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Former Indians Player, Manager Doc Edwards Dies at 81

Former Indians Player, Manager Doc Edwards Dies at 81

| On 21, Aug 2018

Before the 1987 season, the Indians were the trendy pick to win the American League East – to the point where Sports Illustrated put Cory Snyder and Joe Carter on the cover for the now infamous “Indian Uprising” issue.

The predictions couldn’t have been more wrong, and as Alvin Dark (himself a one-time Tribe skipper) once said, “When in doubt, fire the manager.” Out the door went Pat Corrales and bullpen coach Doc Edwards became manager.

It was the culmination of at that point a 29-year career for Edwards, who was signed by the Indians as a free agent in 1958 and made his major league debut for the team four years later. It turned out to be the midway point for Edwards, a baseball lifer who died Monday at the age of 81.

Howard Rodney Edwards was born in 1936 in Red Jacket, a dot on the map in West Virginia coal country, not far from the Kentucky line. He earned the nickname Doc because of his time as a medic in the U.S. Navy – and as a rookie in Cleveland in 1962, he said he still harbored some interest in further medical training.

But for the time being, he’d inserted himself into the Indians’ lineup. The team signed him to a contract in 1958, and he hit .331 for the Tribe’s Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City in 1961 (managed by Bob Kennedy, who played for the 1948 Indians), good enough for him to get called up the following year to spell Johnny Romano at catcher. Early in the season, Manager Mel McGaha noted that they had enough faith in Edwards as a backup catcher to let Harry Chiti go to the Mets. (Chiti ended up boomeranging back to the Indians as the “player to be named later” in the deal that SENT him to the Mets, entering baseball lore as the first player who was traded for himself.)

Edwards went on a tear early on, with three of his first 24 hits going for home runs, and ended up batting .273 that year, but his size (6-2, 215 pounds) belied his status as a relatively light-hitting catcher (his rookie year batting average ended up being his career high, and his career average was .238). He bounced around to the Athletics and Yankees before taking his first coaching job in the Phillies’ bullpen. Eventually, the Phillies activated Edwards, who played in 35 games in 1970 before finally calling it a career.

Edwards – 1989 Topps baseball card

He then transitioned into coaching, and then managing, first getting his shot with the Quebec Metros. He managed the Rochester Red Wings during a record-breaking 33-inning game against the Pawtucket Red Sox (The Red Wings ended up losing).

Edwards became a coach for the Indians in 1985, and two years later, became manager after Corrales was fired.

“The guys have been through a lot,” Edwards said at the time. “They have the right to get back the respect they earned last year, and I’m going to give them the opportunity to do it.”

Edwards was more easygoing than Corrales, who had banned card games in the clubhouse and required batting helmets during batting practice. But the results were no different. The Indians were 31-56 when Edwards replaced Corrales, and Edwards went 30-45 for the Indians to end the season 61-101, their second season with more than 100 losses in three years.

The Indians went 78-84 the following year, but got no better in 1989 when, with 19 games left in the season, Edwards was fired and replaced by John Hart, the Indians’ 18th manager in 33 years. (Hart, of course, became director of baseball operations the following year when John McNamara was named manager, and then succeeded Hank Peters as general manager after his retirement in 1991.)

While his predecessor’s departure was met with relief, Edwards’ firing was met with a twinge of sadness. “You hate to see it happen to a good guy like Doc,” said Joe Carter. “He stuck his neck out for me,” Brad Komminsk said. “I wish we could have done a little more for him.”

Charlie Manuel, then the Indians’ hitting instructor, said he saw Edwards cleaning out his desk. “He had no anger,” Manuel said. “He’ll stay in the game.”

And he did. He ended up on the Mets’ bench, and was managing the Buffalo Bisons when Tim Wakefield was still trying to find his way after a brief time as a Pirates hero. Edwards helped right him, and Wakefield went on to a lengthy and decorated career with the Red Sox.

Edward went on to serve as a scout for the Diamondbacks, and then from 2006 until 2014, managed the San Angelo Colts, an independent team in United League Baseball.

“He did a lot in the game,” said Mike Babcock, San Angelo Colts general manger from 2006-12. “He played with Mickey Mantle. He coached in the big leagues. He was in baseball for 57 years. Not many people can say that. He was a true baseball lifer, and he was a great one.”

Photo: 1988 Topps baseball card

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