Rapp made his man­ag­ing im­print on Den­ver Bears

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Irv­Moss Irv­Moss: 303- 954- 1296, imoss@ den­ver­post. com or @ irv­moss

A chap­ter in Den­ver’s base­ball history has come to a close with the pass­ing of Vern Rapp.

Rapp died onNewYear’s Eve at age 87, leav­ing be­hind a long ca­reer in base­ball at a time be­fore big pay­checks and team pay­rolls that far ex­ceed $ 100 mil­lion a year.

While Rapp made it to the ma­jor leagues twice as a man­ager— with the St. Louis Car­di­nals and Cincin­nati Reds — he earned his base­ball wings with the Den­ver Bears.

Rapp was a catcher as a player and first came to Den­ver in 1958 to play for the Bears. He was back with the Bears as a coach in 1960, when they won the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion ti­tle un­der man­ager Char­lieMetro.

Rapp got his chance to man­age in 1976 and guided the Bears to the reg­u­lar- sea­son cham­pi­onship and a post­sea­son cham­pi­onship. The Bears, a farm sys­tem of the Mon­treal Ex­pos or­ga­ni­za­tion at the time, won the reg­u­lar- sea­son ti­tle by 13 ½ games.

“Ex­cept for­maybe the pitch­ing, I think our 1976 teamwas right up there with the Yan­kee ( farm) teams of the 1950s as the best- ever in Den­ver,” Rapp said af­ter the 1976 sea­son.“Wewere five games out on the Fourth of July and came on to win.”

Rapp’s con­nec­tion to Bob Howsamin Den­ver led to his gain­ing man­age­rial jobs with the Car­di­nals in 1977 and the Reds in 1984. Af­ter guid­ing the Car­di­nals to an 83- 79 record in 1977, he was re­placed af­ter a 6- 11 start the next sea­son. He left Cincin­nati af­ter a 51- 70 start in 1984, get­ting re­placed by Pete Rose, who took over as the player/ man­ager.

Rapp’s in­tro­duc­tion to base­ball came at a time when there were fewfrills, and he man­aged that­way.

“I wanted my play­ers to play hard, run out ground­balls. That was just part of the busi­ness,” Rapp said. “Iwas a no- non­sense man­ager. I ex­pected my play­ers to be on time. I treated them as adults.”

Bears gen­eral man­ager JimBur­ris held Rapp in high re­gard.

“Vern­was a very good man­ager who knew the game,” Bur­ris said. “Hewas tough but fair. Play­ers re­sponded to him very well. The 1976 team had one of the high­est win­ning per­cent­ages (. 632) of any of our clubs. He was the mi­nor­league man­ager of the year.”

Rapp stayed in Colorado through his re­tire­ment years. He liked to fly- fish, and he had a fa­vorite spot on the Poudre River west of Fort Collins.

Vern Rapp had his first glove gold- plated. He man­aged the St. Louis Car­di­nals and Cincin­nati Reds in the ma­jors.

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