February 6, 2009 – Calvin Coolidge Ermer was born on November 10, 1923 in Baltimore, Maryland and was known as much for his ability to play soccer as baseball. For seven years, he coached the College of Baltimore’s soccer team in which the team won four championships. He joined the U.S. Marines where he spent his time playing for their team and when his hitch was up, he went into professional baseball. Ermer recalls that his parents were concerned when he chose baseball because they didn’t think he could make a good living. Ermer’s career in baseball has spanned over 60 years but yet he played in only one major league game and that was on September 26, 1947 as a Washington Senator at the age of 23. Ermer played second base and was 0 for 3 that day. But Cal knew the game of baseball and his destiny was coaching and managing and not playing the game he loved. Ermer played and managed in the minors handling Senators/Twins farm clubs over five different decades: 1947; 1950-57; 1965-67; 1974-76; 1978-85.
On June 9, 1967 with the Twins playing uninspired .500 baseball, Calvin Griffith fired manager Sam Mele who had led the team to the World Series in 1965 and brought Ermer up from the Twins AAA affiliate Denver Bears of the Pacific Coast league where he had managed since 1965 to manage the major league team. Ermer still remembers to this day one of Calvin Griffiths questions before he gave him the job and that was “Do you play Pinochle”? You can’t manage the Twins if you can’t play Pinochle said Calvin. The Twins play improved and late in the season the Twins and Ermer found themselves in a four team pennant race with the Tigers, White Sox and the Red Sox that went into the final week-end of play. The Twins needed only one win in their final two games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park but the Twins lost both games to Boston and lost their chance to go to their second World Series in three years. Jim Kaat still says to this day that this was the best Twins team ever assembled and had he not hurt his arm early in the game against the Red Sox that the Twins would certainly have won the game and the pennant. Dave Boswell mentioned basically the same thing when I did my Q&A with him.
The 1968 season was a struggle even though the Twins started the season winning their first 6 games. The nail in the coffin so to speak occurred when Harmon Killebrew suffered a serious injury in the All-Star game at the Astrodome where his manager Cal Ermer happened to be coaching for the American League. Killebrew returned in September but only hit 4 home runs before the season came to an end and the Twins finished with a 79-83 record. The season was a disappointment to owner Calvin Griffith and the day after the 1968 season ended, he decided that a change was needed so Griffith hired Billy Martin to become the Twins fourth manager and fired Cal Ermer as manager and gave him another job in the organization.
Cal coached and managed minor league teams for the Pirates, Yankees, Phillies, and the Tigers. As a minor league pilot, Ermer won 1,906 games, losing 1,728 (.524) over 26 seasons. Along the way, Ermer had major league coaching stints with the Orioles, Brewers, and the Athletics. Ermer’s only stint as a major league manager was with the Minnesota Twins and he compiled a 145-129 record and is one of only five Twins managers to post a career winning records as a Twins manager. Ermer also scouted for the Twins and several other teams over his 60 year career. In August of 2008, the Chattanooga Lookouts dedicated the AT&T Field Press Box to their former Lookouts manager Cal Ermer.
I had an opportunity to spend about an hour talking with Cal on the phone about a week ago and we had a wonderful time talking baseball. Today, Cal Ermer is living in a senior living center in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is working on a book about his career in baseball. Now 85 years old, Cal is having some memory issues but he is looking forward to attending each and every home game of the Chattanooga Lookouts when their 2009 season begins.