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Houk had feel for young players

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  July 22, 2010 02:29 PM

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The late Ralph Houk was a surprisingly good manager for the Red Sox. He had a feel for young players, and he helped set the table for the big year in 1986 by fostering the careers of Wade Boggs, Marty Barrett, Bruce Hurst and Oil Can Boyd. Roger Clemens threw his first major league pitches for him.

As I recall, he and Yaz were a classic mutual admiration society. The crusty Major (a decorated WW II guy) also turned out to be pretty welcoming to the media. I've always found what he did with Whitey Ford to be fascinating. Casey Stengel was quite protective of the great southpaw, governing his innings and appearances to a degree. But Houk took over the Yankees in 1961, and he really turned Whitey Ford loose.

The most innings Ford worked under Stengel from 1950 through 1960 was 253 2/3 in 1955. In the last four years of the Stengel era, Whitey's innings totals were 129 1/3 (he was hurt, obviously), 219 1/3, 204 and 192 2/3, and he had a combined W-L of 53-31.

In his first year under Houk, Whitey set a career high with 39 starts, good for a league-leading 283 innings. Whitey, whose previous career high single season victory total was 19 in 1956, went 25-4, 3.21. His next three years were as follows: 257 2/3 innings, 17-8, 2.90; league-leading 269 1/3 innings, 24-4, 2.74; and 244 2/3 innings, 17-8, 2.13. The four year W-L was 83-25.

So I'd say Whitey had to appreciate the managerial change.

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