Sawyer prior to the start of the 1950 World Series
Born: September 10, 1910|
Westerly, Rhode Island
Died: September 22, 1997 87) (aged|
Edwin Milby Sawyer (September 10, 1910 – September 22, 1997) was an American manager and scout in Major League Baseball. As a manager, he led the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies — the "Whiz Kids", as the youthful club was known — to the second National League championship in team history.
Born in Westerly, Rhode Island, Sawyer was a minor league outfielder in his playing days who batted and threw right-handed; he was listed as 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and 210 pounds (95 kg). A rarity among baseball people of his era, Sawyer held an advanced degree from an Ivy League university: a master's degree in biology and physiology from Cornell. He had earned an undergraduate degree from Ithaca College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and later taught biology in the off-season.
Sawyer signed a contract to play in the New York Yankees' deep farm system in 1934. He reached the highest minor-league level in 1937 with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, but soon turned to managing in the Bronx Bombers' system. In 1939, his first year as a player-manager with the Amsterdam Rugmakers in the Class C Canadian–American League, Sawyer led the Rugmakers to a first-place finish and batted .369 with 103 runs batted in.
Manager of the 'Whiz Kids'
In 1944, Sawyer left the Yankees to join the Phillies' farm system. He managed the Utica Blue Sox of the Class A Eastern League from 1944–47 and was in his first season with the Phils' top farm club, the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Triple-A International League, when he was promoted to replace Ben Chapman as the Phillies manager on July 26, 1948.
Concurrently, the Phillies were being transfused with young blood, bringing to the majors many of the players who would become the Whiz Kids: Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Del Ennis, Granny Hamner, Willie Jones, Curt Simmons, Bubba Church and others. Sawyer, a patient man accustomed to working with young players, was an ideal choice to mold the Phillies into a cohesive outfit. He masterfully blended the youngsters with veterans such as Jim Konstanty, Dick Sisler, Andy Seminick and Eddie Waitkus.
In 1949, the Phillies enjoyed their first winning season since 1932, winning 81 games and finishing third. Following the final game of the season Sawyer told his team: “We are going to win it all in 1950. Come back next year ready to win.” On opening day 1950, the Phillies debuted the red pinstripe uniform the team still wears today. Sawyer had designed it after concluding that “the old uniforms were terrible looking.” The NL pennant was up for grabs that season. The 1949 champion Brooklyn Dodgers suffered from pitching troubles and the outbreak of the Korean War had disrupted Major League rosters. The Phillies charged into the league lead and, despite a late-September tailspin, partially caused by the loss of Simmons to military service, they held off Brooklyn in the season's final game as Sisler's tenth-inning home run sealed a 4-1 victory. With 91 victories against 63 losses, the Phillies had won their first pennant since 1915. However, in the 1950 World Series they were no match for the Yankees, who swept them in four low-scoring games. After the season, Sawyer was named "manager of the year" in the Associated Press' poll of sports writers and sports broadcasters.
The 1950 season would be Sawyer's last winning season as a manager. The 1951 Phillies lost 18 games from their previous year's standard and fell to fifth. In 1952, with the team in sixth place and seven games below .500, Sawyer was replaced as skipper on June 27 by Steve O'Neill.
An unsuccessful encore
He was out of baseball until the middle of the 1958 season. On July 22, with the team in seventh place, the Phillies fired Mayo Smith and brought Sawyer back to manage. The gamble fizzled, as the 1958 Phils dropped 40 of 70 games under Sawyer to finish last, and then placed last again in 1959. The second baseman on the 1959 Phillies roster was Sparky Anderson, in his only season in the Majors as a player before he went on to be a Hall of Fame skipper.
After managing the Phillies for the opening game of the 1960 season, a 9-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Sawyer resigned his position, famously saying: "I'm 49 years old and I want to live to be 50." He was replaced by Gene Mauch. Sawyer would remain in the game as a scout, however, for the Phils and the Kansas City Royals.
His lifetime major league managerial record was 390–423 (.480). This unremarkable winning percentage is deceptive. Richie Ashburn called Sawyer "the best manager I ever played for." Robin Roberts stated that “Eddie was a great manager to play for. I wish I could have played for him all 18 years.” Sawyer was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Sports and Ithaca College Sports halls of fame. He died at age 87 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
- Roberts, Robin, and C. Paul Rogers III (1996). The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 122. ISBN 1-56639-466-X
- Silary, Ted (September 23, 1997). "Manager of Whiz Kids Dies at 87". Philadelphia Daily News.
- Honig, Daniel (1990). The Man in the Dugout: Fifteen Big League Managers Speak Their Minds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-8032-7270-7
- Pietrusza, David (1990). Baseball’s Canadian-American League: History of Its Inception, Franchises, Participants, Locales, Statistics, Demise, and Legacy, 1936-1951. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 54. ISBN 0-7864-2529-6
- Honig 1990, pp. 60-61.
- Roberts and Rogers 1996, pp. 273-74.
- "1949 Philadelphia Phillies". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- Roberts and Rogers 1996, p. 193.
- Roberts and Rogers 1996, pp. 217-18.
- "Philadelphia Phillies 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 1". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- Dickey, Glenn (1984). The History of the World Series since 1903. New York: Stein and Day. p. 162. ISBN 0-8128-2951-4
- Roberts and Rogers 1996, pp. 339-45.
- "Eddie Sawyer Honored in Baseball Vote". Prescott Evening Courier. 1950-11-08. p. Section 2, Page 1.
- Roberts and Rogers 1996, p. 345.
- Webster, Gary (2014). When in Doubt, Fire the Skipper: Midseason Managerial Changes in Major League Baseball. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 89. ISBN 0-7864-7892-6
- Webster 2014, p. 99.
- "1959 Philadelphia Phillies". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- "Cincinnati Reds 9, Philadelphia Phillies 4". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- Rossi, John P. (2005). The 1964 Phillies: The Story of Baseball's Most Memorable Collapse. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 23. ISBN 0-7864-2117-7
- Costello, Lou (May 23, 1994). "Ex-Phillie Says Baseball Ain't What It Used To Be". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- "Eddie Sawyer". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- Ashburn, Rich (April 7, 1986). "The Whiz Kids Rich Ashburn Recalls a Special Team". Philadelphia Daily News.
- Roberts and Rogers 1996, p. 140.
- "Sports Scene". Ithaca College Quarterly. Winter 1998. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- Baseball-Reference.com – career managing record
- Baseball-Reference.com – minor league playing and managing career