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Published: Saturday, 8/22/2009

Ex-manager was Mud Hens' winningest

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cal Ermer's baseball career began in 1941 when as an 18-year-old he signed with the Washington Senators as a second baseman. He played in one major-league game in 1947. Cal Ermer's baseball career began in 1941 when as an 18-year-old he signed with the Washington Senators as a second baseman. He played in one major-league game in 1947.
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Cal Ermer, the winningest manager in Mud Hens history, died Aug. 8 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Ermer, 85, managed the Hens from 1978 to 1985 and finished with a record of 540-575. No other Toledo manager has a higher total of seasons, wins, or losses here than Ermer.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Ermer battled Alzheimer's and suffered additional health problems in the weeks leading to his death.

"Cal Ermer was a character," said Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg, who covered the Mud Hens while Ermer was the manager. "He loved the game, and he loved being around the people in the game.

"He also was one of the game's all-time great story-tellers. He seemed to know everybody, and he had a story about everybody."

Ermer took over as Toledo manager in 1978 and immediately led the Hens to a third-place finish - and an International League playoff berth - with a 74-66 mark.

His 1980 team finished second in the IL with a 77-63 record. That year the Hens advanced to the Governors' Cup finals, where they were beaten by Columbus. That 77-win season is the fifth-highest single-season total since Toledo joined the IL in 1965.

Ermer also led the Hens to a playoff berth in 1984, when the team finished 71-68.

The Mud Hens finished above the .500 mark four times in his eight seasons here. After Ermer left after the 1985 season, Toledo had only one season above .500 until moving to Fifth Third Field in 2002.

"It's sad to hear of the passing of one of the great old-time managers," said Mud Hens broadcaster Jim Weber, who called the team's games while Ermer was the manager.

"He lived and breathed the game of baseball. The people he knew and the stories he would tell made him one of a special breed of baseball men."

Ermer's professional baseball career began in 1941, when as an 18-year-old he signed with Washington. A second baseman, he played in one game with the Senators in 1947 - and never played in the big leagues again.

The Marine veteran began his managerial career with Chattanooga in 1952. In 26 seasons as a minor-league manager, Ermer posted a record of 1,906-1,728 and had a .524 winning percentage.

Ermer was promoted from Triple-A Denver in 1967 to take over for Sam Mele as manager in Minnesota and nearly led the Twins to the American League pennant.

He took over a team that was in sixth place with a 25-25 record and led the Twins to a 66-46 mark the rest of the season.

On the final day of that season, Minnesota needed only to win one game of a doubleheader in Boston. The Twins lost both games, though, allowing the Red Sox to advance to the World Series.

The next year Minnesota finished in seventh place with a 79-83 and Ermer was fired and replaced by Billy Martin as manager.

Ermer served as a coach for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970-71, the team's first two years in the majors after moving from Seattle. He also coached in Oakland in 1977 before taking over the Mud Hens the next year.

Both Hackenberg and Weber remembered Ermer as a fiery manager who loved to argue with umpires about calls.

"Cal was involved in some classic manager-umpire arguments," Hackenberg said.

"He was right up there with Billy Martin and Earl Weaver.

"He would tie into an umpire, and you could see the tobacco juice flying everywhere. He would throw his hat down, then kick it."

Weber agreed, then added, "But the umpires loved him, because when he came back the next day it was as if nothing had even happened. He never held a grudge. The next day he would smile and talk to the umps as if nothing had happened the night before."

But Ermer also received high marks for developing talent through the years.

He was credited with helping Twins' prospects such as Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew, both Hall of Fame performers, sharpen their skills before reaching the majors.

"He was in a tough situation here with the Twins, who ran a skinflint operation in both the majors and minors," Hackenberg said.

"I think he liked the opportunity he was presented here to develop a majority of the talent Minnesota had in the majors.

"He really liked to develop players, and he took a great deal of pride when one of his guys was called up."

When he left the Mud Hens after the 1985 season he became a scout for the Twins. He spent his final years in Chattanooga, where the press box at AT&T Stadium there bears his name.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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