The Boy Manager would have been 100 on Monday.
Lou Boudreau, who managed the Cleveland Indians to their last World Series title in 1948, was born July 17, 1917, in Harvey, Illinois. A Hall of Fame shortstop, he became the youngest manager in baseball history when he was hired for the 1942 season at the age of 24. Critics derided him as the “boy wonder” and the “boy manager,” but Boudreau was able to handle a team of veterans and would be elected to Cooperstown in 1970. His No. 5 was retired that same year.
Boudreau died in 2001 after serving in baseball as a player, manager and broadcaster. He invented the Ted Williams shift in 1946, kept the Indians together as a cohesive when Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League in 1947, and hit two home runs in the 1948 A.L. playoff game against Boston to lead Cleveland to its first World Series since 1920. That capped a year when Boudreau hit .355 with 18 homers and 106 RBI and was named the A.L.’s Most Valuable player. In 1948, Boudreau was named the league’s most valuable player. He hit .355 with 18 home runs and 106 runs batted in.
It seemed like Boudreau was always around history. In 1941, he stopped Joe DiMaggio in the Yankee Clipper’s final attempt to extend his 56-game hitting streak, grabbing a bad-hop grounder barehanded and starting a double play. Fun fact: Boudreau’s play came on July 17, his 24th birthday.
Boudreau also managed the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Athletics and the Chicago Cubs. He got the Cubs job in 1960 after working games as a broadcaster in 1958-1959. He lasted one season and then returned to broadcasting, where he remained until his retirement in 1988.
Another fun fact: Boudreau was the father-in-law of former major-league pitcher Denny McLain.
So to celebrate No. 5’s centennial, here are five fun Lou Boudreau cards.
1948-49Leaf (Card No. 106)
Boudreau’s first card in the post-World War II era was part of the 1948 Leaf set. The Leaf cards of that season sported a very basic design, but were very nice-looking. The card backs carried a 1948 copyright date, but it is believed that the cards were sold in 1949. That would have made Boudreau’s rather popular, as he was coming off his MVP season and a World Series championship. Mid-grade examples can be found for $200-$250.
1961 Fleer Baseball Greats (No. 94)
Boudreau was part of Fleer’s 154-card set of all-time baseball greats. He is considered a common card in the set and is featured in his uniform as manager of the Chicago Cubs. This set by Fleer was one of the final baseball-oriented sets for the Philadelphia-based company. A lawsuit by Topps would prevent Fleer from issuing sets after 1963, and there would not be another regular set issue until 1981. With the exception of high-grade examples, the 1961 Fleer Boudreau is very inexpensive.
1953 Bowman Color (No. 57)
Boudreau is portrayed in a typical manager’s pose in this beautiful set, observing the game from the dugout steps. The 1953 season was Boudreau’s best in Boston, as the Red Sox went 84-69 to finish in fourth place. It would be the last time Boudreau would have a winning record as a major-league manager. Most of his ’53 Bowman cards can be snared for well under $50.
1941 Double Play (No. 131-132)
This card was issued by Gum Products Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They featured two teammates to a card and consecutively numbered. “Louis” Boudreau is paired with outfielder Clarence Campbell, who was predictably nicknamed “Soup,” M-mm good. The cards sported sepia-toned photographs on the front, with information under the player’s picture. This could be considered Boudreau’s rookie card and is valued at around $50 in EX condition.
Boudreau appeared in the first series of the 1949 Bowman set, and like most of the other cards in that low-numbered series, his name is not included on the front of the card. Names were not put on the card front until card No. 109, which was Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ed Fitz Gerald. The Boudreau card is considered his first solo rookie card, and the deep red background makes for an attractive-looking issue, one that can be had without creases for less than $40.