October 18, 1884|
Brownhelm Township, Lorain County, Ohio
|Died: July 29, 1962
Lake Wales, Florida
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|September 13, 1909 for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 21, 1923 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Runs batted in||290|
|Career highlights and awards|
Burton Edwin Shotton (October 18, 1884 – July 29, 1962) was an American player, manager, coach and scout in Major League Baseball. As manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers (1947; 1948–50), he won two National League pennants and served as Jackie Robinson's first permanent Major League manager.
Playing career: Fleet-of-foot outfielder
Shotton was born in Brownhelm, a township in Lorain County, Ohio. In his playing days, he was a speedy outfielder — he was nicknamed "Barney" after race car driver Barney Oldfield — who batted left-handed and threw right-handed. The 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m), 175 lb (79 kg) Shotton compiled a .271 batting average with 1,338 hits in 1,387 Major League games played for the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators and St. Louis Cardinals (1909; 1911–23).
Although he stole over 40 bases in four consecutive seasons (1913–16), he was also caught stealing over 26 times in each of those seasons. In an American League dominated by speedsters such as Ty Cobb and Clyde Milan, Shotton was never among the top five base stealers in the league, and he had a high rate of being caught stealing, but he pilfered 294 bases during his MLB career. His real talent, however, may be shown in his on-base percentage, in which he finished in the top ten in the league four times in his career. He twice (in 1913 and 1916) led AL batters in walks, and finished in the top ten six seasons.
In the early 1920s, as a player and coach, he was the Cardinals' "Sunday manager," relieving skipper Branch Rickey, who always observed the Christian Sabbath. Rickey and Shotton had formed a longstanding friendship and professional relationship dating back to their years together (1913–15) with the Browns, when Rickey was his manager. After Shotton retired as a player, he was on the Cardinals' coaching staff from 1923–25 until he took over as manager of their top farm club, the Syracuse Stars of the top-level International League, in 1926–27.
Baptism of fire in Philadelphia
Shotton's first formal Major League managing opportunity came with the NL's traditional tailending team, the Philadelphia Phillies. He lasted six seasons (1928–33) with the Phils, who twice lost more than 100 games during his tenure. More notably, however, the Phillies under Shotton finished above .500 in 1932 (78–76, fourth in the National League), their only winning season and first-division finish between 1917 and 1949.
After coaching for the Cincinnati Reds (in 1934, including a 1–1 record as interim manager) and Cleveland Indians (1942–45), and, in between, returning to the Cardinals for a seven-year stint (1935–41) managing their top-level Rochester Red Wings and Columbus Red Birds farm clubs, Shotton hung up his uniform in 1946 and settled into a scouting role for the Brooklyn Dodgers, for whom Rickey was now part-owner, president and general manager.
A stand-in for Durocher
Flying immediately from his Florida home to New York, not knowing what to expect, Shotton was ushered into Rickey's presence. Leo Durocher, the Dodgers' iconic manager since 1939, had been suspended for the entire 1947 campaign by Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler for "conduct detrimental to baseball." In his search for a temporary replacement, Rickey had been rebuffed by former New York Yankees manager Joe McCarthy (then in temporary retirement) and two of Durocher's coaches, Clyde Sukeforth (who managed the first two games of the season on an emergency basis) and Ray Blades.
Rickey pleaded with Shotton to take over the Dodgers for the season. Then 62, and convinced that his on-field career was over, Shotton reluctantly took the reins, still in street clothes. (Shotton was one of the last baseball managers to wear everyday apparel rather than the club uniform. Unlike Connie Mack, however, he did usually add his team's cap and jacket.)
He inherited what historian Jules Tygiel called Baseball's Great Experiment — the Dodgers' breaking of the infamous color line by bringing up Jackie Robinson from their Triple-A Montreal Royals farm club at the start of the 1947 season to end over sixty years of racial segregation in baseball. The rookie was facing withering insults from opposing players, and a petition by Dodger players protesting Robinson's presence had only recently been quashed by Durocher.
Shotton's calm demeanor, however, provided the quiet leadership the Dodgers needed. They won the National League pennant by five games, and took the New York Yankees to seven games in the 1947 World Series. In Game 4 of the Fall Classic, Shotton helped to thwart Bill Bevens' no-hit bid in the ninth inning — sending into the game two pinch hitters and two pinch runners in an attempt to overcome a 2–1 deficit. The gambit worked, as Dodger pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto drove home both pinch runners, Al Gionfriddo and Eddie Miksis, with his opposite-field double — Brooklyn's only hit — for a 3–2 victory.
With Durocher's suspension over, Shotton retired again, this time to a front office post as "managerial consultant" in the Dodgers' vast farm system. But the 1948 Dodgers did not respond to Durocher's return; they even (briefly) fell into the NL cellar. Durocher was also under siege by the Catholic Youth Organization because of his scandalous extramarital relationship with, and then quick marriage to, actress Laraine Day.
Return to Brooklyn's bench
With the New York Giants also floundering, owner Horace Stoneham decided to replace his manager, Mel Ott, with Shotton. He called Rickey to ask permission to speak with Shotton about the Giants' job, and was stunned when Rickey offered him the opportunity to hire Durocher instead. On July 16, 1948, Durocher moved from Brooklyn to Harlem and Shotton was back in the Dodger dugout — still in street clothes. He rallied the Dodgers to a third place finish in 1948, then won his second pennant in 1949, again bowing to the Yankees in the World Series, this time in only five games. Nevertheless, he continually faced criticism from Durocher loyalists on the Dodgers — who claimed that Shotton was a poor game strategist and lacked Durocher's competitive intensity — and from noted New York Daily News baseball writer Dick Young, who came to refer to him in print only by the acronym KOBS, short for "Kindly Old Burt Shotton."
In 1950, despite chronic pitching woes, Shotton guided the Dodgers to within a game of first place on the final day of the season. When Dick Sisler's home run off Don Newcombe won the pennant for the Phillies' "Whiz Kids", the Dodger season was over. So was Shotton's managerial career, as Rickey was forced from the Brooklyn front office by new majority owner Walter O'Malley at the end of the 1950 season. Back home in Winter Haven, Florida, Shotton ignored O'Malley's repeated suggestions that he fly to Brooklyn to "discuss [his] future," declaring, "I don't intend to go all the way up there just to be fired." Indeed, O'Malley had already decided on Chuck Dressen as his new manager.
Shotton's last connection with baseball was as a consultant for Rickey's Continental League, the planned "third major league" that ultimately forced expansion of MLB in 1961–62. In 1960, Rickey, the CL president, engaged him to assist and supervise the managers in the Western Carolinas League, a Class D minor league originally set up to groom talent for the CL.
He died in Lake Wales, Florida, of a heart attack at age 77 during the second All-Star break in 1962. Although his career win-loss record as a big league manager was 697–764 (.477), his mark with the Dodgers was 326–215 (.603).
According to an informal study by researchers at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the last manager to wear street clothes is believed to be Burt Shotton of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who last managed a game on October 1, 1950. (Yet Connie Mack, who famously wore a full suit during his 50 years as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, also retired on October 1, 1950.)
In popular culture
- McMillan's Baseball Encyclopedia, 10th edition.
- Kahn, Roger, The Era 1947–1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World. New York, Diversion Books, 2012
- Lowenfish, Lee, Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007
- Major League Baseball's Worst Idea
- Baseball Reference
- Baseball-Reference.com - career managing record and playing statistics