Paul Richards neither led a team to a pennant as a field manager nor presided over a winner as a general manager. He often got a team ready to win, only to move to another franchise before success was realized. He was considered among baseball’s most brilliant and innovative strategists, an astute judge of pitching talent, and a skilled teacher.
“After a playing career as a reserve catcher, Richards became a successful minor league manager with the Atlanta Crackers. He credited Bill Terry, for whom he had played briefly in New York, with teaching him the techniques of managing. When WWII brought manpower shortages, Richards resurfaced as a major league catcher with Detroit. He was the Tigers’ regular catcher in the 1945 WS. When players came back after WWII, Richards returned to minor league managing. He got his chance to manage in the major leagues in 1951, taking over the White Sox. His “Go-Go” Sox had four winning seasons, but they always finished behind the Yankees and Indians.
His success in Chicago earned him the challenge of converting the perennially dismal Browns into a winner in their new identity as the Baltimore Orioles. He served as both field manager and general manager of the transplanted club. He built the franchise into a winner, developing a pitching staff called The Kiddie Korps, strong-armed throwers backed up by knuckleball reliever Hoyt Wilhelm. Richards invented the oversized catcher’s mitts that have been used since to handle knuckleball pitchers. Just as the Orioles moved toward pennant contention, the Texan from Waxahachie went home to the Lone Star State to head up the newly formed Houston Colt .45s.
He brought Houston to a competitive position when another new challenge beckoned. The Braves had gone south, from Milwaukee to Atlanta, and Richards, who had led the old Crackers to glory, was deemed the man to rejuvenate the Braves in their new setting as vice president for baseball operations. The team won a divisional title in 1969. It was as close as Richards came to a pennant, and he left Atlanta and was out of baseball for the first time in 45 years. Not for long, however, as Bill Veeck had taken over the White Sox and hired the sixty-seven-year-old Richards as manager. Richards’s White Sox finished last in 1976.