Later on, when he had become a successful manager, the self-deprecating Herzog liked to joke that baseball had been good to him since he quit trying to play it.
His sharp wit made Herzog a magnet for media over the years, as he always knew how to make people laugh.
Herzog had the respect of his players, but it was clear he was the boss, not their pal: "I'm not buddy-buddy with the players. If they need a buddy, let them buy a dog."
When asked about his team's prospects one spring, Herzog replied: "We need just two players to be a contender. Just Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax."
His years as a player, exceptional mind and knowledge of the game made Herzog a natural to go into managing, but his first job was as a coach and scout. He was named director of player development for the Mets in 1967, a position he held for six years while honing the skills that would make him a shrewd evaluator of talent.
When Herzog did go into managing, 10 years after he retired as a player, he wasn't an immediate success. His first managerial job, the Texas Rangers in 1973, lasted one season as the team posted a 47-91 record.
After a brief stint with the Angels in 1974, Herzog went on to Kansas City, where his teams won three consecutive American League West Division titles and then to St. Louis, where he piloted the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title, as well as three National League pennants.
During the years in Missouri, Herzog had teams who stressed pitching, speed and defense more aggressively than anyone had before.
With so many teams having artificial surfaces and large ballparks, Herzog quickly recognized the value of speed and built lineups that utilized it as much as possible. Most teams were drawn to power hitters, but Herzog's lineups, other than a George Brett in Kansas City or a Jack Clark in St. Louis, didn't have much power. They ran early and they ran often, which once in a while angered the opposition.
The 2007 Veterans Committee ballot features 27 candidates on the player ballot, 15 on the composite ballot.
Asked once why one of his players stole a base late in the game with his team leading by six runs, the quick-witted Herzog was ready with his reply: "My guys will stop stealing bases if their guys will stop hitting home runs."
His teams went full speed ahead from first out to last, and as Herzog often said, anything less wasn't fair to the fans or the game. It was a style of play that kept pressure on the opposing teams, often forcing mistakes, with Herzog's teams usually capitalizing.
Herzog, who also served as general manager at St. Louis during his stint there, was one of the first to recognize the importance of on-base percentage and pursue players who could consistently get on base even if they didn't have a lot of power. His skill at seeing value where others did not enabled him to continually to build winners in small markets where the financial limitations were greater than some of the organizations his teams competed against.
"It's true his teams were built with an eye towards the parks they played in, but they also played outstanding defense and were built around great pitching and those are the kind of things that play well in any park," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Herzog's roster decisions were occasionally unconventional, but time after time the wisdom of his decisions would be ultimately be affirmed.
During the years he helped shape the careers of such talents as Brett, Clark, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith and Frank White.
Herzog was a three-time winner of the Manager of the Year Award (1976, '82, '85), and in 1982 he was also named Executive of the Year. His 1985 team was picked to finish last in the NL East but wound up winning the pennant and taking the World Series to seven games before losing.
Herzog managed six division winners and compiled a career managerial record of 1,281-1,115. He was named Sports Illustrated's Manager of the Decade for the 1980s. In 2000, he was enshrined in the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame.