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Henry Roy Hamey (June 9, 1902 – December 14, 1983) was an American front-office executive in Major League Baseball. A longtime employee of the New York Yankees, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he was appointed the general manager of the Yanks in November 1960. Although he inherited a pennant winner from his predecessor, George Weiss, Hamey maintained the Yankee standard. He produced three additional American League champions and two World Series champions in his three full seasons in the GM chair, before retiring in the autumn of 1963.
Career in minor leagues
A native of Havana, Illinois, Hamey entered minor league baseball in 1925 as business manager of Class B Springfield of the Three-I League. In 1934 he joined the Yankees as front office boss of their Class A Binghamton Triplets club in the New York–Pennsylvania League. At the time, Weiss, who was then the Yankees' farm system director, was building a minor league organization that would rival, and perhaps surpass, the St. Louis Cardinals' pioneering system. After Hamey's success at Binghamton, Weiss transferred him to business manager of one of New York's two highest-tier farm clubs, the Kansas City Blues of the top-level (then called Double-A) American Association. Stocked with Yankee prospects, the Blues were almost annually competitive in the prewar years and during World War II.
In 1945, Larry MacPhail, former general manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers, returned from United States Army service in World War II and shocked baseball when he formed an ownership syndicate that purchased the Yankees from the estate of Jacob Ruppert. MacPhail simultaneously installed himself as president and general manager, blocking the career paths of both Weiss and Hamey. While Weiss bided his time and remained as New York's farm director and vice president, Hamey departed to become president of the American Association.
GM in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia
At the close of the 1946 season, Hamey was rewarded with his first major league GM portfolio as front-office chief of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hired Billy Meyer out of the Yankee farm system as the Bucs' manager and acquired several players, such as pitchers Tiny Bonham and Bob Chesnes and future Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, to surround slugging outfielder Ralph Kiner, who led (or tied for the lead) in home runs in the National League every year between 1946 and 1952. But the Pirates did not build a successful farm system and, apart from a first-division finish in 1948, the team was an also-ran. In October 1950, the Pirates replaced Hamey with ousted Brooklyn president Branch Rickey.
Hamey then returned to the Yankees, where Weiss had finally been promoted to general manager in October 1947 after MacPhail's partners, Dan Topping and Del Webb, bought him out. (Thus, Hamey's career was materially affected by three Hall of Fame executives: Weiss, MacPhail and Rickey.) Hamey served as Weiss's top assistant from 1951 through mid-April 1954.
On April 16 of that year, he joined the Philadelphia Phillies as general manager, effectively succeeding owner Robert R. M. Carpenter, Jr., who was functioning as the team's GM-without-portfolio. For the next five years, Hamey guided the destiny of the Phillies with decidedly mixed results. The team could not repeat its 1950 "Whiz Kid" success, as key players aged. While the Phils hovered around the .500 level, Hamey did bring to the club its first African-American player, infielder John Irvin Kennedy, who played five games in 1957. In a National League increasingly dominated by black players, the Phillies were the last club to integrate and only two teams—the AL's Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox—were more steadfast in hewing to the baseball color line.
In 1958, however, the Phillies' fortunes began to decline precipitously. The club finished last in the National League, and Hamey paid with his job. He was replaced, in January 1959, by John Quinn, recruited from the Milwaukee Braves. Hamey then rejoined Weiss and the Yankees as assistant general manager for the full seasons of 1959 and 1960.
Three pennants in three seasons for the Yankees
After a heart-breaking, seven-game loss of the 1960 World Series to the Pirates, the Yankees faced difficult decisions. Manager Casey Stengel was 70 years of age and blocking the path of the promising, 41-year-old Ralph Houk, one of his coaches and considered a top managing prospect. When Stengel would not retire, Topping and Webb fired him—or "discharged" him, as Stengel would say. Concurrently, the team also needed a succession plan for Weiss, then 66. In a decision that was roundly debated, the Yankees forced Weiss into (temporary) retirement, and promoted Hamey to general manager on November 3, 1960. (Both Stengel and Weiss would resurface a year later as the first manager and president of the expansion New York Mets.)
Hamey faced numerous challenges in keeping the Yankees at the top of the American League. He presided over the team's participation in the first expansion draft in December 1960, brought up pitcher Roland Sheldon, a rookie standout, from the minors, and swung a number of deals during 1961 that added supporting players to a team that would win 109 games and easily defeat Cincinnati in the 1961 World Series. He tweaked the Yankee roster again during the offseason, and promoted eventual Rookie of the Year Tom Tresh and freshman pitcher Jim Bouton to the 1962 club, which took the AL pennant by five games and outlasted the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
In 1963, Hamey added more youth in left-handed pitcher Al Downing and first baseman Joe Pepitone. He made room for Pepitone through a controversial trade, sending longtime Yankee first baseman Bill Skowron to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams. Skowron struggled mightily in the NL during 1963, while the Yankees won 104 games and gained their fourth straight AL title. But in the 1963 World Series, the Dodgers humbled the Yanks in four straight games—the first time the Yanks had ever been swept in a Fall Classic—with Skowron the batting star.
In the weeks following the '63 season, Topping and Webb, perhaps paving the way for the Yankees' sale to CBS in 1964, decided to shake up the front office. Hamey, 61, retired from the general manager job and became a scout. Houk was promoted to succeed Hamey, and Yogi Berra, a player-coach in 1963, became the team's manager.
The Yankees averaged 103 regular season victories during Hamey's three-year GM tenure and brought up a number of serviceable mid-level players. But neither Hamey nor Houk could adequately replace the team's aging corps of superstars—Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Berra and Whitey Ford—or other standout players such as Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek. After one last pennant in 1964, the Yankees would wander in the wilderness for 12 years, until they entered the first dynasty of the George Steinbrenner era.
Hamey's last high-profile job in baseball occurred during the winter of 1969–70, when AL president Joe Cronin appointed him caretaker chief executive of the Seattle Pilots as the team struggled to find new ownership. He relinquished that responsibility when the Pilots were purchased by Bud Selig and moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season.
|Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager
|Philadelphia Phillies General Manager
|New York Yankees General Manager