Cincinnati Reds “Worst Manager” Vern Rapp
Vern Rapp had the opportunity to be the manager of two manager teams, unfortunately each of his tenures as a skipper bumped up against a pair of baseball legends.
Rapp was planning to retire as a coach of Montréal Expos at the close of the 1983 season when he received a surprise phone call from Bob Hassam, the architect of the Big Red Machine, asking him to become the Reds skipper.
When started the 1984 season it was the first time in 22 years that Cincinnati’s roster did not include Pete Rose or Johnny Bench. In the 121 games that he managed he used 101 different lineups, according to a Cincinnati Magazine article.
Hal McCoy, the hall of fame former Cincinnati beat writer for the Dayton Daily News wrote in 2008 that Rapp made the Reds’ clubhouse look like a high school locker room by posting motivational posters such as “When in doubt, slide,” “What you see in here stays in here” and “You’re the best.” McCoy dubbed Rapp was the Reds’ worst skipper during the 37 years he covered the team.
Rapp had a record of 50-71 when the Reds acquired their hometown hero Rose from the Expos on August 15 and was immediately named player-manager. McCoy recently wrote that he mistakenly delivered the news to Rapp during batting practice at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis. McCoy went on to say that Rapp made an immediate beeline to the clubhouse search for an explanation to the surprising news.
After the firing, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a quote from an anonymous Reds player who was not sorry to see Rapp go, according to Cincinnati Magazine. “You’ve got to respect your manager,” the unnamed player said. “You don’t have to like him, but you sure as hell have to respect him. I haven’t talked to anybody here who even likes the guy, much less respect him.
Rapp was a catcher during a 13-year minor career that was interrupted from 1951-52 due to military service in the Korean War. He reached the AAA level with the Columbus Red Birds, a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, in 1948 and 49.
After a second decade in the minors, Rapp became a coach in the New York Yankees system starting in 1960, but that did not mean his playing days were over. He appeared in 36 games for the Denver Bears during his first season as a coach. The next season he appeared in three games and recorded a hit in his only at bat, while coaching for the Modesto Reds, who were actually a part of the Yankees’ organization.
Rapp went on to play into two more games well into his coaching career. He doubled in on plate appearance while managing the Arkansas Travelers in 1966 and a decade later he recorded a RBI single at the age of 48 while managing the Denver Bears.
The next season Rapp finally made it to the major league level when he went onto replace Red Schoendienst, the hall of fame and popular manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Just like his later stint in Cincinnati Rapp, was also an unpopular leader. During his first season at the helm he guided the Cardinals to a third place finish, which was an 11 game improvement for the club. However a 6-11 start to the 1977 season led St. Louis to fire Rapp.
Overall Rapp had a 140-160 record as a big-league manager.