The College of Coaches

With the Cubs Off-Season slowing down a little, I thought this would be the right time to look further into the Cubs past, a trip down Cubstory if you will. The Cubs Faithful have been complaining over the last two seasons about the ineffectiveness of Dusty Baker. Most think Dusty has done a terrible job since 2003, but who has done a ‘good job’ in the minds of the Cubs Faithful? Jim Frey gave the Cubs the division crown in 1984, but did not make the World Series. Don Zimmer gave the Cubs the division crown in 1989, but again….no World Series. So what about a team of coaches that would rotate every two weeks….could they led the Cubs to the Promised Land? That sounds crazy, but in 1961 the Cubs tried it and that experiment became known as the ‘College of Coaches’.

I attempted to do research on this subject, but nothing really exists on the Internet. Is this something the Cubs want to forget or is this something that no one knows much about? I borrowed a copy of Don Zimmer’s book, ‘Zim A Baseball Life’, this is a good book and a must read for every Cubs fan and he mentions his involvement with the College of Coaches.

In Zimmer’s book he explains his playing time with the Cubs and the fact he spoke his mind did not sit well with the front office of the Chicago Cubs. This is what Don Zimmer had to say about the College of Coaches.

According to Zimmer, the Cubs had 13 losing seasons, including eight in a row, since their last appearance in the World Series in 1945. The Wrigley family did not spend a lot of money on the team and on December 21, 1960 P.K. Wrigley announced the Cubs would not have one manager, but several in an experiment Wrigley called the ‘College of Coaches’. Wrigley decided on an experiment of a group of managers that would take turns running the team. “The theory was that while one of them was serving as a head coach, the others would devote their time to teaching the finer points of the game to the players.” The list of coaches included: Bobby Adams, “Rip” Collins, Vedie Himsl, Goldie Holt, Elvin Tappe, Fred Martin, Verlon Walker, Lou Klein and Harry Craft (the only one with Major League managerial experience). And according to Zimmer, “the idea was to educate us”.

According to Zimmer, “….to be sure the College of Coaches had everything covered, Wrigley and General Manager John Holland named me (Zimmer) the team captain. Himsl, who became the first head coach, made the announcement on Opening Day that the organization felt they needed a captain.” Zimmer said him being named captain was primarily because of the work he had done with Ron Santo and that “Wrigley felt the College of Coaches needed a veteran assistant on the field”. Zimmer said “to the surprise of no one except Mr. Wrigley, the college of coaches was unable to educate the Cubs into winners….the Cubs finished seventh again, losing 90 games, and about the only thing we learned was that seven heads are definitely no better than one.”

In the first year of the College of Coaches the managers rotated every two weeks. Each having a different managerial style and approach to the game. Zimmer said in his book, “….the College of Coaches was a joke and doomed to failure the moment it was created. The Cubs were even worse under it….but what can you expect when you have nine guys giving nine different pieces of advise?”

Zimmer mentioned the use of nine coaches and seven coaches and I could only find records of four of them ‘managing’ during the 1961 season. According to official records on Cubs.com, there were only six coaches that actually managed the team during the experiment.

‘This Old Cub’ also mentions the College of Coaches and Joe Mantegna (narrator) stated the College of Coaches “was a doomed experiment and the players did not know if they were to steal a base or swing for the fences”. According to Cubs.com, “The system was meant to be a blending of ideas from several individuals instead of the traditional one skipper and ended without success five years later when Leo Durocher took the helm.”

Here is a list of the College of Coaches with their records and seasons: Bob Kennedy (1963-1965, 182-198), Charlie Metro (1962, 43-69), Lou Klein (1961-1962 & 1965, 65-82), Elvin Tappe (1961-1962, 46-70), Harry Craft (1961, 7-9) and Vedie Himsl (1961, 10-21). On October 25, 1965, the Cubs named Leo Durocher manager and ended the College of Coaches experiment.

So when we (The Cubs Faithful) are complaining about Dusty Baker, let’s remember the ‘College of Coaches’, sure it was a different time in history….but history always has a way of repeating itself.

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin
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