Three longtime baseball managers, all with Independent ties, have been in the news lately. Two of them have happy stories; one does not.
The first managerial casualty in the Independent ranks in 2008 that I have seen came this week in the United League. That was longtime Indy skipper Al Gallagher with Harlingen, TX. "Dirty Al", his affectionate nickname from his major league playing days, was replaced by his pitching coach, Caleb Balbunea, who also had been the White Wings' closer.
On the more pleasant news front, we tip our cap today to Newark (NJ) Bears Manager Wayne Krenchicki and to Frank Verdi, one of the pioneers of the Northern League.
Krenchicki picked up his 1000th managerial win last month. Most of those victories have come in Independent leagues, starting with the Texas-Louisiana League and the Northern League, followed by the Atlantic League, where the onetime major league infielder has been a fixture since the circuit started in 1998.
Krenchicki led the Bears to the Atlantic League title last season, but to this typist the most notable feat has been in leading Camden, NJ to the league's best record for four consecutive seasons (2002-05).
Verdi is one of the Class of 2008 going into the International League Hall of Fame. Known as "Old School", Verdi won 938 games with a total of five IL teams, closing out that run in 1985. He was the manager of the Sioux Falls (SD) Canaries in the Northern League's initial season of 1993 as well as parts of the next two years. His induction will take place at Norfolk, VA July 30, where he led the Tidewater Tides from 1977-80.