Billy Southworth

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William Harrison "Billy" Southworth

Birthdate: (76)
Death: November 15, 1969 (76)
Immediate Family:

Son of Orlando Southworth and Mariah Maria Southworth

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Billy Southworth

William Harrison Southworth (March 9, 1893–November 15, 1969) was an American right fielder, center fielder and manager in Major League Baseball. Playing in 1913 and 1915 and from 1918 to 1929, he batted left-handed and threw right-handed. Southworth managed in 1929 and from 1940 through 1951. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Born in Harvard, Nebraska, and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Southworth decided to play baseball despite his father's wishes. He batted .300 three times in his career, not counting shortened seasons.

In a 13-season career, he batted .297 with 52 home runs with 561 runs batted in. He stole 138 bases in his career. He had 1,296 hits in 4,359 at bats.

Southworth's cousin, Bill Southworth, also played in the majors.

Billy Southworth died in 1969 and is buried at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus.

Early career as a manager

As a manager, he was very successful; his .597 winning percentage is second all-time to Joe McCarthy's .615. Southworth's major league managerial won-loss record was 1,044–704 with four first-place finishes, and he won two World Series titles (1942, 1944) as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Southworth also won one World Series as a player (1926, also with the Cards). Southworth was the first to win the World Series as a player and again as a manager. However, his career as a manager was paved with obstacles.

It began in 1928 with the Rochester Red Wings of the AA International League, the top club in the Cardinals' leading-edge farm system. After winning the IL championship, Southworth was promoted to St. Louis as manager for 1929, replacing Bill McKechnie, who had won a National League pennant in 1928 but lost the World Series in four straight games to the New York Yankees.

Southworth, a player-manager who was only one year removed from being a teammate of his charges, attempted to impose discipline on the Cards, banning them from driving their own automobiles. But the Redbirds did not respond to his hard line and won only 43 of their first 88 games. Southworth was sent back to Rochester and McKechnie was rehired. Although Southworth immediately resumed his successful minor league managerial career, the firing and personal tragedy — the death of his first wife, Lida Southworth, at age 42 — began a downward spiral. Beset by struggles with alcoholism, he even left baseball for two seasons. Finally, after a recovery, he rejoined the Cardinals' minor league system in 1935 and by 1939 he was again enjoying success as Rochester's manager.

A second chance with the Cardinals

In June 1940, he received a second chance with the struggling Cardinals when owner Sam Breadon fired manager Ray Blades and promoted Southworth from Rochester. This time, the Cards flourished under him. With talented players such as Enos Slaughter, Marty Marion, Stan Musial, Walker Cooper, Mort Cooper, Whitey Kurowski and Johnny Beazley being harvested each spring from the club's farm system, the Cardinals entered a Golden Age in their history. Upon Southworth's appointment, they won 69 of 109 games and jumped from seventh to third place in 1940. The following season they won 97 games and finished second. Then, from 1942–44, the Cardinals won 106, 105 and 105 games, three pennants and two World Series titles. Southworth had presided over one of the most dominant three-year stretches in National League history.

But another personal tragedy awaited Southworth. On February 15, 1945, his son, Major William Brooks Southworth, USAAF — also a professional baseball player — died in a plane crash in Flushing Bay, New York, during military flight training. Still, the Cards' skipper began managing at the beginning of the 1945 season; the Redbirds won 95 games but finished second, three games behind the Chicago Cubs.

[edit] One final NL pennant for BostonSouthworth then moved to the Boston Braves in 1946, signing a then-lucrative managing contract for a reported $50,000 per season, and immediately led the Braves into the first division. In 1948, spearheaded by the National League's best one-two pitching combination, left-hander Warren Spahn and right-hander Johnny Sain, the Braves won their second NL pennant of the 20th century but were defeated in six games by the Cleveland Indians in the 1948 World Series.

The following season saw Boston struggle on the field and in chaos off the diamond. Southworth was rumored to be drinking heavily and near nervous collapse, and some players resented his rules and regulations and the amount of credit he had received for the 1948 pennant. With Boston at 55-54 in August, Southworth turned the Braves over to coach Johnny Cooney for the remainder of 1949. After some of the rebellious players (including starting shortstop Alvin Dark and second baseman Eddie Stanky) had been traded, Southworth returned to his post in 1950 and led the Braves back into the first division, but an aging team and declining attendance bode poorly for both Southworth's career and the Braves' future in New England. In 1951, Southworth's club was only 28-31 on June 19 when he was fired and replaced by his former standout right fielder, Tommy Holmes. While he remained with the Braves as a scout, Southworth never managed again in the major leagues and the Braves abandoned Boston for Milwaukee in March 1953.

'A genius on the diamond'

Billy Southworth died of emphysema in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 76, and was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery. On the occasion of Southworth's election to the Hall of Fame, one of his former players on the 1948 Braves, Clint Conatser, paid tribute to his old manager. "He just had a gut feeling about the right thing to do in a situation," Conatser recalled. "The moves he would make would work for him — all the time, not occasionally. Leo Durocher was the same way. It's like some guys can pick horses out of nowhere. Southworth was a genius like that on the diamond."

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Billy Southworth's Timeline

March 9, 1893
November 15, 1969
Age 76