January 5, 2010 – I recently ran across a story about manager Billy Gardner and the 1984 Twins written by Ron Fimrite in the September 24, 1984 issue of Sport Illustrated that I really enjoyed and I bet you will too. Billy Gardner played in 1,150 minor league games and 1,034 major league games and that is not counting the games he coached or managed.
Billy signed with the New York Giants prior to the 1945 season and started his quest for the big leagues with class “D” Bristol. Gardner made his major league debut on April 22, 1954 at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field in a Giants 7-4 loss to the Pirates but Billy who came in to play 2B late in the game was 1 for 1 in his first big league game. After being sold by the Giants to the Orioles, Billy went on to play for the Senators, Twins, Yankees, and finally the Red Sox where he played in his final major league game in 1963. Billy played in the minors in 1964 before moving in to coaching and managing in the minors from 1965 through 1980.
In 1981 Calvin Griffith gave Billy a shot at managing the Minnesota Twins when he hired Gardner to replace Johnny Goryl. Slick managed some really poor Twins teams for several years before the 1984 team made a nice run at the title before finishing in second place. A poor start in 1985 ended Billy Gardner’s Twins managing career when he was fired and replaced by Ray Miller. Gardner finished his Twins managing career with a 268-353 record. Billy surfaced in the majors again in 1987 when he piloted the Kansas City Royals to a 62-63 record before being replaced by John Wathan. Billy Gardner was a player’s manager and it is hard to find any player who had bad things to say about the man they called Slick, Whitey, and Shotgun. Click on the cover of the Sports Illustrated to read the Billy Gardner article.