A letterman: Half-century later, Schuerholz gets Hall call

John Schuerholz was perfectly happy at his job, teaching world geography and English to eighth graders in suburban Baltimore.

Even so, one day he decided to mail it in.

A letter, that is. Something the one-time Towson University second baseman wrote to the owner of the hometown Orioles, saying he really wanted to work in baseball, that he might be able to do some good.

A half-century after he dropped that note with the post office, the game delivered its biggest prize: Schuerholz was elected to the Hall of Fame.

"It all started with that letter" written during a class break at North Point Junior High in Dundalk, he reminisced Sunday.

"Here I am, 51 years later," he said.

Schuerholz was the first general manager to assemble teams that won the World Series in both leagues, capturing crowns with Kansas City in 1985 and Atlanta in 1995.

His Braves won a hard-to-believe 14 straight division championships, a run that began in his first season with them. Prior to that, Atlanta hadn't won so much as a single playoff game in its 25-year existence.

"I always had aspirations to be a successful general manager," the 76-year-old Schuerholz said.

In 26 years as a GM, his teams won 16 division titles and six pennants.

Schuerholz was picked by all 16 voters on a veterans committee at the winter meetings. Former Commissioner Bud Selig also was elected to the Hall by the Today's Game Era panel, and they'll be enshrined on July 30 in Cooperstown, New York.

Schuerholz praised everyone who helped him achieve the honor, including his new Hall teammates — Atlanta pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, plus manager Bobby Cox.

Al Kaline, Joe Torre and Pat Gillick were among those who quickly reached out with congratulations, welcoming him to the club.

Under Schuerholz, the Braves revamped the culture of the organization, and boosted baseball all across the South. His management strategy focused on stability and resisted knee-jerk change.

"The right plan, the right people," he said.

In 2007, Schuerholz left his job as GM and became team president. He had only one regret, that the Braves turned those 14 division titles into just one World Series ring.

"What else is there?" Schuerholz said at the time. "It would have been, unequivocally, the complete validation of the grand nature of this franchise. Nobody could have said anything about the Atlanta Braves and ended the sentence with the word 'but.'"

Schuerholz is now a vice chairman with the team, helping prepare for its move to SunTrust Park next season.

A son of a former Philadelphia Athletics minor league second baseman, Schuerholz has stamped his name in baseball. His son, Jon, played second base in the minors for the Braves and now works as a club executive.

An avid golfer and fan of the street-corner songs that harmonized in the 1950s, Schuerholz was teaching in 1966 when he sent that letter to Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger.

The note got passed around the front office, and landed him a spot in minor league operations. In 1969, he joined the expansion Royals and became GM a dozen years later, followed by his success with the Braves.

No matter than his first goal — playing in the majors — never panned out.

"I came to reckoning," he said. "The scouts were more right than I was."