Did you know: Man with ‘smartest baseball mind’ born in Dickinson
A man possessing one of the greatest baseball minds ever to step onto a major league ball field was born and raised in DickinsonPete Rose, the all-time leader in major league hits, claimed that George Scherger had "the smartest baseball mind in t...
A man possessing one of the greatest baseball minds ever to step onto a major league ball field was born and raised in Dickinson
Pete Rose, the all-time leader in major league hits, claimed that George Scherger had “the smartest baseball mind in the world.” Also commenting on Scherger was Sparky Anderson, the Hall of Fame baseball manager, who said, “He knows more about baseball than I will ever know.”
As a minor league manager, Scherger became the tutor and inspiration for a number of future major league managers, including Anderson, Roger Craig, Bobby Cox, Hal McRae and Clint Hurdle. Sadly, however, Scherger was never given credit for the games that he managed in the big leagues. He was the bench coach during the first three years that Rose was player/manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Rose said, “The days I’m in the lineup he’ll be running the show.” Since Rose was in hot pursuit of breaking Ty Cobb’s lifetime base hit record, he was on the field in over half of the games. I have not been able to locate any official records listing Scherger’s won-loss record when he was “running the show.”
George Richard Scherger was born Nov. 10, 1920, in Dickinson to John and Veronica (Heidt) Scherger. John, a German from Russia, worked at the local flour mill. When George was a teenager, the family moved to Buffalo, N.Y., and he attended high school at the St. Joseph Collegiate Institute. St. Joseph’s had earned a reputation as “a dominant force in western New York high school sports.” While there, “George starred in football, basketball, and baseball.”
Because of the similarity in the sound of his last name, Scherger soon acquired the nickname “Sugar.”
Scherger graduated in 1940 and was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers organization as a second baseman. He split the season between Superior in the Northern League and Newport in the Northeast Arkansas League. At Newport, he became a teammate of two other teenagers who would go on to play major league baseball and become recognized television personalities.
After a couple of seasons in the majors, Chuck Connors became the star on “The Rifleman.” George Kell was a Hall of Fame third baseman in the American League who became a celebrated play-by-play baseball announcer, a position he held for nearly 40 years.
After the completion of his first season, Scherger enrolled at Seton Hall University. However, because he was frequently relocated, he never earned a degree. In 1941, Scherger played for the Olean (New York) Oilers in the Pony League and, in 1942, with the Kingsport (Tennessee) Dodgers in the Appalachian League. “Scherger then joined the U.S. Army and eventually the Army Air Corps. He spent most of his three years at Fort Bragg, N.C., running the base gymnasium.”
Following his discharge, Scherger, in 1946, played with the Danville (Ill.) Dodgers in the Three-I League, and hit only .243. At the age of 25, he was the oldest player, outside of the manager, on the team. The Dodgers organization was certain that Scherger would never make it to the major leagues as a player, but because of his profound knowledge of the game and sound instincts, they asked him if he would like to manage. Scherger agreed and, in 1947, guided the Kingston (N.Y.) Dodgers to the league championship. In 1948, he returned to Olean and his team played .500 ball.
After two years of managing in the Canadian-American League, Scherger piloted the Ponca City Dodgers to the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League championship in 1951. He then became the skipper of the Santa Barbara Dodgers in the California League for two seasons. Scherger’s 1953 team had a 19-year old shortstop from Bridgewater, S.D., named Sparky Anderson.
The two men shared much in common since they were both from the Dakotas, both were infielders, and both had George as their first name. The most important link, however, was their love of baseball and their deep desire to learn as much as they could about the game. The close bond they developed lasted a lifetime.
In 1954 and 1955, Scherger was at the helm of the Newport News (Va.) Dodgers, and in 1956, he piloted the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Raiders in the Three-I League, a team that finished in last place. This was the first team he managed in seven years that had a losing record, and in frustration, Scherger retired from baseball and moved to Charlotte, N.C., taking a job with an A&P supermarket.
After a four-year hiatus, the Dodgers coaxed Scherger to return. In 1961 and 1962, he managed their franchises in the Alabama-Florida League and, in 1963 and 1964, managed the Salisbury (N.C.) Dodgers, winning the Western Carolina manager of the year awards both seasons. In 1965, Scherger piloted the St. Petersburg Saints in the Florida State League. The team finished one game under .500, and since Scherger was a perfectionist, he once again resigned from professional baseball.
In 1967, the Cincinnati Reds persuaded Scherger to return to baseball and serve as a manager, along with running their minor league spring training camp. He managed the Tampa Tarpons for two seasons, as well as the Reds Instructional League team. Scherger loved helping young ballplayers develop their baseball skills and a better understanding of the game. Despite his resignation as a minor league manager after the 1968 season, he continued to manage the Instructional League team.
In 1970, the Reds named Anderson as their new manager. The first thing he did was contact Scherger and ask him to serve as his bench coach. Scherger accepted, and the Reds went on to win the National League pennant with a 102-60 record. All nine years that Anderson was manager, Scherger remained as a coach. During that time, the Reds won five division titles, four National League pennants, and two World Series championships. The Reds finished in second place three times and third place once. Anderson was fired after the 1978 season, despite the fact that the Reds finished in second place, winning 92 games.
Scherger returned to managing Reds minor league teams for the next four years. When his Indianapolis Indians won the American Association championship in 1982, Scherger received the Minor League Manager of the Year Award. The Reds hired a new major league manager in 1983, Scherger’s good friend, Russ Nixon, who brought Scherger back as a coach for the Reds.
Three-quarters of the way through the 1984 season, the Reds hired Rose as their new manager, who would also serve as the team’s first baseman. When the press asked Rose if he was worried about tackling both jobs, he replied, “I have George Scherger, who just happens to be the smartest baseball man in the world. He’ll keep me from making mistakes.” Scherger remained with the Reds as bench coach as long as Rose continued to play. When Rose retired as a player after the 1986 season, Scherger stayed as bench coach one more year to assist him in running the ball club. Except for filling in for one game as manager of the Nashville Sounds in 1987, Scherger embarked on his final retirement. He died on Oct. 13, 2011, at his home in Charlotte.