July 16, 1931 |
New York, New York
|April 12, 1959, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 26, 1963, for the New York Mets|
Norman Burt Sherry (born July 16, 1931 in New York City) is an American former catcher, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball. He is best known as the man who, while still an active player as the second-string catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, helped the great lefthanded pitcher Sandy Koufax harness his talent and transform himself from a wild "thrower" into one of the most dominant hurlers of all time – and (ultimately) a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
His brothers, George and Larry Sherry, were pitchers in professional baseball, with Larry having a successful MLB career as a relief pitcher and was the Most Valuable Player of the 1959 World Series; he was Norm's teammate from 1959 through 1962, and in one game in particular became the first all-Jewish battery in Major League Baseball history.
A right-handed hitter, Norm Sherry spent seven years working his way up through the Dodger farm system, and another two in military service. By the time Norm reached the Dodgers, in 1959 for a two-game "cup of coffee," he was 28 years of age and the team was based in Los Angeles.
Sherry made the team as second-string backstop (behind John Roseboro) from 1960 through 1962. Early in that tenure, Sherry took aside the prodigal Koufax – who was struggling to become a consistent winner in the majors despite a blazing fastball and one of the best curveballs of all time – and convinced him to take something off his fastball to get better control. The results were astounding: despite finger and arm miseries, Koufax dominated the National League from 1962 through his 1966 swan song, winning three Cy Young Awards and leading the Dodgers to three NL championships and world titles in 1963 and 1965.
His average plummeted to .256 (1961), and then to .182 (1962).
The Dodgers sold his contract to the lowly New York Mets on October 11, 1962, to afford Sherry more playing time, but he batted only .136 in a career-high 63 games played (and 147 at-bats) in New York in 1963, and his major league playing career ended.
All told, in 194 games over all or part of 5 seasons, Sherry batted .215 with 18 home runs, and .288 with runners in scoring position.
Manager & coach
He coached for the Angels in 1970 and 1971, and returned to the minor leagues to manage their AA and AAA affiliates from 1972 through 1975 before rejoining the California coaching staff for 1976 under Dick Williams.
Williams had been extremely successful in his previous terms with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, but his cold and hard-edged demeanor did not go over well with a losing Angels club. The Halos were 18 games under the .500 mark on July 23, 1976, and in the midst of a player revolt when Williams was given his walking papers.
Sherry, named his replacement, salvaged the season somewhat with a 37–29 record as skipper. That winter, the Angels signed high profile free agents such as Bobby Grich and Joe Rudi and expected to contend in the American League West in 1977. But the team struggled and was only 39–42 and in 5th place on July 11 when Sherry was released in favor of his third-base coach, Dave Garcia. The firing marked the end of his major league managing career, with a career ledger of 76 wins and 71 defeats (.517).
However, Sherry returned to the coaching ranks, ultimately as an "official" pitching coach, working with Williams with the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres, and with another ex-Dodger, Roger Craig, with the San Francisco Giants.