Sam Shapiro by campus trees on a spring day

Sam Shapiro, '23

April 13, 2023

By Hannah Burke, '23, Jepson School of Leadership Studies student assistant

Sam Shapiro, ’23, has loved baseball for as long as he can remember. But it was a University of Richmond first-year seminar on baseball in film and literature that sparked his interest in researching America’s national pastime, he said. Almost four years later, he will present his Jepson School of Leadership Studies honors thesis, “A Necessary Evil: A Leadership Analysis of Major League Baseball’s Best Managers,” at tomorrow’s Jepson Research Symposium

“Reflecting my interests in baseball and leadership, I analyzed the 10 best managers in Major League Baseball history as measured by World Series wins,” Shapiro said. “How universal were charisma, perseverance, use of task and relational leadership, and use of situational leadership among these managers? I identified three of the four qualities and leadership styles in all 10 managers and four in nine of the 10 managers. Only Dodgers manager Walter Alston was not charismatic. 

“I particularly admired the leadership of Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack, because of his ability to rebuild championship teams and his impact in shaping Major League Baseball across nearly six decades.”

The senior said he also evaluated the managers within the historical contexts of baseball and the nation. The men under consideration managed teams during periods ranging from the beginning of the 20th century to the present, including during the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Information Age. While it is not the main focus of his research, he said he found that baseball history and American history are closely linked. 

“Baseball is a snapshot of American life,” Shapiro said. “It was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, baseball players fought in our wars, and it was the first sport to have a game streamed.”

The baseball enthusiast recalled that the first reading in his Theories and Models of Leadership class was about Bobby Valentine, a famous baseball player and manager. “When I realized somebody had written an entire textbook chapter on the leadership of one baseball manager, I knew I could do a leadership thesis on this,” he said.

His thesis and academic advisor, Dr. Julian Hayter, is a former athlete who uses examples from sports in his classes, further convincing Shapiro that he could make a strong connection between leadership and sports.

To support his research, the Jepson School provided funding for Shapiro to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. “There was never a question—if I thought I needed to be in Cooperstown, Jepson was going to make it happen,” said the senior from Great Falls, Virginia. He added that poring through the museum’s archives informed the direction of his thesis.

After graduating in May with a dual degree in leadership studies and finance, Shapiro said he plans to attend law school, with the goal of becoming a merger and acquisitions lawyer. In his free time, he will be eating hot dogs at a baseball diamond while cheering on his favorite team.