Royals name Buddy Bell manager

Royals name Buddy Bell manager

KANSAS CITY -- Buddy Bell, the Royals' new manager, tried on his uniform with No. 25 on the back.

"It fits," he said, smiling.

The Royals are banking on that.

Bell, who had been bench coach for the Cleveland Indians, was named as the permanent replacement to Tony Pena on Tuesday. His contract runs through 2007.

He was among five candidates, winning the job over Art Howe, Terry Collins, Jerry Manuel and interim manager Bob Schaefer.

Bell, meeting with reporters before managing his first game against the New York Yankees, emphasized it would take patience with the young Royals.

"Time can be their best friend and I think that's going to be the case," Bell said.

Bell managed the Detroit Tigers in three seasons and the Colorado Rockies in two-plus seasons. His combined record was 345-462, a winning percentage of .428.

His greatest success as a skipper came in 1997 when he directed the Tigers to a turnaround season. They were a franchise-worst 53-109 in 1996, Bell's first as manager, but the record improved to 79-83 the next year.

But, in 1998, the Tigers slipped to 52-85 when he was fired Sept. 1.

"The problem in Detroit is we just weren't patient enough with it," Bell said. "I'm very impatient with impatience ... and this is going to take some time."

Bell, 53, faces a daunting challenge. He takes over a club mired in the American League Central cellar with a 13-37 record. The Royals are 20 1/2 games behind so a retooling program is in order.

"Realistically, what we really expect out of Buddy this year is to get this team playing to its truest talent level and I think our record is not an indicator of how much talent we have on this club," said Royals president Dan Glass.

The Royals, after last year's 104-loss season, launched a rebuilding season based around younger players. They knew they'd take their lumps but didn't figure on quite this many.

Pena resigned on May 10 when the club had an 8-25 record. Schaefer, the bench coach, took over and the club perked up, going 5-6. However, on a just-completed road trip, the Royals were 0-6 and the timetable on change accelerated.

The Royals wanted not only a manager with Major League experience but one who had worked well with young players and had the patience to wait while players developed.

Bell has been director of Minor League instruction for the Chicago White Sox and worked as a farm system batting coach for the Indians.

 Buddy Bell's Managerial Record
 TOTAL 807345462.428 

"He's a teacher, a communicator, a player development director, a guy who was a coordinator on the field and, more importantly, he's been a guy who's been in a rebuilding mode with the Cleveland Indians," Royals general manager Allard Baird said.

Baird was asked why, considering the long-term approach to building with young players, Bell's contract was not extended beyond 2007.

"That's a good question," Bell interposed, to laughter.

"Our comfort level now is to go through '07," Baird said. "Obviously we want him here for the long haul. When you have good, young players you like to see them reach their maximum ability level because we all know what happens then -- you win ballgames and you win championships."

Called "Buddy" but named David Gus Bell, he comes from a rich baseball background.

His father, outfielder Gus Bell, spent 15 years in the Majors and was a standout for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1950s.

Buddy Bell played 18 years in the Majors and combined with his father to set the record for most hits, 4,337, by a father-son duo in history. Now the mark is second to Bobby and Barry Bonds' 4,348.

A third baseman, Buddy Bell broke in with the Indians in 1972 and spent seven years with them. Then he was traded to the Texas Rangers for infielder Toby Harrah.

He finished his playing career in 1989 after playing for the Reds, the Houston Astros and, briefly, the Rangers again. His career average was .279 with 2,514 hits, 201 home runs and 1,106 RBIs in 2,405 games.

Bell's sons, David, Michael and Ricky, also developed into professional players. David Bell, now with the Philadelphia Phillies, was the San Francisco Giants' third baseman in the 2002 World Series.

Buddy Bell becomes the 14th full-time manager in Royals history. This list includes Whitey Herzog, who had a club-high 410 victories, and Dick Howser, who won 404 games and directed the 1985 Royals to the World Series championship.

Bell will begin his tenure with a new hitting coach. Royals Minor League instructor Andre David was promoted Monday after Jeff Pentland was fired.

Team captain Mike Sweeney expected a positive response from Royals players.

"I think so, yes. He's a man who commands respect and with a young team that's very impressionable, hopefully he'll be like a ship at sea with a steady rudder. Not up or down every day but just steady and a good leader for this team," Sweeney said.

Bell's initial mission will be to evaluate the Royals -- with patience.

"Right now, we're looking for small victories," he said, "and eventually it'll develop into some big wins."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.