Oscar Joseph Vitt
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 150 lb.
- Debut April 11, 1912
- Final Game October 1, 1921
- Born January 4, 1890 in San Francisco, CA USA
- Died January 31, 1963 in Oakland, CA USA
Ossie Vitt is a member of the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame because of his success as manager of the Hollywood Stars. He led the Stars to three consecutive league championship finals from 1929 to 1931, winning the championship the first two of these years. He was also the manager of the Newark Bears of the International League in the 1930s when they were the top farm club of the New York Yankees and fielded one of the best minor league teams ever seen in 1937.
He played in the major leagues from 1912 to 1921, with the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. He was mainly a third baseman and second baseman, but also played some outfield. He was a mediocre hitter, hitting .238 for his career, but he was tough to strike out and did have good speed, as witnessed by high totals of triples - he hit 13 in 1915 and 12 in 1916 - and stolen bases (a career-high of 26 in 1915, and three other seasons with more than 15). However, he only hit 4 home runs for his entire career. He was 3rd in the American League in runs scored in 1915, when he was the Tigers' starting third baseman and second-place hitter; he also led the AL with 42 sacrifice hits that year.
Vitt's minor league success led to a stint as manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1938. However, that turned out to be a disaster in spite of a winning record all three years he spent at the helm. Vitt became known for his sarcastic comments about his players to one and all, and his habit of loudly berating his men in public whenever they made mistakes (while never praising a good effort). The Indians had a solid core of players in his years as manager, led by slugging first baseman Hal Trosky and pitchers Bob Feller and Mel Harder, but never won the American League pennant. Their best shot came in 1940 when the New York Yankees were having a down year and the pennant was Cleveland's for the taking. That is when Vitt's problems with his players reached their apogee. In June, a group of players led by Trosky decided to approach owner Alva Bradley to tell him that if he truly wanted to win the pennant, he had to dismiss Vitt. Trosky had to travel suddenly to his home in Iowa before the meeting, so the universally-respected Harder acted as the players' spokesman. Bradley heard them out, but refused to act. Word of the meeting leaked out in the press, and the Indians became known around the league as the "Cry-Babies". The players refused to heed Vitt's directions for the remainder of the season, working out their own set of signals with coach Johnny Bassler, but they fell short of the Detroit Tigers in the season's last days. Vitt was fired at the end of the year and returned to the PCL.
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1915)
|Cleveland Indians Manager
Year-by-Year Managerial Record
- William H. Johnson: "The Crybabies of 1940", in Brad Sullivan, ed.: Batting Four Thousand: Baseball in the Western Reserve, SABR, Cleveland, OH, 2008, pp. 37-42.