Friday, November 30, 2007

Bob Sturgeon

Athletics Boss Has Confidence
By DAN EKMAN [Vancouver Sun, July 25, 1951]
When you’ve been 14 years in baseball, the hard, uncompromising code of the business is something you’ve come to accept and live with.
You know your years are few, that even the “fixtures” really don’t last long. When you’re fighting your way up from the deep bush, time is on your side; but even when you make it to the majors, you know that younger ball players, fast and hard-hitting, are ready to take your job.
Sooner of later, someone does. And when you start the long slide back to the bushes, you neither ask for nor expect any favors. You simply figure to play out the string and call it a career.
And that’s exactly how it was on June the fourth with Bobby Sturgeon. As a handsome, almost boyish-looking 31, he was an old man in baseball who’d reported to the Victoria Athletics, mostly to fill out a half-finished season; full-time work in the radio-television sales field back home in Long Beach, California, looked like his next stop.
But three weeks later things suddenly began to happen. With the A’s just half a game out of the Western International League basement, and with slumping crowds forcing them to the financial wall, the front office decided on drastic changes. They fired manager Dick Barrett and named “old man” Sturgeon to take his place. Bobby’s still recovering from the shock.
• • •
But the rigors of convalescence apparently haven’t marred his baseball wisdom. Since he took over on June 25, the A’s have staged at least a mild comeback, winning 16 of their 31 starts and getting into sixth place. If they can continue to play .500 ball on the tour [unreadable] which started here last night, Sturgeon believes they have a good chance to make the first division.
Nobody in Victoria has the articulate, candid Californian whether he’ll be back next year, but he’s grateful even for this stopgap appointment.
“I’d always hope to wind up as a manager,” he confesses, “and I guess that hope was all that kept me in the game these last few years.”
• • •
“But boy, never expected it to happen in Victoria! I was sure this was a routine job that I didn’t even bring my wife and young son along. I wish now that I had, because quite frankly I like the feeling of being a manager, and I’d like them to share in it.”
Sturgeon’s three-year Navy hitch was the only interruption to a baseball career which started back in 1937. He was a stripling 16-year-old when he reported to Albuquerque of the Arizona-Texas League, but he hit a man-sized .335. That average was good enough to send him to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League and thereafter he moved up quickly through Columbus of the American Association and Jersey City of the International League.
• • •
In 1941, he made it with the Chicago Cubs and stayed through 1947. “I was never a star, or anything close to it, in the majors,” he’ll tell you matter-of-factly. “But I did have a good year with Chicago in 1946, when I hit .296.”
There are more desirable talks of management than coming in cold to take over a seventh-plate club. But Sturgeon has no complaints; in fact, he’s “very, very pleased.
“I’ve got a fine bunch of fellows,” he says. “Many of them are almost my own age, but they’re all willing to learn, and they’ve shown me every courtesy. I couldn’t ask for more.”
• • •
His theories on management? “Well, the longer you’re in baseball the more you learn, but common sense is still your best guide. I believe in percentage baseball, and I also think you must let your players know you have confidence in them.
“One more thing—I think hustle makes up for a lot of deficiencies. I know I always worked hard at playing baseball, and it paid off for me. I feel sure it’s going to pay off for our club this year, too.”

No comments: