After many twists and turns, Sveum rejoins Yost's staff
Former Cubs manager replaced current Royals skipper for 2008 Brewers
KANSAS CITY -- Talk about awkward.
Dale Sveum was added to the Brewers' coaching staff by then-manager Ned Yost in 2005, and in '08, Milwaukee was closing in on its first postseason berth in 26 years. Incredibly, just a dozen games from the finish line, Yost was dismissed. Sveum, his third-base coach, was installed as interim manager.
"That was incredibly awkward, obviously. [Replacing] one of your good friends that hired you to come on and you're tied for the Wild Card and 12 games left," Sveum said. "Talk about being blindsided. It was very awkward and very chaotic for a 24-hour period and, obviously, you had to kick it out quick because you had a job to do. But it was still mind-boggling that it happened."
The Brewers had lost 11 of Yost's last 14 games and ownership demanded a change. After Sveum took over, they dropped four of five, but rebounded to win six of the last seven and edge by the Mets for the National League Wild Card berth.
A lot of baseballs have sailed over the plate since then. Sveum, bypassed as permanent manager, spent three more years as a Milwaukee coach and then the last two seasons as the Cubs' manager. Yost became the Royals' manager in 2010.
Now, the two men are reunited with Sveum joining Yost's coaching staff in Kansas City.
"Obviously, we go back quite a ways. Ned's a great guy and I just thank God that he gave me the opportunity to do this right away," Sveum said. "It's a shock being fired, but the biggest shock is to think you might not be in the game and not have a job. And right away, within a couple days, you have a job. I'm a baseball guy that likes to be on the field, not the kind of a guy that'll take my money and go sit at the pool all summer long. That's not quite in my genes."
Sveum was dismissed by the Cubs with a year left on his contract. So, it's not that he wouldn't have a paycheck, but there's always a danger in being away from the game.
"I've heard too many horror stories from too many really good baseball people that do that and then it's a fist fight to get back in the game," Sveum said. "There's only a certain amount of these jobs available."
Other than working with the infielders, his role with the Royals has not been finalized. Yost says Sveum will either be the bench coach or the third-base coach, depending on who is hired for the two open positions on the staff.
"I enjoyed doing both and bench coach is always better when you know somebody and, obviously, I know Ned very well. So, that kind of transition is a lot easier when you know the manager and what his philosophies are and how he thinks and all that," Sveum said. "I enjoyed coaching third, you're involved in the game, there's a lot more excitement, you're doing things the whole game. So, I have no problem doing either one."
Sveum was cut loose by the Cubs after two last-place National League Central finishes and a 127-197 record.
"It was a great experience," Sveum said. "I got to manage in one of the greatest cities in the world. Then you had Wrigley Field every day. It was fun, I had a blast, it was just unfortunate how it ended up, not being able to see things through, but that's just part of the game. You learn a lot. You get thrown into that kind of fire and the only one way to do it is learn and do things the best way you can in a difficult situation."
Sveum believes the best part of a Major League manager's day are the multiple hours that he spends in the dugout running a game.
"That's definitely the easiest part of it. You can't wait for those three hours come at 7 [p.m.], or at Wrigley 1:20 [p.m. CT]. You can't wait until that gets there. The other stuff, everybody could kind of do without," he said.
Sveum, 49, had to deal with a major injury during his playing career. From Pinole Valley High School in California, he was the Brewers' No. 1 Draft choice as a shortstop in 1982 and passed up a football-baseball scholarship at Arizona State to sign.
Sveum's second season with Milwaukee, 1987, was a big one. On Easter Sunday, Sveum's walk-off homer gave the Brewers their 12th victory in a 13-game winning streak to start the season. On July 17, he hit three homers and drove in six runs in a 12-2 rout of the Angels.
"I was 23 years old, hit 25 home runs and drove in 95 as a switch-hitting, power-hitting shortstop," he said. "You figure you've got a pretty good career ahead of you."
The numbers weren't quite as big in '88 and, after Sept. 3 that year, they never would be again.
"I was going back for a popup, playing shortstop in Detroit going down the left-field line, and collided with Darryl Hamilton and shattered my left leg," Sveum said.
The tibia was badly broken.
"It sounded like a shotgun went off," Sveum said.
Sveum missed the '89 season and later became a backup infielder who'd be with six more clubs until his playing days ended after 1999.
"I was at the top of my career, only 23 years old and I thought it was going to be a heck of a career," he said. "But one play and it changed things to where I had to battle back as a utility player and all that stuff the rest of my career, up and down in Triple-A. So, those are parts of the game you can't change."
Now there's another unusual turn -- he's back helping a guy he once replaced as manager.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.