Before the 1987 National League Championship Series, St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog refused to sit down for an interview with NBC’s Marv Albert, still angry about an incident from the year before.
Herzog had been up for the job of National League president, along with Yale president A. Bartlett Giamatti, who wound up getting the gig. What set off Herzog was Albert jokingly suggesting to Herzog that if Giamatti did become National League president, “there would be an opening for you at Yale University.”
Whether he knows it or not, Herzog is very much on board these days with Yale, where a study published last week highlighted the importance of social distancing to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
In a conversation with Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that was mostly about his experience with the 1981 Cardinals in a strike-abbreviated season, Herzog absolutely bodied Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who said last month that it was worth letting old people die in order to keep the economy on track.
“I’ve just got to hope I don’t get the damned thing at my age,” Herzog said. “I’m 88. I’m a diabetic. I’ve had heart surgery. I’ve had a stroke. But I’m glad I don’t live in Texas or the (lieutenant) governor would say, ‘Just let the SOB die. He’s worth more dead.’”
Even in doing the best he can to stay inside and stay alive, watching three movies a day, Herzog talked about how practicing total isolation is not completely possible. Even at 88, with underlying conditions, he’s still “driving to the drug store to get (his wife) Mary Lou’s and my prescriptions and going out in the evening sometimes to get our food.”
That’s not Herzog’s fault, of course, because people need food and medicine to stay alive. It’s a failure of the social safety net that there aren’t programs set up to safely get those necessities to high-risk individuals like Herzog without their having to leave their houses.
A problem with America that keeps getting exposed in this crisis is a routine failure to think things through. It’s continuing to play out as Major League Baseball continues to send up lead-weighted trial balloons for idiotic plans to play the 2020 season at spring training sites.
Back in 1981, MLB decided that in a strike-shortened season, the standings would be split up into two halves. Herzog’s Cardinals had the best record in the National League East for the full season, but finished second in each half, including by half a game to the Expos in the second half because Montreal played and won one more game.
“We got (robbed),” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch. “That was a lot worse than the Houston cheating scandal.”
He has a point. The Astros undermined the integrity of the game for their own competitive advantage. Major League Baseball in 1981 did it out of laziness and a failure as an organizing body to consider the ramifications of decisions. What’s worse than that would be leadership acting both selfishly and without regard for consequences, and that’s why Herzog is right to be so glad he doesn’t live in Texas.