Baseball Lifer Doc Edwards Passes
San Angelo, TX - Today we lost a great baseball man and an even better person, Doc Edwards. Doc, 81, spent over half a century of his life in baseball and was still managing up until 2014, finishing a career that last 57 years in the game. Edwards, who earned his nickname "Doc" after serving as a former Navy medic, was born Howard Rodney Edwards.
Former Cleveland Indians scout and Pirates Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner signed Doc as an amateur free agent in 1958. The Red Jacket, West Virginia, native made his Major League debut on April 21, 1962, in Yankee Stadium while playing for the Tribe. In his first plate appearance, he drew a walk against the legendary Whitey Ford, who would be a future teammate. Doc, who went on to hit .273 in his rookie year, also played for the Kansas City Athletics, New York Yankees, and Philadelphia Phillies.
Doc has always touched different parts of baseball history. He was part of a few prominent trades featuring some well-known names, such as when he was sent to the A's in 1963 for catcher Joe Azcue and shortstop Dick Howser (Howser would later become a Major League manager himself with the Royals and Yankees). In 1965, Doc was traded to the Yankees for Johnny Blanchard and Roland Sheldon, when Elston Howard was injured. While in New York, he played with such Yankees greats as Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Jim Bouton, who wrote the controversial book, "Ball Four," amongst others. Doc would once again touch baseball history when he had the opportunity to catch the oldest rookie in baseball history in an old timer's game, catching Negro League legend Satchel Paige.
After not playing in the bigs since 1965, Edwards came out of retirement after nearly five years and in 1970 finished his last season hitting .269 in 35 games, leaving the game as strong as when he started. Doc, also a solid defensive catcher, had a career fielding percentage of .985. Doc played his final game that year while with the Philadelphia Phillies on August 23, 1970.
Although it may have been the end of his playing career, his coaching and managerial careers were just beginning. Doc went on to coach for the Phillies (1970-1972), Indians (1985-1987) and the Mets (1990-1991) and managed in the minor league systems of the Yankees, Cubs, Expos, Phillies and Orioles, on several different levels. While in the Orioles organization he managed their Triple-A team, the Rochester Redwings in 1981. There, he would once again be part of baseball history, when he was at the helm for the longest game in professional baseball history, a 33-inning marathon against Pawtucket. On that Rochester team he managed future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., who was making his last stop in the minors, while the opposition featured another future Hall of Famer in Wade Boggs.
Just a few years later Edwards career would come full circle, when the Indians fired Pat Corales and Doc returned to the majors, getting his shot as a major league manager with Cleveland, the team in which he started his baseball career. It would make one of Doc's more interesting claims to fame, come to fruition. He had become the real manager of the Cleveland Indians when the, now baseball movie classic, "Major League," came out. Although he was no "Lou Brown," (the fictional manager in the movie who vows to win despite the lack of support from his owner), in which Doc said there is no truth that the character was based off him. Doc always jokes though, that with the excitement that the movie generated for Indians fans, that the hit film may not have directly gotten him fired, it didn't help. That was just the kind of fun loving sense of humor he had even when it was literally at his owns expense. His Indians went 65-78 the year the movie came out, and he was unable to finish the season as the season's skipper.
He led Cleveland from 1987-1989, managing in 380 games and finishing with a record of 173-207 (.455). On those Indians squads were some very recognizable names such 300 game winners and Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, as well as Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. Other notables included World Series hero Joe Carter, former Texas Longhorns standout Greg Swindell who was drafted in the first round (2nd overall) in 1986, Astros Third Base Coach Dave Clark. He also skippered future major league managers that included John Farrell (Blue Jays), Ron Washington (Rangers), Bud Black (Giants) and Terry Francona (Red Sox and Indians). Other notables Cleveland players on those Indians squads were the likes of Albert Belle, Cory Snyder, Brooks Jacoby, Julio Franco, Tony Bernazard, Mel Hall, Andre Thornton, Tom Candiotti, Willie Upshaw and Doug Jones.
Doc also had a significant effect on another future Hall of Famers during his career. One in particular, even mentioned him as a significant turning point of his career. During Bruce Sutter's Hall of Fame Speech, one of the people he thanked for his success was one of his most influential coaches, Doc Edwards. While Sutter was in the minors working on his famous split-finger fastball and struggling with it at times, it was Edwards who encouraged him to throw it all the time until he could get the hang of it, the rest is baseball history.
After serving as a bench coach with the Mets in the early 1990s, Doc became a major league expansion scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was instrumental part of putting the original Diamondbacks team together with Buck Showalter and just handful of others during their 1997 expansion draft. The Diamondbacks went on to be the quickest team to win a World Series, in only their fourth season of existence as a franchise, in 2001.
In his final years he would manage in Independent Baseball and his accomplishments included managing the Atlantic City Surf to the championship during the inaugural season of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball in 1998. After other Indy ball stops he came to San Angelo, Texas. It would also be Doc's final resting place, where he managed the independent league San Angelo Colts for nearly a decade from 2006-2014. On September 2, 2009, Edwards was awarded the 2009 United League Baseball Manager of the Year award, as the Colts manager.
In all Doc was that rare person who was impossible not to like. He treated everyone like family from his neighbors, front office staff, coaches, players, even the opposing team always had kind words to say about him.
Doc is survived by his wife, six children, Shirley, Michelle, Mickey, Jim, Carl, Eric, 16 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren, and will be missed by all who were truly honored to know him.
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