Editors Note: The following article was taken from a June 13th, 1995 issue of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – 1995 has been one of the most difficult seasons in Minnesota Twins history. For starters, the beleaguered franchise is currently working on a three year playoff absence, and although new manager George O’Farrell was brought aboard to halt that trend, Minnesota has struggled to a 23-37 start. To make matters worse, tragedy struck in early May, as long-time team owner Thomas Heywood passed away at age 81. Heywood was a beloved owner who was known to understate his level of wealth(although observers at a Minneapolis area ice cream shop once heard Heywood tell a Little Leaguer that he “pissed on Jed Clampett” when prompted for a comment on whether Heywood or the fictional patriarch from the Beverly Hillbillies was wealthier). The fallout from Heywood’s death was that his grandson – 11 year-old Billy Heywood – inherited the team.
While the prospect of having an 11 year-old owner was relatively unusual, the younger Heywood has been a fixture around the clubhouse for a number of years, fostering relationships with such Twins stalwarts as first baseman Lou Collins and DH Jerry Johnson. In addition, as a condition of Heywood’s take over of the team as a minor, General Manager Arthur Goslin was appointed to manage the teams day to day operations. Thus, although young Billy owned the team his input was limited to signing off on various personnel decisions that would have a financial impact on the team. Enter Rickey Henderson.
Earlier this week the commissioner’s office declared the 10-time All Star and 1990 MVP a free agent. Allegedly Henderson’s agent contacted Goslin with a list of contract requirements and demands that apparently included a 3 year $18 millon dollar contract, a dog, a country club membership, and a Ferrari Testarossa. Sensing an opportunity to improve the Twins, Goslin contacted Heywood – who at the time was leaving classes at Theodore Jeffries Elementary School – in order to have him sign off on the move. Heywood approved the pursuit and he and Goslin approached manager George O’Farrell to finalize the move. However, O’Farrell claimed he had various difficulties with Henderson and rejected the transaction. This inspired Heywood – whom unnamed Twins insiders have claimed disagrees with O’Farrell’s in your face style – to fire O’Farrell after just 60 games on the job.
Although signing Henderson became a moot point after he re-signed with Oakland, the Twins were still in need of a new manager to replace the fired O’Farrell. Goslin’s first two phone calls were to former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and ex-Texas Rangers head man Bobby Valentine. However, both Herzog and Valentine rejected the overtures – and they were not alone. It seems that the majority of veteran managers had no interest in working under an 11 year-old boy.
With few directions to turn Heywood opted to make the most shocking move in MLB history – naming himself the manager. After convincing acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig that the move was not a publicitiy stunt, Selig signed off and history was made. At just 11, Heywood becomes the youngest manager in MLB history – breaking the record previously held by Bucky Harris who was hired as the 27 year-old manager of the Washington Senators in 1924.
The early returns on Heywood’s appointing himself manager have been overwhelmingly negative. Twins starting pitcher Mike McGrevey told reporters that “(he would be) damned if his career is going to be ruined by some mutant little leaguer.” In addition, reliever Jim Bowers quipped that it was strange that the Twins new manager could not even buy a ticket to an R-rated movie for another 6 years. Finally, an anonymous Twins player was overheard saying “No seriously, why did we hire an 11 year old boy? How can this possibly end well? Is he super smart or something? Someone explain to me how this is a good idea.” Comments such as that indcate relatively clearly that Heywood is going to have his work cut out for him.
Fortunately for Heywood there is some precedent of pre-teen’s making an impact in Major League Baseball – as the Chicago Cubs ended their 85 year drought and won the 1993 World Series primarily on the back of 12 year-old pitching phenom Henry Rowengartner. However the situations are clearly different as Rowengartner’s pitching prowess was the product of a freakish medical accident – one which resulted in the largest medical malpractice lawsuit (and subsequent award) in the history of private medicine. Yet, Heywood does not appear to have the same luxury when it comes to medical marvels.
Coming off the strike shortened 1994 season, this move will certainly bring attention to a Twins franchise that has seen attendance slip by 36% in 1995. But the question that will linger over Minnesota for the remainder of the year is whether Heywood is qualified for this job. He has no previous managerial experience and when asked to describe how he would handle various situations he cited moves he had made in Super Nintendo’s Ken Griffey Jr. Presents: Major League Baseball. Heywood further went on to lay out his two pronged plan to get the Twins back in the pennant race, consisting of having fun and music montages featuring hits from the Four Seasons.
Heywood will make his managerial debut on Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers.