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The Memoirs of Bing Devine: Stealing Lou Brock and Other Winning Moves by a Master GM

The Memoirs of Bing Devine: Stealing Lou Brock and Other Winning Moves by a Master GM

by Bing Devine
Legendary Cardinals manager Bing Devine reveals details behind the team's acquisition of major players and how he became the only GM to ever get fired and rehired by the same big-league club. Take a look inside one of Baseball's greatest careers.

Skyhorse Publishing, along with our Arcade, Good Books, Sports Publishing, and Yucca imprints, is proud to publish a


Legendary Cardinals manager Bing Devine reveals details behind the team's acquisition of major players and how he became the only GM to ever get fired and rehired by the same big-league club. Take a look inside one of Baseball's greatest careers.

Skyhorse Publishing, along with our Arcade, Good Books, Sports Publishing, and Yucca imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Our list includes biographies on well-known historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Nelson Mandela, and Alexander Graham Bell, as well as villains from history, such as Heinrich Himmler, John Wayne Gacy, and O. J. Simpson. We have also published survivor stories of World War II, memoirs about overcoming adversity, first-hand tales of adventure, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

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General Rules for a General Manager

Stealing Lou Brock
When we made the deal for Lou Brock in 1964, we were playing in Los Angeles on the 14th of June. The trading deadline then was June 15, not the end of July, as it is now.

We had indicated our interest in Brock to the Cubs for a long time. We had talked to them about it during the winter, and we had talked about a Brock deal during the season. But John Holland, the Cubs' general manager, always rejected it. He'd say, "We're not going to deal him."

But when we were in Los Angeles the day before the deadline, I was making the rounds by phone from Dodger Stadium, calling the other general managers to see if we could do anything to improve the Cardinals. And when I called John Holland this time, he said, "If you're still interested, we might have to move Brock."

I said, "For what?"

He said, "We need a pitcher. You gave me a list of players when we talked before, and we'll take a pitcher off that list. We'll take Broglio."

Ernie Broglio was one of our top starting pitchers. He had won 18 games the year before. I told Holland, "I'll have to check with my manager."

Our manager was Johnny Keane. I didn't get a chance to talk to him until after the game, when we were on the plane flying to Houston. I can remember this so clearly. I told Johnny we had a chance to get Brock for Broglio, and he said, "What are we waiting for?"

Remember, there were no cell phones then. I told him, "I'll call as soon as we land and I can get to a pay phone."

Closing the Deal
I really had to make two calls when we landed in Houston.

Our owner, Gussie Busch, always said that the last thing he wanted was to read about a trade in the paper. So first I reached Dick Meyer by phone. He was a vice president and the number one assistant to Mr. Busch at Anheuser-Busch.

Talking to Dick Meyer was like talking to Mr. Busch, and Dick didn't have any problems with the trade. I called Holland back and told him we were ready to make the deal. We both put two other players in there-Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens from the Cards and Jack Spring and Paul Toth from the Cubs-and that was it.

Our first game with Brock in Houston, I was in a box seat down behind the Cardinals' dugout. I was with Art Routzong, my right-hand man, and we kept hearing this fan in the stands hollering, "Brock for Broglio? Who'd make that deal?"

He didn't know who I was. He was just being funny. And he kept yelling that.

Brock played that night. He didn't do anything bad, but he didn't do anything good.

When the game was over, and we were walking out, I said to Art, tongue in cheek, "Brock for Broglio? Who in the world could make that deal?"

Not the People's Choice
Most of the fans and media in St. Louis didn't think much of Brock for Broglio.

Broglio had won 20 games for us in 1960 before winning those 18 games in '63. But in '64, he was 3-5 for us in 11 games when we made the trade.

Brock had been a regular for the Cubs for two years. He hit .263 in '62 and .258 in '63, and he stole only 16 bases the first year, when Maury Wills led the league with 104, and just 24 the next year.

And Brock wasn't a really good outfielder. He had trouble playing in Wrigley Field. Occasionally, he'd throw a ball over home plate and into the stands.

For a player who could run, he also struck out a lot. Most people don't realize that. If he were a better contact hitter, how many more stolen bases would he have had? If he'd been on base more, he'd have had so many more chances to run. That's what amazes me.

Even given all these factors, we really liked his potential. But that's why the Cubs were willing to move him. Plus they needed a pitcher.

As it turned out, Broglio went 4-7 after he went over to the Cubs. And in '65, he went 1-6 and came up with a bad arm.

Some people claim that we knew he had a bad arm. I didn't. He pitched like he had one when he went to the Cubs, I guess, but if his arm hurt him when he was here, I never knew it. I recently read an interview with Broglio. He said he was healthy until he hurt his arm two months after he went to the Cubs.

I like to think that I never made a deal like that, with the knowledge that someone we gave up was injured. To my knowledge, I never did.

Credit Keane
People always say I made the Brock deal, but the reason we made it was John Keane. He really liked Brock.

If I'd been sitting with Johnny Keane and asked him about Brock for Broglio and he'd said "No!" I wouldn't have made the deal. No question.

If Keane had said, "Maybe we should, and maybe we shouldn't. Let's think about it," then if I had thought about it too long, we probably wouldn't have made the deal. Remember, the trading deadline was the next day.

But Johnny Keane was an outstanding manager. He was with me in Rochester, New York, when I was general manager of our Triple A club there. I had faith in Johnny Keane. So when he said, "What are we waiting for?" I didn't wait.

Four Simple Rules

So okay, the Brock deal was a steal. But I didn't know it would be a steal. I didn't know Brock would be that good. I didn't know he would collect 3,000 hits and break all the stolen base records and go into the Hall of Fame.

When we made that trade, the Cubs were taking a chance and we were taking a chance. You win some, you lose some ... and sometimes you get lucky.

But you don't get lucky if you don't take the chance.

That leads into my four tricks for a trade:
1. You've got to need the player.
2. You've got to have good reports from your scouts and talent evaluators.
3. You've got to have the guts to make the deal.
4. You've got to get lucky.

But if you never have the guts to do anything, you'll never get lucky. You'll never give yourself the chance to be lucky.

Trader Lane
I learned how to make a deal by watching Frank Lane. I worked for him when he was general manager for the Cardinals in '56 and '57. They called him "Trader" Lane because he made a lot of deals. And he made a lot of deals he shouldn't have.

Maybe I didn't go that far, but watching him, I realized the benefit of being willing to make moves and not being too cautious-and certainly not worrying about public opinion.

Take the chance. Don't be fearful.

If you're paying attention to everybody clamoring against you-the reporters or the fans in the stands-you better get another job.

Jocketty and the Legacy

Walt Jocketty operates like that now as general manager with the Cardinals. He's taken a lot of chances and he's given himself a chance to be lucky.

And that's why he's been so successful.

Look at the players he's brought in: Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, Scott Rolen, Fernando Viña, Mike Matheny, Tino Martinez, J.D. Drew.

Martinez didn't work out the way they hoped. But that list made up the whole everyday ball club last year except for Albert Pujols.

They drafted Pujols, but why is he good? Because somebody gave him a chance at age 21.Who thought Pujols would be that good at such a young age? And for his first three years? Nobody.

I know, because I've asked a lot of people in the organization. Judging talent just isn't an exact science. In most cases, it's a matter of opinion based on your evaluation and opportunity.

Some people say Pujols might be older than he claims, but who cares?

The point is that the manager, Tony La Russa, said, "Let's play him," and Walt Jocketty backed him up. They decided to put Pujols in there at a young age, whatever it was, and to give him a chance.

Signing Keith Hernandez
We took a chance on signing Keith Hernandez in '71, during my second stretch as general manager of the Cardinals.

Hernandez didn't want to sign after we drafted him out of high school. We were offering way below the money he wanted.

He was from Northern California. Bill Sayles, our scout up there, was pushing for him. He called up and said, "How come we're not signing Keith Hernandez?"

I said the kid wanted too much money. And Bill Sayles said, "I think you're missing the boat. He's playing even better since you drafted him. Why don't you send someone up to cross-check him?"

So we sent Bob Kennedy.

And Kennedy called me back right away and said, "I don't know about the money. But if you don't sign this kid, you'll regret it the rest of your life!"

As a general manager, these are the kind of answers you want:

"What are we waiting for?"

"You'll be sorry if you don't."

As a general manager, give me those kinds of people giving me those kinds of answers.

Signing Mike Shannon
Joe Monahan was the local scout here when we tried out Mike Shannon. Joe liked him and recommended him.

So we had Shannon in for a workout before a game at the old Sportsman's Park in May or June of 1958. And Shannon had a good workout. A really good workout. He hit a couple of balls into the left field seats.

We were playing Cincinnati, and I happened to look behind me in the box seats back of home plate. And Gabe Paul and Birdie Tebbetts were watching batting practice. Gabe was the general manager of Cincinnati and Birdie was the manager.

I told Joe, "You better get Shannon in here and get him signed, because Gabe Paul and Birdie Tebbetts are out here. And they saw what we saw."

So we went inside and the switchboard attendant, Ada Ireland, kind of whispered to me, "Don Faurot's on the phone for you."

Don Faurot was the athletic director at the University of Missouri and a friend of mine. Shannon was a great high school football player, and he was just finishing his first year at Mizzou on a football scholarship. Freshmen weren't eligible then, but he had played in spring practice for Dan Devine-no relation to me-who was in his first year as head coach at Mizzou.

When I picked up the phone, Faurot said, "I understand you're trying to sign Mike Shannon."

I said, "That's right. He's in my office right now."

Faurot said, "He's going to be our starting quarterback next fall, and we're going to change our whole offensive system to fit his ability. Do you mind if I talk to him?"

I said fine, I didn't mind.

People might wonder why I didn't just hang up and try to sign the kid without any interference. Well, I didn't want Shannon second-guessing himself afterward if he ever found out about that call. He might resent not hearing what their plans were for him at Mizzou. And I didn't want the people at Mizzou feeling that we undercut their efforts. Hey, Mizzou football was a big thing. I didn't want that cloud over me. I just felt like they should get their shot. I know that's what I'd want if I were in their place.

So I asked Shannon if he wanted to talk to Faurot, and he said, "Yeah, I'll talk to him."

Which was typical Shannon. A lot of guys, including me, would have said, "Tell him I don't want to talk to him." I wouldn't want that pressure when I was trying to make a big decision like that.

I put Shannon on the phone in my office and closed the door and waited outside. I'm guessing it was 10 minutes before he came out.

I said, "What do you want to do?"

And he said, "I'm ready to sign with the Cardinals."

Saving Mike Shannon
In 1962, Shannon was at our Triple A club in Atlanta. One day I got a call from Harry Walker, our manager there. He said that Shannon had just quit, that he left the team and came home to St. Louis, where he grew up.

Walker told me that Shannon said, "I can't be away from my family. I've got to take care of the children and help my wife out at home."

I called Shannon and brought him into the office, and he confirmed that to me.

Then I said, "What about your career?"

He said, "Forget about it. I've got to take care of this matter first at home."

I asked him what he was going to do. And he said something like, "How the heck do I know? Maybe I'll drive a truck."

So Shannon left. I thought he was done with baseball.

Later that day, I was talking to Johnny Keane, who was our manager then, about another matter. Then I mentioned that Shannon had quit.

Keane said, "I remember him from spring training. I didn't see a lot of him, but I liked what I saw. Let's put him on the big-league club. We'll make him the 25th guy."

We had 25-man rosters then. I asked Keane if he really wanted to do that.

He said, "The 25th guy doesn't play much anyway. What difference does it make? This way, he can stay home and-who knows?-it might save his career."

I guess a lot of general managers wouldn't have gone to the manager with something like that. But I thought enough of Keane that I went to him with everything. And that started in Rochester in the early '50s, when I was the general manager and he was my manager.

We put Shannon on the big-league club, and he played 10 games for us in '62.

Two years later, he was playing in the World Series in the outfield. Three years after that, he ended up at third base and in the World Series again.

If Johnny Keane hadn't suggested making Shannon the 25th man, I'd never have thought about putting him on the club. I thought it was a heck of a gesture.

So good for Johnny. Good for the organization. And good for Mike. Because otherwise, he would have been out of baseball.

Singing Shannon's Praises
I claim that Mike Shannon's the biggest overachiever I've ever known. It's because of his work ethic.

Just look what he's done.

He came out of high school known as a football player who also played baseball. He played better in the big leagues than he did at Triple A. He was an outfielder who became a third baseman.

He became a restaurateur. He sold tickets for us before he went into the broadcast booth. And who thought he'd be the kind of broadcaster he has turned out to be?

The other guy I'd put up there is Albert Pujols. He's worked to make himself better every year. After he had that great rookie year, people said he'd drop off. He got even better. And he was better still his third year.

We like to give credit to people who achieve. Well, I think achievers are fine ... but overachievers are great.

As a general manager, those are the types you want

Meet the Author

Devine was general manager of The Cardinals baseball team for 18 years. Today, at age 88, he still serves the Cardinals as a special assignment scout some 65 years after first joining his ball club.

Wheatley has been with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch since 1984 and is a four-time Missouri Sportswriter of the Year.

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