1985 Topps #11 Ralph Houk
"Ralph learned leadership the hardest way possible-seeing his friends and comrades die around him in the Battle of the Bulge."~ former Yankee Tony Kubek
The Major, as former manager Ralph Houk was called, might have learned leadership the hard way, but he also inherited a pretty good team to manage in his first term as a major league skipper.
After three minor league seasons, Ralph Houk enlisted in the U.S. Army, and soon entered World War II- seeing combat under the command of General George S. Patton. While serving, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart. By the time he exited the Army, he had attained the rank of Major.
Upon returning to baseball in 1947, Houk spent the next eight years in the Yankees organization as a back up catcher. After his playing days were finished, Houlk spent three years managing in the minors and then another three as a coach for the Yankees. He then succeeded Casey Stengel as manager of the Yanks- leading them to three World Series in his first three seasons (winning two of them) before moving into the front office as GM. Returning to the field three years later, The Major would go on to manage the Yanks from '66 until a group led by George Steinbrenner bought the team in '73.
After resigning from New York, Houk went on to manage the Detroit Tigers from 1974 through 1978. It was during his tenure that pitching phenom Mark Fidrych was overused- leading many to blame Houk for the Bird's demise.
Ralph's final three managerial seasons would be spent in Boston, where he led the Red Sox from 1981-1984. While in Boston, Houk would serve as the final manager of Carl Yazstremski's career- as well as the first major league manager for both Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens.
The Major finished with 1619 wins as a major league manager-good for 15th of all-time. And although he made the World Series each of his first three seasons as a manager, his teams never returned to the playoffs.