John Scherer is a crisis-intervention minister at First Baptist Church in Hinesville. He’s also a multi-league baseball and softball umpire, a die-hard baseball fan and former MLB manager Whitey Herzog’s second cousin.
“Baseball is America’s game, and it was for all of us Midwestern guys who grew up playing it every day and every chance we got,” Scherer said. “It was a time of real heroes, the likes of Mickey, Yogi, Larsen and the no-hitter of ’56, the greatest Yankee team years of 1951 through 1962, of Sportsman’s Park in St Louis and Stan “The Man” Musial, setting an example that us kids could and should live by, and many of us still do.”
Here are Scherer’s top five favorite baseball players and managers:
Mickey Mantle: “He’s my boyhood personal hero, a 20-time All-Star, seven-time World Series champion and a three-time American League MVP. Mantle played in 16 All-Star games and still holds the records for World Series home runs (18), RBIs (40), runs (42), walks (43), extra base hits (26) and total bases (123).
“Mickey is considered by many to be the greatest switch-hitter of all time and one of the greatest players in history. Well, he sure was to me, from the time I was 6 years old and first took the field, through the Legion leagues in high school years.”
Ted Williams: “A player, of my dad’s generation who has many records untouched, even after almost three quarters of a century. I have always been in awe of a ‘once-in-a-century’ kind of player like Ted. He was named by his father after Teddy Roosevelt, and like the ‘Rough Rider,’ took the game of baseball to new and unmatched heights with skill, smarts and style. It was said through the game that ‘Ted Williams studied hitting the way a banker studied the market.’”
Whitey Herzog: “Dorrel ‘Whitey’ Herzog is a family member, hometown boy and high school baseball star. He played in the ‘Bigs’ from 1956 until 1963, but never made it ‘big’ until he retired as a player and took on a variety of roles in MLB, especially manager,” Scherer said.
“One of his favorite ‘Whiteyisms’ was, ‘Baseball has been good to me since I quit trying to play it!’ To many of us, including us cousins, his career really didn’t start until his opportunity to manage came to be. Whitey had a tremendous opportunity to learn a lot about the game and managing a team from ‘The Grand Master’ Casey Stengel when he was called up to the Yankees. Casey took him under his wing and nurtured him then and in the years to come about the game and how it should be played.
“Casey Stengel, through his knowledge and relationship with Whitey, helped him to be ready to manage a team and bring what we rabid Cardinal fans knew as ‘Whitey Ball’ to St Louis. The early 1980s were a great time for Cardinal baseball, culminating in winning the World Series over the Brewers,” Scherer said.
Johnny Bench: “When it comes to the ‘Keeper of the Keys’ to what we all knew then as ‘The Big Red Machine,’ there’s only one Johnny Bench. Of all the players in baseball — and a catcher at that — no one has lead the Reds like him,” Scherer said.
“A 14-time All Star, two-time World Series champion, 10-time Gold Glove winner, Rookie of the Year in ’68 and Hall of Famer in 1989, Bench was on 14 of 16 cards on the first year of eligibility, not to mention the excitement he and the Big Red Machine brought to our lives and the game of baseball — wow!”
Stan “The Man” Musial: “Growing up near St Louis and seeing the Cardinals play at old Sportsman’s Park was always highlighted by one player, Stan Musial,” Scherer said. “Stan was a great player with stats then that most players would envy even today. He was loudly applauded at every turn at bat and worked just as hard if the team was ahead as when it was behind.”
“Stan … came by the nickname ‘The Man’ because he never argued with an umpire and was always considered a gentleman on and off the field.
“Stan Musial had a career batting average of .331 with 3,630 hits, a slugging percentage of .559 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969 — an example to us then, now and for the future.”