On May 21, 1977, a longstanding feud between Cardinals skipper Vern Rapp and embattled pitcher Al Hrabosky came to a head, as the man known as "The Mad Hungarian" was handed an indefinite suspension for "insubordination." The insubordinate action that led to this suspensions was Hrabosky refused to meet with Rapp when called upon. Just two days later Hrabosky was reinstated, however, this incident may have just been the beginning of the end for both men being members of the Cardinals.
Rapp and Hrabosky clearly had disdain for one another, as the first year skipper attempted to lay down the law in the Cardinals clubhouse by making a rule in Spring Training that would force all players to be clean shaven. Hrabosky's fu man chu was in the crosshairs of Rapp's scope right out the gate and the 27-year-old was not happy with it at all. He made it be known, but did give in and shaved it off. There were others on the club that side with Hrabosky, and decided to test the limits with Rapp by growing sideburns and more. While the suspension in May was not directly related to the facial hair incident, it was the beginning of a feud that would only be resolved through a trade that sent Hrabosky flyin down I-70 to the Kansas City Royals in the upcoming offseason.
Long before the trade happened the relationship between Rapp and Hrabosky had become so volatile that the hurler would only speak to pitching coach Claude Osteen to convey any messages to his skipper, so the day that Hrabosky was called into his office he simply passed. The facial hair incident was just one of many between the two, as Hrabosky had also taken issue with the skipper removing the ball from his mitt, rather than letting him hand it over to his replacement. They had continually butted heads and with Gussie Busch on his side it may have appeared that Rapp won the battle between the two. He may have won the battle, but he did not win the war.
When it comes down to it nobody truly won that war. Hrabosky was traded to K.C. as mentioned before, and Rapp lost the respect of the clubhouse before he even gained it. He was hired to replace Red Schoendienst who had more of a laid back approach to dealing with ballplayers, and came in with an authoritarian approach that led to near mutiny among the men who donned the Birds on the Bat. While Hrabosky was starting a new journey in K.C., Rapp's journey with the Redbirds ended in late April of 1978, as he was replaced by Ken Boyer. Rapp spent time as a coach, then managed the Reds briefly in 1984 before Pete Rose was hired to manage the Reds.
When it comes to Rapp's time with the Cardinals he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is something that we will never know. He did have great success in the minor league ranks as a skipper and had two pennant winning seasons in the American Association. While his brief tenure as manager of the Cardinals was a bit stormy, it surely does not define him as a man. In 2011, Tom Owens at Baseball by the Letters spoke with Rapp and he simply looked back on the incident as history. Rapp had made many more memories since those turbulent days that were very good memories. He was on the verge of celebrating 60 years of marriage and was very proud of his children and grandchildren. In life there are times that we meet those who we do not mesh with and usually we simply move on. It seems that is exactly what Rapp did and Hrabosky did as well. In 1985 The Mad Hungarian was reunited with the Cardinals organization as broadcaster and has been entertaining fans ever since. In the end I hope both Rapp and Hrabosky were able to bury the hatchet because life is simply too short to hold onto animosity.