#76 - Bill Rigney, - Manager
Bill Rigney's record of 625 Wins as an Angel manager is probably safe until early in the 2007 season, as Mike Scioscia trails by 105 games. Also secure for the time being is his record of 1333 games managed. One record unlikely to be touched was an ignomious 9th place finish in 1963 - the divisions won't allow for something that low to occur any more. Rigney is one of those figures in franchise history that slowly fades in the rearview mirror on the highway of time. But at our current interstate mile marker, he is the 76th greatest Angel of them all.
The inimitatable Rob McMillin of So Cal's 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog looks back on the very first Halo Skipper...
Gene Autry walked away from the Park Plaza Hotel in 1960 with an agreement to create a new American League club, and a new general manager, Fred Haney. Introduced to the media as the Angels' first GM, he immediately was asked who he wanted to be his field manager; he replied that he hadn't decided. In reality, he had decided on Casey Stengel, but Stengel, then 70, was under contract to produce an autobiographical series for The Saturday Evening Post, and part of the contract stipulated he could not be in baseball when the story appeared. (He was also tied down as a bank director.) Haney then tried to get the infamous Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, but quickly reconsidered. The fledgling Angels, he thought, will be "the type of team that will test a manager's patience and temper. I'm not sure that Leo can handle it."
Haney then turned to Durocher lieutenant Bill Rigney. Rigney had been a finalist for the manager's job in Detroit after the Giants fired him, unjustly in his eyes. After Haney hired him, Rigney requested a three-year deal, which the team then granted. He stayed through 1969, guiding the club to only three winning seasons in eight full seasons and his final, partial 1969 season.
Like Durocher, Rigney liked to harass umpires, a trait that got him ejected from numerous games. His last year with the club was a hellacious year that saw Andy Messersmith, at the time the best pitcher the Angels' system had ever developed, start the year 0-5; the Angels themselves endured six- and ten-game losing streaks before getting fired on May 27, 1969 following the tenth loss. "We simply do not believe that the Angels are a last-place team," owner Gene Autry said at the time. The man replacing him, Lefty Phillips, would prove even worse, a "disaster", in Autry's words. In getting Phillips, the team bypassed Chuck Tanner, who would pilot the Tigers to a title.
Rigney went on to manage the Twins, with which team he won a division title -- and nothing more -- in 1970. He later scouted for the Padres and Angels, and worked for a time as a broadcaster with both the Angels and A's.