“Being born into that Schuerholz family was the first of several events that I believe to have been divine providence, or faith if you will, that has impacted my life in remarkable fashion,” Schuerholz said. “Growing up in that family of sportsmen and athletes introduced me early on in my life to the joys and to the challenges of competitive sports, especially baseball. I love baseball.”
The son of a father whose three-year professional baseball career ended because of a broken leg, Schuerholz can look at several of his life’s decisions as divine providence. He reluctantly followed his mentor Lou Gorman to Kansas City in 1968 to help build an expansion franchise. But this proved to be a wise decision as he was introduced to his wife, Karen, and guided the Royals to a World Series championship in 1985, four years after being named the club’s general manager.
When it became clear Bobby Cox was vacating his general manager title to exclusively serve as the Braves’ manager at the end of the 1990 season, Schuerholz repeatedly quizzed former Braves president Stan Kasten about his plans. Kasten initially grew excited thinking who his top choice would be willing to fill the position.
John Schuerholz, welcome to immortality. #FirstLook #HOFWKND @Braves @Royals pic.twitter.com/3uJcA2JSUM
— Baseball Hall ��� (@baseballhall) July 30, 2017
Schuerholz briefly altered the mood in early October, when he called to say he couldn’t leave the comforts of home Kansas City had created. Three days later, divine providence might have once again played a part as he called back to say, “I made a mistake.” Kasten said, “Yeah, I know that you did,” and then provided the job to a man who would lead the Braves to the first of 14 consecutive division titles in 1991 — the worst-to-first season that concluded with an extra-inning loss to the Twins in Game 7 of the World Series.
“I could have said, ‘He turned us down, he must not really want it,'” Kasten said. “I don’t buy that. I thought he was the perfect man for the job. I tell that story to people who are thinking about shutting the door in similar situations.”
Currently the Dodgers president, Kasten has now been in Cooperstown three of the past four years. He saw Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Cox inducted in 2014 and returned in 2015 for John Smoltz’s induction ceremony. He’ll likely return next year to celebrate the career of Chipper Jones, who might be the last of the immortalized members of an era that was significantly influenced by the leadership of Kasten, Schuerholz and Cox.
“The three of us, me and Bobby and John, had different jobs and we respected the job the others did and let them do their job,” Kasten said. “We disagreed lots of times on lots of things, but eventually one of us would have to make a decision and the other two respected that decision.”
Schuerholz’s success was rooted in his ability to surround himself with quality employees, who appreciated his willingness to delegate and allow their voices to be heard. He credits this admirable leadership trait to going deaf in his right ear after acquiring German Measles when he was 5 years old.
“I had to learn to be a more attentive and intentional listener, which I believe worked quite well throughout my life,” Schuerholz said. “Divine providence? Faith? You bet.”
Schuerholz’s longtime assistant general manager in both Kansas City and Atlanta, Dean Taylor was a first-year, entry-level employee in the Royals’ baseball operations department in 1981. Still his opinion was requested, when Schuerholz asked staff members whether to take Mark Gubicza or C.L. Penigar with the team’s second-round Draft pick. Gubicza is now a member of the Royals’ Hall of Fame. Penigar never advanced past Triple-A.
“That was the first example I ever saw of his complete inclusionary management style,” Taylor said. “He wanted to get everyone’s opinion before the final decision was made. As I went through [my career] with him, I came to find that was John Schuerholz.”
Kasten, Taylor and current Royals general manager Dayton Moore were among the many current and former co-workers present as Schuerholz savored the opportunity to stand proudly on a stage filled with fellow Hall of Famers, while looking at the crowd he had been a part of during previous induction ceremonies.
“I really, really did like my seat out there on that lawn, but I must confess, I love my new seat up here on this stage a lot more,” Schuerholz said.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.