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Hal Lanier
Infielder / Manager
Born: (1942-07-04) July 4, 1942 (age 81)
Denton, North Carolina, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
June 18, 1964, for the San Francisco Giants
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 1973, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Batting average.228
Home runs8
Runs batted in273
Managerial record254–232
Winning %.523
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Harold Clifton Lanier (born July 4, 1942) is an American former infielder, coach and manager in Major League Baseball. Known as a brainy, defense-first player, he won National League Manager of the Year as a rookie manager for leading the Astros to the National League West division championship in 1986. From November 2014 through the end of his 2018 contract, Lanier served as the first manager of the Ottawa Champions of the independent Can-Am League. From 1964 through 1973, Lanier played for the San Francisco Giants (1964–71) and New York Yankees (1972–73). He is the son of Max Lanier, a former MLB All-Star pitcher.

Playing career

In his rookie season Lanier posted a career-high .274 batting average for the San Francisco Giants and was selected for the 1964 Topps All-Star Rookie team.

Lanier once scored from first base on a bunt.[1]

Lanier ran into trouble with Willie Mays in 1965. Due to the unpredictable winds at Candlestick Park, Mays used to position the infielders on how to play the ball. When Lanier ignored his signal a couple times during a game, Mays asked manager Herman Franks to bench Lanier for a few games.[2] However, by the end of the season, Mays had made Lanier the infield captain for the Giants, in charge of taking a trip to the mound if a pitcher needed a break.[3]

In 1968, Lanier led NL shortstops in putouts (282) and fielding average (.979). After that, he moved from second base to shortstop, and finally to third base. He also played in part of two seasons with the New York Yankees.

In a 10-season career, Lanier was a .228 hitter with eight home runs and 273 RBI in 1196 games played. In each of the three seasons from 1967 to 1969 he ranked last among NL qualifiers in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Managerial career

Following his playing career, Lanier managed in the minors and served as third base coach for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1981–85, including the 1982 World Series and 1985 National League champion teams. He was hired on November 5, 1985, to manage the Houston Astros, replacing Bob Lillis.[4]

In 1986, he was named NL Manager of the Year by the BBWA and TSN for leading the Astros to their first Division title since 1980 and the best record (96-66) in team history up to that point, which greatly surpassed expectations from a team that had finished fourth the previous year and hadn't won 90 games since 1980.[5] Sports Illustrated, for example, had ranked the Astros as the 22nd best team in baseball prior to the season.[6]

He utilized an aggressive strategy built on pitching and baserunning meant to mirror the Cardinal teams he had coached on. The Astros had a four-man rotation of players over 26 that started at least 25 games in Mike Scott (18 wins), Bob Knepper (17 wins), Nolan Ryan (twelve wins) and Jim Deshaies (twelve wins); the 3.15 ERA as a team was second best in the National League. While they finished eighth in runs scored for National League teams (654), the Astros had three players steal at least twenty bases.[7] They were one game behind in the division (47-41) leading to the 1986 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, held in Houston. They won ten of the 14 games after the All-Star break, which included five straight walk-off victories; they won 14 of their last 18 games to clinch the division title, which famously saw the division be clinched in the Astrodome on a no-hitter pitched by Scott on September 25.[8]

Lanier was the first rookie manager to win the Manager of the Year award, edging out Davey Johnson with 19 out of 24 first-place votes.[9] The Astros faced Johnson and the National League East champion New York Mets (who won 108 games) in the 1986 National League Championship Series. The Mets would win the series in six games, as the Astros could only pull their victories from their ace Mike Scott in Game 1 and Game 4 (Scott, who allowed one total earned run in two complete games, would've likely started Game 7). All six games were close: Game 3 saw a one run lead in the 9th turn into a walkoff win for the Mets, while Game 5 saw the Astros lose on a walkoff single in the 12th, and Game 6 saw them lose a 3-0 lead in the 9th in an eventual 7-6 loss in the 16th.

A power struggle between Lanier and Astros' general manager Dick Wagner in 1987 eventually led to Wagner leaving the team; the team went 76-86 that season, as they gave up more runs (678) than they scored as a whole (648). Indicative of their problems was Nolan Ryan, who had a 2.76 ERA (best among the five usual Astro starters) but a win-loss record of 8-16.[10] The Astros lost 26 of their last 37 games that year, and Lanier cited a dislocated finger injury suffered by starting catcher Alan Ashby as a key to their late fizzle.[11]

Lanier was described as an emotional manager who had moments when his temper get the best of him, and he admitted to being a firm manager (albeit one who seemed right in being firm when the team won games).[12] In 1988, the Astros lost a home game to the San Francisco Giants. As the team prepared to eat the post-game meal, take showers, and go home, they received word they were wanted back on the field. Lanier brought out the batting cage and ordered the team to take batting practice again. Lanier was fired at the end of the season, having gone 80-82 in his third season. The Astros scored 617 runs and allowed 631, finishing eighth in both categories in the National League.[13] Astro owner John McMullen cited the need for a clean slate in firing Lanier. Lanier was replaced by Art Howe. In three total seasons, Lanier had a 254-232 win–loss record.

Later career

Lanier had one major league job in the coming years, but not as manager. He interviewed for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals in 1990 (Lou Pinella and Joe Torre were hired, respectively) and the New York Yankees in 1991 (Buck Showalter was hired). He served as the bench coach for the Philadelphia Phillies under Nick Leyva for the 1990 and 1991 seasons before Levya was fired.[14]

In recent years, Lanier has managed in the independent minor leagues. He managed for the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the Northern League from 1996 to 2006; they reached the championship series five times but lost each time. He moved to the Joliet Jackhammers for 2006 and 2007.[15]

He moved to the Can-Am League to manage the Sussex Skyhawks in 2008. While with the Skyhawks, Lanier led the team to the league championship that year over the Quebec Capitales in the Can-Am League Championship Series. He left the Skyhawks following the 2009 season to become manager of the Normal CornBelters after a horrid 2009 season, where he managed the CornBelters in the Frontier League from 2010 to 2011.[16]

On December 12, 2012, the Yuma Desert Rats of the independent American West Baseball League, announced they had come to terms with Lanier to manage the Desert Rats for the 2013 season, however the team folded before playing a game. On November 18, 2014, the Ottawa Champions of the Can-Am League announced that Lanier would be their manager for the 2015 season.[17] On September 17, 2016, his team beat the Rockland Boulders 3-1 to win the 2016 league championship three games to two. In late 2018, Lanier was fired by Ottawa after the Champions missed the playoffs in two consecutive seasons.

Personal life

Lanier's father Max Lanier played fifteen years and pitched in the World Series three times. Lanier's mother died in a Christmas Eve car crash when Hal was six years old; his father later remarried.[1]

On March 6, 1986, Lanier married Mary Ross in St. Louis.[18]

Lanier has been married three times, and has one daughter from each. The first two are biological, and the third a stepdaughter due to his 2001 marriage to current wife, Pam.[1]

When not involved in baseball, Lanier enjoyed playing golf.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Hal Lanier – Society for American Baseball Research". Archived from the original on 2023-03-20. Retrieved 2023-03-20.
  2. ^ Mays, pp. 158-59
  3. ^ Mays, p. 220
  4. ^ Archives, L. A. Times (1985-11-05). "Hal Lanier to Manage Astros". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  5. ^ "Meteoric rise not expected of Astros; Mauch on managing flair -". Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  6. ^ "22 HOUSTON ASTROS". Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  7. ^ "1986 Houston Astros Statistics". Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  8. ^ "Team Time Machine: 1986 Houston Astros". Climbing Tal's Hill. 2021-02-05. Archived from the original on 2023-03-15. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  9. ^ "Hal Lanier, who guided the Houston Astros to the National League W". AP NEWS. Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  10. ^ "1987 Houston Astros Statistics". Archived from the original on 2022-12-01. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  11. ^ "1988: Lanier Calls '87 a Fluke". The Pecan Park Eagle. 2014-08-16. Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  12. ^ "Mark Knudson Interview". astrosatoz. Archived from the original on 2023-01-30. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  13. ^ "1988 Houston Astros Statistics". Archived from the original on 2022-12-07. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  14. ^ "Managing his options". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on 2023-11-10. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  15. ^ "Ottawa is Lanier's new 'major leagues'". ottawasun. Archived from the original on 2021-05-17. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  16. ^ Staff Writer. "Skyhawks: Hard to picture Lanier away from baseball". New Jersey Herald. Archived from the original on 2022-11-27. Retrieved 2023-03-15.
  17. ^ "Ottawa Champions name Hal Lanier as first manager | CBC News". CBC. CBC News. 18 November 2014. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  18. ^ "22 HOUSTON ASTROS | Sports Illustrated Vault |". Archived from the original on 27 November 2022. Retrieved 19 August 2023.

Mays, Willie (1988). Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0671632922.