Atlanta Braves Franchise best managers: #7 Billy Southworth
Bonus Babies and low pay
The Atlanta Braves’ first-round pick in 2022 was high school pitcher Owen Murphy. Imagine your Murphy, and you have to sit on the bench with an appearance non-and-then in relief for two years. Now imagine if Murphy was making more money sitting there than anyone else on the roster.
Post-war baseball saw a bidding war for prospects like Antonelli, with the richest teams paying huge sums to sign the best players. That sounds vaguely familiar. . . I digress.
Baseball decided that they needed to keep the Yankees rich teams from signing all of the best prospects, and created the Bonus-Baby Rule,
". . . when a Major League Baseball team signed a player to a contract in excess of $4,000, the team was required to keep that player on the 25-man roster for two full-seasons."
The rule wasn’t good for anybody and created the most significant problem Southworth faced in 1948 that didn’t make headlines. At The All-Star game, Johnny Sain threatened a sit-down strike, but the Braves were headed to the World Series, and other players talked him out of it. However, by Spring Training 1949, the pot was about to boil over.
Fines, punches, and black-eyes
While the team tried to spin Spring Training into a happy-families setting, the truth was less idyllic and always going to come out.
"Dave Egan of the Daily Record, (wrote)another story, one of a ballclub in revolt. Outfielder Jimmy Russell was fined for staying out past curfew. Sain and Southworth weren’t speaking. Spahn wanted to be traded and didn’t care (where) . . . two near-fistfights involving Southworth, one with a radio announcer and one with a player. . ."
Southworth was 55 and an old-school manager who expected players to do what he asked of them to win. The new breed of players didn’t respond well to it, and the veterans who usually smoothed things over in the clubhouse issues weren’t happy with the way they were treated.
They argued with Southworth and Quinn, fights took place between players, and Southworth went after a reporter as he tried to shield the team from their questions. He made it to August but had no idea how to handle the modern player and lost control of the clubhouse.
The team sent him on a medical leave of absence, citing recurring headaches, and hurriedly sent him away on a private plane before the press could corner him. Johnny Cooney took over, scrapped platooning, and the team finished 75-79-3, fourth in the NL, 22 games out.