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By Bill Hoagland
About four weeks ago, there I have been a Cardinal fan for almost 75 years. I got hooked on the Cardinals listening to Harry Caray and Jack Buck on the radio. Maybe you did too. As a Cardinal fan, I have suffered through some really bad managers, such as Vern Rapp, but have also enjoyed watching how other managers, particularly Whitey Herzog, handled the team and the game. I liked Tony La Russa for the most part, but even Tony would occasionally do something creepy, such as wearing sun glasses for night games because he thought the opponents could read his mind if they saw the whites of his eyes. Nothing paranoid about that. I bet he still does it.
And, yes, I generally like the way Mike Shildt managed. I mean, what is so bad about being in the playoffs three out of three years and being picked as Manager of the Year in 2019? Sure, he made mistakes, the worst of which was bringing Reyes in the ninth inning of the Dodger playoff game, but I still have a hard time understanding why he got summarily fired. We were told it involved “philosophical differences” but neither John Mozeliak, the President of Baseball Operations for the Cardinals, nor Shildt have indicated in their respective statements to the press what issues constituted serious “philosophical differences”. So we are left in the dark to figure it out for ourselves.
The way Shildt was notified of his termination—by a phone call from Mozeliak as I understand it—surely is not the “Cardinal way of doing things”. I have heard lots of rumors but the only one that makes sense in all of this is the rumor that during a meeting between Shildt and Mozeliak after the Cardinals were out of the playoffs, they got into a big-time argument. The rumor is that Shildt ultimately called Mozeliak a specific hyphenated word. Let’s face it. If you want to get fired, when you are in conference with your boss, the best way to get fired is to use a particular hyphenated word to describe your boss. (Actually, there are two hyphenated words that come to mind, either of which could easily get you fired.) That, to me, is the best explanation I have heard to date as to why the termination occurred and why it was done by phone and not in person.
And speaking of Mozeliak, while he has been generally successful as a General Manager, he has made his share of mistakes too. But it is his condescending demeanor that seems so out of place in the world of baseball. And the bow tie. If you want to segregate yourself from everyone else, wear a bow tie on a regular basis. A bow tie smells of Harvard Law and real privilege, as in Archibald Cox. Or how about going to a Blues hockey game with Pee Wee Herman wearing his bow tie? See what I mean? Actually going to a Blues game with Mozeliak wearing his bow tie would make for an interesting evening right now.
Maybe this will all come out in due time, but without knowing more than what has been said so far, the termination was uncalled for and the way in which it was handled was in poor taste. It is pretty clear that Shildt, to his credit, ain’t going to be talking about it. So Mozeliak owes it to Cardinal fans to explain exactly why this happen, unless, of course, it boils down to the use of that hyphenated word during an argument and if that is the case, I can understand why Mozeliak is embarrassed to discuss it.
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.