Unlike Leo Durocher, the man he replaced as the Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager for the 1947 season, Burt Shotton was no gruff, umpire-baiting field general. He was instead a calm, serious baseball lifer who, like the more illustrious Connie Mack, wore his street clothes in the dugout during his tenure in Brooklyn. His quiet demeanor did not win him headlines or make him one of the game’s beloved characters. In 1931, when he was managing the Philadelphia Phillies, New York sports columnist John Kieran described him as “one of those strong silent men.”1
Even though he led the Dodgers to National League pennants in 1947 and 1949, the bespectacled, teetotaling Shotton never earned the respect of the Brooklyn fans for his managerial acumen. Perhaps this would have been different had his team topped the hated New York Yankees at least once in those Fall Classics. Or perhaps his strong and silent persona contributed to his diminished status. Arthur Daley, another observer of the New York sports scene, commented several weeks after Shotton’s passing, “Successful as he was, [his] quiet and unspectacular direction left him one of the least-known of all Brooklyn managers.”2 But to his credit, Shotton won more pennants than many other big league skippers, and he guided the Dodgers during one of their most momentous and controversial seasons: 1947, the year Jackie Robinson broke the Major League color line.
Burt Shotton came out of retirement to lead the Dodgers to
Burton Edwin Shotton was born on October 18, 1884, in the township of Brownhelm, Ohio, twenty-eight miles west of Cleveland. He was the second of four children born to John Matthew Shotton and Mary Alice (Bacon) Shotton. He had an older sister, Cora, and two younger brothers, John and Frank. Despite his below-par eyesight, he delighted in playing baseball. Shotton was a left-handed-hitting, right-handed-throwing center fielder, and he possessed blinding speed. He earned the nickname “Barney,” reportedly after Barney Oldfield, the celebrated late nineteenthcentury/early twentieth-century bicycle/auto racer. As Shotton aged, he became known as Old Barney.