By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was in Quincy on Saturday to sign autographs for fans during an appearance at the Quincy Mall.
Earlier in the day, he fielded a few questions from The Herald-Whig during a short interview and displayed plenty of the humor and wit that made him so endearing to Cardinals fans.
Herzog was the manager of the Cardinals' 1982 World Series team, and he also managed the Cardinals during their World Series appearances in 1985 and 1987. A Hall of Fame inductee, Herzog went 822–728 in 11 seasons managing the Cardinals. He previously managed the Texas Rangers, California Angels and Kansas City Royals.
Here's Herzog's Q&A with The Herald-Whig.
Q: At an event like this, where you get to see Cardinal Nation, what's this like for you?
Herzog: "I enjoy this. ... In the St. Louis area, and 200 miles in the surrounding area, I do quite a bit of card shows, a lot of appearances and speaking engagements.
"I remember the last time I was up here in Quincy was when Rick Hummel went into the Quincy Hall of Fame. He is a native of Quincy and spent 10 years as the everyday reporter of the Cardinals when I managed.
"Cardinal Nation is something. It's amazing. The fact that they do compete every (year), I've got to give St. Louis credit.
"Quincy, it's just like Springfield, Ill., Danville, Peoria, Decatur, you better be in the right bar or right grocery store, because (with the rivalry between Cardinals and Cubs fans) you could get in trouble."
Q: With this year's Cardinals, what's got you excited about this season?
Herzog: "I like the pitching. Even with (Chris) Carpenter gone, I think with the young arms they've got, they're going to be more than able to fill that. I think the strength of their team is going to be the bullpen, now that they've put (Trevor) Rosenthal back to pitch the seventh inning.
"It's almost, to beat the Cardinals, you've got to be ahead of them by the seventh inning or you're going to lose 95 percent of the time. That's how good that bullpen is.
"I know they make a big deal out of (Rafael) Furcal. We just hope that (Pete) Kozma can be an everyday ballplayer in the big leagues. But if not, you can always find somebody. There are a lot of free agents out there, and there will be a lot of guys still looking for jobs on Opening Day, somebody that can play defensively on an everyday basis."
Q: When you look at this year's team, is there somebody that you think, ‘I would have really liked to have managed that guy.'?
Herzog: "There's a lot of guys I would like to manage, and I was fortunate that I did manage a lot of good ballplayers. I had three Hall of Famers -- George Brett in Kansas City, Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter in St. Louis -- and a lot of good other people, (such as) Hal McRae, Amos Otis, Jack Clark. Outstanding ballplayers.
"I would have liked to have been manager of Mr. Pujols for 11 years. I would have enjoyed that. He would have made me sleep better.
"But right now, Yadi (Molina) is the No. 1 guy. He signed a nice contract, and he has been the best defensive catcher in the National League for a long time. He should have a lot more Gold Gloves than he's got, and he's going to get a lot more. But the big thing is, if the Cardinals lose Yadi for a couple months, they'll be in trouble."
Q: You (last fall) had the 30th anniversary of the '82 World Series team. What still stands out to you about that team after all this time? What still rings true about that team?
Herzog: "That I'm still alive.
"The big thing about that is we had a 20th anniversary, and they all showed up, and the one thing I remember about that, I had called Darrell Porter. I had talked to him on the phone on Monday, before the dinner and the golf tournament. And of course he got killed and died on that Wednesday. That was the big thing. On the golf shirts that year, we put his number and so forth. That was a big loss, and it made the 20th anniversary a little bit of, sadness was there.
"This year for the 30th, the guys came in. They all showed up. I'm very fortunate. I had a good bunch of ballplayers, and they come to my golf tournament every year. They're all getting up there a little bit now. They're like my children, in their 60s and so forth. But they show up. I was just a very lucky guy. Not only were they good ballplayers, they were very good people."
Q: Mike Matheny, is he more Whitey Herzog or is he more Tony La Russa?
Herzog: "I think Mike is more Mike.
"I used to get kicked out for cursing, and that won't happen to him. The big thing with Mike, he's a genuine person. He was a catcher. He learned to manage last year.
"And he's fortunate, because I've often said this – and I was quoted many times – good players make good managers. Good bullpens make you a genius."