, picked by some observers to win the National League Eastern Division, started Friday's play with a 33-47 record and in last place in the division. They have been in last place for 56 days this season.
Herzog said that he was hoping to delay his decision as long as he could - at least until the All-Star break, which begins Monday - but found that he was unable to get his team to play any better.
''That's the first time that I've ever felt like that in 17 years of managing,'' he said. ''Even the bad years we had here, I felt I squeezed every ounce out of them.
''Even at Texas [in 1973, we were losing, but we were getting better.''
Herzog, 58, said that about three weeks ago he suggested to Maxvill and Fred Kuhlmann, the club's chief executive officer, that he resign. Kuhlmann and Maxvill then talked Herzog out of it.
Herzog said he had been hopeful the club could ''shake things up'' by making a major trade. But the Cardinals were unable to make that major trade.
''I feel very bad for the ballclub, for the organization and for the fans,'' Herzog said. ''I'm the manager. I take full responsibility.''
Kuhlmann and Maxvill also attended the press conference held on Friday afternoon to announce Herzog's resignation, and Kuhlmann said, ''It's too bad we had to reach this point. Whitey unquestionably is a great manager.
''We're reluctant to accept his resignation. I can't pass up this opportunity without expressing our heartfelt thanks of the St. Louis Cardinals and their great fans for the 10 years of wonderful baseball he gave to us in St. Louis.
''If there is one bright spot in this picture, it is that Whitey is going to stay on as vice president. We're happy to continue to have the expertise of this man, one of the most knowledgeable men in the country.''
Maxvill had similar thoughts.
''I don't want to dwell on the negatives of Whitey's leaving the Cardinals,'' he said.
''I'm elated he's going to stay on in the organization. His savvy and his tremendous organizational ability are all well-known. I'm happy to have him to rely on. He's been a prince to me, from the bottom of my heart.''
Herzog said he informed his wife, Mary Lou, on Wednesday night of his decision, after the Cardinals had been swept in a three-game series in San Francisco. He left for St. Louis Friday night on the Anheuser-Busch plane, without stopping in the clubhouse.
''I'll see the players next week at home,'' Herzog said.
Herzog took over a sixth-place club in 1980, succeeding Ken Boyer. The Cardinals won three National League titles - in 1982, 1985 and 1987 - in his tenure and one World Series, in 1982.
''I came here in last place, and I leave here in last place,'' Herzog said jokingly. ''I left them right where I started.''
Herzog will continue to get his base salary of $500,000 this year and a base salary of $550,000 for 1991 and 1992.
''I've really got the best of both worlds,'' said Herzog, who has an agreement with Kuhlmann that if a managing job to his liking comes up, he can take it at any time in the next two years.
''Fred honored my contract, which he didn't have to do. That was pretty darn nice of him. I can't say anything bad about anybody in the Cardinal organization.''
But, Herzog added, ''I don't want to manage this year, and I don't think I want to manage next year.
''It isn't that I can't stand losing if I think the club is playing up to its capabilities.
''I'm just bewildered. I can't believe this team is playing as bad as this team is playing. It's really been bad. I just felt I wasn't getting it done.''
Herzog said he didn't go to Jack Murphy Stadium on Friday night because ''I didn't want any of the players to think I was blaming them.''
The effort of the players wasn't a problem, Herzog said.
''They run balls out,'' he said. ''But sometimes, I don't know if their minds are there.''
As part of his new duties, Herzog said he would go to the Cardinals' minor-league teams in Louisville and Arkansas to assess talent. ''Then I'd like to get into the minor-league thing at spring training and get to know all the players,'' he said. ''Maybe give the team a game plan on which way to go.''
Herzog left with a career mark of 822-728 as Cardinals manager. Since the end of the 1987 season, after the team lost Jack Clark, the Cardinals were 195-209.
''We really got the short end of the stick,'' said Herzog, referring to free agency. ''We lost [Bruce Sutter. We lost Clark. Last year, we lost [Tony Pena, but that was our doing because we thought [Todd Zeile was ready. But we have lost three pretty good players.''
Herzog thought the Cardinals' style of play, and that of other teams, had changed over the years.
''In 1982, we were more team-oriented. Most of our ballplayers were young - Ozzie Smith, Tommy Herr, Keith Hernandez was in about his fifth year.
''All of a sudden, team ball is gone. A guy might act like he's giving himself up, but it doesn't happen.
''But I don't think you can go to a player in his [free-agent year and get on him for not hitting the ball to the right side when he might hit .290 instead of .300.''
Maxvill said he would begin compiling a list of managerial candidates immediately, although he had no timetable for appointing a new manager.
But one of Herzog's parting shots was, ''I think almost anybody in this room can manage this club better than I can.''
Herzog and Kuhlmann arrived about 7:30 p.m. at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in the Anheuser-Busch jet. Herzog had little comment and headed for a waiting van.
Kuhlmann said Friday night that the earliest the Cardinals' fans could expect to see a new manager picked was in 1 1/2 to two weeks.
''If we strike lightning and find a man who can do the job and who wants to do the job, it'll be great,'' Kuhlmann said. ''If we can't find that person in 1 1/2 to two weeks, it'll obviously take a little longer.''
Kuhlmann said he expected Maxvill to compile a list of candidates for the job by Monday. He said he was unsure how many candidates Maxvill would nominate.
''He's going to start with a long list,'' Kuhlmann said. ''I know that two of Dal's candidates are inside the organization.''
Kuhlmann declined to name the two candidates within the organization being considered for the job.
Hall of Famers lead the start of the Cardinals season
It was a day to pay respect. St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famers greeted fans before the home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers and the first pitch was thrown out by hall of famer Lou Brock. Other notable persons and dignitaries also came out for the game.
Amanda St. Amand • 314-340-8201
@mandystlpd on Twitter