When in Doubt, Fire the Manager

My Life and Times in Baseball

© 1980  Alvin Dark

Published by E.P. Dutton, New York, NY


1. Dark, Alvin 1922-  2. Baseball managers  United States Biography
GV865.D27 A38 1980 || 796.357 D248a || LCCN: 79023595 || OCLC #5612279 || 242p.

When in Doubt, Fire the Manager is presently held by 121 libraries including Princeton University and the San Diego Public Library.

Table of Contents

Chapters: 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 || 8 || 9 || 10 || 11|| 12 || 13 || 14 || 15 || 16 || 17 || 18

Alvin Dark's Testimony

To the men who manage the boys of summer

From the Jacket of the Book

You don't drink or smoke, you quote from the Bible, and San Francisco Giants owner Horace Stoneham called you a hypocrite — with good reason. When you led the Oakland Athletics to a World Series championship, your family was forbidden to ride with you in the victory parade — Charlie Finley's orders.

   These are only some of the paradoxes in the roller coaster career of Alvin Dark, who came up from Louisiana to play for the Boston Braves and the New York Giants, then became a manager and learned that getting fired was part of the job.

   Dark managed the San Francisco Giants, the Kansas City Athletics, the Cleveland Indians, the Oakland Athletics, and the San Diego Padres. In San Francisco he was charged with being a racist, a charge that haunts him to this day. In Kansas City, Finley fired him for siding with a player accused of drunken misconduct. And in the peak years of his managerial career, he was faced with wrenching personal problems that found solution only when he rediscovered the Bible and brought the Christian message into his life.

   This candid and warmly human story transcends the usual sports autobiography. Besides presenting Dark's unique insights into the game of baseball, the book introduces us to an unforgettable human being — one who had to experience triumph and heartbreak, divorce, Christian witness, and failure, before he learned that there were more important things in life than winning a World Series.


Biographies of the still-living often suffer one or any number of the following flaws: 1) The subject is merely famous, not interesting; 2) He has not lived long enough or fully enough to have contributed anything beyond the events that made him famous. (I am always amazed when publishers commit to print the "life stories" of athletes and entertainers who are barely into their post-adolescence, as if the accumulation of gold medals or gold records alone is enough to sustain a readership); 3) The subject has not come to grips with himself, and therefore cannot provide the insight that the book-buying public deserves. When a current biographer was asked why he refused the opportunity to write a biography of a certain prominent personality, he said, "Because I talked with him and he" — the personality — "isn't ready yet." It makes all the difference.

   Alvin Dark is a baseball player who became a big league baseball manager. He is also a born-again Christian and wears that distinction on his sleeve, a prominence that has been no small contributor to the problems he has had with his image. He has experienced, and been shaped by, poverty, ambition, world war, Leo Durocher, parenthood, prejudice, slander, acclaim, disgrace, infidelity, divorce, Charlie Finley, cruelty, controversy, embarrassment, exoneration, Reggie Jackson, success, failure, ostracism, racism, and the liberal press. Of these things about Dark I knew very little when we first discussed the possibility of putting his life on paper. I know the depth of them now only because he was "ready" to examine them for me, at no small sacrifice to his privacy and of his pride.

   And I learned from learning about Alvin Dark. I learned things about baseball — intricacies and strategies and passions I never

Page vi

knew existed. Moreover, and more important, I learned about the traumatic things that can happen to a man who dares to lay his talent and his faith on the public cutting board. I know now that Dark had reached a point in his life when insight into his life could be meaningful — even inspirational — to those who might take the time to read about it.

   I have no doubt that that is exactly what he had in mind.

Chapter 1

For those of you who might be harboring an ambition to manage a major league baseball team, and therefore have accepted the inevitability of getting fired two or three times as one of the fringe benefits, the thing you must certainly be made aware of is that you will get fired for the wrong reasons. When your .330 hitter develops sciatica and hits forty points under his weight, and your twenty-game winner cuts his throwing hand on a beer can and wins five, and your team finishes a laboring third instead of the glorious first the newspapers predicted, don't blame them. Don't even blame the newspapermen, tempting as that might be. Blame yourself. Everybody else will, including the newspapermen (for making them look bad).

   That's managing, and that's baseball, and as an off-again on-again manager I love it. I accept it, and I love it. I would, however, change a pivotal word in that first paragraph: those are the right reasons, the accepted reasons for firing a manager. That's the way it has always been done, and the one thing baseball cannot afford to lose in these nervous times is its tradition.

   Never mind making all the proper moves and managing brilliantly (if such a thing is possible, baseball being a game of many constants that cut the guesswork way down). Never mind that. Were you good with the press? Did you tell funny stories? Did the owner's wife invite your wife to all the Garden Club luncheons?

   Forget those things, too. They only help when you're winning one hundred games a year. Casey Stengel wasn't so funny when he was in seventh place.

   Most people, including some owners, most baseball writers, and many players, don't know what good managing is, so you have to

Page 2

rule out injustice as a viable defense. The won-lost column is your only hope. "I got fired! Didn't they know that those clowns deserved to be dead last instead of sixth? Didn't they realize it?" No, boys, and sorry. It won't cover you. As the saying goes, don't ask for justice unless you're prepared to get it.

   If that last line sounds like bitterness, with a pinch of regret, don't be misled. One thing I am not is bitter. (We all have regrets.) I accepted that particular baseball reality long ago. There are surprisingly few real students of the game in baseball, partly because everybody, my eighty-three-year-old-mother included, thinks they learned all there was to know about it at puberty. Baseball is very beguiling that way.

   I consider myself a serious student of the game. By no means the best, but a student nonetheless. From the time I was old enough to realize I wanted to stay in it forever, I have wanted to manage in the big leagues. I've thought about it, dreamed about it, studied it up and down and sideways. I have analyzed every position, every situation, every baseball tactic known to man.

   When Eddie Stanky and I were roommates back in my early playing days with the Boston Braves in 1948, and then with the New York Giants, we had a carefully worked-out routine. After a game, we'd go out and eat. Then we'd take in a movie, usually a Western. If I picked one, he'd pick the next. After the movie we'd go back to the room and take turns in the tub. Then we'd lie in our beds with our feet against the wall, elevated to the let the blood drain (an ancient fitness tip we both accepted), and talk baseball. No trips to the hotel bar, no television. They didn't have TV in the rooms in those days. And for hours we'd talk baseball, Stanky and I. Hitting, fielding, strategy, ball parks, umpires, fans, sportswriters, owners, announcers, managers. We gave Leo Durocher a terrific going-over, trying to analyze him. Hour after hour we'd do this. We were really dull.

   In the end, however, I had to think it was the route God gave me. I believe He gives us each a certain talent to develop, and mine happened to be in baseball. Not the highest calling, but fine with me. So I learned about managing, and therefore about being fired, too, and this is the irony I have been getting to. I have yet to be fired for the right reasons. When it comes to getting the ax in baseball, Alvin Dark consistently broke new ground. For sheer novelty in kicking a job, for finding ingenious ways to bring unemployment on yourself, come see what Dark did in San Francisco,

Page 3

Kansas City, Cleveland, Oakland, and San Diego.

   In San Francisco, Horace Stoneham was the owner of the Giants, the team of my youth and my first love. Mr. Stoneham was one of those wonderful old-time baseball men who would have been in the game for nothing, shoving his money in, caring and being magnanimous. He would do anything to rub elbows with Willie Mays and Bobby Thomson. The only reason Mr. Stoneham moved the Giants to the West Coast was because he had shoveled in so much he was in debt and couldn't afford not to. But he took childlike pleasure in the game, the way Tom Yawkey, Branch Rickey, and Phil Wrigley did. Mr. Stoneham was, pure and simple, a baseball man, a man who would be appalled by the bottom-line mentality of today's owners and players.

   He and I were poles apart in life-style. It was okay in 1962 because we won a pennant my second year managing, and he didn't have to enjoy my sobriety to like me. I think he did like me. He had given me a chance to manage directly off the playing field while still a youngster of thirty-nine. But in San Francisco I became a hypocrite in Mr. Stoneham's eyes. I, a married man, had fallen in love with another woman, and Mr. Stoneham knew about it. He let me know he knew, and also let me know how keenly disappointed he was.

   I think Mr. Stoneham would have put up with anything but my hypocrisy. I don't blame him a bit. Making it worse, however, was that in San Francisco I was branded a racist for remarks I made to a New York writer about certain black and Spanish ball players, remarks that were grossly misinterpreted but will haunt me till I die. Mr. Stoneham had a ticklish time defending me for that — and my personal problems and our fourth-place finish.

   Here, then, is a moral from a Christian baseball manager who has been down the road: You can be a rounder, a bounder, and a rake in our society and wind up with an Academy Award. You can lie, cheat, steal, and starve your dog and get all the votes on election day. But if you speak out for Christian principles, as I had done, and fail in their upkeep, or if you're found guilty of prejudice, at least in print, they'll nail you every time. Be prepared.

   In Kansas City, I first experienced the joy and wonder of managing for Charles O. Finley. Now, bear in mind I am a realist. A manager goes against an owner, it's an over-the-weight match. Mr. Finley is a white-haired old fellow with bushy eyebrows and

Page 4

small brown eyes, and he's not very athletic. But, as long as he's the owner and you're the manager, he can whip you every time.

   Mr. Finley fired me in Kansas City not because we didn't win. We didn't, but we were heading in that direction, as subsequent events proved. Not because I wouldn't drink with him. I didn't, but we did share quite a few meals. Not because I managed poorly, which is debatable. Charlie Finley fired me in Kansas City because I tried to stop him from firing (or suspending) somebody else. A player. And lied to him about it.

   That one was a lulu, first, because I allowed myself to get caught in a no-man's land between the owner and the player. Second, because it almost resulted in major league baseball's first bona-fied player strike. Third, because my defense was of a guy who Charlie had been told had been drinking and abusive on a team flight. Me, a teetotaler with convictions about alcohol defending an alleged imbiber. Fourth, because in discussing the matter with Charlie in his hotel room, trying to get him to see the error of his intentions, I was fired, then rehired — with a raise — and then fired again.

   What shrewd maneuvers were necessary to get a two-time loser canned in Cleveland? I had to work at that one because the owner was about the sweetest man I've ever known, Mr. Vernon Stouffer. Mr. Stouffer had made a lot of money in frozen foods and knew absolutely nothing about baseball, which is no reason to fault him. How much do the rest of us know about frozen foods? I think Mr. Stouffer would have made me his lifetime manager in baseball. We had a great relationship.

   So what did I do? First I took Gabe Paul's job away from him. Gabe was the general manager, and about as good as you'll find in the game, as the Yankees discovered. But in Cleveland I decided I wanted to be manager and general manager, be in charge on the field and in the office. Wear the biggest britches I could find. Then, having performed this act of lunacy, I systematically alienated just about every member of the press, radio, and television corps in Greater Cleveland. I want to tell you, I really had to work at it.

   I will instruct on these benchmark cases in detail, but not until I have provided the particulars on the undisputed championship way of getting fired from the job of managing a big league baseball team. An all-time first. I was fired — "not rehired," same thing — by the Oakland Athletics in 1975 for commenting on the condition of a man's soul. Specifically, Charles O. Finley's.

   In 1974 and 1975, I had the privilege of managing an incredibly

Page 5

talented band of brawling, backbiting, mind-boggling baseball players known as the Oakland Athletics. The A's were a marvelous bunch of guys, despite the controversies their name provoked in those turbulent years. They were (no longer are, having been dispersed) about the best baseball team I ever saw.

   Heart, guts, and character coming out of their ears, the A's had it all. They had it all until the owner, Mr. Finley, who must get the credit for assembling them in the first place, began disassembling them. An owner has that right, just as you have the right to stay away from his ball park and not buy his product. It's the democratic way.

   Anyway, in 1974, Mr. Finley was led (my wife thinks by God, and I won't dispute it) to call me up and invite me to come back and manage the marvelous Athletics. He did this — and I thanked him for it a number of times — after I'd been a pariah driven from Cleveland and separated from baseball for two and a half years.

   The A's had just won two straight world championships and, as Mr. Finley made it plain, a nearsighted orangutan could lead them to a third. He and Dick Williams, the manager of record, had had a serious falling out and had parted company. Dick, in some corners of the media, was called a bigger man for quitting Charlie than he was for winning two straight World Series.

   So I managed the 1974 Athletics, and, sure enough, we won the American League championship and a third straight World Series. So far so good.

   In 1975, Mr. Finley had a severe dispute and parted company with our best pitcher, Jim (Catfish) Hunter. Now, in the best days of their playing lives neither Dick Williams nor Alvin Dark could have made up the pitching difference in the A's winning Number Four in 1975, but Catfish Hunter could have. Catfish was that good, the best pitcher in baseball at the time.

   But Catfish, a disgruntled hero, found a loophole in his Oakland contract and slipped through to become a millionaire New York Yankee. Not exactly Horatio Alger (he was making $100,000 in Oakland) but a success story nevertheless. His loss started a wholesale breakup of the A's that, by 1979, would make one wonder if such a team had ever existed. But he was the first to go, and without him in 1975 the Athletics were eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in the American League playoffs.

   In many respects, that 1975 season was a managerial high for me. Maybe the best managing job I ever did. Even Charlie was

Page 6

complimentary afterward. Within minutes of our elimination, he had me on the phone in the A's clubhouse: "It's okay, you did a good job. We won ninety-eight games — eight more than we had in 1974, even without Catfish. You did fine. Tell your coaches I'll be in touch."

   "In touch" meant he would let Jackie and me know if we should renew our housing lease for 1976. The trouble was, I wasn't sure I wanted to. A lot had happened. A lot of petty, hurtful things I had learned to expect managing for Mr. Finley, and a few very serious things that had exposed me and my family to some unnecessary heartbreak and embarrassment. These things I will elaborate on as we go along, but suffice it to say, I was in a less than charitable mood during that period, and that was to my discredit. I love Charlie Finley — the Bible teaches that, and the Bible is my guidebook. I suppose I wasn't liking him very much at the time but I was also Charlie Finley's employee, and the Bible has some words about that, too. It teaches a master-servant relationship in your work. I was doing my best — had been for two years — to live up to that relationship.

   In discussing Charlie Finley, "master" is precisely the right word. If he's your boss, he has to own you, from the first warm-up of the spring to the last putout in the fall. Every minute, every day. Johnny Carson said one April that he "knew it was the first day of the baseball season because Charlie Finley threw out the first slave." There's more truth than humor to that.

   Now, back up a few days prior to our elimination by the Red Sox. The regular season ended on a Sunday, the A's winning the Western Division by eight games. We had five days to get ready for the Red Sox. On Monday, I planned to get together with the coaching staff and with Jack McKeon, who had scouted the Red Sox. We would play some golf, adjourn to my apartment in Oakland, meet and eat. Business, pleasure, and full bellies all around.

   Charlie found out about my plans. He had ways. He phoned me Sunday night from Chicago where he keeps his insurance offices and lives most of the time.

   "What are you doing tomorrow?"

   "We're going to play golf, then come home, have some dinner, and discuss the Red Sox."

   He exploded. Charlie is a Hall of Fame exploder. "You're not going to play golf! You're not going to do anything until this thing is over!

Page 7

You're going to have a meeting at the ball park!"

   "Okay, Charlie, fine. We've got more time than we need. I haven't taken the coaches out all year, and I wanted to do this, but fine." That was the way I handled minor crises in 1974 and 1975 — turn the other cheek. Show the boss who's boss. Him. Be subservient until I thought it was important to get a word in edgewise.

   Monday morning our golf game was played on the desks of the Oakland A's offices. We went at it all day. Monday night I spoke at a church in northern California. Mr. Finley tried to reach me at home. My son Rusty answered the call.

   The way Finley had treated Jackie, my wife, and my adopted children, Rusty and Lori, for two years had caused me a lot of grief. But he had been especially rough on Rusty. He didn't want him around. He had pointed out a couple of times that "he's not your blood kin," as though that were a mistake on Rusty's part. Charlie couldn't even remember Rusty's name. He called him John, or whatever, or nothing at all.

   "Where's Mr. Dark?" (Not, "Hi, Rusty, is your Dad home?")

   "Mom and Dad have gone to speak in a church."

   "What's the number?"

   "I don't know, Mr. Finley."

   "You mean you don't know where they are?"

   "No, sir."

   Charlie hung up.

   The next morning he called again, very upset that he hadn't been able to reach me the night before. One drawback to being a teetotaler and homebody instead of a guy chasing around at night was if you worked for Charlie Finley, you were going to be on the telephone a lot. The complaint this time was that I had allowed Campy Campaneris, our shortstop, to skip the workout in order to pick up his mother at the airport. His mother did not speak English and Campy was afraid she might wind up in Seattle. Charlie found out — his information network sometimes functioned at breakneck speed — and blamed me for allowing it.

   I said, "Charlie, as manager of this ball club I thought I had the right."

   He said, "I'm the one who'll decide if a player can miss a practice. I'm the general manager."

   I said, "Well, Charlie, if that's the case, you don't need a manager any more."

Page 8

It was probably something that had been on the tip of my tongue for months, but had, with the Lord's help, stayed there.

   He said, "I've been thinking about that, too."

   Once more the gauntlet was down.

   A fifty-page scouting report on the Red Sox, typed twice by the secretaries because it wasn't double-spaced like Charlie ordered the first time, was ready Tuesday morning at one o'clock. After our meeting I told the coaches, "That's it, take a hike." One of the scouts who had been looking at possible National League opponents was there, Al Hollingsworth, and as we were walking out Carolyn Coffin, Charlie's secretary, handed me the phone. Carolyn had a reputation around the office for being intensely loyal to Charlie. Her influence was, well, tangible. For example, one morning at six thirty our phone rang. Jackie answered and heard a voice say, "Hold on a minute." She knew it was Charlie, but he hesitated for a minute, as if he were occupied with something else, and finally said, "Well, what've you got to report this morning?"

   Jacking said, "Charlie, who did you want? This is Jackie Dark."

   Charlie said, "Oh, Jackie, I'm sorry. I thought I was talking to Carolyn." He said he checked with her every morning from Chicago to find out what was in the West Coast papers, and to see what was "going on."

   I knew Charlie's phone voice myself. There are, to be precise, a number of Charlie Finley Phone Voices:

   "Hello, Preacher Dark? This is Deacon Finley." Clear skies and calm seas. Everything okay today.

   "Hey, Alvin, how's my favorite manager? Got something to tell you." Same thing.

   But: "Yes, well, how are you?" Uh-oh. Thirty minutes of beating around the bush while you rack your brain wondering what you've done, what could possibly be in his craw. Has somebody said something good about you? He never seemed to like that much. Did you miss the chance to say something good about him? Finally he'd say, "All right, Dark," grinding down. Look out. Hurricane coming.

   There were two ways to respond at those times. "Hey, Charlie, I overlooked that. I'm sorry. I just kicked it." That was the quick way. He usually acknowledged your ignorance gracefully.

Page 9

"Well, never mind, just forget it." Put up an argument, however, and you were liable to go till dark.

   If I said, as I did in 1974, "Charlie, I plan to catch Ray Fosse, not Gene Tenace in the playoffs," a mutinous idea, I might as well find a place on the floor and lie down. We argued a week and a day over Fosse and Tenace. He didn't let it loose until the night before the playoffs, and even then he was pretty ominous about it: "Okay, it's on your shoulders, you're responsible."

   "Fine, Charlie. That's the manager's job. I want the responsibility."

   So Carolyn Coffin handed me the phone and Charlie's voice said, "Are the coaches there?"

   He already had the AWOL count. I marveled at how quickly he always knew.


   "Why not? Aren't you taking this thing seriously?"

   "Charlie, I told them to go home. They've done their job. If you want me to stay, I'll stay here all afternoon."

   "Then stay."

   I handed the phone to Carolyn, and as I walked away with Hollingsworth I said, "This guy's an idiot," just loud and angry enough to be heard, but unintentionally so. I admit it was no way to talk. We stayed until five o'clock, going over everything and nothing. Twiddling our thumbs.

   So the lump was probably growing in my throat, and that's my fault, not Charlie's. I've said it before — a manager can't manage until he learns to manage himself. Part of my problems before 1972, before I learned that the secret of managing Alvin Dark was as near as his Bible, was that I never had what you would call exemplary control of my temper. With players or owners.

   That night I had a speaking engagement at a church in Castro Valley, and on the way I said to Jackie, "I can't believe the Lord would want us to come back for another year of this."

   It was not unusual for me to use Charlie Finley in my talks. Almost always I thanked him for giving me the chance to manage again, and I did so that night. Often I called him "my best friend in baseball," for the same reason. Usually, and I did that night, I told of my first year in Oakland, how I quoted scripture more than I did averages because after 1972 I'd been memorizing them and knew them, but was still learning the Athletics. I suspect most people

Page 10

who read about me, including opposing general managers, managers, and players, thought I got up in the A's clubhouse every day waving my Bible and yelling "Get saved!" The fact is, I didn't press my views on anybody. I don't wave Bibles, I just recommend them.

   Usually, as I also did that night, I recollect the time in the spring of 1974 when a reporter looking to make a little news came around and asked me how I could possibly manage the A's, "being the type of boys they are," and how I instinctively said, "I'm going to manage the club the way Jesus Christ would." That was the wrong thing to say because 1) nobody's that capable, and 2) a writer can run pretty far with such a statement. Further, I said that in First Peter we are advised to follow our employer's dictates, and though I would not hesitate to give my views, in the final analysis Charlie Finley was the boss.

   I told the audience Charlie had already asked me to lay off the Bible and politics, but an Oakland writer named Ed Levitt had come to see me after that and we got into the handling of personal problems. In his column Levitt wrote a little of what I'd said. I knew there had to be more. That day Charlie came into the clubhouse storming: "I'm fed up with this. I don't want to see any more in the papers about you and the Bible. I don't want you quoting the Bible to anybody who might write about it."

   I then prepared for a bigger blow, knowing there was more coming. Tuesday afternoon Ed Levitt printed the rest of what we'd talked about. I went to the ball park expecting, at the very least, to be drawn and quartered. I was sitting alone on the far end of the bench during batting practice when Charlie got there. He came down, leaned over, and in a hushed voice said, "He did it again."

   I said, "What, Charlie?" feigning illiteracy.

   "He wrote about you and the Bible again." Then he shrugged and said, "If it means that much to you, go ahead and say whatever you want about the Bible."

   I tied that in with what had happened the following winter. Charlie had phoned to ask if I'd sub for him at a prayer breakfast in Birmingham. The city of Birmingham sponsors an Athletics double-A farm club. I said, "Charlie, last spring you didn't want me to talk about the Bible. Now you're making engagements for me. You gonna be my agent?"

   That kind of reference usually gets a laugh, and it did that night at the church.

Page 11

But underneath I suppose I was still pretty grim. I told of what Jesus Christ meant to me, from the time I was eleven and learned what "born again" really meant, and on through to the lowest point of my life, when I had been fired by the Indians and, in the months that followed, had seen my marriage deteriorate and my family split at the seams. I told of having gone, kicking and screaming, to a ladies' Bible class with Jackie in 1971, and of getting into studying the Bible on a daily basis, learning biblical principles Christians should live by.

   Now, I'm fully aware that people don't like to be reminded of "sin." It's too prickly a word for modern America and we have tried to flush it from the language. You might engage in it, but you don't say it. There is no sin. And if you persists in talking about it, you're a religious fanatic, even if it's your own sin you're talking about. (I like what Jim Kaat, the Minnesota pitcher, said at one of President Ford's prayer breakfasts. "A religious fanatic," he said, "is somebody who knows Jesus Christ better than you do.") But it's probably true, too, that the use of clichés turns a lot of people off.

   In my talk I was into the problems of human nature, problems I had, problems everybody has when they try to go it alone, when I started talking about Charlie. When I heard the tape later, I realized the tone of my voice was not what it should have been. I am ashamed of that, and have since apologized.

   First, I recollected what had happened one day at the stadium in Chicago, when Charlie had cussed me out so loud the whole locker room heard it, and how Gene Tenace had asked me how I could take all that abuse. I'd told him I was in larger hands than Charlie's, and couldn't be hurt by him.

   I repeated what I had said before: that it was easy to be responsive to a good boss, it's the one who is "froward" — that was the word Peter used — who makes it tough. I said I had looked up froward, and it said, "very cruel," at least in my dictionary. I said, "Well, Charlie could fit right there — that would be perfect for him." My reference to Charlie's cruelty had already made Time magazine.

   Then I said, and this was the payoff: "You know — and I'm saying this with respect — Charlie Finley feels he is a fantastic big person in the game of baseball. And he is. He has accomplished things, and I give him credit for building up the [Oakland] ball club.

Page 12

But to God, Charlie Finley is just a very little bitty thing that's lost, and if he doesn't accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior he's going to Hell."

   There was a reporter there from one of the smaller papers — I say smaller not to put him down but so that you will understand why the story didn't get larger circulation at the time. The next day, under the headline "Dark: Charlie Finley Going to Hell," the writer reported what I'd said, taking the juiciest parts out of context.

   On Saturday, we began the playoffs in Boston, and lost three in a row, finishing up in Oakland. It was then that Charlie made his "good job, I'll be in touch" appraisal. Two days later in New York he told a newspaperman that "Dark did a great job, he's a helluva manager, nobody could have done a better job." That was the quote as it appeared. He was in New York for some kind of litigation. With Charlie, litigation is practically an avocation.

   Nine days went by before I heard a word. Jackie was waiting to get packed — if I was out of a job, she'd pack everything and we'd head for Miami, our permanent residence at the time. If I was rehired, on terms I could live with, we'd hold on to the apartment in Oakland (it was a handy setup) and leave some clothes there. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I didn't worry either way. If we go, fine. If we stay, fine. I really thought my work in Oakland was over.

   The telephone woke us on Thursday morning. Jackie got it — the phone was on her side — and after a few words she cupped her hand over the receiver and said, "I've never heard Charlie talk like this. He sounds as if he might be sick." Charlie had said, "Oh, did I wake you? I don't want to disturb you," so quietly and meekly she couldn't believe it.

   "Oh, no, Charlie, Alvin's right here, it's all right."

   Then, to me he said: "Sorry, I woke you. I'll call back."

   "No, Charlie, that's fine. Go ahead."

   "Well, there's somebody in my office now. I'll call you back."

   We got up and made coffee and in an hour Charlie was back on the phone. Same subdued voice. Jackie was right. Different.

   "Alvin, I've thought about this very deeply. I'm not going to rehire you for 1976."

   I said, "Charlie, that's your prerogative. I really appreciate your getting me back into baseball. I think you did a good job this year. I think we all did a good job. We won our division without Catfish,

Page 13

and the guys were just great, pulling together. So thanks again for everything."

   He said, "Don't you want to know the reason?"

   "No, sir. If you don't want me back, there must be someone you think you can work better with. It's not necessary for me to know."

   "Okay, if that's the way you feel."

   He hung up.

   And called back a minute later.

   Same soft voice.

   "Alvin, I'm having a problem figuring how to announce this. How should I announce it?"

   "Charlie, you've never asked me before how to announce anything. Just say you want another manager. Simple as that."

   And he said something that should have tipped me off: "I don't want to hurt you."

   "Charlie," I said, "you can't hurt me. Apparently I haven't gotten the message to you. I'm in God's hands. He's in control of my life, either way. You say anything you want."

   "Okay. Good-bye."

   But he didn't make the announcement. The morning headlines revealed nothing. I waited for word. At such times, baseball tradition calls for the owner to disgrace the manager publicly; the manager doesn't have to do it himself. That morning I had a golf date with a Palo Alto sportswriter, Dick O'Conner, at the Stanford Golf Club. I kept the date, since Jackie said she needed to pack and I'd be in the way. All the time Dick and I played I thought, By the time we reach the clubhouse it'll be on the news. He asked me a couple of times what I was going to do and I said, "I don't know, Dick, I don't know yet."

   Sammy Spear, another writer friend from Oakland, met me there and I took him home to watch the World Series on TV. It was starting in Cincinnati. I gave Sammy the same evasive answers, feeling guilty, but at the same time thinking, Maybe it's 1967 all over again. Maybe he's going to fire me and rehire me again without telling anybody. Knowing Charlie, it could happen.

   It didn't. Sammy stayed for dinner and at ten o'clock three writers called, one after another, with essentially the same piece of news. Art Rosenbaum of the San Francisco Chronicle led off: "We got a report out of Birmingham, Alabama." (Birmingham is Charlie's hometown.) "He evidently told a Birmingham writer

Page 14

that he's not going to rehire you in 1976. The writer says one of the reasons was that you said he was going to Hell."

   After the third call I was tired of sidestepping. Sammy said, "Why don't you call a press conference?" I agreed.

   The next evening, October 17, I had a packed house in the Regency Room of the Hyatt House — all the reporters who followed the club, plus a few more, and the television and radio guys. I suppose they figured after two years Alvin Dark was ready to unload on Charlie Finley, seeing as how I was paying the twenty-five dollars for the room myself.

   It lasted fifty minutes. I reconstructed the events as they happened, including the fact that I really didn't know why I wasn't "rehired," and that I had not asked to know.

   Was it because we lost to Boston? I said I didn't know. Was it because I said Charlie was "cruel"? I didn't know. Why was he cruel? I said Charlie asked me the same thing himself once and I explained it involved my family. No, I said, I wouldn't want to go into it.

   What did I think of Charlie personally, as "one of God's children"? I said, "I hope he is one of God's children." I said I thought the most important thing in life is one's relationship with God. Family is second, job third. That if the first two priorities are solidly in place, the third works out better, or at least it had for me. I said it took more feeling for Charlie on my part to comment on his relationship with God than to just let it drag, like it didn't matter.

   But, I said, though my statements from the church were distorted, at least in the headline, "If there wasn't enough love shown [in what I'd said], that was my fault."

   Did I do a good job in 1975? I wouldn't say, though I thought that the last two years were the best of my managerial life in respect to managing great teams, which they surely were. Would it have been better if he'd fired himself as general manager, having precipitated the A's downfall by losing Catfish Hunter? Big laugh. No comment.

   And then somebody asked, "Would you ever work for Charlie Finley again?"

   I said, "If I thought that was what the Lord wanted, certainly."

   Charlie sent a tape of my church talk to every general manager in baseball. I doubt he did it out of an appreciation for my oratory.

Chapter 2

Baseball managers are a peculiar breed. They have to be. It takes a peculiar person to crave all that aggravation, to be willing to pass up the credit for his team's success and accept the blame for its failures and shortcomings, and to put up with the second-guessers.

   Going in, the odds are all against him: 26 teams, one champion, 26 to 1. Unless he has fooled himself he has to know it's a high-risk occupation. He has to know that the only thing definite when he starts out is that sooner or later he'll be fired (Walter Alston was a rarity in the business) and that now, in the Age of the Million-Dollar-Utility Infielder, he also faces the humbling prospect of being the lowest paid man on the field.

   The essence of managing a baseball team is this: The wife of my next-door neighbor can go to a game, maybe the first she has seen in five years, and when I change pitchers in the night and we lose, she can say afterward, "Why did you change that pitcher? Dumb, Alvin." Or "Dumb Alvin," without the comma.

   I might give her a perfectly logical explanation, but the neighbor's wife knows I was wrong. Baseball is the greatest second-guessing game there is. I'm not complaining. It's part of the appeal, and the best reason football will never replace it in the fans' eyes. The fans will never be smart enough about football to think they know more than Don Shula.

   What sends managers packing is that team owners are not above second-guessing either. Which, I repeat, is their right. For his money's worth, Charlie Finley was not above telling me who to play and when and where, and how to hold the bat. (He had played in high school.) Vernon Stouffer was a gung-ho owner, but he listened to every piece of scattershot advice that came along. People would sit up in his box and say, "Why'd Dark do that? He shoulda done so-and-so." And then he'd say to me,

Page 16

"Alvin, you shoulda done so-and-so." He thought I could talk players into hitting .300 and pitching shutouts. I dug my own grave in Cleveland, though, and I'm not blaming Mr. Stouffer for that.

   In fact, when I compare the joys I've had as manager with the pleasures I had playing the game I probably ought to have my head examined whenever I consider managing again. My athletic career was a picnic — football at LSU and Southwestern Louisiana, where I made a couple of All-America teams. Major League Rookie of the Year with the Boston Braves in 1948, when we won the pennant. Pennants twice with Leo Durocher's Giants, one on what is undoubtedly the most famous home run ever hit, Bobby Thomson's "shot heard round the world" in the playoff with Brooklyn in 1951, and a World Series sweep of the Indians in 1954. I hit  .417 and .412 in those two Series, and was voted into the All-Star game three times.

   Now, compare that with the joy of being charged with racism and fired as manager of the San Francisco Giants. With the glee of being fired by the Athletics, the Cleveland Indians (with two and half years on my contract, the ultimate put-down — they'd rather pay me than let me manage), the Athletics again, and finally the San Diego Padres. You ask, what was a grown man with a college education and at least some of his faculties doing exposing himself to the same man in Oakland who had fired him in Kansas City? When I get to Heaven, I'm hoping God will tell me.

   I think certainly that temperament has a lot to do with it. I love to be involved. I'd been an aggressive player, I am an aggressive golfer, I try to be an aggressive Christian, and I was an aggressive manager. I believe if there is one characteristic needed to win in the big leagues it's aggressiveness. The three World Series teams I played on and the two I managed (1962 Giants, 1974 Athletics) had that one thing in common.

   A winning team is consistently aggressive. They make things happen. It's true in any sport. Nicklaus charges when he's behind. Conners makes his best shots at love-40. The Dolphins run from punt formation. They're unafraid and they try things.

   In 1951, when we came from 13½ games back on August 11 to beat the Dodgers for the pennant, we did everything with that attitude. We had a motto: "Let 'er rip." We hit and ran, we stole bases, we squeezed in runs. We did everything with abandon. Every time we hit the ball we thought "double," and rounded first with the idea we'd wind up on second.

Page 17

   I was the team captain, but the club was more a reflection of Leo Durocher and Eddie Stanky. Durocher inspired it, instilled it in us. If we said "nice guys finish last" once, he said it a thousand times, with no diminishing conviction. And, of course, we had guys on that club who could appreciate Leo's approach: "Stick it in his ear!" "If she gets in the way, spike your mother at second base."

   Stanky couldn't hit, run, or field. He couldn't do anything except beat you. He would sit on you at second base to keep you there. He would pull on your shirt, step on you, throw dirt. When he got on base he immediately filled his hands with dirt. If he had to slide he wanted his fists balled so he wouldn't break a finger. That was defense. He also wanted something to throw in the second baseman's face in case he had to break up a double play. That was offense. He didn't always throw the dirt, but you can imagine the effect on a fielder's concentration when he saw Stanky coming at him with his fists balled. The threat of pain can be just as damaging to an opponent as the pain. Knowing that Sal Maglie would rather put a fastball in your ribs than smile at you was not a comforting thought when a batter took to the plate.

   For me, Leo Durocher represented an entirely opposite set of values, and I would never try to copy him, but he left more of a mark on me than any manager I've been around. He might walk into a place like he owned it, and I might go into the same spot and head for a back table, but those years with the Giants and Leo made an impression that will never wear off.

   When I took over as manager in 1961, Leo was long gone and Mr. Stoneham had moved the club to San Francisco. The Giants were supposed to have a new motto: "Shut up and deal." I'm not so sure it was accurate, but I did feel they had gotten used to finishing third. Maybe what I was really facing was the "new" athlete, the one who makes the financial page and cares more about the figures on his contract and the number of days off than the figures in the standings. It doesn't take a Bible scholar to know there's really not much new in that kind of man.

   In any case, the attitude, when it surfaced, was anathema to me, and to everything I had been taught and believed in. I have scars that bear witness to my disdain.

   We were in Philadelphia, and had just lost a 1-0 game in which we left twelve men on base — nine in the last three innings. The kind of defeat that leaves you goofy. I was first in the locker room

Page 18

and was about to sit down when two of the players came in, and by the sounds of their voices they were about as downcast as a couple of hummingbirds, just laughing and having a good time. There was a stool handy, one of those metal ones in which the structural supports make a V at the bottom. I grabbed it and threw it against the wall, bringing all conversation to a crashing halt.

   I remember feeling a little twinge of pain when I threw it, but I didn't notice anything until Larry Jansen, my pitching coach, got big-eyed and said, "Cap, Cap, look ..." and sat down. I think he almost fainted.

   I had thrown the tip of my little finger off. It had caught in the V of the chair, and when I looked at my right hand the bone was sticking out and there was blood all over the place.

   I got a doctor to stitch me up and he assured me it wouldn't affect my golf swing. When I got back to my hotel room I was heavily bandaged and a little woozy, and Barney Kramenko, a New York writer friend, was waiting. "Does this mean we can't finish our gin game?" he said. He must have been behind.

   I would like to think I have tamed down a lot since then, but I was never a placid loser. Any sign of indifference over defeat could set me off. I flipped a buffet table in Houston one afternoon in 1962. You can appreciate the enormity of the act if you've ever seen a clubhouse after a game. You'd think it was set for a Bar Mitzvah, a big banquet table in the middle, loaded down with lobster, fried chicken, pickles, the works.

   I saved the worst for St. Louis that year. We were fighting for the pennant, two outs in the ninth and Orlando Cepeda on second base, someone else on first. The count on Harvey Kuenn was 3 and 2, and Cepeda has to be running on the pitch. There's no way he can't score on a base hit. Sure enough, Kuenn hits one to left field, and my eyes are on Cepeda. When the ball is hit he starts trotting. And he's still trotting when he gets to third. Then he realizes he better run. Lou Brock throws a perfect strike to home plate, and Cepeda doesn't even slide. He's tagged out, and we lose, 1-0. The first thing I saw when I got into the clubhouse is that smorgasbord. The circuits blew. I threw hot gods, buns, chicken, spareribs, potato salad, everything that was on the table.

   The Dodgers were to follow us on the Cardinal schedule and their equipment was already in the locker room. The next day when Duke Snider came in to get dressed he found a hot dog in his shoe.

Page 19

   That makes a good story, but I'm not proud of it. I would rather say I had matured enough since my playing days to handle managing with a little more equanimity than that. Certainly those who were victims of my earlier behavior would have doubted it was the same person managing the Athletics in 1974 and 1975. I put up with things those years that would have sent me out the top in 1962.

   If Ken Holtzman or Vida Blue had flipped the ball at me coming off the mound in 1962 the way they did in 1974, I would have chewed their ties off all the way to the dugout. If I'd heard Sal Bando say, "He [meaning me] can't manage a meat market," in 1962, I would have exploded. If Reggie Jackson had swung at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded and the take sign on in 1962, or missed the team bus, I'd have fined him the limit and never batted an eye.

   That's the easy way. To explode, to get it out. You satisfy your pride, you shore up your own respect — and you risk losing the ball player, maybe the entire team. I made up my mind in 1974 and '75 to be more compassionate and to manage with more tolerance (more Christlike, if you will). Though I knew it would get misinterpreted, and was, I managed with more inner confidence those years than at any other time.

   I was slower to anger, less likely to judge prematurely or by my own standards as an athlete. I was laughed at and taken advantage of for this. It was openly intimated that I was wishy-washy, cowering in Charlie Finley's shadow. As a result, the 1974 season was probably the loneliest of my life. But when I blew up — one calculated, well-rehearsed, all-encompassing explosion in New York in late July — it had a galvanizing effect that I doubt would have been achieved if I'd spend the year cussing and embarrassing players and rearranging smorgasbords.

   There are, in short, other ways to manage aggressively without throwing tantrums. The two are unrelated.

   It has always been my belief that an effective manager is one who keeps a low silhouette. One who runs a team and a game without anyone noticing, though it rarely worked that way for me. Some managers I've played for and experienced might not agree at all. Leo Durocher's silhouette was gargantuan. I played for him, fought for him, and fought with him, and I can say that he was a great manager. When he was in New York with the Dodgers and

Page 20

the Giants, he had guts coming out of his ears. The Durocher who managed the Cubs years later should not be confused with the Durocher who took the Giants to the top in 1951 and 1954.

   I say a manager should take as little credit as possible because that's what he deserves. I was on a rostrum one evening with Pete Rose, then Cincinnati's $330,000 third baseman (annual salaries are used today as part of a player's description). In the course of his talk Rose, who now plays for the Phillies, pointed to me and said, "Just because this fellow isn't managing [I was between firings at the time] doesn't mean he doesn't know as much baseball as Sparky Anderson or anyone else. Managers do not win baseball games."

   I appreciate that, but Pete should have completed the point. Managers don't win games, but they can lose them. A manager can lose ten games a season by doing a poor job, by making bad moves, by not making moves. By not managing. If he contributes to a bad atmosphere, or refuses to face up to one, he can do even worse; he can send the club into a tailspin.

   An active manager will make mistakes, and when the season's over will know he should have done some things differently. But if he's not scared he will also know he would do those things again, because he had to make the decision then, not when the paper comes out the next day. If you're not willing to put yourself on the spot, you're a scared manager. You have to have the guts Leo had, or be independently wealthy, because the team owner or general manager, who isn't likely to know as much about the game as you do, will say, "Boy, that sure was a stupid move." Before you know it you're out, replaced in the musical chairs of baseball managing by someone who did the same thing somewhere else.

   The cream doesn't necessarily rise to the top in baseball. The best managers aren't always the pennant winners. I think Gene Mauch is the best manager today, and he has never been on top. Why is Mauch the best? Because he's an active manager and a great competitor. Because he can sit down with a ball player and say, "Now, look. I'm the best friend you've got, but you're about to lose your best friend," and reach him. And he can turn right around and tell the star of the team, "Who do you think you are? You think we can't do without you?" Mauch got rid of the best relief pitcher in the American League — his evaluation, not mine — because he considered him a detriment to team morale.

Page 21

"He's a loser and he's going to be a loser, " Mauch told me. "He sits around and moans all the time. He might go over to [he named the club] and have a good year, he might do great things, but I don't care."

   You can't have one "star" and twenty-four other guys and keep a team happy. You can make the star happy, but you'll fail with the others. Mauch told Richie Allen many times how great his potential was, but that he wouldn't let him ruin his club. Mauch would take a guy like Allen into his office and say, "Man, you're killing me the way you're acting. You're doing what you want to do, and I respect you, but you're killing me."

   Mauch could do that. I talked to Willie Mays many times and in many ways, but I didn't have the complete patience Mauch had. A guy like Paul Richards, on the other hand, had all the players scared of him. He wouldn't talk to them. He was an outstanding manager but he was apart.

   Players respect Mauch because he not only doesn't miss anything but the next afternoon at four o'clock he'll be out there helping the player he criticized the day before. He'll work at it twenty-four hours a day. He can take an individual — and this is the tough part when you realize the kindergarten stunts some of them pull — and ignore everything that isn't positive. He can sit right there and tell a .250 hitter, "Joe, you're the best ball player in the league. You're great."

   But Mauch can't pitch a shutout or score a run, and when the players don't do it he's the one who has to take the heat and make the necessary moves. He has to put himself on the spot to get his players off it. I called pitches from the bench in San Francisco and Oakland, as many as six or seven innings in a row when I thought it was necessary. Nobody can blame the catcher then if something goes wrong. Scared managing detracts from the game and lessens its appeal because a game without strategies, without exciting base running, hitting-and-running, and stolen bases can be tedious. A scared manager will never squeeze. A scared manager will tell you that the hit-and-run is overworked and dangerous. A scared manager won't take a chance.

   Branch Rickey once said that if you gave him a good pitcher and one properly executed hit-and-run he would win most games, and I believe it. But hit-and-run plays, squeeze bunts and the sort put a manager on the spot and a scared manager won't try them.

Page 22

He'll say, "We'll run and hit instead. Swing if you want. Run if you want. But don't ask me to make any decisions." When I was with the Braves the writers used to come in and ask Billy Southworth, "Was that last out a hit-and-run?" He'd say, "Aw, no, I never call hit-and-run. It was the batter's decision."

   I hated that because even though Billy was a successful manager it was gutless, and because as a shortstop I knew what the hit-and-run could do, the confusion it creates. Dick Groat used to tell me how it affected him. "Is it going to happen now? Is the runner going? Who covers second base? Can we afford to pitch out? Which way will the ball go?" The catcher's back there thinking the same thing, getting worked up, making himself prone to error. Other shortstops told me our tactics with the Giants kept their whole infield in a turmoil, everybody jumpy, not knowing where we were going to strike.

   The point is this: You can do everything by the book day after day, but there'll come a time when you feel a need to try something unorthodox, and if it fails you're sure to be criticized. Be prepared for the roof to come down — and then to pick up the pieces and try again. Never intentionally put the winning run on base? I've done it when I thought the batter was a greater threat to beat us than the man on deck. I've walked Frank Howard with two out and a man on first and leading 1-0 just so we wouldn't have to pitch to him, and that meant putting the tying run in scoring position. Howard could put a ball into the next county. Why risk it?

   I'm not talking about wild, harebrained schemes. I'm talking about things that should be considered when you're discussing the game, planning for it, talking it over at the hotel or in the clubhouse beforehand. When the situation arises, you react.

   The Yankees had the tying run at first and two out and Joe Pepitone at bat in Kansas City one night when I was first managing the A's. I called time and went out and moved Campaneris, our shortstop, into the outfield, giving us four outfielders — all shaded to right field — and no shortstop. Pepitone always liked to talk and he yelled, "What the heck are you doing?" What I was doing was trying to keep him from pulling the ball to right field. He was hot with the bat and if he pulled to right it was probably out of the park anyway. Entice him to the left side and we had that high fence in Kansas City. I was willing to risk a ground ball through the infield that would put the winning run on base. Pepitone hit a line drive straight at the left-center-fielder (for want of a better term). You win some.

Page 23

   Sam McDowell was one of the worst fielding pitchers in baseball, and one of the best pitchers. We (the 1971 Indians) were playing the Angels one night, leading by a run in their half of the eighth inning. Rick Reichardt was up with one man on. I couldn't afford to let Sam pitch to Reichardt because Reichardt's a good fastball hitter and he might just hit one out. So I brought in Dean Chance, just for one batter, and moved McDowell to second base. I had to think the chances of Reichardt hitting the ball to McDowell, or of McDowell having to catch the ball at second base, were nil. Sure enough, Reichardt hit the ball to third — but the third baseman threw to second. To McDowell. I about choked. It was not even a good throw. But somehow McDowell came up with it for the force-out. In the ninth he set the Angels down one-two-three. You win some more.

   In Detroit one night when I was managing the Indians we had a right-handed relief pitcher in the game, going pretty good. Detroit got a man on with two out, and I brought in a left-hander to pitch to the left-handed batter. I didn't want to take my right-hander out of the game because he was still strong and our bullpen was depleted, so I moved him to third base and put the third baseman on first. The batter then hit an easy grounder to first. Perfect. All my converted third baseman had to do was field the ball and throw to second. He handled it like it just came off the broiler. The next guy blooped a single to right for the winning run. You lose some.

   A chance to exercise some strategy — win or lose, as long as you win more often — is the fun part, of course. The nitty-gritty is handling twenty-five men (and men-children) from every imaginable background: social, economic, educational, etc. The challenge is to treat them fairly but as individuals, to make them team-conscious and self-disciplining, knowing you'll have diapers to change in either department, and, in my particular case, to keep race from being any kind of issue.

   In years past, I didn't worry about those things. I laid the law down and managed in terms of players pleasing me instead of me them. In 1974 and '75, I went the other way, willingly, and didn't even get past the first spring training without a test.

   Charlie Finley warned me he didn't want any of my "stupid fines." He said, "I don't want you to have any rules, I don't want any of those golf-ball fines. Just let the boys play baseball." I had always had fines — for missing curfews, for being late to meetings, for taking pills, for needing haircuts. I had a $1,000 fine for long hair,

Page 24

so I never had any trouble with hair. For the small stuff — a guy missing a cutoff, a missed sign — it might be two dozen golf balls. What made that embarrassing and therefore effective was that the balls went to the other players.

   I always preferred a curfew because it protects the player as well as the club. You make a trade in the spring and you can't find your man, it looks bad. You don't have to be hard-nosed about it, though. You can have sign-outs, absences by permission, just to you know where they are.

   But Charlie said no fines, no rules, and then one day Reggie Jackson came late for practice. It got to be near eleven, and I began hearing little barbs: "What time does the Ten o'Clock Club start?" "Anybody here seen Reggie?"

   When Reggie arrived I didn't say anything, and after the workout he came to my office and apologized. "Skip, I'm sorry. Fine me fifty dollars, let people know I didn't get away with anything."

   Well, I couldn't fine him, but Reggie Jackson was one guy I wanted on my side. Like Sal Bando and Catfish Hunter, he was a leader. I did not need him to be a poor leader. I said, "Reggie, don't worry about it. I know it was unintentional. I know it won't happen again. As far as I'm concerned you're a star everybody looks up to, so it's natural they would say things."

   "What? Did they say something?"

   I said, "Sure. Wouldn't you if Rudi or Bando had been late? Don't worry about it. But how about coming out tomorrow and taking some extra hitting?" Tomorrow was an off day.

   He said, "Okay, sure." And he did, and the players knew it. By the end of spring training he was crushing the ball.

   Then, two days before we broke camp, we were scheduled to bus over to Tucson for our last spring game. I decided it was time to start living on a timetable — you have to when the season starts — so I said, "I want everybody on the bus at nine. Anybody who misses, it's two hundred and fifty dollars."

   At nine o'clock, we were all ready to pull out. All except Reggie Jackson. Reggie was nowhere in sight. Breakfast rolled in my stomach. It is an hour and forty-five minutes from Mesa to Tucson, and all the way I'm thinking, "What do I do now? I have to fine him if he was goofing off. But how can I without losing him?" Reggie is a proud man, justifiably, with a reputation of doing what he wants, when he wants.

Page 25

   He had already put me out on one limb. On a previous Sunday I had let him off to play golf with then-Vice-President Ford, and five days later Charlie Finley called — information channels were sluggish that week — and said, "Who gave you permission to let Reggie Jackson play golf with the Vice-President? All you did was give Gerald Ford one hundred thousand votes in the Oakland area." A democrat, Charlie considered it a political matter. He told me not to let anybody else off from practice. For any reason. And after that I had to turn down Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi, which made it worse because they were aware of Reggie's golf date with Ford.

   Reggie knew I had defended him with Charlie, and I thought it might help cement a bond between us. He had now returned the favor by missing the bus. I thought, "Boy, am I gonna have to put with this all year?"

   Naturally, the first thing the writers wanted to know when we got to Tucson was, "Where's Reggie?" If there is one thing more obvious than Reggie Jackson present, it is Reggie Jackson absent. One said, "What are you going to do when Reggie gets here?"

   "I'm going to listen to him," I said.

   Reggie finally showed up, in street clothes, and came over. "Skip, my car broke down. I just got it yesterday for being Most Valuable Player in the World Series, and the fan belt broke three blocks from the motel. I got it fixed and it broke again on the way here."

   I said, "That's okay, Reggie, I have a Chrysler product myself. I've had troubles, too. Go get dressed."

   Dick Green, the second baseman and an old favorite of mine, was standing there, grinning. He said, "If you buy that, you'll buy anything." Other players were watching.

   Well, I knew if I fined Reggie it would be calling him a liar, showing him disrespect. I certainly wanted him to be telling the truth. But if he weren't, and I didn't fine him, it could be worse.

   I didn't fine him. Ron Bergman of the Oakland Tribune asked me why. I said, "I have a verse for you, Ron. Out of Corinthians. 'Love endureth all things, believeth all things.' I'm going to believe Reggie." (By the time he got to know me better, Ron Bergman would begin almost any subject with "You got a verse for this one, Alvin?")

   After the game, Herb Washington and Billy North asked if they could ride back to Mesa with Jackson. I said sure. The next morning

Page 26

Herb came to me at breakfast and said, "Skip, that car of Reggie's is a dog. It broke down on us again on the way back."

   I was very glad to hear it.

   Reggie Jackson and the Broken Car Caper set the tone as much as anything for the way I handled players in Oakland. But there were times ... In the first game of a doubleheader in Minnesota one afternoon, I used some words on Billy North I wasn't proud of. He had made a lackluster try at a ball. He short-legged it, and it fell for a hit, and I jumped on him. I took him out of that game and off the lineup card for the next, and cussed him. I could see some of the other players enjoyed the show: Preacher Dark popping off, putting a player down. I can't say I enjoyed it. I felt like I'd slapped myself in the face.

   But Billy North showed me something, a quality that I have come to know as part of his manly makeup. He came to me between games and apologized. I told him I was sorry, too, and disappointed, because I felt he had made me use words I hadn't used in years. I put his name back on the lineup card, something I wouldn't have done before, and he perked right up. It helped that we swept the doubleheader.

   I let loose one other time. Darold Knowles, a relief pitcher, was having a bad year. I was trying to get him ready for the playoffs because we needed a strong left-hander in the bullpen, but he was so ineffective I couldn't get him enough playing time. Finally in Oakland I put him in a game and he walked a batter, hit one, walked another. I went to the mound. "Darold, I got to get you out of here."

   He fumed and stomped around. "How'm I gonna get in shape if I don't get any work?"

   "You're not getting anybody out."

   "How am I if I don't stay out here?"

   "Well, I can't let you. I'm sorry."

   And when he got to the bench he shouted at me: "Why don't you trade me?"

   I said, "Because nobody wants you, that's why. Because you're a horsefeathers pitcher this year, that's why." (Except I didn't say feathers.)

   I apologized to him the next day, in front of the team. But I had to think, If Eddie Stanky could see me now. I had to think, Boys, if you only knew me when.

Chapter 3

Eddie Stanky is in my mind so often that it seems impossible that we were together on the Braves and Giants only four years. I know the reason. He was the only close friend I had as a player. We shared common life-styles. Once you get to be a manager your defenses go up and your friendships narrow and it's not as easy to get so close to somebody.

   The only difference between us was that Stanky was a Catholic and I a Baptist. He had a wonderful family, and was totally devoted. I used to tell him they were the only ones who ever saw his soft side. We were both Southerners. Stanky was from Alabama. I was born in Comanche, Oklahoma, but I grew up in Louisiana. My Dad was a toolpusher in the oil fields. When times were tough he was also a part-time barber. I'm told he once cut Cochise's hair. Mother never denied it, so it must be true. She'd eat hot lead before she'd tell a lie.

   A toolpusher's job is to supervise the well drilling. Dad traveled the oil patches of Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi for the Magnolia Oil Company and he had a reputation for being the best "fisherman" in the company. If they lost a string of pipes down a hole in Texas, or something went into a well in Louisiana that wasn't supposed to, Dad was the man to call and come fish it out.

   Ordinarily he would be on a number of wells at the same time. In Texas, our whole family would go out to watch him bring one in — watch the oil burst out the top in a black cloud and spray everybody, the way it did in the John Wayne movies. Once a well was in, he'd move on to another.

   The Darks were Kansans originally, with English blood, some French blood, maybe a little Dutch blood, and some Indian.

Page 28

There was no discrimination among our corpuscles. Dad never went to college. I don't think he got past the seventh grade. But with the oil companies he always had a job, even during the Depression. He worked fourteen hours a day for a princely $11; then $13, then $15 as his stature grew. We wore overalls, and ran around barefoot, and when we lived in Marlowe, Oklahoma, it was a mile hike to school — but Daddy always put groceries on the table.

   I was the third of four children: Margaret, Lanier, me, and Juanita. You couldn't get spoiled batting third in that lineup because whatever discipline my Dad left for Mother to handle when he went on the road she passed on to Margaret and Lanier if she was too busy to handle it herself. They the sensitive areas of the anatomy just as well as my parents.

   My parents were Christians in the truest sense of the word. Ever since I was old enough to breathe they took me church. I was tithing from the time I made my first $5.42. My mother said, "Now, you can give a tenth of that to the Lord." I thought, Man, here I'm getting up at three o'clock and working like this and I have to give my money to the Lord? It might not have been free enterprise, but it was great training. When I started making real money later on it was no problem for me to tithe.

   My Dad drank when he was young, and was not ashamed to tell Lanier and me of the pitfalls. His testimony was one reason I never touched the stuff. Aside from the religious implications, it scared me to death. He said: "I wouldn't drink for a long time, and then I'd take a drink and stay drunk for three or four days. The Darks are that type. Some people can have a social drink, maybe get high once a year, but with me, I knew if I had a taste I was going to wind up in my cups." He said he stopped for good when he got married.

   Neither of my parents spared the rod, and a "pass the butter" without a "please" was enough to get your knuckles rapped. Dr. Spock now says discipline might be necessary after all. My father could have told him that forty years ago. I can remember every licking, and the wisdom behind each one. What else is a man to do, for example, when his son sets fire to the house? There was no air-conditioning then, of course,

Page 29

and houses were built up so air could flow underneath. I was in the crawl space with some matches, and before I knew it they were throwing sand on me.

   Mother was a little woman, about five feet three, and very pretty. Neither of which helped you any when she got out the strap. At those times she seemed to grow. She was dynamite around the house, the classic homemaker: up before us all, kneading dough for hot breads. Dad liked his morning biscuits and we always had cornbread for supper. I can't remember a meal that didn't include baked goods.

   Even now, at eighty-three, she's that way. She lives by herself in a three-bedroom house in Lake Charles, does her own cleaning, tends her own garden, drives her own car. She used to go to the Y every day to exercise but now she spends that time chauffeuring a group of church friends she calls "those old ladies." All of them are at least ten years younger than she is. A few years ago she walked eighteen holes with me at the Crosby.

   Daddy married her when she was fifteen, and never took her off the pedestal. When he was around it wouldn't pay you to let him find her washing a dish. That was somebody else's job. On Monday, we all got to help with the wash.

   I was born blessed to have such parents. Everything they did was was tempered with consideration and affection. They taught love, and tried to teach humility. I'd come home from a ball game and say, "Dad, I got two hits today," and he'd say, "Don't do that. I'll ask when I want to know."

   So I'd wait, dying to tell him. Mother would be dying, too, on my behalf, but she kept quiet. Finally he'd say, "How'd you do, son?"

   "Two hits."

   Great, that's great."

   Both Stanky and I were administered large doses of baseball as kids. My Dad dreamed of playing in the big leagues. He had been a good amateur player in an area that spawned a number of outstanding athletes and where baseball was king. A cow pasture without a game on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon was a waste of space in that part of Oklahoma. Dad had a chance to play in the Texas League, but he passed it up to get married. The dream was revived in his children. From the time I was three he supplied me with balls and gloves, and played catch with me by the hour.

Page 30

He whipped my brother Lanier all the way home from the practice field one day when he caught him playing football. He was afraid we would break something and ruin our baseball chances.

   Lanier was nine years my senior and, at five feet ten, 175 pounds, the image of my Dad. He was an excellent athlete. Name a sport, Lanier could play it, with much more style and grace than I had. He was also one of those cocksure guys who would tell you he was going to strike you out before he did it. Until he died Lanier was that way — talking about what he could do and what he had done. They called him Breezy in high school. He could tell the same story five different ways. He predicted his own greatness in baseball. It didn't quite happen. He made it to class A before his arm went dead.

   I think that Lanier's cockiness embarrassed Dad and affected me. Dad was always telling me, "Let the other guy speak for you. If you do well, you'll get praise. You won't have to open your mouth." He heard me harassing a rival pitcher in an American Legion game one day and when it was over he grabbed me by the collar. "You worry about yourself," he said. "Don't worry about the other team." When I went off to college he gave me a card with a printed quote from Kid McCoy: "Be good to those you meet on the way up, 'cause you're going to meet them all again on the way down."

   Dad taught us both to box, but he used other means to put us down. Lanier was a ten-second dashman in high school and one day when he was telling us about it, bragging, Dad challenged him to a race — providing Lanier would make one small concession. Lanier said "Sure, anything. You can't beat me."

   Dad stepped off one hundred yards on a dirt road, drawing a line at the midpoint as he passed, and when he reached the other end he said, "Okay, you run to the fifty-yard line, make a turn, and go back. I'll start here and finish there."

   At age forty-plus, Dad could still run. When Lanier made his U-turn, Dad flashed by. No contest.

   I know now that mine was a wonderful childhood. Bits and snatches come to mind, and none are painful. The old cow we had in Oklahoma ... The storm cellar we hid in during tornado scares, turning potential disasters into picnics ... The cowboy movies on Saturday, with serials the whole family followed ... Hunting ducks with a slingshot ... Mom's fried pies for trips to Texas (we never stopped at restaurants) ... My sister Juanita, four years younger, throwing batting practice to me.

Page 31

   No childhood is trouble-free, of course. Diphtheria and malaria, contracted early, and a period of bed-wetting slowed my growth and kept me out of school until I was seven. I was still small for my age but was catching up when we moved to Lake Charles. There, for the first time, we settled into a home.

   Lake Charles sits in the southwest corner of Louisiana, thirty-five miles from the Texas line, forty miles from the Gulf of Mexico. It's a port town, where ships came in to get oil, but as a child the thing I remember most was that it seemed to rain all the time.

   It's ironic, considering what happened later. In Lake Charles we lived right across the street from the black district ("colored" in those days). I played ball with blacks. I didn't know about hating them or disliking them. I never even heard a racial slur until I got into professional baseball. One of my best friends was a black boy who used to go to the park with me to chase fouls. Later we corresponded while I was at LSU and in the service.

   When I got to the big leagues it was popular for bench jockeys to holler things, especially at Jackie Robinson. Robinson had broken the color line in 1947. There was a lot of vocal resentment. I didn't like it and I didn't do it. Robinson himself told me once that it was easy enough to spot a bigot. "As soon as you get into an argument or a fight with one he'll call you a nigger." He must have been right because I saw Frank Robinson and a Phillies pitcher get into a row one night, and the pitcher called him nigger. Frank decked him.

   I was a good student in school to start, but the more involved I got on the athletic field the less involved I got in the classroom. I was never a discipline problem because what sports didn't take out of me, my Dad's strap did. I had no close friends. I didn't talk "problems" with my buddies. We talked sports, period. We were athletes, period. Whenever a teacher passed around one of those vocation questionnaires, I always wrote "Professional Baseball" on Line 1, and left Line 2 blank.

   They'd say, "What if you don't make it, Alvin?"

   I'd say, "I'm going to make it."

   At ten, I was playing in a city league with nineteen-year-olds. They stuck me in right field, the leper's station of sandlot ball, but I didn't mind. At eleven, I was the shortstop on a Legion team with guys fifteen and sixteen. When summer came I was at the

Page 32

park before my breakfast was down, and stayed till dark, and if they turned the lights on I was still there. Dad loosened the reins a little after Lanier, and I took part in all the other sports, but as far as I was concerned they were just padding around the baseball season.

   As a high school senior, I made the all-state and all-Southern football teams at tailback. I had two loving, caring coaches, Albert Ratcliff and R.S. Killin, who not only concerned themselves with my play, but how I lived and how I studied. Special people. Coach Ratcliff was the first man I heard say how important it was to be "calm, cool, and collected." As a junior he let me kick extra points. Calm, cool, and collected Alvin Dark missed the kick in a 7-6 game that cost us the district championship.

   Lanier erected homemade goalposts over the garage so I could practice placekicking, and if he wasn't around I'd dig divots in the ground with my heel, set the ball up, and boom away. By the hour I would do that, all alone. Or just throw a ball (the shape varying according to the season) into the air and catch it, throw it up and catch it. Lanier would say, "It's the same no matter what you do. Watch your foot kick the ball. Watch the baseball into your glove. Watch the spot on the hoop when you're shooting a basket. Never take your eye off what you're doing."

   I was a guard on the high school basketball team, a "playmaker" (a guy who doesn't score a lot), and the team captain. Basketball was probably my best sport then and got me the most attention. We didn't have a high school baseball team. In lieu of that, I played Legion ball for five years.

   There is an old trivia question that still makes the rounds, one that John F. Kennedy was supposed to have answered correctly. That Alvin Dark was the only man who ever caught a pass from Y.A. Tittle and hit a home run off Sandy Koufax. It's not accurate, however. Tittle played at LSU after I did.

   Actually, I had first accepted a basketball scholarship to Texas A&M, where I was going to study animal husbandry. I thought I might like to own some cattle after I made the big leagues. I was to leave for Texas on a Monday. That Friday, out of the blue, an LSU coach came and invited me to Baton Rouge to play basketball and baseball. I had already turned down an LSU football scholarship. Even though I was then a respectable 165 pounds, I figured I had been living a charmed life. I didn't want football injuries to delay my ascent into baseball.

Page 33

   Dad must have had an inkling. He made what was for him a sweeping concession: "I know you're going down there to play basketball and baseball, but if you go out for football, don't let the big names from other places scare you. You're as good as they are. Hard work and confidence, that's the important thing. And don't pop off."

   Three other boys from Lake Charles — one of whom became my brother-in-law, Bill Lantrip, Juanita's husband — went with me to LSU on football scholarships. After a week I woke up to the difference. The football players were downstairs eating steaks and baked chicken, football players' food for building bodies, and I was up there with a bunch of skinny basketball players and track men, eating wieners and sauerkraut and pieces of roast beef you could see through. I decided to go out for football.

   The day before the freshmen were to play their first game, I asked the freshman football coach, who also happened to be the LSU baseball coach, if I could try out. He said sure. Did I know anything about what they were doing? I said I'd been watching practices, and it was the same Notre Dame box we used in high school. Ah, the wonders of beginner's luck. The first two times I carried the ball — the only two times I carried the ball — I ran for touchdowns. One for forty-five yards. I threw four passes and completed two. After that there was no turning back. I was an LSU football player, betrayed by his appetite.

   I was at LSU for two years, for the football seasons of 1941 and '42. World War II was a shadow that had materialized, and the athletes who were 1-A knew it was only a matter of time. You go about things differently in those circumstances. You grow up faster. You think ahead more, trying to milk sixty-one minutes from every hour. An almost fatalistic thing, difficult to explain unless you've been there.

   I lettered in football, basketball, and baseball at LSU, dashing from field to field, and got the chance to try a little golf for the first time. I would have gone out for track, too, but LSU took a dim view of athletes who couldn't work the classroom into their schedules. Football, of course was what turned Louisianans on, and under Coach Bernie Moore we had a good team. I will spare you the details, but there was one particularly memorable day.

   I have to set the scene a little. The LSU kicking coach was a man from Texarkana named Joel Hunt. Punting was a big weapon in football because the box and single-wing formations allowed

Page 34

for effective quick kicking. Third-down quick kicks were common. I had a forty-two-yard punting average that year, but Hunt wasn't turned on by how far or high a ball could be kicked. He believed the beauty of a punt was dramatically diminished by a good runback.

   So every day at practice he put us on our own forty-yard line and had us aim for the flags at the goal. The object was to kick out of bounds, as close to the flag as possible. ("Coffin corner," it used to be called.)

   LSU's arch rival is Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi. As the starting tailback my sophomore year, I ran for two touchdowns and threw a pass for the third and we beat Mississippi, 21-7. But what stands out in my memory of the game was three punts. The first was a seventy-four yard quick kick. We were backed up to the ten-yard line and I had to kick it from the goal. Then, later on, I was in punt formation on the Ole Miss side of the fifty-yard line. Both teams were lined up. The referee was right behind me. I said, "If I hit the flag, where do you put the ball in play?"

   "Right there," he said, "Right on the one-foot line."

   And so help me, my punt hit the flag. One of those things you couldn't do again in two lifetimes of punting.

   One more kick and the story's done. Ole Miss had a punt-return specialist who scared everybody that year. All week Coach Hunt had been reminding me, "Don't kick it to him, whatever you do. Kick it out of bounds. A thirty-five-yard kick out of bounds is better than a sixty-yarder that he gets his hands on."

   We were working on a shutout when I went back to kick from the end zone late in the game. And I got off a textbook shot, a lovely spiral, high and far, and smack dab in the middle of the field. The guy I was supposed to keep the ball away from ran it back for a touchdown. I could hardly wait to get to the sidelines to hear Coach Hunt tell me what a lunkhead I was!

   In 1943, knowing that the draft was imminent, I joined the Marine Corps' V-12 program. As part of officers' training, the V-12 allowed a student to continue his education another year. I was sent to Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette. Steve Van Buren became the LSU tailback that fall, moving over from blocking back, and was a great one, but I don't think there were many colleges with a better football team than the Marines put together at Southwestern Louisiana. They funneled outstanding football players into Lafayette by the truckload. Guys like Weldon Humble,

Page 35

who went on to star for the Browns, and Bill Blackburn, who became the Cardinals' center, and John McGee of the Bears.

   It got to be a joke. Nobody wanted to play us. The athletic officer would call up LSU or Rice or somebody, tell them we had a team, and ask for a game. No. Sorry. A "scheduling problem." We tried to play Tulane. We tried to play Notre Dame. We tried to play Fordham. We wound up with eight games, mainly against other bases, and went undefeated. One of the teams we beat, Randolph Field, tied Texas in the Cotton Bowl that year. We were told we would have gotten the Sugar Bowl invitation if they had found somebody willing to play us. A bowl game was created for us — the Oil Bowl in Tulsa. We won, in ankle-deep mud.

   The joy for me was running behind Humble and Blackburn. I'd never seen such blocking. Humble must have been six feet four, 220 pounds, Blackburn six feet six, 240, and they were both as fast as I was. Faster, maybe. To give you an example: I ran a punt back for a touchdown in one game and it was called back because we were offside. The other team punted again, and I ran that one back for a touchdown. Nobody touched me either time. A fellow could play into middle age with that kind of protection.

   Grantland Rice wrote some nice things about me, and I got a couple of All-America mentions. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted me as a future, but I took that with a grain of salt. I certainly wasn't interested in pro football. Colonel Earl Blaik, the Army coach, called and asked if I'd like to come to West Point for the 1944 season. He was in the process of assembling those great Blanchard-Davis teams. He said I could play two more years of college football there if I wanted.

   I said, "How many years will I have to stay in the Army after that?"


   I said, "Colonel Blaik, as soon as this war is over, Lord willing, I'm going into professional baseball. I can't afford four years."

   I finished basic training at Camp LeJeune and, after another twenty weeks, received my commission at Quantico in January, 1945, then was shipped to Pearl Harbor to await combat orders. Those of us who had played football were asked to sign up for the Marine Corps fleet team, and I did, but a week later I was sent to Saipan and assigned to a machine-gun outfit. I was checking in, not yet unpacked, when a first lieutenant called from headquarters.

   "You Lieutenant Dark?"

Page 36

   "You have orders to go back to Pearl Harbor to play football. I've been out here thirty-three months, and you're here a day and now they're sending you back to play football. Wonderful." There was no escaping the irony. His outfit had gone through the battle of Guadalcanal, and was getting ready to invade Okinawa.

   I was back in the Orient in December of 1945. The war with Japan was over, but they sent us into China, where the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists was heating up again. Ostensibly, we were occupational forces, at an outpost forty-five miles below Peking, along a railway line. Our job was to guard the railroad and run supplies to another outpost. To do it we had to go through a town the Communists controlled, but we didn't know they were Communists. The town had a gate at one end and a gate at the other, and they would open one at a time to let us pass — our jeep and one supply truck. The people in the town would holler and make gestures, but we didn't know what they meant. We got used to it.

   That Christmas we (the four officers in charge) threw a party at the house we shared for what we thought were the town's warlords. That party is vivid in my memory because there was a lot of toasting going on and we ran out of ice, and those of us who were sober went out back to where the river had frozen and chopped up a fresh supply. The river also served as the town's sewage system. We wound up with some very drunk Communists on our hands that night, but the miracle was that they survived the ice.

   Our group ran the supply line for four months before being relieved. A month after I got back to the States, I received word that the Marines who took our place were ambushed in the Communist town and massacred.

Chapter 4

My Dad wrote me one letter while I was overseas. He wrote to tell me a Boston Braves scout named Ted McGrew would be waiting for me in Lake Charles when I got home. "He's going to offer you some money," he said. "I just wanted you to know."

   I was as surprised as I was delighted. If the scout had ever seen me play it had to be four years prior, when I was at LSU. I hadn't set the world on fire there. I hit something like .340, but there were guys batting .450 in college, and I was anything but a stylish player. I had ways of doing things — you could call them techniques if you were willing to stretch a point — that were peculiarly mine and were not eye-catching.

   When I was at Pearl Harbor, before I went to China, I couldn't even make the Marine fleet team. They put me at third base for one infield practice, and that was it — one infield practice. I didn't even get a chance to hit. Such was the impression I made. I wound up playing for one of the division teams, in the "minor leagues" of the Marine Corps.

   The only professional scout who had showed any interest at all during my service time was a football man from the Buffalo Bills. There was a lot of competition for football players then because the All-America Conference was getting started, and a number of pros and pro prospects were service teams in Honolulu. Choo Choo Justice was on a Navy team we played. I told the scout I wasn't interested.

   Sure enough, Ted McGrew was in Lake Charles when I got home. He asked me to put on a piece of paper how much I'd sign for. I wrote "$50,000," not because I thought I'd get it but even in those pre-Mark McCormack days you had to double your expectations just to start the bargaining.

Page 38

   He said, "You got it." A $45,000 bonus and $5,000 to finish out the year with the Braves. There were three months left in the season. If he had told me he'd throw in 20 percent of the Boston Common I wouldn't have been more surprised.

   I said, "You have to tell me something, Mr. McGrew, because I'm really curious. Why do you want to give me all this money? I haven't played much baseball lately. There must be a thousand guys with better records."

   He said, "Because I think you have what it takes to be a big league ball player. The competitive spirit, the desire to win. The things you've shown in other sports are the things we want in baseball."

   Well, I thought, how about that? Dad was right all along.

   Warren Spahn and I met the club in Pittsburgh on the same day. Spahn was coming out of the Air Force. I hadn't been discharged yet, but I had plenty of leave time. The Braves gave us each a nail to hang our clothes on.

   I weighed 190 pounds. I had done nothing in China to stay in shape, and coming back on the troopship I made up for it by doing nothing but eat. A two-and-a-half-week eating binge. I ballooned, fat for the first time in my life, I couldn't run. My spikes felt like bedpans on my feet. I couldn't throw. I couldn't do anything except go through the motions, which included thirteen official times at bat (three hits, all doubles) in fifteen games. Welcome to the big leagues.

   In late June I went to Pensacola to get my discharge. A Marine major asked if I was ready to sign my "reserve commission." I said, "What's that?" He said in order to keep my captain's rank I'd have to attend meetings once a month and a two-week summer camp for two years. He said it was "expected of me." He said, "That's one of the reasons we sent you to school."

   I said, "Thanks very much, sir. But I'm playing professional baseball. I won't need a commission. My summers will be occupied."

   He said, "Well, then, I'm not giving you your discharge. You think about it and come back tomorrow."

   I went back the next day and said I had talked it over with myself, and my answer was the same: I wanted to play baseball. He said if that were the case I'd have to leave the Marine Corps a sergeant, which I did. I didn't give it another thought until the Korean War, when they started calling veterans back in.

Page 39

Then I thought about it a lot but, as it turned out, they never asked me again.

   Your first spring training is the one you never forget, and the thing I remember most is that I couldn't believe how soon they stopped every day. The first day at the Braves camp in Bradenton, Florida, I felt like I could practice forever. I had played basketball all winter and lost twenty pounds, and was in the best shape of my life. When they called a halt I wanted to say, "Hey, let's not stop now. Let's keep going. Let's play some pepper, do some hitting."

   It was an entirely different atmosphere than you see today. Guys didn't sit on the bench at workouts, or slip into the clubhouse to get out of the sun. If someone had a blister on his toe, he kept going. They didn't want to miss anything, or have somebody pass 'em up. The tendency always is to think you had it tougher back-when, but I'm not talking about tougher. I'm talking about wanting to. I'm talking about loving it.

   I'm talking about competing for the joy of the competition. As kids, if we weren't on the ball field we pitched pennies. Dig a hole and throw washers at it; play marbles. Anything to compete. I'm still that way. At age fifty-two I was out with a bunch of kids in the prime of their lives, competing for a place in the National Amateur golf tournament, practicing every day, hitting shot after shot, bearing down. I was out there to win, not to make an appearance. Reality for a man of fifty-two is this: I didn't qualify.

   The point is that there really were guys who would have played for nothing, and not just the ones who deserved nothing. I went to watch Ted Williams take extra batting practice at Fenway Park one day. This was a couple of years later when he'd hurt his elbow in the All-Star game and was trying to get his timing back. The Red Sox were out of town, but I heard Williams was going to hit so I went over. A .344 lifetime hitter is an education for anybody.

   I watched him hit, that beautiful textbook swing come to life, then went inside and chatted with him while they were working on his arm. You could tell he loved to talk hitting. He had nothing but a towel around his waist, and all of a sudden he jumped off the table and started demonstrating. It wasn't playacting, he was there, in the batter's box, really grinding. He said, "You know, I hate that pitcher. That no-good s.o.b. isn't going to get me out. I'll kill him first." That's the way he talked, and that's the way he played.

Page 40

Forty-five minutes of extra batting practice wasn't work to him, it was fun. I know because I was the same. I wasn't there to pick up my money and go home.

   I had a good spring in 1947, a wonderful first spring. I really thought I'd stay with the Braves and never have to play an inning in the minor leagues. But in the spring games I'd play some, then sit. Play, then sit. Billy Southworth was the manager, a low-key sort of guy. Sibby Sisti had been his regular shortstop and Southworth was not one to make hasty changes.

   Then about a week before we broke camp I got three hits in a game. Afterward, Southworth said, "I'm sending you down to Milwaukee for more experience."

   I wondered what he'd have done if I'd gotten four hits? I said, "Why? I think I can play right here."

   "Well, you won't get much playing time, and I want you to be able to play every day." It's an argument every manager uses, me included, but it only sounds good from one side of the conversation.

   So I went to the Milwaukee Brewers, then a class-AAA team in the American Association, with a manager named Nick Cullop. Cullop wanted me to play about as much as Southworth did. After I'd been with the Brewers a little over a week he told the Milwaukee writers: "I'm playing Alvin Dark at shortstop, but I'd rather play Damon Phillips." Phillips had big league experience, which was like having a pedigree. You mongrels step back for this show dog. "I want to play Phillips, but the Braves say they want me to play Dark at shortstop." I saved the clipping.

   Cullop took me out of the lineup for a pinch hitter early in the season and it was so obvious a put-down that I was fuming. In Milwaukee you had to run around the stands to get to your dressing room, and I'd just turned toward the seats when I took my glove and hurled it against the left-field fence. It slammed into the fence. Splat. There weren't many people in the park, but those who were there couldn't have missed it. The next day Cullop jumped all over me for "showing him up."

   Well, I had the kind of year a rookie dreams about. I hit .303 and led the league in runs scored and doubles. I had learned to hit to the opposite field in the off season, and I was spraying them everywhere. At shortstop I led in putouts, assists, and the other side of the coin, errors.

Page 41

Danny Murtaugh was the second baseman and helped me along, teaching me things. I never was a slick fielder, just an unshrinking one. My interpretation of fielding was that it could be done a number of ways. With the arms, chest, nose — anything to stop a ball's progress. My whole body was a glove. My hitting style was much the same. I was a line-drive hitter, with a different stance for every pitcher, but if you got right down to it the best thing I had going for me was that I wasn't afraid. I wouldn't be intimidated.

   I was voted the league's All-Star shortstop and Rookie of the Year, and ran third in the Most Valuable Player vote. We topped it off by beating Syracuse in the "Little World Series." In the playoffs prior to that, I hit a ninth-inning home run to beat Kansas City in the deciding game, and when we were at the train station afterward, preparing to go on to Louisville, Nick Cullop came and sat down beside me. He was smiling. He said, "I knew you could do it all the time."

   And I took out my wallet and unfolded that clipping., I said, "Nick, I've got an article here that quotes you at the beginning of the year." And I read it to him.

   He said, "Ah, kid, don't believe all that newspaper stuff."

   The next spring I told Billy Southworth I was "there to play, not to sit."

   My Dad died that year — the saddest day of my life. He had a heart attack and I didn't make it home in time to see him off to Heaven. The only consolation was that his dream had been realized, one of his boys had made the big leagues. Back in Boston after the funeral, I was never taken out of the lineup again.

   I got more advice that spring than I could believe. It was funny because nobody had paid any attention to me the year before. Johnny Sain, the Braves' best pitcher, took me aside and explained it. He said it happens all the time. "When you don't look like you're going to be a big leaguer, everybody has advice, hoping for some credit. I have one piece of advice to myself: Listen to 'em all, but use only what you think is good for you. Too much advice from too many people will foul you up."

   Sain and Warren Spahn were the guts of the Braves' pitching staff that year. They were the pitching staff. The slogan in Boston was "Spahn and Sain and Two Days of Rain." Sain led the league

Page 42

with twenty-four victories, and Spahn won his share, and the Braves surprised everybody by winning the pennant, our first in thirty-four years.

   It was quite a wave for a rookie to ride in on. I hit .322 my all-time high, cut my errors almost in half, and was voted Rookie of the Year. We were not a great team, weak on defense and in the outfield, but we had a closeness. We worked together. And we had Eddie Stanky. Stanky had been traded by the Dodgers that year after falling out with Leo Durocher. According to Stanky, Leo had taken Branch Rickey's side in a salary dispute. Stanky called it "a knife in my back." He had pushed to be traded.

   We still weren't good enough to beat Cleveland in the World Series. The Indians had fantastic pitching — Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden, Steve Gromek — and took the Series in six games. You can't win a World Series with only two good pitchers, even if their names are Spahn and Sain. It's asking too much of the rain.

   But the best thing was getting to know Stanky. We were roommates from then until he quit to manage the Cardinals in 1952, and it was a liberal education. He was six years my senior, but we were inseparable. We roomed together, our wives were close, our families even lived in the same apartment house. We talked, laughed, and argued, played golf together. I had to watch him on the golf course because what he lacked in talent — he hadn't played much golf — he made up for with careful consideration of the rules.

   You like to have that in baseball, someone to be with, to keep from climbing the walls when you're on the road. If it's someone who's intelligent about the game, you're twice blessed. I don't know what the average I.Q. in baseball is, but you don't run across many Phi Beta Kappas and most of the old-liners take a dim view of education. Rogers Hornsby used to say, "Don't read, it'll hurt your eyes." He said the only thing he read was the Racing Form.

   Stanky knew so much more about the game than anybody else. If there were ten possible percentage plays to make, most guys would know four or five. Stanky would know ten. Things you don't see in a box score. The so-called "intangibles," like sacrificing yourself by hitting behind a runner, things that help a team but don't do the individual much good at contract time. He was the consummate team man, gutsy as a bandit. He never alibied a day in his life.

Page 43

   All the baseball writers would flock around Stanky, wanting to interview him. They didn't talk to me. I didn't have anything to say. I'd just listen. Mostly I'd listen to Stanky. Danny Murtaugh, who became a successful manager with the Pirates, had been generous with his instruction at Milwaukee. Stanky was a post-graduate course.

   He had come up the hard way, banging around in the minors from 1935 to 1942. I doubt most players today would have gone through what he did to be a big leaguer. Not many of them did even back then. Contrast his seven years with my one at Milwaukee. He then played with five big league clubs — the Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Giants, and Cardinals — and he was like a blotter soaking up information.

   As an example: One of the first things he did was change my thinking on double-play balls. I was always conscious of getting the first out, hesitating to make sure the pivotman would get there when the ball did. Stanky said, "Forget that. It slows us down. Have enough confidence in me and yourself to throw the ball like I'm going to be there every time. Make sure it's in the same place every time, in front of the bag, not over it or behind it."

   It was a subtle but worthwhile difference. With the action closing faster and moving quicker, we could cut the time and increase our chances. You had to be willing to risk an occasional error. When we played for Durocher, Stanky would torment him with the possibility. Leo would get up on the dugout steps and yell, "Make one sure," meaning the first out, and Stanky would say just loud enough, "Don't pay any attention to that big nose. If we get the chance, we go for two."

   One day in Chicago we made a double play on a left-handed hitter that had to be the fastest on record. It was a close game. One out. Men on first and third. Ball hit to Stanky, flip to me, flip to first, zip, zip. Horace Stoneham never praised double plays because he remembered the old Giants and thought they were best, but he came to us after the game and said, "Great double play!" Well, with Stanky's expertise and 820 hours of practice, anybody could have done it.

   Stanky took it on himself to give me elementary deportment lessons. He could blow up all he wanted, but when I had a tantrum — which I was prone to — he'd puff with indignation. I was taken out for a pinch hitter in Pittsburgh one night and blew my stack,

Page 44

storming around, throwing things. On the train home to Boston Stanky needled me all the way. "You're Babe Ruth? You don't get taken out for pinch hitters?"

   I always thought Stanky would have made a great manager, the way he could charge you up. Half the time I wanted to kill him (his size worked in his behalf at those times), but by agitating he always got me going and if it wasn't me it was somebody else. When he did manage, with the Cardinals and White Sox, I don't think he had anyone around him who was close enough, or liked him enough, to go to him after one of his tirades and say, "Hey, Eddie, you can't do that. You're killing yourself."

   Stanky, having cut his teeth on Durocher, didn't appreciate Southworth's style. Southworth was a mild little man who had won pennants with the wartime Cardinal teams of 1942, '43, and '44 by exercising a lot of patience and just letting the Cardinals play. He wanted everybody to like him. His idea of strategy was to avoid getting the other team angry. He'd say things like, "Come on, boys, let's all just relax."

   To Southworth every hitter was the same. He'd call a meeting and say, "Now, here's Campanella. You gotta pitch him high and tight, low and away, and change up." It was a blanket formula. He'd go down the lineup: "High, tight, and low and away." Jeff Heath used to swing from the pipes when he'd do that.

   Since Southworth was a peacemaker, he and Stanky were at odds most of the time. One night after striking out, Stanky came storming back to the dugout and kicked the ice bucket, splashing cold water all over Clyde Shoun, one of our pitchers. In those days you didn't have electric water coolers or first-aid aerosol sprays and you always kept an ice bucket handy in case of an injury or if somebody wanted a drink.

   Shoun cussed him, and Stanky cussed back, and words led to blows. I was at the plate. I always batted right behind Stanky, one-two in the order, and didn't have a ringside seat, but I could see Shoun had him by the throat. It didn't last long, most baseball fights don't, but it must have troubled Southworth.

   The next day in New York he called a meeting. "Fellows," he said, "you've got to have better control of yourselves. If you make an out, don't get mad. It's not so bad. Just say, 'I'll get 'em next time.' Don't get mad." That was Southworth.

   First time up in the game Stanky pops out. When I get to the plate I can hear the Boston players laughing and carrying on, and when I look back

Page 45

the first face I see is Southworth's. He looks like he's been hit with a fish. Stanky is rolling on the dugout floor, squealing, "I made an out! I made an out! Oh, goodie, I made an out! Whoopee! Hooray!"

   Sibby Sisti is not only one of the great baseball names — ranking with Skeeter Webb and Manny Moto and Van Lingo Mungo — but he is the central figure in two Eddie Stanky episodes of that time period. Sibby was Southworth's pet, and Southworth had a maxim that you hit in batting practice the way you hit in a game. I don't share that belief, there being very little pressure in the batting cage. But to each his own.

   Anyway, Sibby was hitting line drives all over the place on this particular day and after batting practice Southworth came in the locker room and said, "Eddie Stanky, come in here," meaning into his office. Two minutes later, here comes Stanky, red-faced. He's mad, but I didn't ask why.

   Southworth came out and called to me. "Al, come in here a minute." I went into his office and he said, "Listen, Sibby's really hitting the ball good in practice. I thought maybe you'd like to have a night off. Take a rest."

   I said, "Rest? I've rested all winter. I don't want to rest." And I stalked out, knowing then what had irritated Stanky.

   I hadn't reached my locker before Southworth was gesturing to Bob Elliott, the third baseman. "Hey Bob. Come here a minute." That night Sibby Sisti played third for the Braves.

   The only time I ever saw Stanky tipsy was at the celebration we had at Al Schacht's restaurant in New York when we clinched the 1948 pennant. Stanky had broken his leg sliding into Bruce Edwards, the Dodger catcher, earlier in the season. That last month he was coming around, playing off and on. It was ironic, really, because he was having his best year at bat, hitting .320 before he got hurt, which was rarefied air for him. Southworth couldn't make up his mind to go with Sisti or Stanky at second in the Series. Stanky wasn't enjoying the suspense.

   We were coming back from the party in a cab and I began to hear Stanky whispering to himself. "Sib-by Sisti. Sib-by Sisti." I'm half listening and half-trying not to laugh. "Sibby Sisti is playing second base over me." By the time we got to the Commodore Hotel the tears were rolling down our cheeks, we were laughing so hard, and when we got up to the room he put in a long-distance call to his wife Dixie. She must have

Page 46

thought he'd flipped. "Sibby Sisti," he said, giggling. "Sibby Sisti is playing second base over me." That was his greeting. "Sibby Sisti ain't going to do it. He ain't going to play over me."

   Sibby didn't, of course. He was a big contributor to the team, but he was no Eddie Stanky.

   Stanky, never having learned diplomacy, made no secret of how he felt about Southworth's managing. They had more trouble the next year. A guy would get caught stealing and Southworth would say, "No, I didn't give him the sign, he was on his own." And Stanky would burn. Stanky, at bat one day, put the hit-and-run on with Spahn on first base and then popped a foul behind the bag. Spahn was almost to second and had to turn around and slide back into first, but the infielder who caught the ball threw it away and Spahn got up and went to second, sliding again. All this apparently exhausted Spahn because when he went out to pitch he got knocked out the next inning.

   The sportswriters asked Southworth, "Did you give Spahn the hit-and-run?"

   Southworth said, "No, I had nothing to do with it."

   Stanky said, "I did it."

   The headlines the next day said, "Who's Running the Braves, Southworth or Stanky?"

   A manager's job is to stand up for his players and coaches, not dive for cover when there's a flap. It got worse and worse. When a player asked for more money, he'd hear from the front office that "Southworth doesn't think you're worth any more than you're getting." The club dropped to fourth place, and in August Southworth quit and went home. He had become more and more alienated, and was drinking a lot. Johnny Cooney managed the last month of the season.

   As a final insult, the players voted Southworth only a half share of their fourth-place Series money. Stanky got the blame; everybody thought he was after Southworth's job. He actually had little to say at the meeting when we voted, but it was not received in Boston as the most gracious thing we could have done.

   In December, the New York Giants traded two long-ball-hitting outfielders, Willard Marshall and Sid Gordon, a fine shortstop, Buddy Kerr, and a relief pitcher, Sam Webb, to the Braves for Eddie Stanky and Alvin Dark, a couple of troublemakers. For the next six years of his life, the body, if not the soul, of Alvin Dark belonged to Leo Durocher.

Page 47

   How Durocher and Stanky settled their differences I don't know, but it was hardly a popular trade in New York. For one thing, the Giant fans still hadn't warmed up to Leo, he being the much-despised ex-Dodger manager who replace their all-time favorite, Mel Ott. Moreover, it seemed that Stanky, equally loathed as an ex-Dodger, never went to the Polo Grounds without starting a fight.

   It was no secret, either that Mr. Stoneham wasn't crazy about the deal. He loved long-ball hitters. The club had set a National League home-run record the year before, and Willard and Gordon hit 'em out of sight. But for all their power, the Giants had been woefully slow-footed. Leo liked speed, and good pitching, and tight defense. He told Mr. Stoneham, "This is not my kind of club," and insisted on changing it.

   In the spring, the Chesterfield cigarette people offered me $500 if I'd sign an endorsement contract. They had a billboard in the Polo Grounds that featured Giant players smoking Chesterfields, but I said no, I didn't smoke. They said, "Well, you don't have to smoke, we just want to say you do." I said, "No, I can't take money from a cigarette company."

   The next day Leo announced that he made me team captain, and gave me a check for $500. He said it went with the deal.

   I know Leo had to square it with Stanky, selecting me over him, because Stanky was his kind of player and should have been the captain. Stanky took pride in that sort of thing. I think Leo chose me because he knew Stanky would be the way he was regardless, and he wanted me to develop more of that brashness Stanky had and Leo loved.

   Stanky would do anything to get on base. He'd step on a catcher's toe, or drop a bat on it — duck under a fourth ball, tap the bat on the plate and flip it so that it landed on the catcher's foot. He could do it blindfolded, and every time he did the catcher would cuss him. Usually that only got me in trouble because I was the next hitter. No one's going to pick a fight with a guy five feet tall.

   In Philadelphia one night when the Phillies were going for the 1950 pennant Stanky got right behind the pitcher at second base and started doing side-straddle hops in direct line with the hitter's vision, with Durocher's blessing, of course. The first time the umpire didn't say anything. Then the batter, Andy Seminick, stepped out and pointed. Stanky took a couple of steps in and yelled

Page 48

that as far as he knew there was no rule covering the side-straddle hop. The umpire made him quit anyway.

   By now Seminick was fuming, but Stanky wasn't through. As the pitcher wound up, Stanky started walking briskly toward second base, so that he was again in line with the pitch. Seminick struck out, and the umpire threw Stanky out of the game.

   Bill Rigney replaced Stanky at second base. Rigney stayed more or less stationary, but when Seminick came up again he still had Stanky on his mind. It didn't matter that Stanky was gone, somebody had to pay. Seminick reached base, then with two outs a ball was hit to me and I tossed to Rigney for a routine force, and Seminick knocked Rigney about forty feet into left field. By the time peace was restored, both benches had emptied onto the field for the grandest free-for-all of the season, with me on the bottom trying to get Seminick and Rigney apart.

   When we trooped into the clubhouse afterward, all scratched and torn up, Stanky was sitting there, showered and shaved, smiling and drinking a Coke, looking like a magazine ad.

   My own temper was a little more inwardly directed than Stanky's. Willie Mays said that one of the first things he learned as a Giant rookie was that I was the league leader in ripping uniforms. Whenever Gene Mauch found a torn shirt he'd say, "Must be Alvin Dark's." In frustration I'd rip them open without unbuttoning them. The buttons would fly like machine-gun bullets.

   A short fuse can be a big embarrassment. I hit a fly ball to left field off Spahn one night in the Polo Grounds, and in anger shattered my bat on the plate. I was standing there with the pieces in my hands when the ball settled into the stands for a home run.

   But I never went looking for trouble, and the only fights I got in were on the field, usually because Durocher had riled somebody. Somebody like Jackie Robinson.

   Herman Franks had been coaching for Leo for years. They were buddies, and Franks was Leo's Number One holler-guy, or hatchetman, depending. Leo liked to have somebody to save him when his throat went dry, or when he needed to increase the volume. Leo would say, "Herman, get on this guy ... Get on Newcombe." He was always getting Herman to yell at Don Newcombe, the Dodger pitcher. Newcombe was Leo's kind of target — he was about six feet eight and Leo was about five feet eight.

   Herman Franks was a tough guy himself. He had wrestled in

Page 49

college, and he was no mincer of words. Herman, however, wasn't always tickled to death with his role because, as he said, after Leo made everybody mad Herman had to go out and coach third base. "I gotta holler for that big nose so-and-so, then I'm the one that's got to risk my life out there."

   We were at Ebbets Field, in a pennant fight with the Dodgers, and Leo had been hollering for Sal Maglie to "stick it in his ear" whenever a Dodger came up. If you don't think that could cause trouble in Ebbets Field you're not realistic, and if you don't think Leo knew it you're crazy. Maglie was Leo's kind of guy. When Leo said "stick it in his ear," Maglie did it.

   He almost stuck it in Robinson's. Down went Jackie, and when he got up you could see he wasn't too pleased. There are some guys you can knock down and some you can't. Knock down Robinson and you can bet your house he'll get up and somehow wind up on first base. Once he's there he won't give you a moment's rest.

   When Robinson came up again, he immediately bunted down the first base line, hoping to get Maglie to cover so he could trample him — the standard retaliation. But he pushed the ball too far and Whitey Lockman, the first baseman, fielded it and Davey Williams, the second baseman, covered first. Robinson wasn't picky at this point. He bowled Williams over, and such obvious relish that both benches immediately emptied onto the field. A typical baseball fight, with a lot of words exchanged.

   The bad part was they had to carry Williams off on a stretcher. As it turned out, his back, which had been injured before, was never the same. The blow finished him in the big leagues. He hung on for another year but he was finished. Still, I could understand Robinson's feelings — he had to hit somebody, and it happened to be an innocent bystander.

   When we got to the dugout I called the team together. I said, "Somebody's got to get him," meaning Robinson. Jackie was playing third that day. We agreed the first base runner to reach third would do it.

   Who do you suppose was the first runner to reach third base?

   I hit a ball down the left-field line, no more than a double. But when I rounded second I bowed my head and accelerated. Robinson gave me a quick double take, realizing immediately what was happening. He was braced when I left the ground, about fifteen feet from third. It was a complete wipeout. Caps, helmet,

Page 50

glove, ball — everything went flying, including two adult males, one black Brooklyn man and one white Louisianan. The way Robinson told it I almost put him in the box seats, and he said he'd have done the same thing in my position. But you couldn't hurt Robinson, and if you did he wouldn't let on. If I'd broken his leg he'd have gotten up and walked to third base. Robinson was the greatest competitor I ever knew.

   I scrambled back to third, and when Robinson reassembled himself he was mad as a hornet. He used a couple words you wouldn't find in a Baptist monthly, and said, "I'll get you at shortstop."

   I said, "I'll be there, just don't cuss me."

   And suddenly I was very much aware of Herman Franks. He was being very solicitous, very attentive, brushing me off, asking after me, sticking very close. I'm thinking, What's all this? I can brush off my own britches, Herman.

   Nothing else happened on the field, but when the game was over I couldn't help noticing Herman. We showered, and then walked to the car — we'd driven to the game together — and if he'd been my sportscoat he couldn't have been any closer. He still hadn't said anything.

   Finally we got to the car and drove off, and then he turned to me and his face was blood red. "You no-good Louisiana Cajun," he yelled. "What'd you do that for? Run into Jackie Robinson in Ebbets Field — are you crazy? Why'd you do a stupid thing like that? If you wanna have trouble with Robinson or Newcombe, don't ever do it in Ebbets Field!" [Note: Ebbets Field was the home of the Dodgers]

   Jackie and I became good friends after that. We played in golf tournaments together, and, of course, he came to my defense when I was charged with making racist remarks in 1964. I have to think Robinson and I had a mutual respect. Certainly if I were managing I'd never have ordered a pitch thrown at him, because you couldn't intimidate Robinson.

   There were hitters — you'd be surprised at some of the so-called great hitters — you could intimidate; whom you could brush back or knock down and get them so upset they might not finish the time at bat. Others got hit so many times in the head they were naturally gun-shy. Carl Furillo had as much courage as anybody, he'd fight anybody in an alley, but after a while that little white ball coming at his head got to him. Ted Williams might not fight anybody,

Page 51

but throw at him and you were liable to get your jaw removed with a line drive.

   My first year in the big leagues I went up and down like a yo-yo. It was fashionable in those days to throw ex-football players high and tight because they were supposed to be muscle bound and couldn't handle that pitch. But I was a tailback and wasn't very muscular. They still tested me. Guys who wore glasses were especially vulnerable. Lee Walls could hit the deck as fast as anyone living. I think beanballs bothered Willie Mays a little, but not so much you could notice. If Willie had had Robinson's courage at the plate, you'd never have gotten him out. He was so strong. As it was, he was still the greatest player of my experience.

   Now, of course, it's a different game. Pitchers say "excuse me" when a guy goes down. "It slipped, Joe. Don't take offense. We'll have a drink later." Part of it is the young players' more businesslike attitude. I've heard Ken Harrelson say to a pitcher, "Hey, wait a minute. I'm trying to make some money at this game, too." They're like a union. Protect the group. I'm not saying this is bad, I'm just saying it's a change.

   I watched Hank Aaron on television the last few years. They never threw close to Aaron. Two strikes, no balls, he'd be digging in, stepping right into the ball, adding to his home-run record. When we used to play him Marv Grissom had a standing rule that when Aaron came to the plate you flattened him. I'm not suggesting it was good etiquette, but we felt it made a difference. Very seldom do you see a two-strike no-ball pitch come near a guy's ear anymore because the pitcher doesn't want the batter to think it was on purpose. In other days the idea was to let him know it was on purpose.

   Leo had Freddy Fitzsimmons as one of our coaches and the way he told it Fitzsimmons actually used to announce to a guy that he was going to knock him down. He'd walk right down the mound to within ten feet of Johnny Mize and say, "Pick a soft spot, you big so-and-so, you're going down," then turn and walk back to the mound, hump up and whoosh. Down would go Mize.

   I hit a home run off Gene Conley of the Braves one night in New York. Gene was the kind of guy who took those things personally. He was raised in the streets and would fight a buzz saw. I like him, but he was mean on the mound, and at six feet nine, he looked like he was putting his foot in your mouth when he threw.

Page 52

I was ready to hit the deck on the first pitch my next time up, but he threw a ball, then another ball, and I began to relax. I said to myself, "Son of a gun. I'm going to get to rip one off him." He had to get the next one over, and I dug in.

   He threw it right at my chin. I'm striding toward him, and the ball is suddenly in my face. I could actually see the seams. How I got out of the way I'll never know. It must have looked like I exploded. I wound up on my belly with my head pointing back at the screen and my feet straight out toward the mound.

   Some years later, when I was with the Milwaukee club, Del Crandall told me he remembered that pitch. Crandall was the Braves' catcher. He said after my home run Conley came back to the bench raging. "I'm gonna get that _____. I'm gonna part his hair for that. That _____ is hitting me too good." Actually, I wasn't hitting him too good, and never really did, but the last time up that night, I hit another home run.

   I wasn't afraid at the plate because I never thought a pitcher could hit me. Oh, I'd get plunked in the ribs, or take one on the shoulder, but I never believed there was a pitcher around who could hit me in the head. The one time in my life I got hit in the head with a baseball was while running to first base. The shortstop made a wild throw.

   You'd be surprised what a difference that made facing a Don Drysdale or a Gene Conley, guys who were affronted if you got a base hit, guys whose fastballs could kill you. I saw Darryl Spencer get beaned in a spring game. Mike Garcia of the Indians released the ball and Darryl didn't move a muscle until it hit him on the mouth. It made that dull, sickening sound that chills an entire ball park. turning your stomach inside out. Darryl was okay. He said he just lost sight of the ball.

   I don't know if it was the football background or not. I was used to getting knocked around, fielding balls with my chest, getting spiked, so I always felt that it just wouldn't happen to me; that God wouldn't let it unless He wanted it to happen, and not to worry. Be alert, but don't worry. I have to think it was a big asset, and certainly made me a better two-strike hitter. When it's 0 and 2 and you're half-petrified of a waste pitch at your head, you're an easy out.

   I believe courage is second only to ability in being a good hitter. A guy may not look like he's concerned, but you don't know what's going on in his stomach, and just a little weight shift onto

Page 53

the heels can ruin a swing. Wild pitchers make .200 hitters out of the best of them, and that applies to big leaguers, too. There are guys in the majors right now who wouldn't spit in your ear if your brain was on fire because they don't have the courage.

   That's why so many ball players are eliminated in the minors, that little fear. You could take some marginal big leaguers, guys who are just hanging on for the paycheck, and say, "Listen, I know you can hit double-A pitching. You're making twenty-five thousand dollars here, I'll give you fifty thousand to play down there in those weakly lit parks, where they've got three lights to a pole and you can't see, and half the pitchers are wild." The answer you'd get is, "Keep your fifty thousand dollars."

   I've known hitters you could predict would turn up sick on a day when they had to face a certain pitcher. It might bring out the best in a Jackie Robinson or a Ted Williams, guys who'd really grind if they were thrown at, but I've had teammates who couldn't sleep nights when they were going to face Bob Rush. He was big and fast and wore glasses, and he didn't always know where the ball was going. Rush knocked them all down — left-handers, right-handers. I'd come back after getting a hit off Rush and Hank Thompson would say, "That man's going to kill you next time, he's going to stick it in your ear." And I'd say, "If he does, I'll bite it off and spit it back." Hank loved that because I had a lot of luck with Rush. He scared me to death but I wouldn't let him know it. I could anticipate what he was going to throw, and after he put me down I'd get up and get a hit. Thompson would be giggling when I got back to the dugout.

   That's why films are really not much good in baseball. An owner says, "Take films like the football teams do." We took films in San Francisco and Kansas City and Cleveland, and they helped with certain things — a pitcher dropping down, a batter hitching, a catcher not sitting right. These were things you could see with the naked eye, anyway. Then, too, some things that look wrong aren't necessarily wrong for an individual. Hank Aaron had a hitch in his swing and you would have to say Aaron wasn't a slouch at the plate. Al Simmons stepped in the bucket. Hank Greenberg hitched. Mel Ott lifted his lead foot right off the ground like he was getting ready to kick at a dog. All they did was make the Hall of Fame. The important things don't show in films. An owner likes to think everybody on the club has courage, but until he has stood in a player's shoes sixty feet six inches from somebody throwing a

Page 54

baseball ninety-five miles an hour, he'll never know. A football coach can tell by looking at films if a guy's willing to stick his nose in, but a baseball manager can't.

   There are rules against beanball contests, of course, and batters wear those protective helmets and nobody has been seriously hurt for years, except Tony Conigliaro. The players are together; Marvin Miller, their legal representative, takes care of them pretty well and security is a big thing. I can't knock that. The beanball contests we used to have got to be carnivals, and highly dangerous ones.

   Guys like Conley and Ewell Blackwell of Cincinnati could throw bullets, and it was nothing for them to put you down. Blackwell was the best pitcher I saw for a short period of time. It was difficult to pick up the ball in his windup — he'd curl his arm behind his back, and you'd get a glimpse of it there, and that's the last you'd see until it was coming at you. I arrived on the ground many times without my hat when Blackwell pitched. They called him "The Whip." He was tough on everybody.

   Durocher didn't shrink from those contests, of course. Once he had Larry Jansen throw at a guy who was so jumpy he turned away before he knew where the ball was, and it hit him in the seat of the pants.

   But Leo's all-time hit man was Maglie, Salvatore Antonio Maglie, Sal the Barber, an almost legendary character. The nickname supposedly came from all the close shaves he gave batters, but that was only part of it. He had the bluest beard in baseball. If he shaved at two o'clock, he needed another shave at two thirty. It contributed to a general Mediterranean swarthiness that, with his bushy eyebrows and six-feet-two, 190-pound frame, made him appear all the more menacing on the mound. He glared down at batters like a vulture.

   Off the field Maglie was as nice a man as you'll ever meet. On it, he was unmerciful. He is the only man I've ever seen pitch a shutout on a day when he had absolutely nothing. Pitchers have those days, when they lose their stuff. Maglie got by on meanness. He was no respecter of persons. I saw him knock down Jackie Robinson one time with Duke Snider on third base. If the ball had gotten by the catcher, Snider would have scored. Maglie didn't care.

   Sal was the best pitcher in the National League in 1951, the year we won the pennant. He was high in the league with 23 victories, lost only 6, and came up with one clutch performance after another.

Page 55

He was already in his mid-thirties then. He had played four of his prime years in the Mexican League, joining a lot of Americans who had jumped down there when all that money was offered after World War II.

   They all came back with stories to tell. Maglie swore this was true: He said his manager in Mexico always carried a .22-caliber pistol in his belt, even in the dugout. When he wanted attention, he fired a shot. One day Maglie was standing next to a guy who didn't want to do what the manager told him and the manager let one go between his teammate's legs. Maglie said it was an object lesson. He said he learned to do what his manager said.

   That couldn't have pleased Durocher more, because when Leo ordered it stuck in somebody's ear, he was no respecter of persons, either. He would order it stuck in anybody's ear, even Stan Musial's. Stan used to wear the Giants and the Dodgers out in New York. So every time he came up, Durocher would yell, "Stick it in his ear!" Hank Thompson at third would look at me and I'd look at him and I'd say, "Yeah, and we'll get it, too, if he does."

   One time in St. Louis Leo went out to the mound and ordered Marv Grissom to walk Musial on four pitches, but the first one wasn't far enough outside and Musial hit it over the right-field fence. Leo hadn't even sat down before it was gone. He was livid. So the next time we played the Cardinals, with Larry Jansen pitching and Musial up in a tight spot, Leo came to the mound again. I always liked to join 'em at times like that, to hear what Leo was going to say, maybe pick up a few pointers.

   He said to Jansen, "I don't want you to walk him, I want you to hit him. I don't want to take any chances."

   Before Leo got back to his seat this time Jansen plunked Musial right in the ribs. It was too obvious for words. And the whole process started over again. When we came to the plate, everybody went down.

   Leo loved it.

Chapter 5

The first time I walked into the Polo Grounds with Eddie Stanky, the opening day of the 1950 season, we were treated to the most generous round of boos I've ever heard. A regular ground swell of boos and catcalls accompanied us all the way in from the clubhouse in center field. I couldn't believe it. I was stunned, and not a little hurt. Stanky said to think nothing of it. The boos were meant for him.

   Sports fans everywhere have one thing in common, of course. When you start doing things that please them, your status changes in a hurry. Today's bum is tomorrow's razor-blade commercial. Eddie Stanky wasn't a bum long. The 1950 Giants, cut in Leo's image, rose from fifth to third and were a gutsy crowd-pleasing team.

   I think anybody who played in New York in those days would agree, however, that the fans in the Polo Grounds, and in Ebbets Field as well, were special and could inspire that in you. "Demonstrative" would be a word to describe them; "fanatical" might be a better one. A contributing factor was their proximity to the action. The parks were built to conform to a neighborhood, not the other way around. In their irregularity they were charming and — well, chummy. Today's new ball parks glory in their symmetry, in their massive stainless-steel and vinyl beauty, and are sterile by comparison.

   In the Polo Grounds, you felt as if you were playing in the stands. More important, the fans had just the opposite feeling — they were as good as on the field. A section in center field even had its own honors system, and awarded plaques to favorite players.

   I felt like crying years later when I read that the wreckers were dismantling Ebbets Field. Of course, the Polo Grounds eventually went under, too,

Page 57

both teams having moved to the West Coast in 1958. The Dodger-Giant rivalry that continues there is perhaps as intense as ever, but somehow seems more detached. Having experienced it in both places, I can say that it is not as heated as it was in New York. {This webmaster from L.A. disagrees with that!}

   The Dodgers in the mid-fifties were a truly magnificent baseball team. I'd stand out there at shortstop and marvel at the endless stream of right-handed power hitters that came to the plate — Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo — realizing we had nothing like that. Nobody in the National League did. I think we had a superior defense, and, in 1951 at least, better pitching. Larry Jansen equaled Maglie's twenty-three victories, and Jim Hearn and Dave Koslo were stoppers.

   That spring Leo moved Whitey Lockman to first base, and Bobby Thomson to third. He put nineteen-year-old rookie Willie Mays in center field in May. All were good moves. Geared for the pennant, we started slowly — and then really dragged. We got worse instead of better. At one point in August, we were 13½ games behind Brooklyn. I was always keyed up for the Dodgers, but I was no better than anybody else. One night we had a one-run lead. The Dodgers, with two out in the ninth, got Pee Wee Reese on first, and the next batter hit a high bounder to me to end the game. Any high school shortstop would have made the play. The ball stuck in the webbing of my glove. I couldn't get it out to make the force at second or to throw to first. Both runners were safe. With Campanella up, I could see the future, and it was grim. Campanella put one out of the park and the Dodgers won, 5-3.

   What happened after that, of course, has been roundly acclaimed as one of the great rallies in sports history. At the very least it was a miracle. It couldn't be pinned to any precise moment, yet suddenly we were a different team. "Let 'er rip" was not just a motto, it was a way of life.

   The last month and a half of the season allowed for very little sleep on that club. We'd go to the park, win. Go to the park, win. We won sixteen straight, and still had ground to cover because the Dodgers were playing so well themselves. You've never seen such fury. We were like blind dogs in a butcher shop. We were always coming from behind. It didn't matter what the score was, everybody would say, "Just keep it going." We won 37 of our last 44 to tie for the lead.

   To break the tie, a best-of-three games playoff was arranged. We won the first,

Page 58

in Ebbets Field, 3-1, and then fell on our faces in the Polo Grounds and were disgraced, 10-0. As a parenthetical note, Bobby Thomson struck out with the bases loaded in that game.

   The final was also played at the Polo Grounds. The Dodgers moved ahead 4-1 and held it to the bottom of the ninth behind Don Newcombe. A lock if there ever was one. Newcombe was especially tough on right-handers, and he could scare you to death. He looked like King Kong on the mound. Despite great size, however, he had a freewheeling style. He admitted later that he was an alcoholic all those years, but you couldn't tell it by his fastball.

   I led off. The crowds for the Dodger games were always excited, but this one suddenly became especially so, as if they could sense something. Those feelings get transmitted to the players. Don't ask me how.

   I must have fouled off seven of Newcombe's pitches before I hit one into right field for a single. Then Don Mueller singled. Monte Irvin popped out, but Whitey Lockman doubled me in and sent Mueller to third, where he sprained his ankle sliding and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. Clint Hartung ran for him.

   Out came Newcombe and in came Ralph Branca.

   And on a one-strike, no-ball pitch, out of the park went Bobby Thomson's home run, the most talked-about hit in baseball history. I read once that more than a million people have claimed to have been at the Polo Grounds that day. The announced attendance was 38,000. [People were listening to the game on the radio all over the planet. The home run was dubbed, "The shot heard round the world." The story is told that a soldier in Korea, in a foxhole, was listening to the game on the Armed Forces Radio Network. He was a huge Giants fan and wouldn't miss hearing the game for anything. He was so very happy about the home run and the Giants victory. But he didn't make it back alive; after the war, his buddy informed Thomson that that home run, that radio broadcast, that thrilling moment of victory was the last happy moment of his friends' life.]

   If the entire season had been that hairy we'd have all wound up in the cardiac ward, but it was indicative of the way we did things. And I have to think Leo Durocher inspired it. He instilled it in us. His kind of aggressiveness might have hurt a club with a different type of player. Guys who don't know Leo might not respond, might wind up hating him. Some guys who did respond hated him anyway. Or feared him.

   As much as I admire Durocher, I don't think he was a good manager for young ball players. I don't think he knew how, or cared to know how to handle them. He was not a teacher. His forte was taking players who knew the game and letting them play, and then backing them up. That's where his guts came in. He might chew you out in the clubhouse, but to a newspaperman he'd say, "Yeah, I gave him the go-ahead, so what?"

   Leo could get the maximum out of you, or get nothing. He could finish first by ten games

Page 59

with a fourth-place club, or last with a second-place club. By July if he knew he couldn't win he could care less. He was New York-bred, and in New York it's No. 1 or nothing. Crowds, records, money, none of that mattered to him.

   But win a game 1-0, with first place in sight, and the whole clubhouse was euphoric. Leo inspired that. A loss was a wake. I went 4 for 4 one game when we lost, and we were all sitting there — except for Stanky, who was taking it out on the furniture — like a funeral had started when the writers came in. One of them came to me, looking for something positive to write about, and said, "Four-for-four, nice game." I said, "Man we lost a ball game. What are you talking about, four-for-four? What difference does that make?"

   Once he knew there was no chance to win at all, Durocher was a different manager entirely. One year when it was clear we were going to finish fifth he let some of us take turns managing. He even let me pitch an inning one afternoon when there was nothing at stake. I allowed two runs and I wouldn't complain except that it appears in the record book that Alvin Dark has a lifetime earned-run average of 18.00.

   If you stood up for Leo publicly, he'd go to the wall for you. He'd take the blame for every mistake you made, and expose himself to the criticism. And he had another hidden asset — he knew who to get on, and when to get on them. Wes Westrum was one of his whipping boys. Wes could take it. Whitey Lockman was always scared to death Leo would get on him.

   I know he had a motive in making me team captain, and he said things afterward that indicated he was pleased with his choice. But it wasn't in me to be Eddie Stanky. My first year, all I did was take the lineup to home plate. After the success we had in 1951, I began taking on some responsibilities — automatic things, like consoling a guy after a bad day. After a while some of the younger players came around, and some of them, like Mays, still call me "Cap."

   Certainly as a younger player myself there wasn't much I was going to say to the pitchers, to the Jansens and the Maglies. When I was with the Braves, pitchers like Sain didn't want anybody messing with them. By the same token, you don't necessarily have to talk your head off to be an effective captain.

   I hit .417 in the '51 Series, led the team in runs scored, and tied with Lockman for the most runs batted in, but we lost to the Yankees in six games. Ed Lopat beat us twice and Vic Raschi and Allie Reynolds once each,

Page 60

and we couldn't get a victory for either Maglie or Jansen. Both appeared pitched out by the season and the playoffs. I can honestly say that I would have traded every hit for a Series victory. If that reflects Leo's thinking it is also natural to me, and maybe that's why he made me his captain.

   The only time Leo and I had trouble was in 1953. It began in the spring. I was holding out that year. I thought I was as valuable to the Giants as Pee Wee Reese was to the Dodgers. I had outhit all the shortstops in the league, and since Reese was making a reported $40,000 and I was making $25,000, I held out. There was talk, too, that I was going to be shifted to second base to make room for Darryl Spencer, who'd had a fine year in the minors, and when we started spring games Leo moved us back and forth. I wasn't very happy about it.

   Then, during a game in Fresno, California, I backed up on a ground ball at second base and it bounced over my head. The infield was bad, and in the spring you have to be careful you don't get hurt. But if I had charged the ball I wouldn't have looked so bad on the play.

   I had been having trouble with one of the New York writers, a little guy with a mustache named Jim King. He had written that I wasn't hustling, that I didn't want to play second. I did a dumb thing, something I was immediately sorry for — I ran into him under the clubhouse one afternoon and told him if he wrote one more derogatory line about me I'd pull every hair out of his top lip, one by one.

   I have to give King credit for guts. He really ripped me after that play in Fresno. That night I got word there was going to be a press conference in Leo's room, and it was going to be about me. I jumped out of bed and beat it up to his room and must have got there just as somebody popped the question because Leo said, "Well, here he is, why don't you ask him?"

   And I told 'em. "I don't care where I play. Leo Durocher's managing the club, and if he wants me to play second or left field or catcher or whatever, I'll play it. And I'll play second, too. But I'm not going to get hurt in spring training."

   The fact is, second base is easier to play than shortstop. If I had been looking for a softer way to go, I'd have been happy to make the switch.

   It turned out to be a bad year for the Giants, 1953, and it was tough on Leo. Willie Mays was in the service. Monte Irvin was

Page 61

slow coming around after a leg injury. Sal Maglie, our best pitcher, was struggling. We were buried in the standings, and he couldn't get us out of it. In Cincinnati one night I went 0 for 5 and made a couple of errors. After it was over Leo told Herman Franks he was going to chew me out the next day, make an example of the team captain. It was good to be prepared.

   The next afternoon, in front of the whole team, he unloaded on me. Not, he said, for hitting poorly, but for letting it affect my fielding. He said I should try all the harder in the field when I didn't do well at the plate. As it turned out, it was my best year for home runs (23) and runs batted in (88), and I played four positions, but we were losing and nobody was happy, least of all Leo. He needed an outlet.

   When he yelled I yelled back. Ordinarily players didn't do that because Leo was so loud and intimidating and could be so personal with you, could cut you so deeply. I never got off my stool, and he strutted around like a rooster, but it was as good as toe-to-toe. We went at it for forty-five minutes, and resolved nothing.

   We went back to New York the next day to play the Cardinals. It turned up muddy and we didn't take infield practice, and I made another error. Actually the ball was ruled a hit, on a bad bounce, but it cost us the game. Almost immediately Leo sent Darryl Spencer down to the bullpen to warm up, just so I'd see him. The next morning the New York papers quoted Leo as saying I should have had the ball. As soon as I knew he would be in his office I went in to see him. I was relatively calm.

   "Leo, you got to trade me. You don't want me to play shortstop, and you don't like the way I play second, so trade me. Get me off the club."

   He said, "I'm not going to trade you."

   "Then what's all this stuff in the paper? You popped off at me. I never pop off at you."

   "You shoulda had it."

   "It was muddy. I couldn't get it."

   And we went at it again. Round and round.

   Leo had the last word. He said, "Well, you're not going to be traded, and that's that."

   The next spring, he announced, "Dark's my shortstop, no matter what."

   And something happened that year that I suppose will always keep us close. It was no secret that Durocher was on the spot with

Page 62

Horace Stoneham. Mr. Stoneham had never been able to figure Leo out. He was used to being the boss — "Mr. Stoneham," "Mr. Horace" — and here was Durocher married to a movie star, Laraine Day, and hobnobbing with his big Hollywood friends, George Raft and Frank Sinatra and all kinds of glamorous people. He wasn't the least bit awed by an owner of a ball club. Durocher was that brisk, confident type who, as one writer said, "made no concessions to humility." He was a sharp dresser, even in a baseball uniform — everything spotless and well tailored. On a golf course, he was immaculate: shoes shined, a manicure, first class. Every move he made was quick and positive. When he walked into a place he immediately got the best table and the best steak.

   He came into baseball that way. As a Yankee rookie in 1925, he was accused of telling everybody how to play the game, including Babe Ruth. He and Ruth evidently shared no affection. Rush referred to him as "The All-American Out." It is true Leo wasn't much with a bat, but he had that same quality he admired in Stanky.

   As captain of the 1934 World Champion Cardinals, he was called the gassiest of the Gashouse Gang, "The Lip," "Sharpie." Even as a player he seemed ahead of most managers in the game. As manager of the Dodgers, he had won a pennant, and then in 1947 was suspended "for conduct detrimental to baseball" by Commissioner Happy Chandler. The Catholic Youth League withdrew from the Dodger Knothole Gang because of his "associations," and he was suspended again for mauling a fan when he became the Giants' manager.

   Stoneham never knew how to take him. But he had needed him in 1948 because he had to win. He was in a financial situation that demanded it, and Durocher had won him a pennant in 1951, even while trading away Stoneham's muscular favorites.

   But in 1952 Mays was drafted into the Army and Stanky left to manage the Cardinals. In 1953 Irvin broke his ankle, and we dropped to third and then to fifth. In June of 1954, Joe Reichler, then with the Associated Press and now in the commissioner's office, called me aside in the Polo Grounds and said, "Alvin, do you like Leo?"

   I said, "Yeah, I like him. He's a great manager. He gets more out of his players than anybody."

   "Well, you better do something, because Stoneham says if you're not on top by the All-Star game Durocher's through."

   We held a meeting that very afternoon. No coaches allowed. I told the players

Page 63

what Reichler had told me: "From now on, we have to praise Leo every chance we get," I said. "Whitey, you know Leo's been on you many times, even though you're having a great year." Lockman was shaking his head. "He's been on me, he's been on all of us. He's always on you in the clubhouse. But publicly he's for you, and it's time we started telling everybody what a great manager he is, how we wouldn't be the team we are without him."

   After that, every time one of us went on the radio with Russ Hodges or Laraine Day, or on television, we'd always mention what a great job Leo was doing. Which he was. We beat the Dodgers six straight after that: three at the Polo Grounds, three at Ebbets Field. By the All-Star break we were six games in the lead. The Dodgers closed to within a game in September, but we surged again and won going away.

   From then on, I could do no wrong in Leo's sight. I was his "upside-down shortstop" — he called me that because of the unfashionable way I did things. But if I slid into Willie Jones at third base, as I did one day in Philadelphia, and kicked the ball into the Phillies dugout, it was pure artistry to Leo.

   Durocher's last hurrah was the 1954 World Series sweep of the Cleveland Indians. He was his wheeler-dealer self that year, especially handling pinch hitters. It helped that Mays was back from the Army, leading the league with a .345 average and playing sensationally in center field, and that Johnny Antonelli, acquired in a trade for Bobby Thomson, won 21 games. I had my best year for being instrumental in winning games, at bat and in the field.

   In the Series, Dusty Rhodes' pinch-hitting was phenomenal. Leo used to say, "Nothing confounds a pitcher more than having to face a strange batter in a critical situation," and Dusty was his specimen example. He hit a pinch homer to win the first game and hit pinch singles in the second and third. He also hit a homer in the second game after replacing Irvin. He had a .667 Series average, and never started a game. He drove in seven runs. As a contrast, Alvin Dark hit .412 and didn't drive in any.

   But I could care less. We won, and it was total vindication. The National League hadn't beaten the American in seven years; we were only the second National League team in history to sweep a Series; Antonelli, Maglie, Don Liddle, Rubin Gomez, and the bullpen had a combined earned-run-average of 1.46; and we beat Cleveland's best: Bob Lemon (twice), Mike Garcia, and Early Wynn.

Page 64

Mays made everybody swoon with a catch in deepest center field off a drive by Vic Wertz in the first game at the Polo Grounds. As soon as the ball was hit Willie turned his back and started running, and 460 feet from home plate stuck up his glove.

   The next year the Giants dropped back to third place, and when it was over Leo quit to take an executive position with the National Broadcasting Company. I don't know how the business world felt about him, but I can imagine. He had a style, as Branch Rickey told a Sports Illustrated writer, that was original, "like a turnkey in a tobacco patch that sees a worm and knocks down twenty stalks to get it." It was eleven years before he returned to managing, to take over the Cubs in 1966.

   In the last years of his career I had the feeling Leo wasn't the go-for-broke manager he had been. He kind of tiptoed around, as if the world was a stranger and he couldn't adjust. George Raft and some of his Hollywood friends were in decline. When his 1969 Cubs lost that tremendous lead and the pennant a lot of the players said things against him. That wasn't unusual; player gripes about Leo were commonplace. But they were usually kept under the breath. These were in the open, by young guys who would have been scared to try it in 1954.

   I think it really hurt Leo. I think if he had found one guy on that club to back him up he'd have been all right. One guy who in spite of what Leo might say or do, would have been loyal and said, "Leo, I know there's trouble in the club, and I'm going to do my best to unite these guys for you." Leo would have soared. Evidently he didn't have that guy. You could see it in the way he handled his pitchers. It used to be Leo never overworked pitchers. He had courage, he had control. He never cared about what the owners said or the press said. He ran the game. He didn't care what the players thought, and if to win meant changing a pitcher, he wasn't going to pussyfoot around asking permission.

   But in 1969 he began starting pitchers with two and three days rest, because the team was hot and it was the safe thing to do, to stick with what was working. The peril in handling pitchers is the risk of wearing them out. In 1954 or '55 he brought George Spencer out of the bullpen to start so that his Giant regulars could get a day's rest. In September of '54 he brought up a minor leaguer named Al Corwan who won four or five games for us. By giving one guy a day off he was able to move the whole timetable back and give the entire staff a rest. But his Chicago pitchers seemed to

Page 65

tire in 1969, and the pennant went down the drain. In short, from a very courageous manager Leo had become a safe manager. Both kinds can win, but it wasn't Leo's style to play it safe.

   As for me, as a player I never got over my affection for Durocher's way of doing things. The Cardinals in 1957 were a gung-ho group, but when I went to Milwaukee in 1960 I couldn't believe it. They had had good managers — Charlie Grimm, Fred Haney — but they were a completely different ball club. Lose a game, no sweat. Don't worry boys, we'll get 'em tomorrow. A lolly-dolly atmosphere. I never got used to it.

   You never get used to being traded. As you get older you begin having doubts, and then nightmares that one day they'll send you to the minor leagues. It didn't happen to me, and in retrospect I feel the trades I went through helped, and actually gave me a better foundation for managing: the chance to meet new players, adjust to new parks, new offices, new personnel, and new situations. You can learn from anything. Travel, as they say, broadens.

   One afternoon when a game was rained out a group of writers started reminiscing — this was during my first year managing — and the subject turned to the wild things they had seen or heard about. One of them brought up the game in Chicago when two balls got put into play at the same time, totally embarrassing Plate Umpire Vic Delmore. I said, "Yeah, I remember that. It was really funny. I played in that game. I was with the Cubs."

   Somebody mentioned the no-hitter Robin Roberts lost in the ninth inning when his third baseman fell down trying to field a ball hit by Felipe Alou. "Yeah, that was too bad," I said. "I remember it well. I was with the Phillies then."

   The somebody recalled the time Leon Wagner, a Giant outfielder, tried to run down a ball hit into the Chicago bullpen and the Cub pitchers, alert to their opportunity, pointed in several directions. While Wagner was going crazy trying to find the ball, Tony Taylor made an inside-the-park home run. "That was really funny," I agreed, laughing. "I saw it all. I was with the Cubs."

   The writers began to give me looks. One of them asked if I'd ever seen anyone score from first on a ground single through shortstop the way Mays had done in May of that year. I said, "Yeah, Willie did it once before, in the Polo Grounds. I played in the game."

   It was getting ridiculous. The subject returned to no-hitters, and

Page 66

the privilege one has in seeing them pitched. Suddenly I was telling them that not only had I just managed against Warren Spahn when he pitched one against the Giants, but I had played with him, as a left fielder for the Braves, when he pitched his first no-hitter.

   Somebody said, "Yeah and I bet you can remember the details of the no-hitter Carl Erskine pitched for the Dodgers a few years back."

   I said, "You kidding? I made the last out."

   That makes a pretty good story. But it also points out what can happen in a man's life once his career goes on the road.

   I separated my shoulder in August of the 1955 season, falling over first base trying to beat out a hit against the Phillies. The following spring I wasn't throwing well, forcing the ball, and I pulled a muscle in my leg. Bill Rigney was managing the Giants then. He had come up from Minneapolis and brought his shortstop, Eddie Bressoud, with him. Rigney planned to move me to third that spring, with no objections from me, but Eddie was slow getting started and I began the season at short. I was, however, still struggling, and my hitting was down. Knowing Rigney's preference, it wasn't a healthy situation.

   In St. Louis, the Cardinals were going through a similar trauma. Don Blasingame was coming up, a good young second baseman and Red Schoendienst was at an age when they wanted to trade him before the inevitable devaluation set in. In June, the swap was made: me for Schoendienst. Four players from each club were involved, but that was the heart of it. The Giants wanted a second baseman, the Cardinals a shortstop, and everybody was pleased except the Cardinal fans, who, understandably, love Red. He was the finest second baseman in the game.

   Frank Lane, the Cardinals' general manager, not only took the heat for the trade, but took the credit, too. He said, "No one is fonder of Red Schoendienst than I am, but I'm running a ball club, not a kaffeeklatch. Every club needs a take-charge guy on the field, and up to now the Cardinals haven't had one. We need a man the other players will look up to, and one who, when he has to say something, will say it. We also need a shortstop." On all counts, he was talking about me. Leo would have been proud.

   The 1956 and '57 seasons with the Cardinals were my last two years at shortstop. In '57 I was thirty-five years old. I wasn't covering the ground I used to. I got by by knowing the hitters,

Page 67

knowing where to play, what to look for. That season was, coincidentally, my last to be really involved in a pennant race. I was the team captain and hit .290, a good year for me, and the Cardinals finished a gallant second to the Braves.

   The following May Bing Devine, the general manager, swapped me even-up to the Cubs for Jim Brosnan, the pitcher-writer (or writer-pitcher, depending on how you rate his talent). For two years in Chicago I played third base, and hit .295 the first season, but my home-run and runs-batted-in totals went down.

   Trades tell you exactly which side of the hill you're on. The terms, the numbers are like billboards. You don't have to guess. In 1950 Stanky and I went to the Giants for four players, three of whom had been stars. In 1960, the Phillies traded one player, Richie Ashburn, for four Chicago Cubs. I was one of the four. There was no doubt which side of the hill I was on. I became a utility infielder for the Phillies, briefly. In June I went to the Braves, where I played both the infield and the outfield, the ultimate utility man. Somehow, between the two teams I managed to appear in 105 games.

   The die was cast. From then on, if I wanted to play big league baseball it would be as a spare part, filling in, pinch-hitting, mopping up. Charlie Dressen was the Braves' manager and he asked after the '60 season if I wanted to come back. I said, "Yes, sir, I do."

   "Well, you'll be my utility infielder-outfielder in '61."

   At that point, baseball was no longer the game of my passionate youth, the game for which I had lived to play for so many years. That total joy was gone, the total absorption. It had become an occupation at last. After I left the Giants, the years began to run together in my mind.

   I didn't know if I could be asked to manage, though I certainly wanted to. Since those first sessions with Stanky, our feet up on the hotel room wall, I had known I wanted to manage if the chance ever came. As the prospects for lengthening my playing days diminished, I had made up my mind that if I didn't get the chance I'd quit and sell mud. I had an off-season job that paid well with the Magabar Mud Company in Louisiana, selling mud for use in oil drilling. A job is a job.

   The fear at that juncture in a player's career is that he will be banished to the minor leagues. There is nothing wrong with

Page 68

playing in the minors, of course, but after you've been an established big leaguer (come to think of it, there is no such thing as an "established" major leaguer), going down means admitting, for all to see, that you are no longer what you were.

   It could very well be that you'd make as much money in the minors. Even be a hero. But it's a forfeiture in dignity, like having your chevrons ripped off, and all players dread it. Today, of course, they've got the union going and the owners have to say please before they send you anywhere, but it put enough of a chill in me then, so I made up my mind I'd quit and go sell mud first.

   What hurts most about the impermanence of a professional athlete's life is that you lose track of the people who meant so much to you. When Eddie Stanky went to manage the Cardinals in 1952, a writer asked me how it was going to be without him, and I said, "I don't know, this is still new to me. But it isn't going to be the same."

    It never was. Davey Williams became my roommate after that, and neither with him nor the roommates that followed did I have anything in common off the field. It is no reflection on Davey, who was a pepperpot at second base and a good player. But he liked to have a couple beers after a game, and usually stayed out late. The trouble with that kind of disparity in life-styles is the living problem it creates. I had to wait until he got in to really go to sleep nights because I'd have to get up and unlock the door. One night he came in and took his clothes off, and had barely hit the bed when he must have realized he had to go to the bathroom. Disoriented, he got up and walked out into the hall in his shorts. He came back inside, closed the door, came to the foot of my bed and relieved his bladder on the floor. I had to smell the evidence the rest of the night.

   At breakfast, nothing was said, and we finally went to the park and got into our uniforms and started playing catch, as we always did. All of a sudden I began thinking how funny it was, and started laughing. Hank Thompson wanted to know what was the joke, and I told him, and it broke him up, too. Davey said, "Yeah, I know what you're laughing about. Go ahead and laugh."

   I liked Davey. He had his own set of friends, and we seldom did anything social together, except an occasional round of golf, but I liked him. In 1953 he checked himself into the Mayo Clinic and called me from there. He said his high-strung condition was

Page 69

diagnosed as a nerve problem and the doctor told him he'd improve if he gave up alcohol. I said, "Great, that's wonderful, Davey."

   He said, "There's nothing more important to me than baseball." But when Robinson bowled him over in 1955, injuring his back, his career was finished.

   When you get right down to it, there was really nobody after Stanky. Nobody I could get that close to. For a brief time I had the chance to manage against him, when he was with the White Sox and I was on my first tour with the Athletics. He'd been fired by the Cardinals in '55, and didn't manage again until the White Sox asked him in 1966. I suppose he just wasn't sure he really wanted to.

   For one series, at least, the old spark was there. I don't know how it started, but a beanball contest was in full bloom. Don Buford of the White Sox had to duck away from an inside pitch in the third inning, and when we came to bat in the last half of the third, Danny Cater was hit on the helmet by a pitch. After a walk and another hit batter, Stanky and his pitcher, Dennis Higgins, were ejected.

   The next day we were leading 4-1 and Stanky decided to change pitchers. He went to the mound and called in Higgins again, and when Higgins got there Stanky slapped him on the shoulder — you have to picture the little brat reaching up, because Higgins is six feet three — and pointed to home plate and yelled, "Right down the middle!"

   Then he walked all the way to the plate, pointing with his hand to indicate the flight of the ball, and when he was standing right in front of the umpire he gestured and yelled back to Higgins, "Right here. Right down the middle."

   Both benches were dying of laughter. Charlie Finley said later he was in tears. It was Charlie's kind of show. Fortunately the umpire was Ed Runge, an old friend of ours, or Stanky would have been thrown out again.

   Stanky left the White Sox with three years on his contract, and he left me a hoard of memories, and something else, too. He used to wear a World Series ring, one he had been given when he was with the Dodgers. He know I admired it. I told him so in a cab one day. When we won the pennant in 1948, Stanky remembered. A few weeks later I got a package in the mail. It was a ring. "Boston Braves, 1948 World Series, E.S. to A.D." He had it made himself.

Page 70

   We drifted apart in later years, partly because of my divorce, I suspect. He was a devout Catholic and a strong family man. In any case I haven't seen the little brat since 1968. He coaches a university team in South Alabama now, and I imagine he's glad to be out of the rat race.

   I miss him.

Chapter 6

I did not, despite what has been said, inherit a country-club team when I took over the San Francisco Giants in 1961. I hadn't been around them since my playing days in New York, but the Giants were still the Giants. As I said, instead of "Let 'er rip," the new team motto was "Shut up and deal," but all the talk about drinking bouts and carousing was mostly that — talk. Those things are easily exaggerated. It only takes one note in a gossip column.

   They did, however, need shaking up a little. As it turned out, they got shaken up a lot, and so did I.

   In October of 1960, the Giants traded an infielder named Andre Rogers to the Braves for rights to my contract. It was, I found, a preparatory move toward making me manager.

   I admit I was surprised that Horace Stoneham wanted me to manage. It had been five years since I had played for him, and I had never managed anywhere. The only real personal contact we had was when I held out for more money in 1953, so count that as a minus. He gave me the raise, and a two-year contract, which I really didn't want, and I hoped he wouldn't hold it against me. It was the only time I held out as a player and I was self-conscious about it. Today, of course, it's standard procedure. Today if you don't hold out you're a sissy.

   Mr. Stoneham put himself on the spot with the move. I heard Chub Feeney was against it, and Chub was his general manager. I can understand Chub's feelings. He told me after we won the pennant in 1962 that he still thought Bill Rigney was a better manager. Rigney had been fired by Stoneham in June of 1960, having failed to win a pennant in five tries, and Tom Sheehan had completed the season on an interim basis. The Giants went on to finish second, their best since 1954; Rigney went on to manage the Angels and, eventually, the Minnesota Twins.

Page 72

   The most notable thing about Mr. Stoneham, besides his abiding love for home-run hitters and the time he took making decisions, was that he was very loyal. In turn, he appreciated loyalty. Rigney had played for him; Rigney was, in fact, a utility infielder my first four years with the club. Rigney was smart, and he was loyal; Stoneham like that. I had played for him six years and was also, at least during that time, loyal. I suppose it counted for something.

   In my own mind I was ready. I was brimming with confidence. You only find out later that managing for a few years doesn't qualify you for the Hall of Fame. You don't know half as much as you thought you did. Nevertheless, I had made up my mind that if I ever got a chance I would be an active manager. I'd stand up in the dugout and see what was going on. I would be involved. I had experienced too many managers who sat there and watched the game go by, leaving nothing more to mark their time than a few spots of tobacco on the ground, and then when the game was over said, "Well, boys, we'll get 'em tomorrow."

   That's fine when you've got the best club in the business, but you can't win year after year that way. Look at Casey Stengel, how active he was managing the Yankees even when he was pushing seventy. You've got to be ahead of the game, not just two or three pitches but two or three innings, or even two or three games. Can I use this relief pitcher now, or will I need him tomorrow? Or later today? If I pinch-hit for this man, what will I do for another left-handed hitter? The pitfalls are endless.

   But running the game is the fun part of managing. Managing against someone you respect is fun. I was forever trying to outguess Gene Mauch of the Phillies. One night in Philadelphia, my first year managing, he wouldn't name his starting pitcher. He said he "wasn't sure." He was warming up a left-hander and a right-hander. My problem was that if he started the left-hander, and I had a lineup loaded with lefties, I was in trouble. A right-hander, just the opposite.

   So I warmed up two pitchers, too, and when I made up my lineup card for the umpire I put down three other pitchers at fielder positions, three who wouldn't be in the game no matter what. The idea being that as soon as I knew which pitcher he was starting I'd substitute for the three non-pitchers. That way I wouldn't have to take out a player I might need later in the game.

   And what did all these clever tactics accomplish? Nothing.

Page 73

Mauch did the very same thing with his lineup. He loaded it up with guys he could remove. Our tactics canceled out. They had no bearing on the outcome.

   Early on I discovered that managing a baseball team was going to revitalize Alvin Dark. My feeling for the game was reborn. My dormant nerve endings came alive. I was a rookie again, keyed up over the pressures and insecurities.

   There were so many things I had learned that I could now apply. Instead of the knowledge being crammed into the tight confinement of a single position, I could apply it for the overall benefit of a team. I was a student of the game — I became a teacher. I loved to teach, and as a teacher I learned. That was fun, too.

   For example, as a player I had been fortunate from the beginning. With Danny Murtaugh at second base in Milwaukee, I had learned the correct ways to play the infield. Danny knew; he had been a big leaguer. Eddie Stanky knew. Covering the bag, double plays, cutoff plays, who belongs where, who does what — they were things I learned correctly from my peers.

   Consider a situation common to the infield from high school on. It is a late inning of a tie game. Runners on first and third, no outs. The catcher calls time and huddles with the infield. He tells them no one is to leave position. Don't open any holes for a ground ball to go through. If the runner on first breaks, he (the catcher) will throw toward second, but the pitcher will cut it off. That way if the runner on third starts for home they'll have him in a rundown. Never mind the runner going to second. Concede him that. It's the run coming home they want to stop.

   All the years I played that's the way we did it. And it's wrong. Sooner or later it will cost you a game.

   What happens? The runner on first takes off. The catcher, on cue, throws hard toward second. The pitcher, who is supposed to cut it off (the shortstop and second baseman having held position), ducks and lets the ball go into center field. A run scores. Everybody is safe. I haven't seen that happen one time. I've seen it happen dozens of times.

   Now, one afternoon in 1961 I was managing against Mauch. The situation came up, and, snap-snap, just like that he showed me the answer. Instead of the catcher throwing back hard to the pitcher, he threw to the third baseman.

   Now, students, here is the logic: The pitcher has enough to worry about, right? Why burden him with a cutoff play? With still another problem?

Page 74

If you throw to third instead, you've got a fielder who is alert for that sort of thing. He won't duck under any circumstance. You may have a runner at third who had been a little careless, has taken too long a lead. And you may have yourself a nice fat putout. If not, you haven't sacrificed anything you were not already prepared to — namely, allowing the man on first to go to second. Naturally, there are times when you might throw to second instead, depending on the base runners and the score. Or to keep the other team honest. But it's always a mistake to throw to the pitcher. And I had been taught it that way for twenty-five years.

    I went about the transitional period of my first year as thoughtfully and carefully as I could. We hired an excellent coaching staff. Larry Jansen was my pitching coach, the key assistant. With Maglie he had been the best of the Giant pitchers, and when his fastball went dead, he had gone to the minors and learned to pitch all over again. He became "skillful," and he could pass it on.

   Wes Westrum, the old catcher, was on the staff, one of Leo's originals and an old favorite of mine. He had a great mind for the game. I added Whitey Lockman, a book reader and smart.

   We had a good spring. I didn't overwork anybody. At least not for a week or so. I believe you start slowly in the spring and gradually quicken the pace. I hurt myself as a player by rushing myself, and I was convinced it was better to make the early practices easy. Work up a sweat, but don't overdo. Take the first Sunday off. The percentages are with you. If a player pulls up lame that first week you've probably lost him for two more. He might never catch up.

   It was important to establish a good relationship with the players, but I made up my mind I was going to manage them, not patronize them. I was determined to get rid of the cliques — the Giants were chaotic in 1960, lacking cohesion and unity — and to put an end to some of the undisciplined conduct. It never occurred to me that I would ever be accused of favoring one group over another. I treated everybody the same, stars and scrubs alike.

   The first problem was to find a shortstop-second base combination. I settled on José Pagan, who had played three infield positions the year before, at short, and Rookie Chuck Hiller at second. I moved Jim Davenport to third

Page 75

(he had been doubling at shortstop but was a better third baseman). The outfield was reasonably pat: Mays flanked by Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou. I toyed with the idea of platooning first baseman Willie McCovey with Cepeda. I was concerned about the treachery of the winds at Candlestick Park. It was hard to tell which position was tougher to play, left field or right.

   We had made one important trade to help tie the package together: We gave up Pitcher Johnny Antonelli, who had slumped badly in 1960, and Outfielder Willie Kirkland to get Harvey Kuenn from Cleveland. Kuenn could play anywhere — shortstop, third base, the outfield — and was a consistent .300 hitter, something you don't see very often anymore. He was also a throwback: an earthy, tobacco-chewing practical joker who loved to be involved; a guy to count on.

   We traded to get Catcher Ed Bailey from Cincinnati in April, giving up, among others, the regular second baseman, Don Blasingame. The pitching was right-hand-heavy. Some good right-hands, though — Sad Sam Jones, Juan Marichal, Jack Sanford, and Stu Miller headed up the bullpen. I would have liked to have had another lefty to go with Billy O'Dell.

   Settling those matters and establishing a rapport was necessary. They knew what I expected, and they knew from the spring that I would back them to the limit when they were in the right. In Arizona, Kuenn, Davenport, and Bob Schmidt were involved in an early-morning brawl with some teenagers who were looking for trouble. I refused to fine them. I said, "I'm not going to punish players for protecting themselves." It would have been easy to come down hard, but it would have been wrong.

   What should not have been necessary was something I had privately made my first order of business when we got to San Francisco: to make everybody aware of what Willie Mays meant to the ball club. Mays had left New York as the most popular Giant, and had arrived in San Francisco to become the most disillusioned. The fans were on him. He had been criticized openly in the press, in some really vicious stories. They were even booing him, something I had never thought possible.

   The rap was that he didn't play when he didn't want to. The fact was Willie played even when he was hurt, and tougher to do, when he wasn't doing so good at the plate. It's easy to shrug off an injury when you're hitting .350 and riding a wave of cheers. It's not so

Page 76

easy when you're hitting .210 and being criticized. Worst of all, Willie wasn't accepted as he had been in New York, where he was beloved. What most people didn't realize was that Willie needed to be loved.

   I remember Mays from the very first day he arrived with the Giants in 1951. Then, as now, I thought he was terrific. You could see immediately the great fielder he was: the speed, the good arm, the instinct for the ball. He could fly, and oh, what a wonderful attitude. He was totally without hang-ups. On off days you'd find him playing stickball with the neighborhood kids. He liked to watch "Amos and Andy." He didn't realize he wasn't supposed to. In New York, it came on in the mornings — I know because I watched it, too — and as soon as it was over he'd come to the park. He was always early.

   One of the writers said to me, "I hear he's a showboat. A real hot dog. His cap flies off every time he goes to first base."

   I said, "Don't worry about that. I'll pick it up and take it to him whenever he gets on."

   Someone wrote that Mays was our mascot as well as our star, and it's true. He was nineteen, and he was a big leaguer, and he had a kid's love for the game. He was full of fun and life, and he enjoyed being kidded. He seemed especially attached to Stanky and me, though essentially he was a loner. And, of course, he was Leo's pride and joy. He thrived on being told how good he was, so we told him often, because he was. Neglect, on the other hand, depressed him.

   The only player on the team who doubted Willie Mays' ability was Willie Mays. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and every time he had a bad day he despaired. One afternoon when his bat had betrayed him I found him rooted in the corner of the training room, weeping. I pulled a stool up and said, "Willie, if you never get another hit, never drive in another run, you don't owe this club a thing. You've already given us life with your hustle and your fielding and your personality."

   Regardless of what has since been said or written, the affection I had for Willie then has never faded. We won pennants together as players, and he helped me win one as a manager. He was the best baseball player I ever saw.

   He had come back from the service in 1954 a little more grown up, a little more aware how much we needed him, how much we missed him.

Page 77

He was, without doubt, the kind of player who could carry a club. No clubhouse lawyer, just a guy who set an example. A guy you can build around. But when he wasn't happy, his work suffered, and it had suffered in San Francisco.

   When I came to town on visiting teams in 1958, '59, and '60, I had heard the boos. Part of the problem was the ball park itself. At the old Seals Park, the ball had to be really pulled down the line to go out, and Willie was a straightaway hitter. He hit .347 his first year on the coast, but from a high of 51 home runs in 1955, his output dropped to 29. In San Francisco, they expected more. The more they demanded, the more they booed. His average plummeted.

   Now, there are all kinds of ways to handle a superstar, and most of them are wrong. The popular way is to make concessions. He wants to be credited, he wants to have the special privileges he deserves. He wants to come to the park whenever he feels like it, and take a day off when he wants. But as far as I'm concerned, the right way — the only way — is to handle him like everybody else. But without him knowing it, and that's tough to do.

   Willie Mays was never a prima donna. The only time in my life I got on him for anything was that year when he hit a pop fly and didn't run it out the way he should have, and ordinarily would have. I felt in order to teach the other players, Willie, as a leader, should live up to what he represented. The incident was so much the exception that it hardly bears mentioning. Willie always came to play.

   But this other thing, this business of having his confidence eroded, his pride hurt, was another matter. Special consideration, if you want to call it that, became a necessity.

   I had a radio program then that was rebroadcast during the morning traffic hour. Every time I went on the air I found reasons to praise Willie, much the way we had done to shore up Leo's position in 1954. I tried to give everyone their due, but I made a special point to talk about something good Mays had done to help us win, which was easy because he was always doing that. I'd say, "Well, Willie did it again." I wasn't trying to build him up, I was trying to give him the credit he deserved. Wake San Francisco up to the facts of life.

   Cepeda had been San Francisco's darling. He was an original there, a San Francisco Giant, and I have to think that was a factor.

Page 78

Mays was a New York Giant. Cepeda was a good player, and a good hitter, a regular bulldog at the plate. But there should be no need to say it. He was not Willie Mays.

   I don't credit myself for any miracles. What Mays had was God-given. But in 1962 he hit 49 home runs and led the league with 144 runs batted in and the Giants to the pennant. If he wasn't any happier, I sure was.

   We were respectable my first year as manager, 1961, winning 85 games and finishing third, four games behind the second-place Dodgers. As always, the Dodgers were the team we loved to hate. West Coast sophistication hadn't dimmed the rivalry. The storm clouds were always brewing, and you could count on an incident. In 1962 we had a lulu.

   It all started with the playing field at Dodger Stadium. No, I take that back. It starts with the guy on an opposing club who can beat you, the guy who can shake you up the most. On the Dodgers it was Maury Wills. I felt if we could stop Wills from stealing so many bases and rattling our infield, we could hold our own with the Dodgers.

   The shortstop, the second baseman, the pitcher, and the catcher are all on edge when runners like Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, or Maury Wills are on base. The first baseman is thinking, "Boy, if he throws it to me I've got to see that ball out of those white shirts and I'm not sure I can see it. Boy, I hope he doesn't throw it." With a guy like Wills the chances are the pitcher knows he'll have to throw over to keep him honest, and there's no telling when he'll throw it away. The catcher is especially concerned because if he's over-anxious the ball is likely to get by him, and he's worrying how much quicker he'll need to be getting a throw down to second. Wes Westrum used to go goofy worrying about Robinson and Reese.

   So if you don't stop him Wills can shake up everybody. I was always trying to figure a way. One day in Los Angeles, with Wills on first, I called Cepeda over and I said, "Orlando, I don't want you to cover the bag at all. I want you to take your position right in the base path, right in Will's way. Make him go around you." You can get away with that if your infielder establishes — as the rules say — a normal playing position before the pitch. It didn't help. Wills still stole second.

   Anyway, at Dodger Stadium they had the infield packed extra hard to give Wills and their other sprinters better footing. I complained to the umpires but it didn't do any good, as I knew it wouldn't.

Page 79

I took my grievance to the press, hoping for some influence. "It's concrete," I told the writers. "A track field." Before one game I dribbled a baseball on it to show how hard it was.

  Then one morning one of our players, with nothing to do, went out to the Dodger park early, and when he came back he was wide-eyed. "They're rolling it every morning with a big heavy roller," he said. Everybody else in the league was raking their infields, and the Dodgers were rolling theirs.

   That afternoon one of our guys got his spikes caught in the hard-packed earth at second base and sprained his ankle. I said to myself, "That's it. I've got to do something." And I waited for the opportunity.

   With about three weeks left in the season, the Dodgers came into San Francisco for a weekend series, leading the league by four or five games. We were the only team close. If they swept or won the series we were out of it. We had one road trip left. That morning I ordered our groundskeeper to flood the area around first base. By game time it was a quagmire. The umpires came out and looked at it and one of them said, "What in the world happened out there, Alvin?"

   "Gee, I dunno. The sprinklers must have broke or something."

   They gathered around the mud like a contingent of civil engineers, trying to come up with a solution. They decided to try some sand. Our groundskeepers brought in a load of sand, and raked it through the mud. By the time they were finished it was worse. It was like butterscotch. They might just as well have built a bridge. There was no way Maury Wills could run that night. We won the game, and Wills didn't steal a base. He was neutralized.

   Came Saturday and the dawning. The Dodgers were up in arms. They knew what we had done. Players always get the word. There's always somebody on a team who can't help crowing a little. Wills was really upset. Before the game he went over to first base and walked around looking at the mess as if it were some kind of jungle booby trap.

   The sand was still on it. We hadn't watered it because that would pack the sand and we wanted it loose. There was nothing the Dodgers could protest because the umpires had called for the sand in the first place. Red Patterson, the Dodgers' public relations man, kept running back and forth between first base and Walter O'Malley's box, giving him the bad news.

Page 80

   By the time Wills came to bat in the first inning he was storming. The umpire at home had been the umpire at first base the night before, and Wills unloaded on him. Then when he went out to shortstop he started yelling at the umpire at second base. Whatever he said at that point was at least one syllable too many. The umpire threw him out of the game.

   So we didn't have to contend with Maury the rest of that day. That completely settled us down. Wills didn't steal a base the entire series, and we swept. We were back in the race.

   Mr. Stoneham phoned me in the clubhouse immediately after the Sunday game. "You guys are going great," he said. "This is one of the greatest weekends I ever had in baseball."

   We left town the next day. I don't know for sure what happened next, but I assume Mr. Stoneham got a phone call from the league office, objecting to our "actions," because on Thursday in New York I got a letter from him. He said he was "embarrassed" by what had happened and for me "not to let it happen again."

   I was so mad over the letter I got on the phone right away and tried to call him. He wasn't in. I kept phoning, but evidently he wasn't needing conversation from me. Finally I cooled off. We had won the series, and I had to think that, privately, Mr. Stoneham still loved what happened.

   I had, and to this day have only had, one argument with Horace Stoneham in the four years I managed the Giants. And it had nothing to do with my eventual dismissal. Firing me was his business, and I don't believe you should argue with a man who doesn't want you in his employ. Our blowup— that is, my blowup — occurred after the 1961 season, when we were at the winter meetings in Florida.

   My feeling was that we couldn't contend in 1962 without another starting pitcher, preferably a left-hander. In Candlestick Park almost any kind of fly to right went out because of the prevailing wind, and we needed a left-hander to combat that. I had a line on Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals, but to make the deal we'd have had to give up some power, perhaps Cepeda or McCovey. I outlined the idea to Mr. Stoneham in his room. He didn't buy it. "If I have to give up a power hitter, I'd just as soon finish third," he said. Same old hang-up.

   I was incensed, first because I felt he was showing a lack of confidence in me, second because he still believed home-run hitters could win pennants, or at least fans, all by themselves. He'd

Page 81

been drinking, too, and I felt it was impossible to communicate. I stormed out of the room, slamming the door so hard I'm surprised there was any plaster left on the walls.

   I wish I could take those times back. They are nothing to be proud of. But if it is a sad commentary on human relations it is nonetheless true that the squeaking wheel gets the grease. Mr. Stoneham realized that night how strong my feelings were. And before the winter was out we had traded four minor league players for Billy Pierce of the White Sox. And all Pierce did was win sixteen games for us in 1962, and didn't lose a game in Candlestick Park.

Chapter 7

There's no getting around it, pitching is 75 percent of baseball, and the manager who handles his pitching staff the best will win. Walter Alston's greatness, in my opinion, was his ability to handle his pitchers. Whenever we played the Dodgers there for while we always saw Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, the best they had, because Alston planned ahead.

   The advantage of having your best pitchers ready for the contending clubs is a simple equation: Every time you beat the leader, or the team that's hot on your tail, it means two games. Or the opposite if you lose. To explain: Say you go into a series with that team and you don't have your three best pitchers ready. You lose all three games. You are now three behind. If you went in with your best pitchers, and won those games, you'd be three ahead. It's a six-game spread.

   By the same token, a loss to a team that is down in the standings might cost you only a half-game, or none at all if the other contender also loses. So you often risk a second-line starter, your fifth or sixth pitcher, or a long relief man in games against the lesser clubs, the ones you have a good chance beating regardless.

   The thing about Alston was that he handled his bullpen so well. He always had an outstanding relief pitcher — in recent years, it was Tom Brewer — and he had a genius for keeping his bullpen rested and ready. Even when he went to his bullpen for a spot starter, he managed to keep his relief pitchers rested.

   If pitching is 75 percent of the game, a pitcher's arm has to be the most important single member, so why not take pains to protect it? Every player should have some concern for his arm, of course. Jacking around trying to see if you can zing one out of the park, or engaging in impromptu throwing contests, or not warming up properly before going into a game — any number of dumb things can ruin an arm.

Page 83

Jimmy Piersall hurt his arm one night throwing a wet ball in a contest with Mays. You might get by with a bad arm if you're a good enough hitter, but I wouldn't count on it.

   For a pitcher, protecting means resting. I always wanted my pitchers to have four days rest between starts, especially after a tough game. But pitchers are chronic complainers. They don't want four days rest, they want three; they want "more work." When they wake up one morning and can't comb their hair, and their career is nipped in full bloom, they sing a different song.

   You learn those things painfully, and sometimes expensively. Steve Carlton led the National League with 27 victories in 1972 — and with 346 innings pitched. He also led the league in innings pitched in 1973 — and lost 20. Denny McClain won a lawsuit against the Tigers not long ago because in 1967 and '68 he pitched with two and three days rest, and ruined his arm. He won a lot of games, including a phenomenal 31 in 1967, but he also led the league in innings pitched — 336 and 325. After his suspension, he never came close to the form he had and wound up in the minors, then out of baseball three years later.

   Alston, and Leo Durocher in the fifties, would rest a pitcher who was tired no matter how desperate he might have been for pitching, or how loud the pitchers squawked. You have to have that kind of courage. But I've seen managers move their entire rotation up a day just to win one game, and in the process exhaust their entire staff.

   I believe the Yankees lost the pennant one year recently by not having pitchers ready when they needed them, especially late in the season. Ralph Houk was a great handler of pitchers, but he was under enormous pressure from the front office to win, and even his bullpen wore out.

   The prominence of relief pitchers, and the confusion of when and how best to use them, is a fairly recent thing. It used to be a staff had one good relief pitcher — a Joe Page, a Hoyt Wilhelm — because starters were expected to be finishers. "Complete games" by a pitcher were figures of pride and a bargaining tool at contract time. Starters might then stay in a 12-8 game all the way to the end, giving up thirteen or fourteen hits. Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn were seldom taken out of games. They didn't want relief.

   Relief pitchers, in fact, were alien creatures. They could sense it themselves — by the thinness of their wallets. They were low men on the financial ladder. If you didn't start, you didn't make much money.

Page 84

After Page and his Yankee popularity, however, the stature of relief pitchers grew quickly and enormously, and the logic of using them more often got through the thickest of managerial skulls.

   The funny thing is how far the pendulum has swung. Nowadays, with two or three relief pitchers earning great salaries, the starters look to the bullpen all the time, and you can wind up with the reverse problem: a well-rested staff of starters, a bushed bullpen.

   Stu Miller was a great relief pitcher for us in 1962, the best for a single season in my experience as a manager. He seemed to be pulling somebody out of the soup every other day. It got so the starters would work seven innings and look to the bullpen, expecting to see him running in. He pitched in ten straight games over one stretch. And almost every time he was called in the starter would say, "Aw, I coulda finished."

   I said, "Okay, we'll see about that." In Pittsburgh one night when the relief pitchers started for the bullpen, I said, "Hold it, fellas. Just find a seat. You're resting tonight." I went to Juan Marichal and said, "Juan, the bullpen's worn out. You have to go nine."

   He never looked to the bullpen once and pitched a 2-0 shutout.

   We went to Philadelphia and got three more complete games. In case I was tempted, I told Larry Jansen to have Miller go sit in the stands, in street clothes. Late in the third game the starter was in one jam after another, and I went over to Jansen. "Say, Larry," I said, "do you happen to know where Stu's sitting?"

   Every pitcher is different, and you have to pitch them and rest them accordingly. I left Billy O'Dell to suffer in a lopsided loss to the Cubs one night. By the seventh inning he had given up fourteen runs. I was roundly criticized — Mr. Stoneham was going crazy, according to Chub Feeney — but the reason for it was that O'Dell hadn't been staying in games long enough to get any work. He was having a horrible year, and he had developed an elbow soreness from not pitching. The only pitching he was doing was in batting practice, and it's not the same. You never extend yourself in batting practice the way you do in a game. O'Dell worked the soreness out and got going again. Sometimes you have to take measures. The trick is knowing when.

   A guy five feet eleven, 190 pounds might be fully developed physiologically at twenty-five, but a string-bean type might not be until he's twenty-eight or thirty.

Page 85

The one might be able to pitch with three or four days rest, the other might take four or five. A younger pitcher, as a rule, can hurt himself throwing too many pitches in a game, but he is likely to bounce back sooner. The veteran doesn't bounce back so fast, but he paces himself better and might throw as many as 150 pitches in a game.

   Young pitchers are also prone to tendonitis, something that can stay with you for life. I had a rule at Kansas City that none of our minor league pitchers could throw more than 100 pitches in a game. Numbers are your only guidelines, considering the faulty information that comes out of a pitcher's mouth, and though it's true that 100 pitches in a tight game when he's bearing down will take more out of a pitcher's arm than 100 pitches in a 10-2 game when he's breezing, you have to go on something.

   I babied my younger pitchers in Kansas City. Chuck Dobson was one of them. We were finishing seventh in a ten-team race, and the future needed looking into. Dobson, a local boy with good style, seemed to have a great future. On a Sunday, he pitched. The week's routine called for him to throw some batting practice on Tuesday, then, while we were on the road, to do calisthenics and run on Wednesday. He pitched again the following Friday, and I noticed he was straining.

   I asked Cot Deal, our pitching coach, "Cot, what's wrong?"

   "I don't know, Al. He was fine last Sunday. He pitched great."

   Between innings, I went to Dobson. "What's the matter, Chuck?"

   "Skip, my arm's really bothering me."

   I took him out, and told Cot to go with him to the clubhouse and find out what happened. It turned out that when he came to the park on Wednesday while we were away, Eddie Lopat, the ex-Yankee pitcher and then Athletics' general manager, had come out and worked with him. And Dobson threw for forty-five minutes.

   I saw red. I told Lopat, "Never come messing around with my pitchers again. Never! I've already got a pitching coach." I told Charlie Finley the same thing. It was a terrible risk. No matter how eager they are, you have to protect pitchers from themselves. You can't give in to them.

   In Cleveland in 1970 I was pitching Rich Hand against the Angels. Hand hadn't completed a game that year, and after a

Page 86

certain number of pitches I told him to take a seat. He had a 6-2 lead, it was hot, I figured he'd done enough. He said he wanted to finish. I said no.

   About ten days later Hand was beating the Angels again, 6-0, but by the eighth inning he had thrown a lot of pitches. I went out to relieve him. He said, "No, Skip. Please let me finish."

   I said, "All right, but if you get into any trouble you're coming out."

   He struggled through the eighth. I said, "That's it, Rich."

   He resisted again. "Aw, c'mon, Skip. Let me finish. I gotta finish a game."

   And like an idiot I said okay. He wound up throwing about 150 pitches that day. The next time he was due to pitch he came to me complaining of a sore elbow. "I don't know what happened, Skip," he said.

   Well, I knew what happened. And it was my fault. Rich Hand wasn't the same after that. His arm never came back.

   Some do, fortunately. Luis Tiant is the classic Cuban pitcher. He has every pitch in the book and throws them from every angle, and in 1968 won 21 games for the Indians. But he pitched 258 innings to do it, the most he'd ever pitched, and the next year he lost 20 games and couldn't blacken your eye with the ball. We traded him in 1970. In 1971 he was spinning his wheels in the minors. But he came around. He had a strong, mature body (he was already in his thirties then), and he had so many ways to get you out. In 1973 he won 20 games for the Red Sox, and 22 the next year.

   I recite all this not to impress you with my memory but to reinforce my argument that the crux of managing is in the handling of pitchers. That pitching is not only the most important part of the game, the answer to winning or losing, and the seat of most controversies, and most of the arguments among coaches, but it is also the most satisfying and most harrowing facet of a manager's life.

   As a young player I thought the game revolved around batting orders, infield positioning, hit-and-run plays, and bunts. I was naive. Pitching is the name of the game. And I decided from that first rookie year of managing in San Francisco that I was going to handle the Giant pitchers. Period. If it meant calling pitches from the bench, I'd do that, too.

   First, I told Jansen I would prefer four days rest between starts.

Page 87

Juan Marichal wanted to pitch with three days rest. So did Jack Sanford. Jansen, the coach, said he had pitched with three days rest himself and agreed. I pointed out that his arm went dead, too, but I let it go for a while, and kept records.

   And I discovered that a guy who pitched every three days might be fine on his first start, might not be as sharp but would go six or seven innings his second, and then would get shelled on the third. Not always, but often enough to give us a picture. By the fourth game he was okay again.

   So we made four days rest mandatory, and what happened? Those who pitched with four days rest wound up pitching just as many innings because they didn't get knocked out as early the third time around. They were consistently stronger, and, in the end, wound up starting only two or three fewer games.

   I had a meeting with the pitchers and catchers. I said, "Look, I'm not a pitcher. I can't tell you how to throw a better curve. But I can put myself in the hitter's shoes. I can tell you what he's thinking, what he can and can't do, and what you can do to fool him."

   I said the key to successful pitching as far as I was concerned was this: that it's stupid to pitch to a batter's strength. Stan Musial was a low fastball hitter. Put a low fastball pitcher on the mound, no matter how good he might be that day, Musial would hit bullets. What's the percentage? You hear it in postgame interviews all the time. "My best pitch is a low fastball. He hit my best pitch. I'd throw it again." Brilliant! Pride goeth before the fall. If you can beat a batter by pitching to his weakness, why pitch to his strength? He certainly will not be too proud to take advantage of your weaknesses.

   Jack Sanford was a fastball pitcher. The average hitter's favorite pitch is a fastball over the plate, thigh-high to armpits. He can handle that. In the spring of '61, Larry Jansen made Sanford throw a slider or a curve on the first pitch to every hitter he faced, even if it meant getting behind. I wanted him to be able to get those pitches over when the hitter was thinking fastball. In 1962 Sanford won 24 games for us.

   I was never more involved than I was that season. The Dodgers got out to a big lead, but we gradually closed it down. Every game was like a World Series. We had finished so strong in '61, winning 32 of our last 51 games, that I knew with a set lineup we would contend.

Page 88

   I quit commuting Cepeda between left and first, and made McCovey a utility. Kuenn was in the outfield a lot and, again, hitting over .300. We were not a very fast team — we didn't steal a lot of bases, except for Mays. But to Mr. Stoneham's immense pleasure, we were a free-swinging, homer-hitting bunch. Willie hit 49 home runs, Cepeda hit 35, and they were both over 100 in RBI's. We scored a lot of runs against average pitching, but with as much wild swinging as we did, we weren't too tough on the better pitchers.

   Our own pitching was strong, with Marichal, Sanford, Billy Pierce, and Stu Miller. We had a good working agreement, and when I thought it necessary I called pitches from the bench. It wasn't something I'd seen done a lot — Leo had done it occasionally — but I didn't want any doubts about what I had in mind.

   Actually, I wasn't on the bench; I was up on the edge of the dugout, one foot on top of the step. That's where I'd promised to be and that's where I stayed. The San Francisco writers said I looked like Washington crossing the Delaware. They weren't being complimentary, but I wasn't embarrassed.

   The signals were simple enough — touch the left ear, fastball. Jaw, curve. Chin, slider. Right cheek, off-speed pitch. Other ear, pitchout. I could also indicate where I wanted them thrown: low, inside, etc. Touch the Adam's apple, cutoff play. Sweep the brow, throw the ball through. Everybody knew we were going it but they couldn't steal the signs because we had a sequence and a key and the key might change from inning to inning.

   For catchers it is easy to learn, and most of them appreciate the help. I think the young ones — Tom Haller when he was starting, and later Ray Fosse at Cleveland — like it better than the veterans. I didn't call every pitch, but there were times when I called three or four innings in a row, or six or seven pitches.

   The value was that I never second-guessed my catcher. I couldn't weasel out of anything. I couldn't complain after the damage. "You didn't call what I advised you to call in that situation." I had either called it or I hadn't. The blame was the manager's, which is where it belongs.

   All the catcher has to do when he throws the ball back to the pitcher is give you a quick look. If he gets the "go" sign, he calls the pitch, and then as manager you are obliged to accept his choice.

Page 89

You have, in effect, passed. I never chewed out a catcher for a pitch he called — only when he ignored one I called.

   Catchers who have been around aren't crazy about the system, of course. If a pitcher pitches well, catchers like to explain how they handled him. I can understand that. But I didn't care who got the credit. If I wanted a certain type of game called, I wanted them to get with it. I wanted to win.

   When we beat the Dodgers three straight in September, we all but wiped out their lead. We tied on the last day, and then, just as in 1951, beat them in a three-game playoff. The World Series started the next day, and the Yankees and Whitey Ford beat us 6-2. We were as tired as we looked.

   But Sanford, with two days rest, came back to shut them out, 2-0, on three hits. A pattern was set: lose one, win one. The trouble with that is you run out of chances when the other team gets to four.

   It was a pitchers' series. The heavy artillery on both teams barely made a ripple: Mickey Mantle hit .120, Roger Maris .174, Mays .250, and Cepeda .158. The only consistent hitters were surprises: Pagan hit .368 and the Yankee rookie left-fielder, Tom Tresh, hit .321. The Yankee team batting average was under .200.

   Once we hit New York, another pattern set in. Rain-delayed games. The Yankees won, 3-2, Bill Stafford beating Billy Pierce. Then we evened the Series at 2-2 when Chuck Hiller hit a grand-slam home run off Marshall Bridges, the first ever grand-slam by a National League player in a World Series. The score was 7-3, but it was a costly victory. Juan Marichal, after four innings of shutout pitching, fouled one off the index finger of his throwing hand attempting to bunt in the fifth inning. He lost his nail, and we lost Juan for the duration.

   Rain delayed the fifth game a day, and the Yankees won 5-3 on Tresh's three-run homer. Torrential rains in San Francisco delayed the next game three days. Pierce squared the Series by beating Ford on a three-hitter, 5-2.

   On the thirteenth day of the most drawn-out World Series since 1911, Ralph Terry went against Sanford. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Yankees leading 1-0, Matty Alou bunted safely, and with two outs Mays doubled to right field. Maris had to make a great play on the ball to keep Alou from scoring.

   The Yankees then elected to pitch to McCovey, who hit a long

Page 90

foul, then took a ball, then hit a screamer to the right side. We all leaped up on the bench, thinking it was through to score both runs and win the Series. We had done that so often that year, come from behind with late-inning dramatics. But Bobby Richardson, running to his left, reached up and snagged the line drive.

   As a Giant, it was my last swing on the brass ring, a bittersweet ending to a very sweet season. If I had known what was in store, I might have opted to call it a career right there. My troubles were just beginning.

Chapter 8

When a war starts, it's not always easy to tell who fired the fatal shot. When you are alone with your thoughts, the events accumulate in your mind and make the catastrophe seem inevitable. Taken separately, however, the events seem less significant, like the debris after a plane crash.

   I suppose it began that first year in San Francisco. I am sure, to start, that my endless praising of Mays hurt Orlando Cepeda. He was a favorite son in San Francisco, and I shouldn't have diminished him. I didn't intend to, I was only out to uplift Willie Mays, but Orlando was on the other end of the seesaw. I didn't handle Orlando very well. But I was as tough on myself as I was on anybody, and I felt if a guy wasn't doing all he should it was my job to tell him. I think now that if I'd been able to get to Orlando sooner, I wouldn't have had the problems that came up, the "race issues."

   Cepeda and I had a pretty serious run-in in Milwaukee one afternoon. He was pinch-hitting, the last out of a game on national television. He hit a ground ball, ran about thirty feet, stopped, and walked back to the dugout. I chewed him out all the way from the dugout to the dressing room, and didn't let it rest there, either.

   I think I made an enemy out of Orlando that day. I challenged his manhood and he didn't do anything about it. A man will hold that against you. In the locker room he started crying, and I was sick that I could have caused that.

   Compounding the problem was a plus-minus point system I had devised for grading players. The system was based on the assets I thought it took to win ball games. A home run in the record book is a home run, period. In my system a home run in the first inning might get a plus, but one in the ninth that wins the game might get four plusses. There were plusses and minuses for everything,

Page 92

including fielding plays and base running. Steal a base at a crucial moment, you might get two plusses; miss a hit-and-run sign with two men on and you might get two minuses.

   Since my judgment alone decided the point allocation, the system was highly subjective and, obviously, not foolproof. I felt it was a more accurate barometer than the kind of statistical bones you see in the papers on Sunday morning. A .260 hitter who delivers a lot of timely hits, or sacrifices himself at certain key times — bunting a runner forward, hitting behind a runner — can be more valuable than a .300 hitter who gets all his hits when nothing is at stake. A pitcher who wins a game in the clutch is more valuable than one who has a lower earned-run average but gets a tight collar when you need him most.

   In later years I stopped using the plus-minus system because of the resentment it caused in San Francisco.

   It was the spring of 1963, and Cepeda was holding out. In fact he hadn't reported. One afternoon the writers were around looking for something to write about, and I brought up the system. I explained it, and I said, "You guys would be surprised who the leaders are."

   Well, Mays was easily No. 1, and that was no surprise. He had done everything that year to help us win the pennant: timely hits, stolen bases, great fielding plays. But Jim Davenport, the third baseman, was second, and Davenport was probably the least-known player on the team. Harvey Kuenn was up there also.

   The somebody said, "How about Cepeda?"

   I said, "He's got more minuses than anybody."

   I said he was "terribly minus," but "don't put that in the headlines." I couldn't really expect them not to, of course. The writers were in Phoenix and the editors in San Francisco, and writers don't manage headlines.

   Orlando had two more minuses than he had plusses, and it may have been unfair for me to bring it up. He had a great year in 1961, but in 1962, though in position to drive in more runs than anybody, his production had tailed off. He had more minuses principally because he had more chances.

   I liked Orlando despite it all. He was a big happy-go-lucky kid, with a warm Spanish family, and if you got to know him at all you just had to like him. At the plate he was fearless, a real bulldog. But to give you an idea how he was going in those days: When we were playing the last game of the season against the Dodgers,

Page 93

he almost got hit on the fist but managed to get his bat around, popping a ball into right field to drive in the winning run. He was so happy he practically when through the roof. He had popped out so many times in that situation but in this case it meant winning the game.

   When he was holding out, and I finally phoned him in Venezuela, it turned out all he wanted was $1000 more. I said, "If you come to camp I'll get it for you." He came.

   Chub Feeney, the general manager, was mad about it. "What'd you do that for?" he said.

   "Because I want Cepeda in camp."

   Well, when it all came out, the two players the writers went to most about my being a "racist" were Mays, a black, who chose to remain silent, and Cepeda, a Hispanic, who didn't. Later, in a book, Mays explained his silence. He said he felt I'd used him to bail out when the heat was on. He also said that "Alvin Dark did more for me — and meant it — than any other man I've ever known."

   Now, you have to back up for a moment to 1961. In mid-summer we were in New York, going pretty well, and after one game the New York writers came in and one of them, Leonard Schecter, said, "What have you done to bring about this success?"

   I said, "Well, the guys are just playing better. Hitting better, pitcher better, fielding better."

   "But what have you done? Haven't you done anything?"

   I said, "No, nothing. They're just playing better."

   He said, "Well, I just got through talking to Bob Scheffing of the Tigers and he told me things he'd done to get his team going. Can't you give me some ideas?"

   Today I would know better. I've been managing enough to know the thing to do in that situation is think up something to satisfy a writer, to give him a story. But I was new. I more or less dismissed him, and apparently he took it as a slight.

   About this time Dick Young of the New York Daily News and a few other baseball writers were there, crowding around, not wanting to miss a question someone else might ask, and we got into the subject of black managers. I said, "No, not yet. Baseball isn't ready for colored managers."

   "Why not?"

   "They're just not prepared. They haven't managed anyplace yet.

   We discussed it, and if I was being candid I was also being foolish because those who had sensitive ears for that sort of thing

Page 94

immediately read prejudice into it. When you're white, and you speak with a Southern accent, there isn't a whole lot you can say about race that won't get turned around.

   I didn't run down anyone racially. I did bring up the subject of differences in people. I don't believe God created men "equal." I believe He gave every race and ethnic group special attributes. I don't think those attributes are accidental. I have always thought blacks were superior athletes. But — and this was my undoing — I said as far as running a baseball club was concerned, which implied a necessary intelligence, I just didn't think blacks were ready.

   Now, jump ahead again, this time to 1964, midway in the season, when Stan Isaacs of the Long Island Newsday came to my office in San Francisco. I was surprised because we weren't playing a New York team, but I liked Stan and we'd always gotten along.

   "Stan," I said, "nice to see you. What are you doing here?"

   He said, "Oh, I'm on my way to the Olympic trials in Los Angeles. I'm not working. Just thought I'd say hello and see the game."

   Well, if I'd thought it out I would have had my guard up. Our first trip into New York that year Jimmy Cannon of the Journal-American came to my locker at Shea Stadium and said, "Alvin, there are three sportswriters in New York who are out to get you."

   "What? Why?" If he had said I was on the FBI's Most Wanted list it would have been no greater a shock. "What have I done?"

   "Never mind. Just be careful how you handle yourself here."

   He didn't name anybody until later, after all this came to a head, but at the time I thought he must be mistaken. I dismissed it as a bad joke.

   So Stan and I visited, and it must have been a while because I remember Herman Franks was coming in and out of the office.

   Stan said, "What's wrong with your ball club?"

   I said, "Well, we've had a lot of injuries," which we had. An unbelievable number of injuries. "But besides that, we've had a lot of dumb base running. Man, I've never seen worse base running."

   And I explained what had happened a couple days before against the Phillies when, with men on first and third, Del Crandall almost grounded into a triple play. That's tough to do. You almost have to plan it. As it happened the players involved were Cepeda, a black Latin; Jesus Alou, also Spanish, and Crandall, a white.

Page 95

It also happened I was playing seven blacks more or less regularly that year.

   But when you're talking about "dumb," and some of the players involved are black, what are you saying to a guy with ears for that kind of thing?

   We went on, mostly about how difficult it had been for me to get some of them to want to win.

   And when Stan Isaacs got back to Long Island his two articles about our talk appeared in Newsday, lifting things out of context, emphasizing the negatives and generally presenting Alvin Dark as a bigot.

   The quote attributed to me that got the widest circulation and was most damaging was this: "We have trouble because we have so many Negro and Spanish-speaking ball players on this team. They are just not able to perform up to the white ball players when it comes to mental alertness. You can't make most Negro and Spanish players have the pride in their team that you can get from white players." Isaacs said that I made Willie Mays the exception, but quoted me as saying he was just that, an exception.

   When Herman Franks saw the stories he went right out the top. He said he'd swear I never said those things. Actually, he wasn't in the office long enough at any one time to know.

   I made up my mind to sue. A lawyer friend of Leo Durocher's came to the clubhouse in Los Angeles and said he'd represent me. "We can sue them for anything you want," he said, "and I'll guarantee you we'll collect."

   We were in Pittsburgh after that, still on the road, and I got calls trying to get me to talk. Then, in Philadelphia, just before the swing took us into New York, Larry Merchant, another writer, came to the Warwick Hotel where we stayed and asked to have breakfast with me. He said he wanted to talk about the Isaacs stories. Over breakfast he asked if I'd said anything about "blacks being stupid."


   "Well, what are you going to do?"

   "I'm thinking about suing."

   And he said, "If you sue his paper, they're going to bring up your personal life. They're gonna bring up your girlfriend."

   My stomach turned over. I said, "That has nothing to do with it." But I got the drift.

Page 96

   Isaacs' stories broke in late July. It was twelve days afterward, on August 4, that we got to New York. The quotes he attributed to me, Time magazine wrote, "lay ticking like a time bomb." When we came in for the two-game series with the Mets, the New York papers opened up, with accounts that included the rumor that Mr. Stoneham, the club owner, was going to can Mr. Dark, the club racist, and that Casey Stengel would wind up managing the Giants.

   When we got to the clubhouse at Shea Stadium, copies of the Newsday stories were waiting in envelopes for the black and Latin players on the team. There was no return address on the envelopes. Ford Frick, the commissioner, met with me at lunch and advised I call a press conference. He said he'd back me. "You have nothing to be ashamed of."

   Before the first Mets game, thirty-five newsmen came to the visitors' dressing room to see if I would put my foot in my mouth again. I have found since then that no matter how much you talk about such things, trying to lay them aside, they don't go away. The more you talk, the more unfavorable the light in which they are printed.

   I said, "I was definitely misquoted on some things, and other statements were deformed." (I used "deformed," and though it sounded wrong at the time I think now it was the best word.) I said, "If you are going to make such statements, you are either stupid or ready to quit baseball. I may be stupid, but not that stupid. And I want to stay in baseball."

   They asked me for my version. I said: "The only way I can figure what happened is that I'm from the South. I can see why that can be easily misunderstood. When I first signed on as manager of the Giants in 1960, Chub Feeney had dinner with me and told me I might have trouble because there were so many Negroes on the team. I told him then that he was wrong — that he didn't know how I feel about Negroes. He said he had known someone from the South in the Army, and knew the way Southerners feel. I told him that didn't have anything to do with me, that my feelings were to treat every man individually and that's the way I'd run my ball club. That's the way I have [run the club]. But if my own vice-president could misunderstand my views before we talked them out, I can see how a newspaperman might."

   I pointed out the irony of the situation. I said, "I don't feel I have to defend myself to my players or anyone. If my players don't accept me on my actions — I accept them on theirs — words won't do any good."

Page 97

   It was not that simple. Some players would rather have believed neither my words nor my actions, but the words that had been printed. There was not then, nor has there ever been, anyone who could lay my record out and say, "There it is. Right there. An example of Alvin Dark's prejudice." But you don't have to be prejudiced if you are accused of it. The accusation convicts you every time.

   I could, and did, point out that we were starting seven Latins and blacks. That several had displaced white players — Jim Ray Hart for Jim Davenport at third, José Pagan for Ed Bressoud at short, Jesus Alou for Harvey Kuenn in right field. I pointed out that I had made Mays captain the middle of that year, something I'd wanted to do since 1962. Could I have done that if I thought him inferior?

   The more I defended, the more I had to defend. It was argued that I was actually "using" Willie. How can you answer such a charge? What manager doesn't "use" his captain to get things done? The more you defend, the more it begins to sound like "some of my best friends are — ". Even the players begin to wonder. Willie McCovey said it would be "hard to put out of your mind if you think he feels that way about you."

   Mays himself was less than enthusiastic on my behalf. He was quoted as saying, "I can only speak for myself. He never showed me he was like that. But I can only speak for myself."

   Isaacs had also come to see me when we were in Philadelphia, before the New York series. We had a good talk. I don't think he had intended to be malicious, but I do think the backgrounds of the people involved should have been considered. Isaacs was a Northern liberal, a journalist. His wife was a social worker. My background: Southern, conservative, Baptist.

   You have to appreciate, too, that the country was then being swept by civil-rights fervor. Things were happening that demanded sides be taken. By not being "for" something, you were automatically "against" it. The fact is, Isaacs and I never had a disagreement; not before and not then. The race issue never came up in our conversations. I don't think he held my background against me, and I certainly didn't have any animosity toward him.

   It was perhaps coincidental that the Giants at the time were in second place,

Page 98

a game behind the Phillies, and were the object of much criticism for not having run away with the pennant race. It happened, too, that Cepeda was running the bases like a man carrying a safe, and Willie McCovey, who I thought should be hitting .300 was barely over .200. I was critical of those things. If the players had been white, I suppose I could have criticized freely without being misinterpreted.

   All the writers weren't on the firing squad. One, in San Francisco, even tried to explain the phenomenon. He said, "Dark looks at baseball players for their achievements, as a scientist would an experiment, and in a discussion that might link the colored ones in the 'dumb' bloc, it would not occur to him that he was being racial. Isaacs, the social-conscious liberal, would. One can believe that Alvin thinks he didn't say those things, and Herman Franks knows he didn't mean them, but Isaacs heard them."

   Red Smith wrote that the incident was "unfortunate, for Dark is widely recognized as a scrupulously fair man." He pointed out that "even Jackie Robinson, who can spot racial bias more quickly than most, came to Dark's defense."

   Robinson was quoted in The New York Times: "I have known Dark for many years, and my relationships with him have always been exceptional. I have found him to be a gentleman and, above all, unbiased. Our relationship has not only been on the baseball field but off it. We played golf together."

   Sports Illustrated, in an editorial, said the "incident must be considered in the context of [Dark's] baseball life. If he is short on faith, he is long on works ... He has treated them (Negroes and Latin Americans) as individuals, not stereotypes. He has knit together a club that was chaotically divided, partly by racial and nationalist hostility, at the time he took control."

   Isaacs admitted at the press conference that "there can be an honest difference about the distortion in view of the basic differences in our approach to the matter. I don't think I distorted, but I do see where he might think so." He said, "To my mind there's no doubt that Dark has no malice toward Negroes. I think he tries to treat them as fairly as anybody else."

   I believe Stan meant those as healing words. But there aren't enough words to heal that wound. It festered for years. Every stop I made in baseball thereafter was cause for somebody with a scalpel of interrogation to open it again. I suppose when I die it will be included in my obituary.

Page 99

   I think now that my own limitations at communication were partly responsible. Since I had been a kid, the ways I have used to express myself have been mostly physical. I had worked all my life on improving the physical ability God gave me — hour after hour of hitting curve balls to right field, practicing chip shots, punting footballs. I was not good at expressing my thoughts verbally or on paper. Jackie says that only recently has she begun to understand some of my inner feelings, simply because I never really expressed them well before.

   Mr. Frick made a public defense on my behalf. I appreciated that. Mr. Stoneham did, too, seven days later. He said he had waited until the San Francisco writers "got away from the New York atmosphere." He denied that a "managerial change was contemplated." Well, it was contemplated, and I knew it. But not because of a race issue. He was keeping the real reason to himself.

Chapter 9

I've met a lot of pretty girls in my life. It was nothing new to meet a pretty girl. I was on my way back from winning the Baseball Players Golf Tournament in Miami in January of 1962, and Jackie Rockwood was a stewardess on the flight. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.

   We talked. Easy, natural conversation, the kind two people have when they have been friends for years. For the greater part of two hours we talked. Inevitably, the subject turned to baseball. She told me later it was her custom with male passengers to discuss something "mutually interesting," and baseball was a topic she was well versed in.

   Suddenly she said, "You know who you look like?"

   "No, who?"

   "You like like Alvin Dark, the manager of the Giants. I've only seen his picture, but you look like him."

   I said, "You know more about baseball than most folks if you remember a face this ugly."

   "Oh, come on. If you're Alvin Dark, let me see your little finger."

   I held up my hand where the tip of the finger had been torn off throwing the stool. She followed baseball, all right.

   It turned out she was more than just a follower, she had been a big Yankee fan. Her mother had dated Joe DiMaggio, and she had always been around the Yankees. (She said, in fact, that she was an active Dodger-hater, a sure sign of Yankee partisanship.) Her mother, younger brother, and she even went to spring training in Florida. Allie Reynolds, the ace of the Yankee pitching staff, was practically her big brother.

   I communicated more with Jackie on that flight than I ever had with a woman at one sitting in my life. Nothing suggestive, no double meanings,

Page 101

no insinuations, just a perfectly natural conversation between two people on the same wavelength. I know now I fell in love with her then and there, though it was some time before I had the courage to admit it, even to myself.

   She was divorced at the time, and not a little embittered by a bad marriage. Her mother's marriage had been tragic. That, too, had left scars. The last thing in the world she wanted was an involvement. Like me, she had been taught — and believed, as we still do — that marriage was forever, a contract notarized by God. As unhappy as she was in her first marriage, the day she was to go to court to get her divorce she fainted in the kitchen.

   We made no plans to meet again, and we didn't see each other for a year. But she lived in Miami, where the National Airlines stewardesses were based, and the next year after we won the pennant she came out to the Baseball Players Golf Tournament and we talked again. I asked if she'd like to join Nick Shinkoff and me for dinner. Nick was a Giants scout and a good friend. I'd never done that before. Since my marriage I'd never touched another woman.

   Don't think I am totally naive. The opportunities for a professional athlete with even a minimal amount of notoriety are limitless. There were, over the years, a number of close calls. Come-on remarks made at a park or in a hotel. Plays made under a table. Telephone calls. Things like that. You resist "just a little," and then you get in a situation where you have to resist a lot, and then you have to take a quick hike or you're a goner. I'd always taken the hike.

   Dinner for three seemed harmless. A chance to exchange experiences and commiserate over problems (as I remember, Jackie had just gotten over the mumps.) But I realize now how ripe the conditions were for both of us. I had been a manager only two years, but already the difference was profound in my life-style. As a player in the big leagues, attention becomes a matter of course. You expect to be made over. Soon enough you get filled with yourself. Fans cheer, sportswriters come around. You don't need a whole lot of attention away from the ball park.

   But now I was managing, and a manager doesn't hear the cheers. They're not meant for him. The writers want to know where you made your mistakes, not how well your curve was breaking. You're never the winner, you're the guy whose blunders cost the game, and you can't redeem yourself by managing 4 for 4 the next day.

Page 102

Suddenly you realize there are no pats on the back. You begin to crave the attention you didn't need before.

   The clincher, however, was Jackie herself. She was, and is, everything I ever wanted in a woman. I should have known it from the first meeting, and I did know it, and began to confront myself with it, from that first "harmless" dinner date. I loved the things she represented: a girl who could enjoy watching ball games with me, a girl who could walk a golf course with me, and cheer me on at play. A working girl, too, who could appreciate the things I gave her. In short, a girl with the same interests — as limited as they may be — as I had.

   My first wife is as good a mother as ever lived. Adrienne Managan and I were childhood sweethearts, the type for whom marriage is not only possible but is unanimously predicted. We were raised in the same church, with the same convictions. We knew all the same people. My youngest sister was one of her best friends.

   Were we well suited? You don't think deeply about such things at that age, but in most respects I was a poor catch for Adrienne, and only realized it much later. She was from a well-to-do family, respected all over Louisiana. Her father had made a lot of money at one time, and though he had suffered with everyone else in the late twenties and thirties, he still had position and status.

   Adrienne was valedictorian of both her high school and college classes. She knew Latin. She could read a book in no time, digest its contents, and then tell you about it; an extraordinary gift to a nonreader. I never read a book I didn't have to, at least not in those days.

   Everybody liked Adrienne. She had a wonderful way with people. Our children, I am proud to say, are more a reflection of her personality, and her abilities as a family-maker, than mine. Allison, Gene, Eve, and Margaret are grown now, and I think they all turned out terrific.

   But Adrienne cared very little about sports. I can't blame her for that — some do, some don't. She went to the games because she was expected to, I felt, and when our kids were old enough, she brought them to the park. But I resented it when she didn't want to go to the golf course with me, or didn't know that much about what I'd done on the baseball field. If I wanted to talk about sports, and she was in a book, that would be that.

   I suppose when you get down to it, I wanted to be the center of her life,

Page 103

me and my athletics, and I didn't think I was. It was selfishness on my part, and I made it worse by throwing little digs. I doubt they made much of an impression because she had all the confidence in the world, which in itself added to my frustration. When she'd dig back, away we'd go.

   We hurt each other that way. And from those exhausting sessions, we'd usually come to the same conclusion. That we loved each other, but didn't like each other enough. I used to tell her, "You shoulda married a college professor, somebody who'll take you to concerts and plays, and read books with you." Eventually that's what she did.

   Soon enough our disagreements began wearing on us. I think, however, that we could have worked it out. We never really made the effort in the right direction. We never read our Bibles together, never got down on our knees together and presented our problems to the right audience. Separately, maybe, but never together.

   Our differences didn't really seem so important until my first year of managing. Before then, a put-down didn't hurt that much; I was riding high, I had my equilibrium, I didn't care a whole lot about what others thought. But once I started managing, and getting to the point in life where a man realizes he hasn't licked the world and is not likely to, the flaws in our marriage began to jump out at us.

   Jackie's presence in my life magnified those flaws, of course. And my presence in her life magnified her need.

   Jackie's father had been a Baptist minister, and her mother had left him when Jackie was a child. She had no memories of him at all. Her mother had been very bitter about the marriage, and passed that bitterness on. Jackie had been church-oriented, like me, from childhood. When she started flying, the ties began to loosen and before she knew it she was married to a pilot, and had given birth to two children.

   Those things combined to make her, first, insecure in her relationships with men, and, second, not the least inclined toward a relationship with a married man. Yet from that first meeting, our lives were on a collision course.

   After that dinner, I knew I loved her. She told me the same in the weeks that followed: "For the first time in my life I know what it is to be in love. I always felt I had to love somebody because they loved me. That I needed to reciprocate. Not with you."

   Not having a father, she said, and not having seen the stability in

Page 104

a man-woman relationship, she didn't know this could happen to her. "Once you find it," she said, "you don't want to let go."

   Let go, nevertheless, is what we both tried to do, over and over again. From the beginning it was one heartbreaking attempt after another to let go. The hardest thing to relate is how much we tried not to see each other over the next few years. We could go weeks between meetings, and then one of us would call under the pretext of "seeing how you are," or wishing a happy birthday. Then we'd see each other a time or two, and break it off again.

   We knew it was hurting our families, even without their knowing why. I couldn't have been a very good father. I contributed little to my children's upbringing. Professional baseball players lead selfish lives, anyway. They've gone all spring and summer and half the fall, and if they're like Alvin Dark they're playing golf most of the winter. They make constant side trips to banquets and meetings. Appearances at home are almost a token effort.

   The kids were there, doing schoolwork, trying to grow up, needing help; all with the unspoken knowledge that they barely had a father. Now and then, I'd have conversations with myself. "When are you going to be a dad? Tomorrow? Next week?" Most of the time I was too involved with myself to be what they needed. The result of noninvolvement is overcompensation. I hardly ever corrected them. As I remember, I didn't spank Eve or Margaret at all.

   It was almost as if I were there on a vacation, a guest in my own house. At one point I put my foot down and said my youngest, Eve, could not have a car. Then I gave Adrienne the money to get it for her. Jackie was doing the same thing with her two children. Whenever she'd return from a trip, she'd be loaded down with presents, partly to relieve herself of the guilt of having hired help to raise them.

   I played ball with my son Gene when he was little, and taught him how to pitch, and I remember at twelve he pitched two no-hitters, though he didn't really like baseball that much. I didn't push him. He was just a natural athlete, and has become a fine golfer, with one of those beautiful grooved swings I envy. But after Gene was thirteen or so, I did little to help raise him.

   In the off season I played as many as thirty-six holes a day, then stuck around the club for gin games. I'd miss supper, winning money at gin (that was my excuse), thinking all the time what I really wanted to do was to go to the Crosby Tournament or somewhere to meet Jackie.

Page 105

The things I did with the kids — taking them to movies, to sporting events — were more obligatory than pleasurable, and they sensed it. When they found out later about Jackie and me, they were were resentful for a long time. I don't blame them.

   For two people having a "glamorous affair," Jackie and I were about as unglamorous as you could be. Perhaps if we had not been Christians, with strong beliefs about right and wrong, it would have been easy. That's the way it's done in some circles. You got it, flaunt it. Don't worry whom you hurt, just live for now. Some think it makes them bigger men if they're seen, or even caught cheating on their wives. Not us. We didn't want to be found out. We didn't want anyone to know. On the road, we were prisoners in our hotel rooms. We ate all our meals there. Jackie had a kit she'd bring, with silverware and candles and Sterno, and we set up housekeeping. We would stay right there.

   But we were so much in love that even in those limited confines we were happy together. For Jackie, I was already her husband — she was more married to me, she said, than she had been in her real marriage. "I've made a total commitment," she said. And though I wasn't fulfilling all her needs, I felt the same way. I was so much in love I couldn't see straight. I couldn't see at all. The whole thing was so natural when we were together. We couldn't keep from it. In the six years that followed, we never saw each other more than two weeks at a time, and never got our fill. It was something that would turn on us after we were finally married.

   Up through 1962, I used to give Christian testimonies, mostly about tithing. I stopped doing it. It cut too deeply into my conscience. We were in Philadelphia soon after the 1963 season started, for a series with the Phillies. Jackie met me there, and in my mail at the hotel was a request to come speak at a church. I said, "Jackie, I can't do it. I can't speak anymore."

   She was very upset. She said, "If that's the case, I can never see you again. I can't stand in the way of that."

   She started to pack, and I realized I had to do the same. I went into the bathroom and for the first time since I was a child, I cried like a baby. I hadn't even cried like that at my father's funeral.

   Guilt-ridden, I had told Adrienne about Jackie the previous Christmas. "I'm in love with someone else, and I can't help it, or don't think I can." We had tears over it. She insisted we sell our house in California to move back to Lake Charles. She said if

Page 106

anything happened she wanted to be near home. I knew that she deserved better than I was giving her. I could see how much it was hurting her, and it was probably wrong to stay together, but we kept trying to work it out.

   Jackie and I knew there was no future for us. She was divorced, with a family. I was married, with a family. We were both professing Christians. We were both hypocrites. There is no other way to define it. We just weren't letting God get in our way. Self came first. I had nothing but good things happening to me for years, and I suppose I thought everything I did was okay with the Lord. I pictured myself as quite a feather in His cap, and when you begin thinking that way you're riding for a fall.

   After the pennant season of 1962 I had found it easier not to go to church. Easier not to take my Bible on road trips. Easier to jump on a player, or to cuss an umpire. The first time I cussed an umpire I was ashamed and amazed ("Hey, why'd you do that? Man, that was awful"). But after a while I took it as the thing to do. I'd cuss a ball player, and I'd rationalize. "Well, so what? I'll have to do it again, anyway." I found myself being less comfortable in the presence of people whose moral and spiritual standards I respected, and more at home with those whose standards I did not.

   In that context, it is not hard for me to understand how I put myself before my obligations when it came to Jackie. If love isn't blind it is certainly self-deceiving. We were both bewildered by what was happening, and dumb enough to think we were fooling people. Soon enough we realized otherwise. It wasn't exactly in the headlines, but Dorothy Kilgallen wrote about a "big league manager, a pious individual and his airline stewardess girlfriend."

   During the '63 season, Mr. Stoneham called me into his office and said he knew what was going on and I would have to stop seeing Jackie. He said it didn't look good. "You can't handle your ball players if you can't handle yourself. You've got rules you are breaking."

   He was right, of course. I was not much of an example. I'd had a rule, a $250 fine for any player who brought anyone to his room on the road. I had the house detective get a girl out of one player's room in Pittsburgh when we were driving for the pennant in '62. I had him tell the girl she was going to jail, and that I was going to fine the player. I had the managers of the hotels alert their detectives to watch certain guys. It was effective when I wasn't guilty myself. Your actions drown out your words every time.

Page 107

   The players knew. They always knew. Maybe if I'd been Leo Durocher they'd have applauded, but as a professing Christian I was more likely to get raspberries. That's one of the problems of presenting a self-righteous profile. So much of what people think Christianity is, is based on the negative aspects, the things you don't do — you don't smoke, you don't drink, you don't chase women. That's not the heart of it at all, of course. Christ is. Christ is a positive get-things-done influence. Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven.

   When I got into the Bible years later, I was amazed how many of God's servants failed spiritually. Abraham, Isaac, David, even Noah made some horrible mistakes. I say even Noah because he lived in God's favor for six hundred years before he fell out of favor, going into that cave and getting drunk. The heart of it is that God forgives when you repent. But don't expect the wounds not to scar when you go against His word.

  Mr. Stoneham was considerably more human in his approach, of course. I can appreciate that. I think he always resented the fact that I wouldn't join his drinking parties — his "sit-sees" he called them. "Come sit-see with me." I hated that because I don't drink and I don't enjoy watching what drinking does to people. I loved Mr. Stoneham, but I wanted nothing to do with that part of his life.

   It probably didn't bother him until he found out about Jackie, and then it got in his craw. (Who is this Holy Joe who won't drink or smoke or curse, but now he's got a girlfriend?) From then on, our relationship cooled. It was, at the outset, a shaky union in the first place. Bill Veeck explained in a book that Mr. Stoneham sacrificed some of the pleasure he had in baseball by hiring me; how he was "well aware that, for once, he was not getting a drinking partner in the bargain." That "he was, to some extent, surrendering a certain amount of his normal control. He hired him anyway, because Alvin was one of his old boys ..."

   And then, according to Veeck, "Horace Stoneham came to believe Alvin Dark had developed a flaw in that faultless character of his. Not on Stoneham's terms, but on Dark's own stern terms ... At that moment, Alvin was no longer the genuine article, the real McCoy ... Where Horace had, for once in his life, refrained from second-guessing his manager, he now looked for flaws in everything Dark did."

Page 108

   "And let me tell you," wrote Veeck, "once you look for flaws in a manager, any manager, you're going to find them in abundance. Where previously Dark as a manager could do no wrong, he now could do no right."

   The only thing that could have saved my job in 1964 was the pennant. The Newsday stories were not so important to Mr. Stoneham as they were untimely. He probably would have fired me for the other reasons, but with the New York writers having a field day I think he felt obliged to protect me. He knew I was no bigot. If he'd fired me, it would have looked bad. Herman Franks told him so, and I appreciated their concern, but he was just postponing the inevitable.

   Overall, 1964 was surely not the most joyful year of my managing life. The year before, coming off the pennant season, we had finished a disappointing third, and had been roundly criticized. Harry Craft of the Houston Astros said in August "the Giants should be fifteen games ahead, they've got the best personnel in the league." But about that time our pitching staff was fourth in the league in earned-run average. Marichal and O'Dell were holding up well, but Sanford was struggling to stay above .500. Our fielders were ninth in assists, tenth in double plays, and sixth in fielding percentage. We were third in scoring. We led in home runs. I said, "Maybe [Harry's] been watching us in batting practice."

   In 1964 we actually won two more games than in '63, and were in the race until the day before the season ended. But again, we were expected to do better. Buzzy Bavasi of the Dodgers, whose path I was to run afoul of thirteen years later, took exception to some of my actions and pointed out what a lousy manager I was. He said I would "figure some way to mess up the Giants."

   Actually, we did a good enough job messing up without having to figure it out. We were the walking wounded, a crippled team. Willie Mays even played some third base late in the season when Jim Ray Hart, our cleanup hitter, was hit in the head by a thrown ball. Hart had to be hospitalized. Marichal started like a house afire, winning 15 of his first 20, then hurt his back and was out for a month. We had the home-run bats all right, but they weren't hitting much else. We were ninth in team batting.

   By the same token, I know I was not the manager I had been in the previous years. In 1962, I was convinced no one in the world could manage any better. I had the courage of my convictions.

Page 109

I made the moves I knew were right, and then was confident they would work. I never worried. Whitey Lockman, who is knowledgeable about the game but isn't much of a talker (more the "yep-nope" type), said after the '62 season, "That was the greatest managing job I've ever seen in baseball."

   From 1963 on, I began running scared. I started having trouble with players and wondering if they were losing respect. When that starts happening, you automatically alienate yourself. You begin exposing your doubts. Are they holding you up to ridicule? What are they saying?

   You can't fool ball players. They know if you're managing scared. Every player on the club senses your doubts. That's why Earl Weaver of the Orioles is such a good manager today. He may not worry too much about his conscience, but he's up front with his courage. A brassy, gutsy little guy, fearless and smart, and when he makes a move, the Orioles know it's right.

   With all that, if we'd won our last two games in 1964 we'd have tied for the pennant. I was fired during the sixth inning of the last game. We had lost the previous day, and were out of it, and we were losing this one, too. Mr. Stoneham phoned down to the dugout and said he'd like to see me in the clubhouse. I have to give him credit for wasting no time. I told Larry Jansen to take charge and went inside.

   The meeting was brief. "I've got to make a change," he said.

   "It's your ball club, Mr. Stoneham," I said. "It's your prerogative. Thank you for giving me the chance to manage."

   It was to become an echo in my life.

   Whether it was coincidental or not I can't say, but the longest period Jackie and I were apart was from that day to the winter meetings of 1964. When I got back home after being fired, Adrienne and I confronted the children with the whole situation and told them my relationship with Jackie was over. We were going to reestablish our lives in Lake Charles. We agreed to give it a total effort.

   We did try, but always in the back of my mind was Jackie. I had tried to put her aside before. Sometimes cruelly. At those times, when she phoned the golf course or the bank and left word, I wouldn't answer. But it never lasted. I'd wake up at four or five o'clock in the morning, thinking about her. I kept coins in my golf bag so I could use pay phones. I'd go out early to play golf, phone her, and we'd be back together.

Page 110

   She had tried just as hard. During one separation she took a job as a supervisor of stewardesses for National, so she would be so busy she wouldn't be available when I came around. I ended that with a phone call on her birthday.

   Having to handle it all alone, Jackie went through a singular torture. Her ex-husband threatened to expose us. He said he would give the story to Confidential magazine if she didn't give him the children. I told her not to give them up under any circumstances. The onus seemed always on her. Even later, when I first went to work for Mr. Finley in Kansas City, Charlie admitted he had detectives follow her.

   At this point, Jackie, though divorced, was not dating anyone. She was getting a lot of advice on what to do from friends who knew about us. She's not the hardest person to read when she's upset, and they could see she was upset. She tried to explain that dating would be "abnormal" for her. She was already "committed" to me.

   That longest separation, from September of 1964, lasted two and a half months. My own unrest must have been evident to Adrienne because during that time she called Jackie in Chicago. She said, "Are you and Alvin seeing each other again?" Jackie said, "No," which was true, and they talked, almost as if they were friends. It was a bad experience for both of them. Neither really wanted the other hurt. When I went down to Florida for the winter meetings, Jackie and I got back together. But our selfish need for one another would eventually cause more heartbreak than we ever imagined.

   The racist issue never completely died, and probably never will. Claiming I was misquoted isn't enough. I must have said something that gave Stan Isaacs that impression, and for that I am truly sorry. Inside I know I'm no bigot, and I leave it to God to judge. That's His job.

   After Jackie Robinson came to my defense, Jackie — my Jackie — saw Robinson at the Baseball Players' Golf Tournament the next year. As an old Yankee fan she had pretty much been taught to loathe him — Jackie Robinson was the principal hate object of all Yankee fans in those days — but, of course, she didn't know him. Nevertheless, she went up to him at the tournament and said, "Mr. Robinson, I'm a very close friend of Alvin Dark's, and I wanted to thank you ..." And she broke down crying.

   I'm sure Robinson had no idea what she was talking about.

Chapter 10

   The one thing I have wanted to do in baseball, my ultimate ambition, is to start from scratch with a young team and take it to a championship. I can't imagine anything more rewarding for a manager. In San Francisco we won a pennant but I was working virtually with a veteran team. In Cleveland later on we traded away all the veterans and replaced them with young players who might have a chance, but it was doubtful because the Cleveland farm system was weak. In Kansas City when I took the job managing Charlie Finley's Athletics in 1966 there was no doubt in my mind we could do it. Mr. Finley had them earmarked and on their way. The fact that I wasn't around when they did win in 1972 and 1973 obviously didn't slow them up much. Managers only win pennants in their dreams.

   It takes a man like Charlie Finley to get a club to the threshold that quickly because there is more to building an organization than just paying a star player like Reggie Jackson $300,000 a year. It takes somebody with guts, foresight, and a willingness to put money into areas where there isn't much glory returned on the investment. That means investing in the farm system, in scouting. Show me a team that is a consistent loser and I'll show you a team that neglects its farm system and hires seventy-year-old retired players on Social Security to do its scouting.

   Finley was like Leo Durocher in that respect. He had guts coming out of his ears, and he didn't care what anybody said or thought, or that baseball had resisted making a change for forty-two years. If he thought it worth trying, he tried it. I didn't like the donkeys on the field or the softball uniforms, but for all his fondness for carnival you didn't have to be a detective to know that here was a man who was way ahead of everybody else. I said

Page 112

exactly that after he fired me in 1967, and I said it after he "didn't rehire" me in 1976, and if he ever gets the chance to fire me again, and does, I'll still say it.

   It has to be a tremendous satisfaction for Finley to realize that with few exceptions the guys who won three World Championships back to back were houseplants who came up through the A's system. Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Dick Green, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Blue Moon Odom — every one of them were originals, players Mr. Finley went out and offered bonuses to and signed.

   Baseball has never been able to hide the evidence of that kind of enlightenment. Baltimore has been picking up fine young players from the draft every year. It is no accident. The Orioles put their money in places where it will go to work for them. They hire good men to go find good talent. The Cincinnati organization, with Bob Housman, does that kind of job. The Yankees used to have four or five well-known, well-paid scouts who did a tremendous job. It was almost an honor to have one of them look at you.

   Nowadays another club might make a big splash in the papers about signing its Number One pick, the first draft choice, and shoving money at him, but who doesn't know about that particular player? Every scout can name whom the top two or three draft choices will be. The good scout is the one who can get the eighteenth- and nineteenth-round guy nobody else knew about, and then see him wind up playing second base for the team.

   But who do the unenlightened get to handle this important job? Who are the keen-eyed bird dogs of the also-rans? Generally they are guys who can afford to live on eight or ten thousand dollars a year, who are single or widowers, who use their own cars and turn in gas mileage and stay in cheap motels. Usually they are ex-players who want to get back into the game after being away twenty years. And usually it doesn't work. Pay your scouting people birdseed and you'll wind up with turkeys in your outfield.

   Without a doubt, money intelligently spent talks in baseball. A manager who does not have that kind of financial backing will not succeed. I think in his brief stab at the trade Ted Williams was a smart, fearless manager. He took .200 hitters on the Senators (now the Rangers) and helped raise their averages to respectability. The things he did with some of the hitters were amazing. Eddie Brinkman, the shortstop, raised his average almost 80 points.

Page 113

Frank Howard's went up 20-plus, and he cut his strikeouts almost in half — and started making real money to boot.

   Then one morning Williams woke up to find the Senators-Rangers ownership had traded away the left side of his infield, the strongest part of his club. You can't rebuild without money intelligently spent, and that includes trading your collateral.

   It remains to be seen what the current spending spree will do to the game, because it is a phenomenon. The players have never been so regally treated. Of course, it is totally one-sided. They are getting it all, and I would be the last to say they shouldn't take it as readily as it is dished out. For too many years the shoe was on the other foot. I remember reading about Johnny Hopp, who played in the big leagues thirteen years and averaged close to .300 (a lofty figure today), and never made more than $30,000. He spent his "retirement" years riding the power lines in Nebraska. Some of the great Dodger stars I played against are now tending bar or pounding the sidewalks as deputy sheriffs.

   The question is, where do you draw the line? Maury Wills' son came into the big leagues in 1977 without playing an inning and wanted a three-year $120,000 contract, according to the papers. A veteran player signed a four-year contract for $200,000, then sulked when he found out he wasn't getting as much as another player on his team. He pouted to the press that he "didn't feel like going to spring training."

   There are players — again, according to the salary stories, which always tend to exaggerate — who are making twice what the President makes, even, to turn Babe Ruth's phrase, if they didn't have as good a year. And there are .250 hitters the average fan would have to check the box scores to remember who are making more than Ted Williams did in his still-recent prime. Every starting player in the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup, with the exception of the catcher, was supposed to be making $100,000 or more a couple years ago. The Yankees had three players making $300,000-plus.

   I have my reservations about the intelligence of ownership that would throw that kind of money around, but I say to the players, "Catch it if you can." I have doubts, because, I wonder what kind of incentive a player with a big multiyear contract is going to have, except maybe in the last year of that contract. I suppose this is more a personal prejudice, though, because I never wanted more than a one-year contract. I felt the need for a competitive

Page 114

edge, and wanted to be paid what I was worth when I was worth it. Perhaps it is not so unnatural for a player to want to be a millionaire before he hits .300 or wins 20 games in a season. A little greed is probably overdue on the players' part, so we'll have to see.

   The second question I have is more to the point: With ownership spending millions on unproven talent, what happens to those other areas of a club's development that also need financial stability? Somewhere along the line the piper has to be paid. The ticket buyers can take just so much price-gouging. Mr. Wrigley supposedly lost a million dollars in 1976, when the Cubs drew a million people. Charlie Finley said that 1976 was the first time he lost money with the A's. That year he even had to pay the radio station to broadcast his games.

   When the inevitable cutbacks come, chances are they will be in areas you won't read about in the sports pages, but nevertheless they will eventually show up glaringly in the quality of play. I'm talking primarily about the farm system. Make a cut there and you feel the pain all the way to the top. The A's farm system, once a model, is now in shambles. Cleveland was talking about rebuilding, about putting more money in its farm system, when I was there eight years ago — and is still talking about it, with no pennant in sight. There is too great a tendency today to rely on what is available in the colleges, where players develop without being paid.

   Because of my pride in the game, feeling it is more than just Mork and Mindy in spikes, I suppose I wouldn't mind seeing some of these wild-spending clubs fall on their faces. But before it's over, they might all go broke, and I wouldn't want that. Too, if some of these newly rich players perform like sleepwalkers, fat with security, it will not go unnoticed The carpenters and mineworkers sitting in the bleachers are not going to identify too agreeably with a $300,000 player who hits .225. Any underpaid stiff can do that.

   As a manager, past and future, I have to wonder as well what new relationships will germinate in this climate. If the manager is low man on the totem pole, what happens when he has to deal with one of his stars at the top? Again, according to the papers, Lenny Randle was making $80,000 a year playing second base for the Rangers. In 1976 he hit .224. He is a better player than .224, admittedly, but he wanted more money. He threatened to leave camp in the spring because Bump Wills was taking his place. One loaded remark led to another, and one afternoon he slugged the Rangers' manager, Frank Lucchesi, sending Lucchesi to the hospital.

Page 115

   I had to wonder, reading about that incident, what Leo Durocher would have done in that circumstance. Chances are Randle wouldn't have swung on Leo. But the player-manager relationship was different then. I don't remember Durocher ever cussing a player, but he could cut you better than anybody, and he commanded respect. Few of us even thought of talking back. He was also undoubtedly making more than any of us.

   When Leo got fired in 1955, I was up visiting the office in my street clothes. I'd broken my ribs and separated my shoulder in collisions at first base, one involving Ted Kluszewski, and I was back in New York to get Series tickets. Sal Maglie was there, and when we heard the news we had tears in our eyes. Leo's goal wasn't to be liked, but he wanted and appreciated your loyalty. He got it in spades. And there was no star too big for him to censure. As much as he loved Willie Mays, he got on him one time and Willie pouted on the bench like a child. It was a father-son relationship, and there was never any doubt who the father was.

   As I said, you can learn from any manager. Stanky was a great fundamentalist, Southworth had patience, Bill Rigney was a big morale-booster, but Leo knew everything about the game. I still marvel at the way he could recite a game's play-by-play afterward. Arch Murray, the writer, used to trail around after Leo — they were buddies — and would say, "Okay, Durocher, you're so smart, what happened the first three innings last Friday?" And Leo would recite chapter and verse.

   One thing I was sure about managing when I was fired by the Giants in 1964 was that there was a lot about managing I wasn't sure about. Also that I certainly hadn't had my fill of it, despite the bitter circumstances. In 1965 John Holland, general manager of the Cubs, asked me to come coach under Bob Kennedy. Kennedy was a friend of mine, and I told Mr. Holland I'd coach but I'd never manage the Cubs. The idea of a coach being on a manager's staff and at the same time being a "possible successor" is offensive to me, probably because Herman Franks was brought up to manage the Giants after being on my staff.

   I certainly felt no bitterness toward Herman. He has always been a loyal friend. As I said, if it hadn't been for him I'd probably have been fired a month earlier. But I believe a manager should

Page 116

have the right to hire his own coaches, and that a coach should never take his manager's job, and I told Herman that in early 1977 when I signed on to be one of his coaches with the Cubs. I believe that a coach-manager relationship is sacred. That there is a lasting need for total honesty, for rapport, for candid conversations that won't be turned against one or the other.

   There are times in such meetings when you'll want to say, "What a stupid play so-and-so made. What a bush-league play." You have to be judging players all the time. It's nothing personal, but it is necessary. Even the great ones will fall under scrutiny at times. "How could Catfish throw that pitch? How could Rudi miss that ball?" But if a coach starts slipping around saying things to the general manager or the owner, or just generally popping off about the managing, he can erode that essential confidence of the man he is first responsible to. The sad truth is that some do it to steal the job. (I'm not talking about an orderly ascent here. Tom Lasorda deserved to be manager of the Dodgers when Walter Alston retired. He did not, to my knowledge, lobby for it.)

   I know for a fact that owners use coaches to find out things, to get the word about what goes on at meetings. They will never get anything like that from me. If I'm manager, I'll tell the owner everything. If I'm a coach, I'll tell him nothing that isn't cleared through the manager. My first responsibility is to the manager. I held a clubhouse meeting one day in 1974 and the next day Charlie Finley repeated almost verbatim things I had said. I resented it.

   Sure enough, in July 1965, Bob Kennedy was fired and Mr. Holland hired Lou Klein, who succeeded in having no more luck with the Cubs than Kennedy had. (Klein was fired the following year.) A month before the season was over, I won a little golf tournament the Cubs held in Chicago, and the story was in the local papers. Charlie Finley has an office in Chicago. He read the article and phoned me.

   "I didn't know you were coaching," he said. "How about coming with us?"

   "To do what? You've got a manager."

   "To be my administrative assistant." Charlie loved those high-sounding titles. "Scout the other clubs, check into possible trades. Scout our club to see what the other teams see."

   It's hard to tell Charlie Finley no. And I didn't try. Alvin R. Dark went to work for Charles O. Finley, and to say it was an eye-opening experience would be to call the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground.

Page 117

You definitely work for Finley, in any capacity, and if you don't you might as well call your travel agent. In November, after Haywood Sullivan quit as manager for a front-office job with the Red Sox, Charlie asked me to be his manager.

   My impression of Mr. Finley from then to now hasn't changed, except for a few modifications. I had read so much about him. Even a casual sports fan couldn't keep from knowing him, the way he did things. We probably became closer after he fired me, but as time went on I came to enjoy him immensely. We had absolutely nothing in common, and yet we developed a strong relationship. I could laugh at his stories by the hour. I admired his dedication to work. He loves to work. If he hadn't made it in baseball and insurance he'd have made it in something else.

   Charlie came out of the Indiana steel mills, where he had contracted tuberculosis as a young man. He entered the insurance business in Chicago and scratched and clawed to the top. He was Alabama-born and mill-hardened, and he said he always felt you "have to work for what you get." He bought the A's for $4 million in 1961, putting up $500,000. Immediately he was a baseball expert. I'll never forget watching him try to show Sal Bando how to hit. As soon as he took the bat in his hand, you knew Charlie was no Hall of Famer. If there were nine other men on the team, he wouldn't be playing. But there he was, telling Bando how to hit. It was characteristic.

   When we were getting along, I appreciated Charlie's company, either in person or on the phone. Once, after I told him that God was first in my life, my family second, and the job third, he came to me later with that devilish grin and said, "Have I moved up on the ladder yet?" I said, "No, Charlie, you're still last," and we both laughed.

   From the start, the national pastime quivered under Charlie's impact. He knew how to get headlines, no question about that, and he didn't worry about retractions. He knew retractions were on the fifth page. He never thought twice about what he said or did. Baseball people were naturally dumbfounded by him. He would ask anything that came to his mind of anyone. If it was a dumb question he didn't care. He wanted to know.

   I soon learned two things about Charlie Finley. One was that he has a hard time trusting anybody. He is skeptical about what he is told. I suppose it's because he has been burned so much. He'll get

Page 118

twenty different opinions on the same subject, then he'll go out and get one more. "What do you think? Yeah, well, let me check it out."

   The second thing I learned was that Charlie was always willing to take a chance. If the idea wasn't his own he'd run with it anyway. He told me he didn't think professional football ought to be the only sport that kept pace with the times. He did things that, at first blush, seemed ridiculous; the gaudy softball uniforms, the white shoes, the colored gloves, the donkey to ride the relief pitchers in, the rabbit popping out of the ground with new balls. The response was as predictable as it would have been if he had walked into the public library and yelled, "Drinks on the house!" The establishment owners treated him as if he were insane, and then didn't give him credit for the ideas they stole.

   They wound up copying his uniforms, his shoes, his gloves. They adopted his idea to play the All-Star game and at least some World Series games at night so more people could see them. And when I told him about the idea (not mine) of a designated hitter in 1970 he pushed for that, too. He agreed to a game that spring, when I was managing Cleveland, in which both teams used the designated hitter and a designated pinch runner as well. The runner was his idea. They'll adopt that one, too, one of these days. Who enjoys seeing the gimpy-legged guy trying to run bases?

   The designated hitter has had great success in the American League. The only reason the National League teams don't use it is their owners didn't think of it first. It takes something from the manager, not being able to juggle hitters with pitchers, but so what? People don't come out to watch a juggling manager. The manager's own viewing pleasure has to increase when he knows he doesn't have to take his best pitcher out of a tight game in the late innings because he might need a stronger hitter. He can also keep a player in the lineup who might be past his prime but is still lethal at the plate. Guys like Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays might still be playing if the designated hitter had been inaugurated earlier.

   Football changes every year. Baseball, a fantastic game, with all kinds of potential for drama, chokes on the very mention of change. There aren't many Branch Rickeys in the business. For years after Rickey's death, the only guys with the guts to be different were Bill Veeck and Walter O'Malley. O'Malley's influence was the closest thing to Rickey's. If you had one little new thought,

Page 119

you'd never get it passed unless you went to Mr. O'Malley and he bought it. His death in mid-1979 was a tremendous loss to the game.

   Rickey's genius is well established, and not just for bringing Jackie Robinson into the big leagues and thereby opening the door to black players. He remains the most quoted man in the game. A believer in the farm system, in teams with speed that could move the ball around, he was also, in my opinion, the finest Christian gentleman baseball ever knew. I remember going to see him in Pittsburgh in 1958 or '59, just to chat. He encouraged that kind of thing. Lee Walls and I dropped into his office. When he talked, Mr. Rickey looked down over the top of his glasses and those great bushy eyebrows would thrust out at you. He was only five feet eight or so, but he seemed much bigger. And he was so wise.

   He said, "Alvin, one of these days you're going to be a manager. There's something I want to tell you, and don't be discouraged about it because it happens to everyone. If a player is hitting just well enough to stay in the big leagues, you won't be able to help him. He won't change. But when he slips below that level, you can say to him, 'Son, we're going to send you to the minors.' Then he'll listen. Then he'll say, 'What do you want me to do? I'll do anything.' "

   I've found over the years how right he was. When I brought up the specter of being shipped out, guys who were floundering on the mound, or throwing to the wrong base, or making lackadaisical plays and missing the tags, invariably tuned in to me. I think as a result I never had to send a player down because of his attitude. It makes me wonder, with all these multiyear contracts and futures secured in gold, what you threaten a young millionaire with when he dogs it.

   A Branch Rickey would still be able to handle those situations because he could always reduce the game to that most basic of common denominators, the man-to-man relationship. The thing so many of the old owners used to revel in was that close association with the players, that involvement. Guys like Tom Yawkey and Lou Perini were always around the dugout. They took pride in the game, they weren't there to get rich or milk it dry. Some of them wasted fortunes to be involved.

   The new breed of owner, dealing with the new breed of player, usually does not have that rapport. Now he is on the other side, engaging in constant contractual conflicts, in never-ending battles over the bottom line.

Page 120

The day of the ego trip is all but over for an owner. Players he might have idolized are now out to break his bank. If it is not profitable, then what fun is it for an owner? What power does an owner have except to pay more? Only Finley has stood up to it, and he keeps losing in court. If I had $10 million I certainly wouldn't invest it in professional baseball today.

   Meanwhile, the game blunders along. So many of its so-called detractions could be solved so easily, too. They talk about speeding it up. That's easy. Make players run on and off the field. For $100,000 a year, it's the least they can do. Make the hitter stay in the box. Hitters kill more time than pitchers any day with the fooling around they do between pitches.

   Football has inter-league play, and it is inevitable in baseball. But Finley wants it, so, naturally, the owners keep resisting it. Football gave incentive bonuses for years to players and coaches, and baseball is just now allowing them. Finley advocated them for years, and got fined trying to give one to Reggie Jackson in 1969. I tried to put a few performance clauses in Sam McDowell's Cleveland contract in 1970 — $5,000 if he won 20 games, $5,000 for x number of strikeouts, etc. — but the commissioner found out and fined the club and made us cancel the clauses. Silly. Over a 162-game season a player needs incentives, especially if he's on a sixth-place team.

   I've heard basketball players in the NBA talk about how they manufacture little hates against a rival player or a town to psych themselves up toward the end of a long, tiring season. I would think if a hitter knew he might make something extra off that hundredth run batted in, he'd still be grinding in August, no matter where the team is in the standings. I had a deal with the Giants in 1953 that called for a bonus if we won the pennant. Verbal agreements like that have never been uncommon. It helps both sides make a compatible arrangement. If I'm a pitcher asking for $70,000, and the club thinks I'm only worth $50,000 but agrees to pay the difference if I win 20 games, and I do, we both profit. If I don't, neither side feels cheated.

   I also think that baseball suffers from a lack of expertise. I've had a chance to watch some telecasts in the last few years, and the things that make baseball a great tactical adventure, a contest of wit and guile, are seldom if ever explained. Football has experts crawling all over one another in the television booths, giving you enough strategy talk to made your head swim. Then the baseball experts

Page 121

come on and tell you exactly what you see, sometimes not even that.

   In a recent World Series, Angel Mangual was at bat for the Athletics, man on first and one out, and the count 3 and 2. Mangual swung and missed, but the ball got away from the catcher and went to the screen. Mangual was automatically out because first was occupied, as almost every Little Leaguer knows. But he took off for first anyway. The runner on first legally advanced to second. The announcer said, "Now the A's have men on first and second."

   Then he saw Mangual trotting past home plate and into the dugout. "Hey, what's going on?"

   Then he saw the light. "Oh, yes, Now I understand."

   The difference between managing a baseball team and coaching a football team is this: Chuck Noll can take his Pittsburgh team and say "see you later" to every troublemaker, every untalented player on the squad. There aren't many guys who can't be replaced in football. Once he gets rid of the bad apples he can go, because football is truly a team sport. Franco Harris is only as good as his blockers; Terry Bradshaw is only as good as his protection and his receivers.

   Baseball is a team sport, but the individual play is isolated action. A man can have a great year, and the team finish dead last. In football you can win without a great passing game. You can win without a great running game. Baseball is more lopsided — if you don't have good pitching, you don't win anything. Every winning baseball team has good pitching.

   Pitching is even more a factor today because of the talent in the bullpens. Teams don't come back from six or seven runs behind the way they used to because an opponent is liable to have three or four good relief pitchers it can rush in to douse a fire. I have a reputation for a quick hook, for taking pitchers out of games they might have struggled through to the end. That's okay because it doesn't make sense to let a pitcher go nine innings when he doesn't have to. I think a smart pitcher like Catfish Hunter appreciates those little one- or two-inning respites the bullpen gives him.

   The big new superparks have not necessarily been good for the game, however. The intimacy that fans loved at Ebbets Field cannot be achieved in these giant convertibles (from baseball to football

Page 122

and back again, with the season), and their orchard-like interiors cheat the fans of foul balls. Fans love to scuffle after balls hit in the stands — the prized souvenir — but now it's as far as ninety feet from the plate to the stands in some parks. I have seen how absurd it is when a catcher has to chase a long foul in Oakland. The screen and dugouts are three-iron shots from home plate. Fouls that should have been out of play are caught. And with the stands so far away, how can fans see the fire in a player's eyes? How can they breathe advice down his neck?

   The synthetic surface has changed the game, too, and except in one respect, all for the worse. The plus is that you don't get as many rain-outs. It can storm all day on artificial turf and you can still play that night. (Cincinnati almost never has a rain-out anymore.) Attendance improves when a fan who might have to drive fifty miles to the stadium isn't so easily discouraged by a black cloud.

   What price these advantages? Well, you seldom see good bunting in the big leagues any more. Bunting-and-running is an art, an exciting skill of baseball. Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson could lay one on a dime, and squeeze in runs that would win ten games a year. There's nothing more thrilling than a well-executed squeeze at a crucial moment.

   But the carpets make bunting as much a risk as a weapon. Frequently players bunt into double plays on balls that hit the surface and scoot. Squeeze plays are almost extinct — down at least 80 percent. Worse, you see ground balls that should be routine outs bounce high over a third baseman's head, or take so long coming down that he can't make a play. Low-ball pitchers who rely on grounders to the infield now watch dribblers pick up speed when they hit something besides good thick natural grass, and instead of a double play it's two men on base.

   To an increasing degree, a baseball manager doesn't control a game, doesn't control his own fate the way a good football coach does. You don't see many ten-year contracts floating around professional baseball. Managers are the most underpaid men in baseball. I doubt there's a manager in the game right now making a third of Pete Rose's salary. Part of the problem is that owners are never completely sure if a manager is any good because the best sometimes finish last. The manager is bounced from job to job, from failure to triumph and back again. But often the moves are lateral — the owner in Detroit picks you up after the one in Chicago

Page 123

casts you out. For years people weren't sure if Casey Stengel was a genius or a clown. They eventually found out, and he wound up in the Hall of Fame, but as a young manager he couldn't unpack his bag or lean back too comfortably in his chair.

   Therefore, to satisfy the urge to build a champion from scratch a manager must have a young team that hasn't had time to develop prima donnas, and an ownership and constituency that isn't so jaded or so impatient that they can't wait for nature to take its course. Admittedly that kind of job is hard to find. But that was what I saw coming into the Athletics organization in 1966.

Chapter 11

I was the sixth manager Charlie Finley had hired in six years in Kansas City, a town The Sporting News was calling the Forest Lawn of the managerial profession. In the previous five years, the Athletics had finished tenth twice, ninth twice, and eighth once. Managers went down like flies. In 1964, the A's set a club record in futility: 105 defeats. In 1965 they cut their losses to 103.

   But I had something to work with in 1966 that the previous managers hadn't had, the beginnings of a great pitching staff. They were the cream of the A's youth movement, fresh off the farm, except for Catfish Hunter, who never pitched an inning in the minor leagues. Five of the starters had an average age of less than twenty-two: Hunter (twenty), Chuck Dobson (twenty-two), Lew Krausse (twenty-two), Jim Nash (twenty-one) and John (Blue Moon) Odom (twenty). The "old men" were Paul Lindblad and relief pitcher Jack Aker, both twenty-five.

   Nash didn't come up until July, and in the last three months of the season won 12 out of 13 games. I was delighted because then I was committed to developing the staff (and the team) toward the future. Charlie would probably have preferred having me committed, because we lost 14 of our first 17 games.

   From then on, however, we were a feisty adolescent, growing fast. Though still a mediocre-hitting team, we were good in the field and seldom beat ourselves. We played within a game of .500 ball the rest of the season and won 74 games, a club record (of sorts), and finished a rising seventh, only six games out of the first division. I was runner-up to Hank Bauer of the Orioles for Manager of the Year, and we polished off the season with a three-game sweep of the Tigers that knocked them out of the race. Charlie was very happy. He expressed it in his own inimitable fashion. He gave me a Cadillac.

Page 125

   Actually, he had been relatively quiet that year. He never once threatened to move the club to Des Moines or Salt Lake City. In itself that was an omen. Speculation was widespread that he was going to pull out for Oakland when his stadium lease expired after the '67 season, a rumor that was eventually confirmed.

   Between seasons, he made our uniforms a little gaudier, changing the color hues (as he described them) to "Fort Knox Gold," "Sea-Foam Green," and "Wedding-Gown White." He outfitted the hitters in gold helmets. He fulfilled a promise to make us the first major league team to wear white shoes. "The shoes," he said, "are made from the rare albino kangaroo." The shoes had kelly-green laces.

   Controversy was far from my mind when we went to spring training in '67. Somebody asked what my feelings and expectations were, and I said, "I'm just plain tickled to death. This is the greatest bunch of boys I've ever had. I didn't realize there were this many good kids left in the whole world."

   Not only did we have the potential for excellent pitching, but we were building in other areas. Rick Monday, the first player taken in the free-agent draft (at $104,000) was one of my outfielders. Dick Green was the second baseman, Bert Campaneris was established at shortstop. Joe Rudi had a brief stay with us that summer (he was still a year away), and Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando came up at the end of the season. Charlie's freewheeling had paid off.

   In June, he agreed to purchase Ken Harrelson from the Senators. The Hawk and I go way back. He's the best golfer-ball player I've ever seen, which makes us kindred spirits, though I don't claim much else in common with him. He is a tough act to follow. He has a tremendous personality, and he loves publicity. People came to a ball park just to see him. Harrelson never just wanted to hit .300, he wanted to make a splash, but he was a totally loyal guy who would do anything to help you win.

   I had no doubts about Mr. Finley's willingness to go to his pocket. Among the pitchers alone, Krausse, Dobson, Hunter, and Odom represented $300,000 in bonuses, big money in those days. And there was strength of character, too. Jack Aker was a steady influence in the bullpen. A tough part-Indian everybody called "Chief," the kind of ally you'd welcome in a fight, Aker tied a major league record with 26 saves in 1966, working in 66 games, and was under 2.00 in earned-run average.

Page 126

   Krausse was the son of an ex-big leaguer (Lew, Sr., who pitched for the A's in the early thirties when they were in Philadelphia and later scouted for Finley). Lew, Jr., was blond, curly-haired, and good-looking. He had signed for $125,000 in 1961, when only eighteen, and then spent most of the next four years in the minors. But in 1966 he won 14 and lost 9, and was in the top ten in the league in earned-run average. He would have seemed at that point an unlikely candidate for controversy and turmoil.

   The trouble with starting fresh, with committing yourself to a youth movement, is the growing pains. Young players require great patience. We had a lot of growing pains in 1967. The team languished in the second division, and if what happened next hadn't happened to me I would be willing to see some humor in it. I have to say this for Charlie Finley, he never once interfered with my field managing those two years. But off the field he was dominant, and when I had to go against him I knew it was a death wish fulfilled.

   As it turned out, when the cow kicked over the lamp I was only one of the victims. In what one writer called "the most bizarre baseball story of the year," Lew Krausse got suspended, I got fired, the team came within a breath of going on strike (and making baseball history), and Kenny Harrelson, our best hitter, wound up with his unconditional release. That did make history, and Kenny a small fortune. The after-effects were startling. Harrelson became the rallying cry for others bent on busting loose and led to the free-agent revolt and salary spiral that now has baseball reeling.

   We were coming off a bad road trip climaxed by an extra-inning loss in Boston when the spark was lit. On team plane rides I had made it a policy, win or lose, never to sit in the back, but to stay up front and not rubberneck. I didn't want to know what the players did because I didn't want to prejudice my viewpoint if their habits were different from mine. They knew how I felt about drinking, but I'm not about to tell a man he can't drink. He has to make that decision himself.

   The rule at the time was that each player got two or three cans of beer on the plane. But this particular trip some of them were passing around those little one-drink whiskey miniatures. That's all I knew. I got off the plane first, and left. I didn't hang around. That was August 3.

   Two weeks later — I still don't know why it took so long — we were on the road again,

Page 127

in Washington, and Mr. Finley called. He said, "I want you to fine Lew Krausse five hundred dollars and suspend him."

   I said, "What? What for?"

   "Because he was drunk getting off the plane after the last road trip and used bad language around a woman passenger."

   Krausse hadn't been having a good year. From his high of 14-9 in 1966, he was struggling to win half that many in '67. He had personal problems. Airplane rides had nothing to do with it.

   I said, "Charlie, I know nothing about this. If I suspend him without a good reason he can sue me and you and everybody."

   "Let him. He can't do anything." Besides that, Finley said, he was banning alcohol service on all future team flights.

   From stories that eventually got out, and talks I had with players and others on the flight, I pieced together what happened. The plane, a TWA flight out of Logan Airport, made stops in Baltimore and St. Louis en route to Kansas City. It was a five-hour flight. Out of Baltimore, drinks were served. I was up with the coaches and Traveling Secretary Ed Hurley. Aker and Harrelson were sitting together, Krausse and Mike Hershberger were in front of them, and Monte Moore, the A's radio announcer, another seat ahead.

   I didn't know it then, but the players had a nickname for Moore: "Monte the Ripper." Evidently they did a little kidding-on-the-square during the flight because Moore snapped at one of them for stuffing paper in the air-conditioning vent behind him, creating a racket. Moore was quoted: "Why don't you guys grow up?"

   Meanwhile, Harrelson had asked the stewardess if he could have a few of the unused miniatures that were on a tray. The stewardess told him to help himself. Always magnanimous, the Hawk passed the bottles around.

   This must have irritated Monte Moore because he came up front and complained to Hurley. Hurley said, "So what? It's none of your business." But he told me about it, and I got up and went back for a look. As soon as I saw their faces, I suspected they were up to something. They were like kids with innocent looks, staring straight ahead.

   I asked the stewardess if she was having trouble. She said, "Oh, no, they're a great bunch of guys." I didn't think any more about it. We landed in Kansas City around ten thirty that night.

   If some of the players were a little more cheerful getting off the

Page 128

plane than they should have been, considering our record, there were certainly no drunks among them, and no evidence of bad behavior. Harrelson said later that there was "no yelling back and forth, no monkeying around with the stewardesses, no unsolicited conversation with the passengers" during the trip. He was amazed, he said, because it was about as close to a routine flight as he had ever been on, and Kenny knew the difference.

   Sid Bordman, the Kansas City Star baseball writer, was on board and said he was unaware of any rowdyism, or of an incident of any kind. A spokesman for TWA said there were no complaints from either the crew or passengers.

   It turned out that Monte Moore gave Finley the story. He told him that a woman with a child had been on the plane and that Krausse had used "deplorable language," and the woman had written him about it.

   What Charlie failed to consider before acting on this report was Lew Krausse himself. Lew had just lost his mother, of a heart attack. He was having a bad year. You never know what's going on in a man's personal life when he's having trouble professionally. He was supposed to have shot a gun from the Bellerive Hotel into an empty office building (the Phillips Petroleum) one night in Kansas City, incurring Charlie's wrath, but no charges were filed.

   Charlie was usually good about things like that. If one of his boys was in trouble, he'd come to the rescue — with money, with some kind of help. But evidently he'd had it with Krausse, and wanted to set an example. In my view this was the wrong one.

   I said, "Charlie, you can't do it." I said I had talked with some of the players. I told him Harrelson was always in the middle of that kind of thing and he said "it didn't happen." "Skip," he told me, "Lew didn't do anything. He was right in front of me the entire flight and I know he only had two drinks. This is a bum rap."

   I told Charlie I couldn't go along with him.

   "I'm coming to town," he said.

   Lew had been left back in Kansas City, so rumors were flying. That morning at the park in Washington, D.C., the players learned Charlie's intentions. I had been ordered to read them a statement, which said, in part:

Page 129

Effective immediately and for the balance of the season, alcoholic drinks will no longer be served on commercial airlines to members of the Kansas City Athletics. [The Athletics] will no longer tolerate the "shenanigans" of a very few individuals who obviously do not appreciate the privileges of playing in the major leagues and being treated like gentlemen ... The attitude, actions and words of some of you have been deplorable ... To the vast majority of you who have always conducted yourselves as gentlemen on and off the field, I sincerely regret the necessity of this action.

Sincerely, Charles O. Finley      

   One of the players said, "Yeah, we already knew about it. It was in the papers this afternoon."

   I was angry about that, because I felt deceived. But the players were outraged. Before the game, Aker sat in the bullpen and made a rough draft of a protest against Finley, composing it on a small piece of paper. Jack was our player representative. Afterward, he and Harrelson and a couple others came to my room at the Shoreham Hotel. Harrelson said they were going to release a statement. I said, "All right, but it might get you in trouble. Before you do let me see the final draft." Aker had the little piece of paper and was making revisions.

   They were all anxious to defend Krausse, and this was good. They were united. They were kids, mostly, and they knew some day they were going to be champions. For a manager it was great to see.

   By 7 P.M., three hours after his call, Charlie was in Washington, summoning me to his suite at the Shoreham. We talked about the situation some more, and when I again refused to support him on the Krausse suspension, he said, "Alvin, I'm going to have to let you go. I want my manager to back me on this, and you're not doing it."

   "Charlie, you can get sued. I don't have any proof, you don't have proof. You'll get sued. But it's your club."

   I was fired, and still we just sat there, talking.

   We talked and talked. And talked some more. And I found myself telling him what a terrific bunch of boys he had, that with them and the ones he had coming up — Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi — he would win a pennant for sure, and it wouldn't take long, maybe as early as 1971. We talked for two and a half hours. Finally he said, "How'd you like to manage two more years?"

   I said, "Fine, Charlie, but you just fired me. You going to hire me back?

Page 130

   "How about two more years? With a raise?"

   I said, "Fine."

   He called in Ed Lopat, his administrative assistant, Ed Hurley, Monte Moore, and two of my coaches, Bobby Hofman and Wes Stock, to celebrate, and for another hour we talked about the club's future.

   I should have left right then. Ten minutes later Paul O'Boynick, a reporter for the Kansas City Star, called and said that a statement was out by the ball players, ripping Finley about the Lew Krausse case. He read Charlie the fateful words:

In response to Charles O. Finley's statement of August 18, we, the players of the Kansas City Athletics, feel that an unjust amount of pressure has been brought to bear on several members of the club who had no part whatsoever in the so-called incident on the recent plane trip from Boston to Kansas City.

   The overwhelming opinion of the players is that the entire matter was blown out of proportion. Mr. Finley's policy of using certain unauthorized personnel in his organization as go-between's has led to similar misunderstandings in the past and has tended to undermine the morale of the club. We players feel that if Mr. Finley would give his fine coaching staff and excellent manager the authority they deserve, these problems would not exist.

   Charlie hung up the phone and looked at me. "Did you know about this?"

   "About what?"

  Well, I knew they were preparing a statement, but I hadn't read the final draft. They were doing it with my approval, but I had hoped to see it first, and didn't expect it to be released until the following day.

   Charlie said, "Get Jack Aker."

   Aker wasn't in his room. Finley ordered a bed check, and asked everybody (except me) in his now-crowded suite a question: "Haven't I been good to you?" "Yes, Charlie, you have." He threatened a $1,000 fine for any player or coach who made so much as a snide remark about Monte Moore. "And I'll make it stick, too."

   We waited for Aker. He was in Baltimore, visiting a friend, and by the time he got back and up to Charlie's room it was past 2 A.M. Charlie later fined him $200 for breaking curfew. Jack had had a couple, and he stood right up to Finley. He's a stand-up guy anyway

Page 131

and he'd fight before he'd lie. Charlie demanded he retract the statement. Aker refused. He said as players' rep he had to follow their vote. He said the vote was unanimous.

   He told Finley the players didn't think Krausse was getting a fair deal. Finley said, "Did Alvin see the statement?"


   "What's that, Jack?" I said.

   And he pulled out that little piece of paper. I hadn't read it, but I couldn't deny I was aware of it.

   "You knew they were working on this?" Finley said.

   "Yes, I did."

   Charlie left the suite, saying he was going for coffee. I went back to my room knowing exactly what would happen next. I only had to wait an hour. The phone rang.

   "Alvin," said the familiar voice, "I have decided to make a change."

   He had fired me again.

   I didn't argue. I wouldn't under any circumstances. But it hit me hard. I had a great affection for that team. In many ways they were the happiest two years — well, year and three quarters — of my managing career. The players were like sons to me. I love to teach, and they were teachable. And they were on their way to the top.

   It rained the next day, and in the clubhouse in Washington I tried to tell them I was leaving. Ordinarily I can handle something like that. With Mr. Stoneham I just shook his hand and left. But this time it got me. I said, "I don't mind getting fired. That's part of baseball. I just hate to leave you kids ..." Then I broke down.

   The players were almost as emotional about it as I was. They held another meeting, and issued a second statement, expressing "deep personal loss" over my firing. They said, "We feel this action is the result of the players' public statement of August nineteenth."

   I then had to make a formal statement of my own, because Charlie had been quoted as saying that I had repudiated the players' charges. (Obviously, everybody felt the need to get their thoughts in writing.) I said:

Page 132

I have believed and will always believe that management difficulties should remain within the confines of a ball club, but when the integrity of my ball players, whom I greatly admire, is at stake, I must set the record straight ...

   I disagreed with Mr. Finley about the Krausse fine. This was a case of singling out one ball player and making him look bad. It was also a reflection on the entire team. I realize that Krausse later said Mr. Finley was justified in taking the action he did, but I believe circumstances forced Krausse to do this. He is a wonderful boy and will become a fine pitcher.

   At no time did I make the remark attributed to me by Mr. Finley that the players' statement of August nineteenth had no basis in fact ... I want to say, too, that I think the action of the players is the most courageous thing I have ever seen. I will never forget the way they have stood up for me.

   That night the players began threatening to strike. Harrelson said he wasn't going to play, period. He was quoted by one newsman as calling Finley "a menace to baseball."

   What actually happened, as Harrelson wrote later in Sports Illustrated, was that when the reporters came around after my abbreviated clubhouse talk, asking for the players' reaction, he had been pressed for a statement.

   "I could hardly talk," he said, "and when a writer came to me, all I could think of was what Finley had done, not only to Alvin, but to the whole club. Because of something that never happened on an airplane trip nearly three weeks before, he had made a fool of himself, a scapegoat of Krausse, alleged drunks out of all of us, and an apparently ineffectual manager out of Dark." He said he told the writer that "Charlie Finley's actions of the last few days have been bad for baseball. I think they have been detrimental to the game."

   Finley phoned Harrelson and asked if he'd called him "a menace." Kenny said no, but he stood by the rest of his remarks. Finley responded by giving him his unconditional release, the first regular star player in history to be so honored.

   I'm not sure the Hawk realized or enjoyed what the distinction meant at the moment, but the implications were clear: It was going to make him a rich man. The Chicago White Sox called. So did the Tigers and the Twins. The A's themselves made a pitch through Luke Appling, the new manager ("Now, Hawk, just relax, Charlie didn't mean to fire you. We all want you back.") Kenny said, "No, thanks," and eventually signed with the Red Sox, for a $75,000 bonus. He said one of the first things he was going to do was send Charlie Finley a dozen roses.

   That night the papers were filled with the players' strike threats.

Page 133

I saw the headlines as I was going into a restaurant for dinner. I went right to a pay phone and called Harrelson.

   "What's the idea, Hawk?" I said, "you trying to beat me to the golf course?"

   He said they were going to strike.

   I said, "Kenny, there are two sides to every story."

   As it turned out, they didn't strike, and I was just as glad because it would have solved nothing. It certainly wouldn't have changed Charlie Finley's mind. History has pretty much proved that, when his back is to the wall, Charlie is at his toughest. Joe Cronin, the American League president, refused to get involved. He called it "a club matter."

   Krausse's suspension was lifted after four days. Harrelson went merrily off to Boston, and Alvin Dark went home to Louisiana, just forty days short of becoming the first manager in history to serve two full seasons under Charlie Finley.

   Poor Luke Appling. He was a Hall of Fame shortstop and a good guy, and he could not have been presented with a worse situation in which to launch his big league managerial career. The team nose-dived, losing 30 of its last 40. Appling wasn't rehired.

Chapter 12

The period in my life that followed is the one I am least proud of. Or most ashamed of; take your pick. There is a story in the Old Testament, the second book of Chronicles, about a king named Uzziah who got too big for his britches. He had done everything, had everything; then he had begun to act like he knew everything, and suddenly he had nothing and was a leper.

   Alvin Dark's Uzziah period was 1968 to 1971.

   In November of '68, Adrienne filed for a legal separation. In Louisiana, you had to be legally separated fourteen months before you could be divorced. I don't know how they arrived at that figure, but it was the law. Despite hints and promises I had made to Jackie, I never got around to filing myself. Perhaps in some childish corner of my mind I thought there was still some chance that it would all work out for everybody, the way it does in Doris Day movies. It was an absurd hope.

   So Adrienne filed. She was fed up, and I don't blame her. She had lived with this for five years. She said maybe if I didn't have the family to come back to for a while I would work out my priorities and make my decision, once and for all.

   The entire family was in the room in Lake Charles when she told us she had filed. The children didn't express their resentment, they just looked at the floor. Years later when I talked with them about it, when the wounds had healed, they each told me how much it hurt, and, in some cases, how mad they were at me. Allison, the oldest, eventually went through a divorce herself, and remarried. She told me then that she realized "how much more there is to being a wife and a parent than I thought."

   The secret, of course, is that when you try to handle it alone, you can't make anything work, least of all a shaky marriage. I believe divorce is sinful. By any moral code it is at best a poor alternative.

Page 135

The New Testament speaks often and strongly against it. It also promises that God forgives any sin.

   If you're banking on that for mental deliverance ("as soon as I get out of this marriage, I'll ask God to forgive me and everything will be just fine"), however, you're in for a blow. Alvin Dark is living proof. He'll tell you if you had had your knees on the floor and your nose in the Bible you would never have gotten to that critical juncture in the first place.

   The news spread fast. There are people in Lake Charles who have not spoken to me since, much less forgiven me. There are people everywhere, including in the church I attend, who think being a hypocrite is the worst thing in the world. They hate hypocrites, and I was one, an exposed one at that.

   I moved out, not knowing what the future held and probably not caring as much as I should have. I was up to my swollen chest in baseball again. I had taken the Cleveland job that spring, pumped up again about managing, and in the '68 season had found early success with the Indians. Adoring eyes once more were cast my way.

   The Indians had fired Joe Adcock in October of 1967. They had experienced something akin to a purgatory of their own that year, finishing eighth, the club's lowest standing since 1914. Naturally, Adcock was blamed. Gabe Paul, the Cleveland general manager, had contacted me in 1966 when Birdie Tebbetts resigned, but I was contracted to Kansas City and happy in my work at the time.

   When Paul fired Adcock and hired me in '68, I was the Indians' ninth manager since Al Lopez left in 1956. I present that statistic to remind you there are managerial graveyards wherever there are managers.

   I was still miffed by the Kansas City episode, but I was also still itching to make a team in my image, the way Leo Durocher had the Giants in 1951. But now I had decided the way to do it, to make it more expedient, was to be both the manager and the general manager. That way I would not only control play on the field but the ploys in the front office as well: the trades and the drafts and the contract negotiations.

   It makes sense. With that kind of power you could do most anything with a ball club. In football, it is not unusual. Bear Bryant is head coach and athletic director at Alabama. He answers to himself on most matters: "Bear, how'd you like a new color TV for the players' dorm?" "Great, Bear, thanks a lot." Vince Lombardi was

Page 136

head coach and general manager of the Packers. As far as I know I'm the only one in baseball who ever tried it. Now I can say with complete candor that I would never do it again. I wouldn't recommend it, either. I no longer think it can be done.

   Here's the rub: Both jobs are tough enough, and only when held independently do they act as buffers one against the other. If as general manager you argue salary with a young man, and he tells you he wants $80,000 and you say, "Son, you're not worth that much," then you have to go out as manager and pump up his confidence on the field, it's a no-win proposition. The symptoms alone are enough to kill the patient. You can be as fair and wise as Solomon and not be fair enough in the player's eyes. Every move is interpreted: "You don't like me. You don't want to give me any money. You don't like the way I play ..."

   The most sorrowful, most tragic thing that happened to me in thirty years of professional baseball happened during that time, with me working both ends against the middle. In 1968 Tony Horton, a first baseman the Indians got in a trade with Boston, had all the earmarks of becoming a great ball player. A superb athlete, six feet three, 210 pounds, the image of the handsome Californian. He drove in 93 runs and hit 27 homers and made the All-Star team the next year, and he was still only twenty-five years old. His salary was approximately $30,000.

   That winter he asked for $100,000. Today he'd get it for sure. He'd probably get three times that, but it was different then.

   If we had won the pennant, or made a lot of money at the gate, it still would not have been a reasonable request. Under the circumstances it was impossible. I said, "Tony, you can't get that much, not for just one good year."

   That's where it started. We'd talk, and he'd go down a little — to $90,000, to $85,000. And we'd talk some more. "Tony, if we'd won the pennant —"

   "Okay, $75,000."

   "Tony, we'd like to, but we just can't do it."

   The newspapers got into the act, implying that he was behaving like a prima donna, which was not Tony's way at all. When the season started the fans got on him, too. It clearly affected his play. He got off to a bad start. After a long, long hassle, he settled for a $15,000 raise. Then, in 1970, three quarters through the season, he had a nervous breakdown.

   Tony and I never had a harsh word, but I know he must have taken

Page 137

our salary differences personally. In 1970 he slumped to .269, with only 59 runs batted in, and played only 115 games. Late in the season, he came to me and told me he'd been reading his Bible. I said, "Man, that's great," even though I was in no position to talk about Bible study. I hadn't really witnessed to anybody for years. I said, "Boy, Tony, there's only one way to live, and that's the Christian way."

   About a week later, in the eighth inning of the first game of a doubleheader in Cleveland, he came to me on the bench. "Skip," he said, "they're out to get me."

   I said, "What? Who, Tony? Who's out to get you? Are you sure you're all right, Tony?"

   "Yeah, I'm okay."

   He went out to field in the top of the ninth, and when it was over he came in and again stood next to me, talking in a kind of far-off way. When the third out was made and the game over, he took his glove and went out to first base. Nobody else was on the field. One of the players quickly ran and got him and brought him into the clubhouse and into my office. I said, "Tony, I'd like you to stay here and rest. You can skip the second game."

   Larry Brown, one of my coaches, stayed with him, trying to keep him quiet.

   I found out later he had been taking sleeping pills. He couldn't sleep. And I believe he had broken up with his girl. I'd seen her with him a few times. A beautiful girl, a beauty queen. Independently, none of these things should cause a breakdown, but the accumulation must have been too much.

   Tony Horton hasn't played an inning since. He was institutionalized for a while, and I understand he wasn't allowed to go to a ball game or watch it on TV, or even listen to one on the radio.

   I don't necessarily believe it was my fault, but I was the general manager and manager and couldn't give him the objective consideration he deserved. Here was a fine young man, in his prime, with everything ahead of him. A wonderful kid with wonderful parents. I couldn't help but take it personally.

   As it developed, I doubt if I could have created more resentment in Cleveland if I'd hired a public relations firm and told it to go out and wreck my reputation. By the time I got through alienating everybody I was hard put to find a single supporter. A manager's job (if he does it well he deserves more money than they are paying today) is to keep the morale and the contributing level

Page 138

of the players at their peaks. That's the tough part. Handling the pitching staff is the single most important tactical item. Statistics, knowing when to rest players, those things are not such a big deal. Handling the press shouldn't be difficult, but you can't fight the press day after day and do a good job. I tried it in Cleveland and I know it can't be done.

   In 1968, my first year, the Indians won 82 games and finished third in the American League East, their highest finish in nine years. We were actually in contention until September, when Detroit, the eventual World Champion, pulled away. I had some good pitchers to work with: Steve Hargan, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert, and Luis Tiant. I had some good young players: Russ Snyder, Lou Johnson, Jimmy Hall. We were a hustling team, and set a club record for stolen bases.

   Everybody was pleased with Alvin Dark. I even got high marks for the way I handled "race," my old nemesis. One story said "Dark is universally respected, even revered by his players ... He manages without regard to color. Three of his starters, outfielders Vic Davalillo and Jose Cardinal and pitcher Luis Tiant are Latins." At the end of the season, I got a bonus, and was named Good Guy of the Year by one Cleveland poll.

   By 1971, I wouldn't have gotten a vote for Good Guy of the Minute. The trouble started in the middle of the '69 season, when I told Vernon Stouffer, the owner, that I wanted the general manager's job. He took it out of the hands of Gabe Paul and gave me my wish. Gabe became executive vice-president.

   Gabe got word of the change in advance, and more or less asked me not to take the job. When it was imminent, he sent messages to my room in New York, where we were playing a series with the Yankees. I didn't answer the messages. I knew Mr. Stouffer was going to announce the change that week and I didn't want to lie to Gabe.

   So from the beginning Gabe Paul was resentful and bitter, with reason. Instead of trying to work out a good relationship with him, I turned my back. He had hired me, and I wound up with his job. I never even went around to his office to chat. I could have learned a lot from Gabe Paul, too. He's a smart man, an excellent up-front figure who makes a sharp appearance and is quick on his feet, a fine speaker. He knows baseball. He loves to sit around and talk about it, and so do I.

   Unlike me, however, Gabe was brilliant handling the press. The Cleveland columnists,

Page 139

especially Hal Lebovitz, were his buddies. They'd been good to me, too, that first year, but when the change was made I became the other side. And when they turned on me, I turned on them.

   Every day in the Plain Dealer there was something new to aggravate me. I thought in 1970, after we had slumped in 1969, that the Indians were coming back, but I was so much at war with the Cleveland press that I barely noticed. The smallest thing could cause a controversy.

   I complained that year that the ball was livelier than it had been. I even said to the Spalding man, the manufacturer's representative, that they were hopping it up by stitching the cover tighter. Lebovitz, in turn, hopped on me. He said my complaint was "like a broken record," that it was a "diversionary tactic" to avoid talking about the club's problems. He said if the ball was so much livelier, why wasn't it helping our hitters?

   A good point, of course, but I didn't see it that way. I saw it as another zinger, and when stung I never missed a chance to sting back.

   The Plain Dealer had a "Sound Off" column, for letters from readers blasting one thing or another that they found displeasing. They found a lot displeasing about Alvin Dark. I was a column regular. I took it as long as I could, and then one day a letter-writer charged me with being a bigot, with not liking blacks or Spanish players. The old San Francisco rap all over again.

   I was furious. I looked up the letter-writer's name in the phone book and called her. I said, "Ma'am, this is Alvin Dark, manager of the Indians. I'm phoning in reference to the letter you wrote that's in the Plain Dealer this morning. In the 'Sound Off' column."

   She said, "I beg your pardon, Mr. Dark. I don't know anything about baseball, or you, and I've never written a line to the Plain Dealer."

   I said, "It's your name, and your address."

   She said, "Well, it's not my letter."

   Now I was furious. I got on the phone to the Plain Dealer, to the guy who edited the column. If I'd known more about him at the time I wouldn't have done it, but I said, "You no good—" and I cussed him royally. I said, "If you ever do something like that again not only will I sue you but I'll come get you myself. That's the lowest blow I ever took."

Page 140

   Some time after that I was standing by the batting cage at Municipal Stadium and I noticed a fellow walking around who was unfamiliar to me. I asked one of the writers, Russell Schneider, if he knew who it was, and he gave me his name. I never felt so ashamed. It was the "Sound Off" columnist. He was a midget.

   The bloom was off the rose, but good. The club slumped to sixth place, losing 99 games, a personal low for me as a manager. My ineffectiveness was obvious, especially to the columnists. It's hard to say how much my problems away from the park contributed to the mess I made in it.

*    *    *    *    *

   My divorce came through at the onset of the 1970 season. In a week and a half, I was remarried. It had been almost eight years since I met Jackie, and now, after all the tears and the doubts and the broken promises, the ripping and tearing of lives, we were suddenly free to do what we had been talking about for so long. I know Jackie couldn't believe it when I said the time had come.

   The Indians had played the first three games of the season. On an off day, I flew to Lake Charles, signed the final divorce papers at a hearing, and then flew on to Atlanta to meet her. A Miami friend, Art Bruns, had arranged with a fellow in Atlanta to set everything up. We went to the courthouse, got the license, and dashed over to the Baptist Hospital, where an old preacher from Louisiana, Dr. Louis D. Newton, performed the ceremony in a little chapel. Dr. Newton had retired from the ministry but had taken a small office at the hospital. He added one nice touch: Mrs. Orlin Caldwell, the daughter of Rudy York, the ex-Detroit first baseman and Hall of Famer, was the organist for the service.

   That was it. I paid the guy who arranged things $100 for his trouble and we were gone. One day was all we had. We literally got married between planes.

   Jackie sent Lori and Rusty, then twelve and eleven, to Miami to stay with a friend, and flew up with me to New York for our doubleheader the next day with the Yankees. She said it was ironic, after all this time, that everything had been consummated so quickly and kept so quiet. She said she guessed we were lucky to at least have pictures as evidence. Dr. Newton had asked the church photographer to witness the wedding.

   When we got to New York, Associated Press and United Press International had the pictures. The photographer had evidently cadged himself an extra buck. Reporters knocked on our suite at the Roosevelt that night. Fortunately, nobody made anything ugly out of it.

Page 141

Just the straight news: "Cleveland Indians Manager Alvin Dark was married Friday in Atlanta to Jacolyn Rockwood, 33, a native of Newborn, N.C. It was the second marriage for both ..." Joe Trimble, one of the New York writers, came around to see us because he had known Jackie as a kid, when she and her mother went to spring training with the Yankees.

   As brief as was the transition period from "affair," if you want to call it that, to "respectability," which is an even less appropriate word, so, too, was our illusion that we had made everything right. When reality set in, it set in hard.

   We had no idea the damage we had done until we finally had to live with the debris. We had been on what we rationalized was an eight-year honeymoon — traveling from place to place, stealing a weekend here and week there. Tackling none of the responsibilities that go with marriage. We had played on the rim of it. We hadn't realized the shadows we were creating.

   Married at last, we were soon miserable. As Jackie says now, the first year was torture. We expected too much, as most newly married people do. Expecting each other to be perfect, we were not prepared for the imperfections. We had never had to cope with children's problems, with money problems, with day-to-day living problems, together.

   Reality was being an instant family. Not just Jackie and me, but Jackie and me and Lori and Rusty. For the first time in a long time, I was a father, thrust into the ring of child-rearing. Suddenly, for the two fine kids who had come to know me as "Daddy Dark," a pal, a kindly visitor who brought them things, I became the authority, the disciplinarian. I was instructing them on principles we had violated.

   Family and marital principles are constant, as God has laid them out in the Bible. We believe that. It doesn't matter if you've botched them yourself, they're still sacred. But try to tell that to a kid who has just had his privileges revoked or his bottom spanked. Or one who is being woefully neglected. Kids are not robots. They see.

   During the '70 season, we lived in a motellike apartment in Cleveland, on the East side. It was a nice area. We had adjoining rooms with the children, and we lulled ourselves into believing it was a good setup for everybody. Jackie and I were trying so hard to make up for the past that we were inseparable — at any cost. She went with me on road trips. Consequently, we left Lori and Rusty

Page 142

behind to fend for themselves — a twelve-year-old girl and an eleven-year-old boy, living in a motel, sometimes for as long as ten days at a time. Some of the motel people looked in on them and we called once or twice a day to salve our consciences. But you can't cover an unconscionable act with just a phone call.

   In the early part of the season, they had school to occupy them until the afternoon. The school bus picked them up there and it was a short ride. But in the summer, they were on their own when we were gone. I know now how quickly Lori grew up during that time. She has always been more adult than she had to be. She was a responsible and infinitely sweet-natured girl you could rely on. I know now how much more we expected of her than we should have.

   They fed and disciplined themselves. They treated themselves to the freedom we so thoughtlessly provided. They didn't do anything bad, thank God. Rusty did have a touchy episode with one of the motel occupants, but it was quickly taken care of without repercussions. Their diets, however, were outlandish, and there is no telling how much sleep they got. They gave us regular reviews of all the late-night movies they watched on television. We look back and we can't believe these things; how careless we were as parents, how dangerous a chance we took. No telling what was going through the kids' minds. They had been led to believe that things were going to be wonderful with Mommy married to Daddy Dark. Things weren't wonderful. We were wrapped up in our own struggles to make the marriage work, and they were outsiders looking in.

   That October, after the season, I adopted Lori and Rusty. On the courthouse steps, I said, "You're mine, now." They were as excited about it as I was. We had such great expectations. I doubt any of us anticipated how misdirected mine were. I wanted them to be twenty and twenty-one, not eleven and twelve. I wanted them to be miniature versions of well-behaved adults, morally, spiritually, and intellectually. I wanted them to say "Yes, sir" and "no, sir," be on time, and not make any waves.

   The front pages were filled those days with stories of "rebellious youth." I wasn't going to have any of that, so at home in Miami I became a zealous disciplinarian, the kind the Old Testament warns about. I did not spare the rod. I saw Jackie spank, and then kiss and make up, and I said, "no, ma'am, that's not the way." So I'd punish and spank, and stay mad at one or both or all three of them, for days at a time.

Page 143

I was just the kind of disciplinarian-father that makes children cringe. Rusty and Lori had already had their share of emotional upheaval, they didn't need any more. I was just what the doctor didn't order.

   I was a torrent of rules and restrictions. I did not temper discipline with love and affection, the way the Bible teaches. In my own childhood, affection was implied, and love taken for granted. Demonstrations of it were not necessary or forthcoming. Jackie had no such assurances growing up, and she and Lori and Rusty craved that attention. Much later, when I realized his need, I even held Rusty on my lap as a teenager, hugging him to show my feelings. But earlier I had no such compassion.

   It's hard to imagine how ineffective we were as parents. The more snags we hit with the family unit, the more pain Jackie and I experienced with each other. You could say, "You made your bed. You deserved it." But the children did not. We were drowning in our own sorrows, and did not hear their cries for help.

   The fact is, Lori and Rusty as well as Jackie would have had to be perfect to get along with me during that period. Soon enough I was feeling sorry for myself. I had gone from the security of my previous home, with plenty of money to go around (no alimony to pay, no child support), a good reputation, respect, to the opposite extremes. In the back of my mind I said, "You've given up all of that, for what?" Every fault of the three was expanded in my mind. There was no way for them to please me.

   It was a steady, relentless deterioration. Now, in that fateful winter of 1970-71, we were with each other not for a week but for weeks on end. All of a sudden if I answered Jackie a little bit curtly, it was tears. If I showed any displeasure, any discontent, "You don't love me." I hadn't counted on the doubts we had created, those little ghosts.

   For years, when the pressure got too great, I had just picked up and left. So many times I had told her we would get married, be together, and hadn't followed up. I had let her down too often. And the bad memories were indelible. Now, instead of going out to watch me play golf, she was left with the dishes and a house to clean. And every time I headed for the door I could see the pain in her eyes. If I put on clothes when I first got up in the morning, she'd say, "Where are you going? Why are you getting dressed?" If I got out of bed, I had to make it a point to put on a robe instead of pants and a shirt.

Page 144

   Golf became her rival. She began to hate golf. Our townhouse was right on the eighth fairway at the Country Club of Miami, and I wanted to play all the time, sometimes just to get away.

   All that winter and into the spring of 1971, our discontent grew. And my doubts grew, too. Before, when we were together, she had devoted all her time to me. Now there were other things to do, children to raise. I would come home expecting the kind of treatment I'd been used to for eight years, and wouldn't get it. I became jealous, jealous of her time, jealous of everything. If she looked twice at another man, I seethed. The fifteen-year difference in our ages, a difference I know now as an asset — for her, the need of maturity in a relationship, the sense of security she had never had; for me, the need of someone I could teach and adapt to my way of life — became a sore to be picked at.

   I had been told by so many people, even a minister friend, "She'll leave you just like she did her first husband." When suddenly faced with doubts, those warnings came to haunt me.

   The spring brought no rebirth of spirit, no promise of a change for the better, neither at home nor in Cleveland.

Chapter 13

Cleveland was the only place I ever really got booed in all my baseball life. Some managers hear the boos all the time — Leo must have thought they were love songs — but I never did. The fans in Cleveland took their cues from the writers in 1970, so in '71 they were on me all the time.

   One night I went to the mound and they booed me every step of the way, there and back, and when I got into the clubhouse after the game Rusty was there, crying. He'd heard the whole thing. "Those people, I wish they'd die," he sobbed. It literally made him sick. Jackie started wearing dark glasses to the games, not to disguise herself but to hide her tears.

   The Indians were not the growing young team that I had dreamed of. The money wasn't available to spend, and the pitching staff that was so good when I got there — McDowell, Tiant, Hargan — was cooling off. Tiant had a bad back, which led to his going to the minors for a while. Tony Horton had the breakdown. I had retrieved Kenny Harrelson from the Red Sox in 1969, via trade, but the Hawk's flying days were all but over. He hit a mortal .220 for us that year, and broke his ankle in '70 after playing only seventeen games.

   There were some promising young players, but hardly enough to justify the youth movement I was trying to nurse along. There was no farm system of any substance. If there was a pennant in Cleveland's future, the future was dimly lit. When you are the general manager and the manager, you are in for double the resentment in that kind of situation, so you'd better win quick. That we couldn't do.

   Compounding the problem in such a case is the fact that athletes and management are continually at odds. Neither side trusts the

Page 146

other. There is so much money at stake, and so few guidelines for restraint, that negotiations take on the aspects of pitched battles. Bad feelings are commonplace. Personally, I had only the one salary "dispute" in all my playing and managing days, when I wanted to make as much as Pee Wee Reese. By present standards it was peanuts. I didn't want to ever argue money. When I went in at contract time, I expected to be offered what I was worth (at least as much as I could get selling mud in the off season), and I expected to accept that offer. That kind of faith no longer exists. On either side.

   It is a foregone conclusion today that management will offer as little as possible, and the pro athlete will want more than he's worth. Conflict is inevitable. The player is worrying about his limited longevity. Management is worrying about going broke. The general manager is right in the middle, which is where a field manager should never be. A field manager needs to be thought of as a friendly link to the front office, not a double agent.

   I liked and admired Vernon Stouffer, the club owner. He couldn't have been nicer to Jackie. All Mr. Stouffer really wanted when he got into baseball was to keep the club in Cleveland. He was worth a lot of money at one time — $20 million was a figure given — but he had suffered some stock setbacks and was not in a position to shell out forever.

   Understandably, therefore, he was not very realistic about baseball. He thought I could talk players into being better than they were, and no matter how much talking I did it didn't work. The team was poor, the gate was bad (attendance was the lowest in the American League), and the money problems were pressing. The board of directors had difficulty hiding its impatience. It didn't help that I was at odds with everybody.

   Mr. Stouffer asked me not to take Jackie on the team's last road trip in July. The Indians were locked firmly in the cellar, twenty-odd games behind. I think he felt I didn't have my mind entirely on baseball. The press was just as rough on him as on me, and he couldn't stand it. Some of the stuff the columnists wrote was degrading. His wife had to quit reading the papers.

   In that sense, the firing was a relief all around. We knew we were in a war we couldn't win, that it was just a matter of time. Jackie and I were in bed at our apartment in Mayfield Village when Gabe Paul's secretary called. Gabe got on the phone and said, "Mr. Stouffer wants to see you."

Page 147

   I said, "Should I wear black?"

   "I think so."

   "I'll be there as soon as I get dressed."

   My mother and daughter Margaret were visiting from Lake Charles. I didn't wake anybody, just went on down to get my medicine. Mr. Stouffer said the only thing he knew to do — the only thing most owners know to do in such a crisis — was to fire the manager. He said, "I have to try something, Alvin."

   I nodded. "Mr. Stouffer, thank you. It's your club. I'm sorry things didn't work out, but I appreciate your having me. God bless you."

   And that was that. Possibly one of the easiest dismissals on record, and the first of the '71 season. (There is always more than one.)

   I started to the door and Gabe Paul said, "Will you scout for us?"

   I could feel the pride burning my throat. I said, "No, Gabe. I'm a manager. Please send my checks to Miami." I was in the third year of a five-year contract.

   On August 1, the team passed into the hands of Johnny Lipon, one of my coaches, and poor Johnny suffered the same fate Luke Appling had suffered in Kansas City. For his first managerial assignment, he inherited a can of worms. The Indians only won 10 of their last 45 games, and Lipon was not rehired. That winter, Mr. Stouffer sold the club.

   I don't think I was necessarily a bad manager in Cleveland. Not tactically, though I admit to not having the taste for it I had in Kansas City and San Francisco. But my press relations were bad, and my human relations were abominable. Uzziah Dark was his own executioner.

   The whole family was up and waiting when I got back from the execution. I said, "Let's pack. We're going to Miami." I didn't want to twist too long in the wind.

   But we couldn't leave right away. For one thing, I had to buy a car. A dealer had loaned me a Buick to use, and obviously I couldn't take that. We didn't own another car. So I purchased a used Ford, and rented a big U-Haul. David Martin, a close friend, and Cy Bynak, the Indians clubhouse manager, helped me load. What we couldn't get in the trailer Cy said he'd ship.

   Jackie accomplished the packing in a day and a half. We spent most of the next few hours consoling family and friends. Then I

Page 148

took my mother to the airport, and invited Margaret to drive south with us. We were on the road at ten thirty that morning. We stopped and checked into a motel at noon. The three children went to the swimming pool and Jackie and I went to bed. We were emotionally and physically drained.

   We awoke at 3 A.M., Jackie and I. We found an all-night diner, had breakfast, bundled the half-asleep kids in the car, and took off again. We stopped for the "night" at 11 A.M.

   The only energy we seemed to have left was that which got us from one lunch counter to the next. We ate our way south. Any time we had an excuse to stop and eat, we stopped and ate. Jackie hadn't been overweight since childhood. She had trimmed down to a modeling figure as a stewardess, and I had never seen her heavy. But when we got married, and into our problems, she began putting it on, and I stayed right with her.

   The two of us ate sandwiches like they were snacks, at any hour. We went on eating binges: ice cream, junk food, desserts. We were the king and queen of desserts. I kept a spoon in the peanut jar. I could eat a full-course meal, with dessert, and then head right for that spoon. If we ate out, it was nothing for me to make two ice cream stops on the way home.

   Now, heading to Miami, we were insatiable. At one stop, I ordered peanut butter by room service.

   It took us five days to get to the Florida Turnpike. Once there, we took another food break, and I said, "Hey, wait a minute. Check your wallets. Who's got some money?" Pooling our change, we came up with enough to pay the toll and a little extra.

   So we drove straight through to Miami, arriving late that afternoon, a Friday, with our appetites on fire again and the banks closed and no place to cash a check. Right from the turnpike, we pulled into a pancake house, took a table, and made a pile of our money. "Ma'am," I said to the waitress, "this is all we have. What can we buy for this?"

   Everybody started laughing, including the waitress, who took pity on us and sprung for our drinks. I had to wonder how much more she would have laughed if she knew she was financing a $50,000-a-year big league baseball manager. The next day, after I'd cashed a check at the golf course where I played, I went back and tipped her.

   The stigma of being cast out was hard to live with. All winter long I worried. I worried, first, whether Cleveland was going to honor the contract.

Page 149

(You never take those things for granted. More than a few long-term deals wind up in litigation.) I worried about our approaching financial dilemma. From being pretty well off in 1969, my net worth had plummeted. My stocks and investments were poor. I owed the banks. Once the bills were paid, the monthly checks from the Indians would just about keep us in groceries, if they came regularly.

   For the first time in my life, I worried about my career. I felt truly discarded. I had always been wanted in some sport, in some capacity, from childhood. LSU wanted me. The Braves wanted me. The Giants wanted me. The Cardinals, the Cubs, the Braves. Even those other times when I was fired, there was always somebody there waiting to push a contract into my hands. The Cubs hired me to coach almost the day I was fired by the Giants. Finley asked me to work for him before I left the Cubs. The Indians wanted me while I was still with Kansas City.

   Now, with two and a half years on a contract, and $125,000 involved, I was left talking to myself: "You mean to tell me they'd rather pay you all that money than let you manage? You mean nobody else wants you, at any price?" For a professional athlete, it is a rock-bottom feeling.

   I had to think there were more than a few general managers around who were tickled pink I had fallen on my face. I was at an age, too, where others' doubts are more damaging than your own. I didn't doubt my ability, but I was concerned that others did. Money wasn't the big thing. The phone never rang.

   With nothing else to do, I plunged into golf. I decided it was important to become the best golfer I could possibly be. Golf is a game I barely knew existed until I was a student at LSU, and even then it was a matter of playing four or five holes after class with a twenty-dollar set of clubs I had scrounged. Then, in 1948, Lake Charles had an Alvin Dark Day, and I was given my first good set. It made a fanatic of me. My only regret as the years went by was that I didn't see a pro right away. I played mostly by instinct. But I played a lot. And, in time, I played well. I had won four Baseball Players championships, more than anyone; I had played in the Crosby twelve times, and in the Gleason. At one time late in my playing career I entertained the idea of going on the tour. Now, with the golf course at my back door and an easy escape, it was a convenient rationale: Be the best amateur player around.

Page 150

   I played five, sometimes six days a week. I practiced and played, practiced and played. It was the only thing I really concentrated on. Anybody who wanted to tee it up for money could get a game with Alvin Dark. A hundred-dollar Nassau? Let's go.

   I played regularly with Kenny Harrelson. He had quit baseball to try the tour, and I'm sure Jackie thought I was more married to him than to her. She got so she hated to hear the phone ring. We would play as many as thirty-six holes a day, they stay at the club for the gin games. My appetite for gambling grew. It was like cussing the umpires. It got easier and easier. I had no trouble arguing down my conscience: You can afford to lose it, Alvin. If you lose it. I seldom lost.

   Kenny and I never gambled against one another, but as a team we were virtually unbeatable. He was a scratch golfer, I was close to it. Professional athletes are used to pressure and should be able to win at most things they do in sports against nonprofessionals, providing they have any talent at all. I had learned to gamble at golf in Las Vegas a few years before.

   I had always played low-stakes Nassaus, winning as much as a couple hundred dollars on a good day, but I'd never played for big money until Ken and I went to a tournament there. The first day we were joined by two fellows who asked if we'd be up to a $20 Nassau. One of them was a Kansas City lawyer. Both were older than either of us. I said, "Boy, let's get it on."

   I won $80. The lawyer said, "Wanna play tomorrow?"


   The second day, he suggested we "play for some real money." He was about a five handicap, I was playing at a two at the time. I said, "Sure." We teed it up for a $50 Nassau. When the day was over, I owed him $300.

   The third day, we upped the ante again, and by the end of the round, I owed him $2,500. On the seventeenth hole, I missed a gimme putt, the kind I could always freeze myself into and make blindfolded.

   Walking to the eighteenth, I was disgusted with myself. This is really stupid. I can beat this guy any day in a week, and here I am hacking around like a donkey and losing my money, I thought. The high stakes had gotten to me. It was as simple as that.

   I pep-talked myself all night at the hotel. When I went out the next morning, I was ready. I said, "How about a five-hundred-dollar Nassau?" The lawyer gave me a double take, but he agreed.

Page 151

   He didn't win a hole. I won $2,000. When the round was over, I said, "What time tomorrow?"

   The lawyer said, "No, you've learned how to gamble. I'm not playing you any more."

   I said, "What do you mean?"

   He said, "You've been playing me until today. Now you're playing your game, and you're better than I am."

   That kind of episode typified the self-centered life I had made for myself. My pleasure, my "vindication," was always first priority. The pride that I took in winning, in beating somebody, in being "big league," was easily transferred from sport to sport as I grew up, and into gambling when I got older. I liked having money on the line, and winning it. It expanded my self-image. I could tell myself it was important, even though it wouldn't pay the mortgage.

   As the spring wore on, and the papers were filled with ball teams going to camp, my golf game got better and better. I won steadily, but my life couldn't have been more unsatisfying. The lines of communication between Jackie and me were almost completely down. We argued like children. Instead of logic, we used temper tantrums. Instead of understanding, we showed intolerance.

   I had failed at my job; I didn't want to know I was failing her, too. We loved each other, we weren't going to give up, but our efforts seemed always at cross-purposes, dragging each other's spirits down. I was deaf to her complaints, frustrated by them. And it didn't help when I came home from the golf course into a new uproar every day.

   Often there were telephone calls from school, complaining about Rusty. He became a discipline problem at the Christian school in which we had enrolled him and Lori. His were not hooligan acts, not stealing or fighting or cheating, but incorrigible mischief-making. He would roll things down the aisle to rile a teacher, make cracks, talk back.

   He was crying out for us to pay attention, to love him, but we were too busy arguing with each other, and I was too busy disciplining. He did things in school he knew would get him an automatic five licks with the belt. One day he came home and said, "Okay, Dad, come on, let's get it over with. Give me my spanking."

   I said, "Wait a minute. What did you do?"

   "No, I'd just as soon get the spanking and forget it."

Page 152

   "But if you tell me what it is — maybe it's not as bad as you think."

   "Yes, it is. Can we please get it over with?"

   So I spanked him — maybe not as hard as I would have otherwise, because he was so pitiful — and brought him back into the living room. After he got through crying he told me what had happened, and it was nothing. Just some silly little bratty thing that wasn't worth the effort.

   He was never disrespectful, at least not to me, and neither was Lori. They were both more than a little afraid of me, I guess. Lori kept a lot inside. She got so upset at one point that she began throwing up before school every morning. She wasn't doing as well as she could, and my way to handle it was to get the belt or the paddle.

   The more I disciplined, the worse they got, and the worse I got. I even spanked Jackie one day. Margaret, my youngest daughter, stayed with us for a while. When she went back to Lake Charles, she told the family there, "That marriage will never last."

   Rusty began running away. Once he was gone for three days. It was a pattern that took a long time to break, even after this horrible period had passed. He would run off, and stay with friends, or just disappear with no particular place in mind. One time he slept in the back of a truck.

   I know now that Rusty would not have had the problems he had later if I'd been more loving more Christlike in my discipline. He used to tell Jackie, "I'll never measure up. There isn't anything I do that pleases Dad." He was right.

   The reunions were always tearful and apologetic, and we always tried again, but it was not in me to be forgiving. When he ran away, I thought it reflected on me as a father, and I increased the dosage of correction. I wasn't showing him any of the love I had for him. I was a Christian and a father, but I was not a Christian father. I was not following any of God's advice on raising my children, or, for that matter, on any other subject that could strengthen my marriage.

   How much of my own frustration was involved? It's hard to say. I was bitter for a long while. I wallowed in bitterness. But then I came to realize that it was me, me who had been at fault. Me who had erected this torture chamber. There was no one else to blame. I had been on an ego trip all my life. I had punched my own ticket. As a Christian I had been about as un-Christlike as I could have been.

Page 153

When I came to that realization, the way back was clear.

   How and where did this miracle of awareness come about? Not as painfully as you would think, but certainly in the unlikeliest of places.

   A woman's Bible study group turned Alvin Dark around. When you tote up the impact women make on a man's life, such a twist might not seem so outrageous at all. It's just that seldom is the impact so discernible, so easily credited.

   In the middle of our depression, Jackie joined the Thursday morning Bible study class at the New Testament Baptist Church we attended in Miami. She had gone to see the preacher about us (with my knowledge) and he advised it. "Anything's worth a try," he said. The first class lecture was on self-acceptance. It hit a tender spot with Jackie. For all her good looks and apparent confidence, she had always had a pretty low opinion of herself. Our back-alley courtship and fumbling attempts at marriage had done little to raise that opinion.

   Every Thursday morning Jackie went to class, and every Thursday at lunch I witnessed her growing enthusiasm. Her eyes were bright with discovery. Naturally, she told me things she had learned. I humored her. I was glad she was going. She was staying out of my hair. When she went to class, I went to the golf course.

   Then she started asking me to go with her. I said "Any men there?"


   "I'll play golf."

   My reluctance didn't seem to bother her. Or to discourage her. She kept after me. And I'd say, "Any men there yet?"


   "Then I'm not going."

   She turned on the tears a little, trying to cry me into class. I told her I could learn just as well from her, the way you tell your kids when you want them to take piano lessons. "You take the lessons, then teach me."

   But in due time I began to feel uncomfortable. She was challenging me so effectively I couldn't brush it aside. One morning after she got up from our coffee to get dressed I heard myself saying. "Wait for me. I'm going, too."

   I wore my golf clothes to the class. I had scheduled a game immediately after, so I sat in the back in case I needed to make a quick getaway. Baptists are notoriously long-winded. There were

Page 154

at least one hundred women in the group. And one eavesdropper. I slipped out as soon as it was over.

   But I went back the next Thursday, and suddenly I was hooked.

   I signed an agreement the instructor passed out to read forty-four chapters from the Bible a week. For a nonreader, that was no small commitment. Jackie and I read together, sitting at the dining-room table and exchanging findings. "Hey, did you know this? Read verse twelve ..." We were on a voyage of discovery, the most exciting of my life. The more we read the more we wanted to read. And the more we studied, the more I realized what a mess I'd made of everything.

   Things I had heard from childhood but apparently hadn't absorbed jumped off the pages at me, indicting me for my mistakes. I learned secrets of the husband-wife relationship no psychologist could improve on, and the necessity of tempering discipline with love when raising children. I learned the cancer that pride can be in a life. And how I had abused my privileges as a Christian, becoming such a worthless example that anyway to go would be an improvement. Most important, I learned again that Jesus Christ loved me anyway, and that not only could He mend a ripped-up, messed-up, sinned-up life, but he could restore it to usefulness.

   The church started a college course in Christian counseling that same month, an afternoon class. Jackie said, "Let's join that, too." I said, "Great." (No shrinking violet, Alvin.)

   Now it was the Thursday morning Bible class, a rush to the course for a round of golf, then back for Thursday afternoon counseling course. Same fine teacher, the associate pastor's wife, Barbara Stevenson. A different group of ladies. Same one-man peanut gallery.

   The guys at the club complained about the pressure they began to get at home. "My wife tells me you're at her Bible study class all the time," one of them said. "She tells me, 'If Alvin Dark can come, why can't you?' You're a bad influence, Alvin." Before the class was over, we had eight male regulars in the back row.

   When Jackie and I studied at home, time flew. I looked up more than once and discovered I was late for a match. Golf didn't seem as important as it had been. I quit playing for money. It was one of the first things I decided to do, a positive step. I was pocketing $135 from a friend one afternoon when I realized I didn't want to do that anymore. Interestingly enough, my game got better. I won the Country Club of Miami medal-play championship, the match-play championship (beating a three-time winner, 6 and 5.) I even quit throwing clubs.

Page 155

   Little by little, step by step, Jackie and I reconstructed our marriage. We had our guidebook out all the time, looking up answers, and praying we'd be smart and strong enough to follow through. We began putting God first, where He belongs. We soon learned what He can do in that favored position, the insight He can give into personal relations. I found the more I did for Jackie, the less chance I had to outdo her. There was a depth of caring I had never known, and at that depth all things were possible again.

   It didn't happen overnight. So much damage had been done, so many wounds inflicted. It would be a long time, until he got to college, in fact, before Rusty got his thinking straightened out. He was like Jackie. He had that poor self-image, and no matter how much you complimented him he wasn't sure he liked himself. He was good-looking, a fine athlete (a champion sprinter in high school), and had an outgoing personality, but absolutely no confidence in himself.

   I had never known that kind of doubt. I had been an athlete set apart from grade school on. I knew from experience there would be days when I lost, but that there would be more days when I won. Self-assurance is derived from this kind of understanding. But you have to get acceptance from those you respect, too. For the first time, I made a real effort to put some of that in Rusty. To show how much I loved him. To make him see what a fine young man he was.

   I did the same with Lori, of course. It wasn't as difficult with her. She had her mother's striking good looks, and had no real school problems, no hang-ups. She was an open book, telling us everything that happened in her life. When she went to college, she sent us little love presents with the money she earned working in a grocery store.

   For her part, Jackie brought out in me a sensitivity I didn't think I had. How to show love and affection. As I said, affection was implied rather than demonstrated in my family. My father and mother were tireless workers, always at the grindstone, and there didn't seem to be much time for demonstration. Despite the stability we had, the love we knew was there, we were not big on hugging and kissing, except to punctuate a good-bye or a hello. Saying "I love you" wasn't practical.

   It's easy for a self-centered person to sluff off the little amenities of love.

Page 156

I thought nothing of dispensing a "Hi, Gene," when my son walked into the room, and going right back to what I was doing. Jackie encouraged me to go the extra step. She taught me that "Hey, what's going on, Gene? How's everything?" was a better way, and a hug and a kiss didn't diminish anybody's manliness.

   I learned more about how to treat the woman I loved, too. The ways to show her that love. I learned not to make the kind of flip locker-room remarks that, say, my daughter Allison would have fielded and flipped right back. I learned there was no such thing as idle criticism, or idle promises, to Jackie. She was too sensitive to handle those things. With a girl like her, you don't forget the birthday present or the Easter bouquet, because forgetfulness — not forgetting the gift, forgetting to remember — hurts. If I said "I'm going to buy you that dress we saw in Philadelphia," Jackie would remember until the dress was in her closet. If she made the biggest blunder in the world, I wouldn't get on her for it. In turn, she showed me the same respect. If I dropped dinner on the floor, she'd say, "Here, honey, let me help you get that up, and then I'll fix us some eggs."

   When I got up at 6 A.M. to study, I never did it without kissing her good-bye. When I wanted to invite somebody to dinner, I made sure she was asked first, not because she would refuse — she never did — but because she wanted to be consulted. Just as she always consulted me before doing anything.

   For Jackie, marriage was not something you took for granted, and I finally began to realize it. Years later, I discovered she had always kept a laminated miniature copy of our marriage certificate in her wallet. She kept it there to look at, she said, "and to prove to myself we're really married."

   As time went by, this marvelous loving nature won over three of my children in Lake Charles. They grew to love Jackie dearly. My mother made a 180-degree turn. Before we were married, Jackie had called Lake Charles on an emergency one day and said, "Mrs. Dark, this is Jackie Rockwood, a friend of Alvin's. My mother said, "You're no friend of mine," and hung up.

   Eventually, my mother came to love Jackie as much as a mother could possibly love a daughter-in-law. The fun part was seeing her show it. When she called, my mother started saying, "I love you." She had heard Jackie and the children say it. And I could tell she enjoyed being told she was loved.

Page 157

   I came to understand how wrong I had been in the other areas of my life, how many people I had offended. It wasn't Mr. Stoneham's drinking that caused my problems in San Francisco, it was me. It wasn't the writers in Cleveland, or Gabe Paul, it was me, on an ego trip.

   I wrote letters to every man I thought I had offended with my actions. I wrote Gabe Paul. I wrote Hal Lebovitz and Russell Schneider, two of the Cleveland writers I had been at odds with. I wrote Mr. Stouffer. For no other reason than to apologize. I wasn't after anything except that — to satisfy myself that I had put the onus where it belonged, on me. Jackie wrote to Adrienne, and to my children in Lake Charles, and to her ex-husband, for the same reason.

   I think, in retrospect, those two years 1972 and 1973, were as important to the spiritual education of Alvin Dark as any ten years of my life. More important. Would Jackie and I have made it otherwise? I doubt it. There was a time there when all the love we had for each other was stripped away. The passion we had known died completely. In that respect, we indeed had to start all over.

   That first year of Bible study we had a ball. To this day Jackie calls it the happiest year of her life. We were reading our Bibles all the time, and gained a mutual respect that was startling in its consequences. Suddenly, she was saying, "Why don't you go hit some golf balls today?" and meaning it.

   The money ran out every month, what with the alimony and child support to Lake Charles and the private schooling in Miami and the regular tithing to the church, but it didn't faze us. We got fat eating starches and ice cream, and from Jackie's renewed efforts in the kitchen. I was soon down to one pair of pants I could get into, and Jackie to one skirt. Every Sunday morning, getting dressed for church, we'd haul out that basic skirt and those basic pants, and rearrange the accessories. I'd switch shirts. Jackie would switch blouses.

   Jackie would say, "How do you like my new outfit?" I'd say, "Terrific. How do you like mine?"

   She wore that same blue skirt fifty out of fifty-two Sundays. And on the golf course, I wore the same golf pants. I had to get one-day cleaning to keep my friends from being offended. We couldn't waste money on new clothes.

   All through '72 and '73 we lived that way. I actually reduced our income from the Indians by $5,000 a year because that amount had been earmarked

Page 158

for "expenses" in our original contract. I realized one morning sitting in church that I couldn't accept it. I wasn't in an expense-account situation any more. I wrote on the back of an offering envelope, "I owe Gabe Paul such-and-such," and the next day sent him a check. The Indians must have agreed with my accounting. They didn't send it back.

   "Need" was a new experience for both of us. I had always been provided for, and been a good provider. Jackie had a well-to-do grandfather. She grew up accustomed to nice clothes and money in her purse. She always had luxuries. Now we had little and couldn't add to what we had. We rushed to the mailbox every day, hoping for a check, or a refund, and then we'd sit around laughing at how ridiculous we were.

   We laughed about paying for this or that, how we couldn't possibly do it. The kids came in with their piggy banks, offering to bail us out. We laughed at that, too.

   Toward the end of the second year I began to make a little extra money speaking at churches. I had been studying my Bible and memorizing verses, and one afternoon Edwin Pope, the Miami Herald columnist, phoned to chat about the upcoming World Series. We talked baseball for twenty minutes. We talked about the past, about Durocher, about Finley, about who I would pick for an All-Star team. And just before he hung up, Edwin said, "By the way, I understand you tithe."

   For the next few minutes I told him how much more there was to the Christian life than tithing. I gave him a brief insight into things that had happened to me. When we finally wound down, I said, "Hey, Edwin, don't you go writing about this other stuff. I don't want people thinking I'm some kind of goody-goody."

   He said, "I doubt I'll write about the religious part at all."

   The next morning, in his column, the only baseball Edwin mentioned was a brief summary of my background. He devoted the entire column to our last few minutes. Almost immediately I began getting calls to speak at churches and men's groups. I went to work speaking for Fishers of Men, through Bob Green, Anita Bryant's husband. Bob had some problems placing me in churches at first, because of the divorce, but he kept at it. I made about $2,000 that year. The most at one time was a $250 fee, plus expenses. I didn't think I should accept money to tell of my faith, but Bob convinced me I should. It would "help at home" and it would open up opportunities to tell others what Christ can do to unravel a man's life. I accepted every invitation. I even spoke at backyard barbecues.

Page 159

   There comes a time, however, when the farmer has to go back to the plow. Billy Graham I am not. The Cleveland contract wouldn't keep us going forever. In our newfound exuberance, we had promised the Lord $12,000 in 1974, without a hint as to where all that money would come from. I wanted to manage again, certainly, and to be wanted as a manager, so instead of waiting to be called, I went job hunting.

   Bob Short, the owner of the Texas Rangers, had lost Ted Williams — Ted had gone back to his tackle box on the Florida keys — and needed a manager. I phoned and told him I was available. Short said he was "glad to know I was interested," and asked me to call his general manager. I eventually got a letter: "The organization has decided to go another way."

   I called Harry Dalton. He needed a manager for the California Angels. I told him, "I'd like to get back in the game. If you'd consider me, I'd appreciate it." He never called. He hired Del Rice instead, and fired him shortly after.

   I called Gabe Paul in 1973. I called him more than once. He was always in a meeting. I told his secretary, with whom I had become friendly through phoning, "Please write this down. Please tell Gabe that I'm the only guy who has guts enough to work for him and is qualified to do the job." I never heard back.

   This hat-in-hand approach was new to me, but I was humbled enough not to mind. I did make one promise to myself. If I ever got in a position again to hire somebody, I would let him know immediately if I wanted him or not. I wouldn't keep him hanging. I knew, then, how agonizing that can be.

   I would have taken a coaching job in the majors. Gene Mauch, then in Montreal, had mentioned the possibility earlier. I would not have taken a manager's job in the minor leagues. At that point in my career, it would have been too serious a demotion. Branch Rickey had warned me years before how easily you get lost in the shuffle managing in the minors. It shouldn't be, but that's the way it is. Your fate is dictated by the parent club. You have almost no control over the players you get, or where or how you play them. You are better off coaching in the big leagues, where you can at least get into somebody's eyesight.

   But to get even a coaching job, you have to be asked. I wasn't asked.

Page 160

   I knew, then, what had probably always been true. I had to face up to it. I had never made a lot of friends in the game, especially in the front offices. I didn't go out with many people socially. I didn't go to cocktail parties. It was also clear enough that the controversies I had been in, the various troubles, didn't help. I could hardly expect a mad rush for my services.

   In desperation, I went to see a guy on Miami Beach about an advertising job, something in public relations. But my interest wasn't very high. At one point, I thought I had accepted a five-year contract to be the general manager of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League, a top-pay position. I did accept it, talking on the phone with owner John Mecham's assistant. I had known Mecham since he was a teenager and came to the park to watch LSU play.

   Then I didn't hear anything. When I called New Orleans to find out when I was to start, the chairman of the board of the Saints said, "We've made other plans. We can't go through with it." Mecham's assistant told me later that Pete Rozelle, the NFL commissioner, asked him to "stay with a football man."

   In 1973, the Country Club of Miami didn't have a general manager. I thought it would be a perfect job for me — I lived right there, I loved golf, I had won the club championship, I knew all the people. That, too, seemed a sure thing, until one of the board members called and said they'd "gone with another man." It was lucky for me. As a nondrinker, I wouldn't have been very good at running parties and controlling whiskey consumption.

   I believe this. I believe God opens and closes doors for those who stay in touch with Him. I believe He has a purpose for your life, and if you listen, and wait for His time, things will open up, things that are right for you. The Bible says He is never late.

   When the offer finally came, however, I had to think, "Boy, He sure knows something I don't know."

Chapter 14

Since I had left Charlie Finley's employ after being fired by him in 1967, we had become phone pals. I don't know how many times we talked long distance when I was in Cleveland, and when I was out of baseball there was always some problem or ball player or baseball tactic to discuss. Charlie loves the telephone.

   On February 1, 1974, he called from Oakland. "What are you doing, Alvin? Besides playing golf?"

   "Nothing. Getting fat. No one's knocking my door down wanting me to manage."

   "How much you weigh?"

   "Two-ten, two-fifteen."

   "You must be fat. Would a fat old man be scared to manage a team that has won World Championships back to back?"

   "It would bother anybody," I said. "It's a tough spot to put a man in. No matter what he does, he'll probably be wrong. The first time he loses a close game the second-guessers will have a field day. So, to answer your question, I'd love to."

   Charlie laughed. "I'm not making a decision yet," he said. "There's a lot to be ironed out." His manager of record, Dick Williams, had announced he was quitting Oakland to manage the Yankees. Finley had pulled a contract on Williams, showing two years due. Hard words were passed. Litigation was underway.

   "I'll be here," I said. "I'm not going anywhere, except to church and to the golf course."

   Charlie had been doing that off and on, teasing me, asking my opinion on this potential manager and that one. But this time when I got off the phone I said to Jackie, "If I didn't know better I would say Charlie just came dangerously close to offering me a job."

Page 162

   On February 18, Charlie called again. He had been putting his house in order, with the help of a Federal court judge who ruled that Williams had breached his contract. I had been putting my short irons in order for the Gleason Inverrary Golf Tournament. I'd just played thirty-six holes in the celebrity pro-am, and was still limping when I went to the phone. My left knee had been acting up.

   "You still interested?" Charlie said.

   "I sure am."

   "What if I make you the manager and on the first day of spring training Dick Williams shows up and says, 'I'm the manager, here's my contract.' " Their contract differences had not been resolved.

   "If that happened, Charlie, all it would cost you is round-trip air fare."

   "Time's running out. We start spring training Friday. How soon could you be ready to come out here?"

   "Thirty minutes ago. Are you offering me the job?"

   "I'd like to look you in the eyeballs first."

   "I'll bring my wardrobe."

   That sounded more impressive that it was. I didn't have that many clothes I could get into.

   Nevertheless, I filled three suitcases with odds and ends. I wanted to be ready in case I had to go from there to Mesa, where the Athletics train. Jackie said a couple of things I could still wear were in the cleaners. "Ship 'em," I said.

   I took a flight out that made a stop in Houston, where I got the chance to visit briefly with my mother and two of my daughters, Allison and Eve, and my son Gene. I got my first look at my ten-month-old grandson Brian Dark, Gene's boy. He didn't cry when I held him. He knew Grandpa.

   When I checked in at the Hilton in San Francisco Charlie was in an arbitration hearing over salary disputes with two players, Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi. I thought, Well, things haven't changed much. In Miami that night, Jackie heard on a newscast that Irv Noren, one of the Oakland coaches, had the "inside track" for the manager's job. Satchel Paige's name was also mentioned.

   It was another seven hours — at 10:30 P.M. — before Charlie got out of the meeting and to my room. "You are fat," he said, laughing. "You are fat."

Page 163

   The first three minutes were devoted to my waistline, and then we talked baseball for two hours. We talked about players and about strategies, about the effectiveness of the squeeze play (I asked him who the best bunters were), about hitting-and-running. My kind of baseball. We talked about club rules. He said he didn't want any, especially those golf-ball fines.

   "I'm only offering a one-year contract," he said at last.

   "I'd take a day-to-day if you wanted me to."

   "How much money do you want?"

   "You decide."

   He gave me a $50,000 contract, with performance clauses: a bonus if we won the pennant, a bonus if we won the World Series. I like incentive bonuses. I was more than satisfied. I had always felt Charlie Finley was basically a generous man — as long as you didn't demand it.

   At a press conference in Oakland the day after our meeting, Finley presented his living sacrifice. I was nothing if not a surprise choice.

   "Yes," he said, "Alvin was hired by me in 1966. Yes, he was fired in 1967. Yes, I'll fire him again someday."

   We agreed in front of everybody to let bygones be bygones. Charlie doesn't hold grudges, I said, hoping out loud. In any case, it wouldn't matter because he could always find new reasons to fire you, and if he didn't I would provide him one, which I eventually did. In thirteen years of picturesque ownership of the A's, he had gone through managers like salted peanuts. I was his twelfth, and also his sixth.

   I admitted that the last two and half years had been the longest in my life, but that I felt I had gotten myself straightened out. "My personal problems are behind me. I feel I'm a better man now than I ever was and that I will be a better manager." Regardless of the challenge, I said, "I feel absolutely no pressure in taking this job, because I've put my life in better hands."

   I had memorized a verse for the occasion, from Deuteronomy, that I kept in the back of my mind: "Be strong and of good courage, fear not nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God ... will not fail thee nor forsake thee" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

   After the announcement in Oakland, I left for the A's training camp in Mesa, Arizona, with a side trip to Bellflower, California, to address a meeting of the Pacific Baptist Bible Fellowship. It was the first time I really let it all hang out to a group: my troubles, my "emancipation."

Page 164

Before it was over, we were all crying. You've never seen emotion until you've seen a bunch of Baptist preachers crying.

   When I checked into a motel near the Los Angeles airport I discovered I had left Miami with very little cash and only a gas company credit card. The hotel manager turned out to be a baseball fan. He recognized my name and took pity. (Maybe he knew Mr. Finley.) He offered to take a check for the room and said, "You can put your dinner on it, too." I ordered liver, a salad — without dressing — and a glass of iced tea, unsweetened. I told the waitress I was on a very strict diet.

   As it turned out, my diet was the least of the strictures that were to follow. If I had not been prepared, mentally and spiritually, the succeeding months would have been almost unbearable.

   Charlie tipped me off, I give him that. Up in that hotel room, about midnight, going over the particulars of the job, he walked up and down in front of me and said, "There's a lot of things you're going to have to do if I ask you to manage. I haven't asked you yet, but if I do, there'll be a lot of things you might not like." He kept pacing. "For one thing, the coaches are already signed. You can't change that. But more than anything, you have to realize I run this ball club. I own it, and I run it. What I say goes. Period!"

   What he was talking about, besides the team itself, and apart from me, was my family — Jackie, Lori, and Rusty. He said, "Your wife doesn't make any trips. Your family doesn't make any trips. None at all." He said he didn't want them around.

   You remember how harsh such words sound later, after you've had them shoved in your face. At the time, I didn't worry about it. I figured I had enough to worry about.

   The first two months or so of my return were the loneliest in all my years in baseball. I had half-expected it. I had set a course for myself that, under the circumstances, was the only way I wanted to go. I knew it could very well be unpopular. I certainly wasn't going out there to hide my feelings about Jesus Christ — just the opposite. As far as I was concerned, the Bay Area was a mission field.

   The mistake I made was not making it clear enough to those who might misunderstand, or might be uncomfortable in that light. I made what was easily construed as pious-sounding statements. I said, "The past few years I've tried to think how Jesus Christ would handle ball players." I said I would "try to manage the way I think Jesus would."

Page 165

I said I doubted Jesus Christ would hop on players the way I had in the past, yelling, cursing, flipping things. Putting players down, challenging them, embarrassing them. Most Christians would know what I meant, but what jumped out in print was that I had thrust my feet into some very large shoes.

   I also pointed out that the Bible teaches you to listen to your boss, to be loyal and respectful. "Which means," I said, "that if Mr. Finley wanted me to play Fosse at shortstop, I'd do it." I didn't mean I wouldn't get my feelings across when I thought it necessary, but I emphasized that the employer-employee relationship is the same as that of master-servant.

   I said a lot more on that line, and was duly quoted. The San Francisco Examiner began its account by reprinting 1 Peter 2:18-25, the passage concerning the master-servant relationship. Having said it once, I was encouraged to say it again, to elaborate. Since the only real frame of reference I was using was my Bible, it became fairly routine for me to quote from it. I had made many great discoveries there and, quite naturally, I think, wanted to share them. I was anxious to share them. This, of course, was also misinterpreted.

   I refused to let it bother me. I said I didn't want to sound sanctimonious, but I was humble and grateful for the chance God had given me to manage again. I said they could rest assured I wouldn't be throwing the Bible at them all season, "but that's the best way I know to express myself." I referred to Paul's advice to the Corinthians (chapter 13, the first book, if you care to look it up), that, in my own words, "a lot more can be accomplished through love than by pounding fists and chewing tails." In defending, for the umpteenth time, the old charges of racism (revived again by a New York columnist), I said there was nothing in that chapter about race or color, that I knew I could "love without discriminating."

   I also made some honest but gee-whiz sounding remarks about my respect for the A's. Although heartfelt, they could easily have drawn a snicker or two. I said I was "awed by their talent," and that I "would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit frightened by it all." (A twenty-four-year big league veteran schooled by Leo Durocher out of the old brawling roughhouse Giants frightened? How quaint.)

   The overall reaction was just about what you'd expect. Ladies and gentlemen,

Page 166

here is Alvin Dark, baseball's first super-submissive manager. Turn-the-Other-Cheek Alvin, Charlie Finley's latest puppet. Alvin the Peacemaker in the loudest, most unpeaceful den in all of baseball.

   Before the season was a third over, I had been called — in more words than that — all those things. I was referred to as a "mouse" and a "quack." The latter appeared in a Time magazine article that pictured me as a pathetic figure fiddling with scripture while the Oakland players burned the air with scorn, haughtily disregarded my advice, and generally had a big laugh over the way I kowtowed to Charlie Finley.

   Was it hurtful? You bet it was, but I've taken a lot worse and survived, and I was prepared. I knew what I was doing. Eventually I had my say. Thank God, I didn't have to overturn any buffets or break up the furniture to get it said.

   The loneliness was the worst part. Jackie had to stay in Miami until school was out, and except for my Bible I knew no real companionship. Among the people I had to contend with, I knew from the beginning where I stood, and in my new "submissive" posture they weren't afraid to show me.

   At the top, setting the pace, was Charlie Finley himself. It was easy to see he wasn't tickled to have me. I was his manager on the rebound from Williams. Finley was still miffed at that. He had practically dared me to turn him down in our first meeting, and it wasn't long before I realized he was going to be more domineering than ever. Success had strengthened his hand, and his head, and seemed to have increased the numbers of those he offended. If Dick Williams was a hero to have quit him, I was considered an idiot to have rejoined him. A newscaster reporting my arrival in Oakland said, "The only thing worse than being hired by Charlie Finley is being hired by him a second time."

   The four coaches I inherited could read. The stories didn't exactly present me in the rough, tough Dick Williams image they were used to, whether that image was accurate or not. The coaches made it plain they didn't think working for me was going to be a barrel of fun. I wound up with a friend in Wes Stock, the pitching coach, but even Wes did not cheer my arrival. He met me at the airport in Arizona to drive me to the motel and said, "I've got to level with you. I wasn't in favor of you coming here."

   He said Charlie had asked him after the World Series whom he would like to have manage the club in 1974, and had given him three names. "Yours was third on my list," he said.

Page 167

"I heard about how you handle pitchers, that you are always in charge of the pitching staff and don't let the coach do much, so I wasn't for you."

   I said, "Hey, Wes, that doesn't bother me a bit. I've heard nothing but good things about you. As far as I'm concerned you're a great pitching coach. [He is, too.] Let's just work from there."

   The others were irretrievable. Irv Noren, the third-base coach, had lobbied for the job, and I suppose it was hard for him not to resent the guy who beat him out. He wore his resentment on his sleeve. Vern Hoscheit was the bullpen coach and I didn't know him — but I got to know him. He made it clear he didn't think much of me. The first-base coach, Jerry Adair, wouldn't even go to dinner with me to talk things over. In Jerry's defense, he wasn't anyone's steady dinner partner, and he had some sad personal problems. His daughter had died. His wife was battling cancer. He was unhappy, and I think uncomfortable in my presence.

   I tried to take them all to dinner, to assure them all of their jobs, to get my philosophy across and find out what they thought. Irv Noren and I had played on the Cubs together, and I didn't dislike him at all. I said, "Look, Irv, I know this is a difficult situation for you. I know you wanted the job, and, man, I don't blame you. I don't hold it against you at all. But we've got a job to do, and I want you as my coach. If things go well, there's no telling what could open up for you next year."

   Ironically, the coaches of the 1974 and '75 A's were to have more authority than I ever gave coaches before. I had never really paid much attention to coaches. I used to tell them what was expected, and didn't bother to open things to discussion. "Do it my way. If you have any questions, see me. If I want a change, I'll tell you", was my old way of doing things.

   I made up my mind to alter that approach. I told Wes Stock I believed it was wrong for a manager to be deaf to his coaches. Now I am convinced of it. You're alone enough as it is. Proverbs says that a man should take "the counsel of many," that wisdom comes from such counsel. Someone has to be in charge, of course. Without a chairman of the board you might never reach a decision. But you're a fool if you don't listen to those who are qualified to advise you.

   Giving Wes Stock more authority was like putting a brush in the hands of an artist. He did a great job, and before the season was

Page 168

over we were as close as a manager and a coach could be. We talked about everything together, usually over ice cream. We are both ice-creamaholics. After a game he'd stop by my office and say, "Hey, Skip, you want to go over some things tonight? You got anything in mind?" Usually this led to a lot of productive conversation, and to the nearest Baskin-Robbins.

   That came later, however. The spring and early days of the season were days of private observation for me. They were watching and learning days, partly by choice, partly by circumstances. I had a lot of catching up to do. I had been out of baseball two seasons-plus. And here I was with a pat hand: a two-time World Championship team that gloried in its independence. About the only decisions to be made at the start were the pitching rotation, and whether to catch Gene Tenace or Ray Fosse.

   I was acquainted with some of the A's. Infielders Sal Bando, Dick Green, and Campy Campaneris and pitchers Catfish Hunter and John (Blue Moon) Odom had been on the 1967 team. Tenace, Joe Rudi, and Rollie Fingers were in the organization, and Reggie Jackson had been signed off the Arizona State campus in 1966 with the earmarks of greatness. There was no doubt about the job Mr. Finley had done signing young talent. I often wished I could have been with them through their growing years.

   Unfortunately, I was now an interloper. There was no doubt either that from Day One Charlie, as the architect of this masterpiece, required his stamp on all matters pertaining to it. Short of when to comb my hair, I was advised on everything. "You have an advantage with me," he said. "When you talk to the general manager, you are also talking to the owner."

   No item was too small to get him involved — even the number on my back. He wanted me to wear No. 1. I wanted Dick Green, who always wore No. 1, to chuck his plans to retire. Green was the best second baseman in baseball. But Charlie didn't want me to coax him. He said, "As far as I'm concerned, Green is retired." Nevertheless, he let me talk to Green, and when I told Dick how much I wanted him, he relented. When he got to spring training, I draped a No. 1 shirt over his stool.

   Until I got my sea legs and knew the pitching staff and refamiliarlized myself with the other players in the league, I made every effort not to rock the boat. The A's helped me in this by pretty much ignoring me. The press didn't. I was interesting copy.

Page 169

My every move was dutifully reported. For example: That first spring I had a mind to bat Joe Rudi third and move Sal Bando to fifth in the order, behind Jackson. Rudi got on base more, but Bando hit more home runs (29 to Joe's 12 in 1973). Having a home-run hitter behind your best home-run hitter (Jackson) only increases his (Jackson's) chances of getting good pitches to hit. An opposing pitcher has to think twice about pitching around Jackson with Bando batting next.

   In the past, I would have tacked up the new lineup, and that would be that. Instead, I asked Sal what he thought. He said he preferred to bat third. "I've always hit third." I said okay. But the notion stuck with me through the spring, and just before opening day I announced a lineup that had Rudi third, Jackson fourth, Tenace fifth, and Bando sixth. Within minutes the writers were in my office, to "get my reaction to Bando's objection about hitting sixth." I called Sal in just before the game. I could see he was upset. The new me said, "Okay, Sal, you bat third. I think a happy player is going to make more good things happen for a club than an unhappy player. A baseball season is a long time, and I want you to be happy."

   As it happened, Rudi hit one against the center field fence with two on in the second inning, and after the game Sal said, "See? Rudi hitting sixth did that. I'da probably hit into a double play." I just said, "You're right, Sal, this is better."

   The episode, when it made the newspapers, was not portrayed as a decision made in the spirit of compromise (whoever would believe that on the Oakland A's?) but as an example of the sickly clout of the manager. The interpretation: Alvin Dark's players bat where they want.

   Early in the season Deron Johnson, our designated hitter, injured his hand. I decided to use Vic Davalillo in his place that day. Fifteen minutes before the game, Mr. Finley phoned to the dressing room. He said, "I don't like your lineup. We're paying Johnson a lot of money to hit. [At the time, Johnson was hitting under .200. Apparently he was being overpaid.] Put him back in the lineup."

   I said, "Fine, Charlie. There's still time to make the change."

   I went down and corrected the lineup. One of the reporters noticed it. He said, "What's going on, Alvin?"

   I said, "Charlie called. It's what he wants. He owns the club."

Page 170

   Johnson, unfortunately, had another bad night, and the story of my vacillation made the papers. This was interpreted not as obedience to an employer but as an owner's intrusion on a manager's jurisdiction. Alvin Dark doesn't manage the A's, Charlie Finley does.

   Finley flew to Dallas for the opening of the season and reemphasized to Wes Stock and me that his bullpen was too good to waste (which was true), that we were "not going to get beat by letting a starting pitcher stay in too long."

   That Sunday against the Rangers I took Vida Blue out of a game we were leading 5-1. Vida was struggling, giving up solid hits and walking batters, in and out of one jam after another. So I yanked him in the fifth inning and went to the bullpen. This, as it happened, cost him the credit for our eventual victory.

   I didn't see it happen, but Charlie was sitting right behind the dugout when Blue came off. He said Vida threw his glove and when he got to the bench he cursed me. Charlie said, "I don't blame him, either." Interpret this as doing what your boss says, and then not getting supported when you do it.

   The next day, Blue, Ken Holtzman, and Catfish Hunter came to my office to complain about my "mishandling" pitchers (i.e., taking them out too soon). I talked to them for the greater part of an hour, trying to smooth things over. I told them I was still learning the staff. My admission was repeated to the press. Interpret this as ignorance. (Dark doesn't know his pitching staff.)

   Charlie complained regularly about this same thing. "You're jerking this guy too soon," he said. "You're letting this guy stay in too long." When Catfish lost a 4-3 game in Cleveland, Finley said it was my doing. He said, "I hope we don't lose a pennant while you're learning your pitching staff."

   I said, "Yes sir, Charlie. I'll try to do better."

   It was highly popular in those early days to compare my every move with "what Dick Williams would have done." Players would say, "Hey, you should get on so-and-so. He's loafing. Williams would really get on him." (Of course, they never said, "Why don't you get on me? I'm the loafer now.") They seemed to have gotten the impression over the years that chewing players out was part of winning.

   At a meeting I told them I wouldn't be doing that, at least not in front of the others. I said I wouldn't show them up or talk them down to the press.

Page 171

When I did call them in my office it would be as close to constructive criticism as I could make it. In retrospect, I don't think they quite understood how much better this could be for them.

   It didn't help any that Charlie talked to the players, too, usually by long-distance, and frequently took their side. When I took Blue Moon Odom out of the starting rotation, he called Odom and said, "What's wrong, John? Something wrong with your arm?" He wanted Odom to know he cared. I had to laugh, it was so ironic. Charlie hadn't wanted Odom in the starting rotation in the first place. He objected when I put him there. Odom had no way of knowing that, of course. To him it was the manager not liking him, not the fact he was pitching poorly. When we traded Odom in 1975 (he started phoning Charlie), and he won his first start for Cleveland, he said, "That was to show Alvin Dark." He didn't win another game for Cleveland and was out of baseball a year later.

   Charlie was never shy about calling a player to get or give an opinion. He frequently called Bando. Sal told me about it. I don't know if Charlie ever called Blue, but his sympathy was evident and early on I sensed a growing hostility from Vida and Ken Holtzman. Actually, I didn't have to sense it. It was obvious to everybody in the ball park every time I went to the mound.

   I took Holtzman out of a game he was leading in the eighth inning against California one day, and the Angels tied it off Rollie Fingers. We finally won, but Holtzman didn't get the victory. I took Blue out of a game a couple days later and California scored five runs and beat us. Those things have been happening in baseball since Abner Doubleday, but if you're an embattled manager you'd better not let it happen to a disgruntled pitcher. Kenny told the writers, "I could have finished." (That remark, incidentally, has been made by every pitcher who was ever taken out of a game. You can believe it 10 percent of the time.)

   Well, as best I could, I was trying to maintain some consistency in my dealings with everybody. To be fair and, hopefully, to please them all. The early reviews indicated I was pleasing almost no one. The players were openly critical (which was their nature). The writers, taking their cue from the players, were often sarcastic and demeaning. The Oakland fans, taking their cue from what was written (as fans do in every city), jumped on me every time I stuck my head out of the dugout. "Hey, Preacher, you reading your Bible?

Page 172

It ain't helping you now, Preach." "Hey, Dark, where's Jesus when we need Him? Why don't you go sit down and read your Bible?"

   As for Charlie, he took his cue from no one. He had his own legions of detractors. He had about as many squabbles going with players as he had players. (The A's were never too timid to take his name in vain.) He had a way of penny-pinching that infuriated many of them. He made them fly scheduled airlines, usually at some unholy hour, instead of taking chartered flights. He made them wear two-year-old pants that had patches. He denied them the use of a clubhouse telephone, even for local calls. They were especially vocal when he left the jewel insets out of their '73 and '74 World Series rings. He had gotten mad about something and it was his way of retaliating. I saw the rings. They had a green piece of glass where the diamond went. They looked like drugstore rings.

   Reggie Jackson had been warring with Charlie for years. Charlie seemed jealous of Reggie, perhaps because of the attention he got. I don't know if there's a connection, but Charlie was the first to have ball girls. Reggie raised his fist at Finley while crossing home plate after hitting a home run one night, and the next day Charlie made him sign a written apology. According to the reports, Reggie was in tears when he signed.

   I knew from my Kansas City experience that there would always be something. There always had been. After Mike Andrews made two errors in the second game of the 1973 Series, Charlie announced that Andrews had been found "unfit to play" by the team physician. He had a "bad back." It was in all the papers. Charlie dropped Andrews from the team. The A's protested by wearing Andrews' number on their sleeves before the third game of the Series. Naturally, they didn't budge Charlie.

   He had suffered a slight heart attack that year, and was told to cut back on his activities, and watch his temper. The attack was kept quiet but I knew about it. I also knew you couldn't hold back the tide. Charlie was still far and away the most controversial figure in baseball and in Chicago, where he drove around town in a big black Cadillac with a musical horn and a loudspeaker he had hooked up to make surprise announcements. He was as innovative as ever, except maybe a little more refined. Instead of pop-up ball bunnies and greased pig chases, he was pushing things like a day-glo orange baseball for regular use.

Page 173

   The thing about Charlie that always held me, the thing that made me feel, despite our differences, very close to him, was that I knew what he kept behind the bravado. We talked often about his personal problems. Of those there was always an abundance, and my heart went out to him.

   In May of that year, he came to my room in Chicago, when we were in town for a series with the White Sox. He was totally dejected. I had never seen him so low. He said his marriage was in shambles, his family coming apart. He and Shirley had seven children (five of them boys), ages sixteen to thirty-two, and a 1,200-acre family farm in LaPorte, Indiana, that he treasured, and he made it sound as if he were losing everything. He said his investments were bad, too. And he had been in court all day over some other problem. He said it all just got to him. Sitting there, he cried, then fell asleep in the chair.

   But that was the private Charlie. The public Charlie was never down and never on the defensive. And sometimes you couldn't tell what his position on an issue was because what he praised you for today he might criticize you for tomorrow. You only knew that he would be very vocal either way. When we started poorly, playing barely over .500 through the first forty games, he was beside himself. At one point, we were as low as fifth in the American League Western Division standings. We had been racked with injuries. Deron Johnson was hurt, Sal Bando was hurt. We had four starters out of the lineup at one point — and despite it we went on a five-game winning streak.

   Charlie was ecstatic. "How are you doing it? I don't believe this. You're winning without all these guys?"

   I said, "Charlie, let me tell you what God's doing."

   He shouted into the phone. "I DON'T CARE WHAT GOD'S DOING. DON'T GIVE ME ANY OF THAT STUFF. I'M NOT INTERESTED." I didn't say a word. Finally, he said, "Okay. Tell me what God's doing."

   I said, "Charlie, don't worry about a thing. God's in charge of my life, and I am not a bit worried about these players. They'll be fine."

   There was no end to his inconsistencies. We came into Chicago neck-and-neck for the lead with the White Sox, and Kenny Holtzman lost a rain-shortened game. Charlie stormed into my office complaining about my "not going out to talk to Holtzman" before I took him out in the third inning. I told him Holtzman's attitude had made it almost impossible to talk to him. I had tried often

Page 174

to get Kenny to throw more curveballs — you can't be a consistent winner in the big leagues if you can't throw a good curve in a tight spot — but he had ignored me. Whenever I went to the mound he made a scene.

   So this time I didn't go out until I was ready to relieve him, which I did. And as he walked off the field he flipped the ball into the air, in my general direction. I made the mistake of catching it.

   Charlie said, "I don't blame him. You shoulda gone out there to talk to him first. He showed you up, tossing that ball. When you get showed up, I'm showed up, too. I want you to fine him one hundred dollars for showing me up."

   I said, "No, Charlie, I'm going to fine him two hundred and fifty dollars."

   In the next breath he was on my side. "That's great," he said. "Fine him and I'll back you. I'll make him pack his gear and go home if he doesn't like it."

   Two nights later Vida Blue lost a 3-2 game to the White Sox. Our record at the time was 19-18, but we were still a close second. Charlie didn't get to the game until the eighth inning — he said he had been at a cocktail party — and when he came into the dressing room nobody could miss his mood. The whole clubhouse shook when he slammed the door to my office. He never said a word that wasn't a shout. Charlie's eyes get tiny when he's mad, and they were like BB's. He railed at me.

   "You cost us the game! You left eleven men on base! Why didn't you use Herb Washington in the eighth inning? Why didn't you let him steal a base? I don't blame the players for not respecting you! If you don't get off your fat ass, you're through! We won without you, we can win without you now!" He kept screaming, on and on. After about ten minutes, he said, "Why don't you say something?"

   I said, "Charlie, I have nothing to say. Just sit down and relax. You're going to get sick."

   Apparently he had talked himself out. He sat down. In a subdued voice he said, 'You're killing me with kindness. How about going out for a sandwich?"

   We went to a favorite spot of his near the hotel, the Billygoat Bar, where they made him any sandwich he wanted. I stayed with him until one thirty in the morning, listening to him wind down.

Page 175

When we parted company, he said, "Just forget what I said tonight." Typical Charlie.

   But I couldn't forget it. I couldn't sleep that night. I saw the sun come up. I knew my status with the players wasn't set in concrete, and the incident could not possibly bolster it any. I knew the time was coming when I would have to do something.

   The next day Gene Tenace came to me and said, "How do you stand it, Alvin? How can you take all that?" The players had heard it all.

   I quoted him something I had read in the Psalms: "Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." I tried to explain to Gene that when a man has his priorities in order, and is serving his true master, everything else is secondary and really shouldn't bother him. Writers who had heard Charlie's tirade got me to repeat my "verse for the occasion," and it made the Chicago papers. Charlie didn't like that, either. He had embarrassed me — or tried to — and now he was offended.

   We went on to Minneapolis for three games, completing the road trip. We were to fly back to California the next morning. I had made plans to meet Jackie and the children in Anaheim. They were going to fly from Miami on the off day. As a reward for finishing their schoolwork early, I had promised the kids a trip to Disneyland. I phoned Charlie with my plans.

   He said, "Don't you dare bring your family on a road trip."

   I said it was hardly a road trip. They would meet me in Anaheim and then fly to Oakland after the series with the Angels. Other wives had often done this at the tail end of the club's eastern trips, including the trainer's and the clubhouse man's. Their families thus got the chance for a little outing before they all flew home together to Oakland. My family was the only one that hadn't done it.

   Finley said, "I told you before the season, I don't want your family to travel with the team, and I don't want your boy on the bench or in the clubhouse, either."

   I said, "I'll keep Rusty out of the clubhouse, Charlie. But the family is coming to Anaheim. I promised, and they're coming."

   "No, they're not! I won't have it! I don't want your family on road trips. Jackie was with you in the East [she had flown up alone to be with me] and we lost five out of seven. You can't do it!"

   I said, "Charlie, they'll be with me in Anaheim."

Page 176

   "They better not."

   No matter how ridiculous, it was a threat I could not overlook. I called Jackie. Then I prayed about it. I came to the same conclusion. They were coming. If I was fired, it wouldn't be a new experience.

   Lori and Rusty Dark had a great time at Disneyland. Jackie and Alvin Dark kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. On Saturday night, after we had lost our second in a row to the Angels, Charlie called from Indianapolis. Jackie answered the phone. Charlie said, "Let me talk to Alvin."

   We talked. He said absolutely nothing about their being in Anaheim and flying back with the team. He called again on Sunday, after we had won. Still no mention of it. Another crisis had passed. But with Charlie, you could always count on the next one.

Chapter 15

As is the case with most groups, Christians are stereotyped. Often the casting is woefully inaccurate. Christians themselves contribute to this. They are probably worse than anybody about categorizing each other. I made a speech at a Baptist college once and in introducing me the preacher said, "Now that Alvin Dark is born again, it doesn't matter to him if he wins or loses." I said, "Where does it say that in the Bible?"

   If in my restructured approach to managing I was willing to turn the other cheek to fan abuse, truck player indifference and owner interference, it in no way reflected a diminishing appetite for winning. That will never happen to Alvin Dark. And if there was ever a team that a winner could identify with, it was the Oakland A's I was fortunate to manage in 1974-75. Many of them had been together since they were kids, and for a needling, fun-loving bunch of guys (a lot of time on buses and airplanes was spent trying to get the best of one another) they were blessed with unlimited character and confidence, the earmarks of a winner.

   They had an expression I learned early in 1974: "Just wait till we get our act together." Reggie Jackson was the first to tell me that. "Don't worry, Skip. We always get it on." If that was cocky it was also an appreciation of the truth. I've played on many teams, and managed a few, and I can tell you without qualification that the A's had one quality I had never seen before: a star at every position. There were no weak spots.

   Ray Fosse was our best catcher, an excellent receiver whom I went with whenever he was not hurting. But I couldn't keep Gene Tenace out of the lineup. He was a competitor, a bulldog, and though catcher was the position he was paid to play, he was a better-than-average first baseman, and would do anything, play anywhere, to win.

Page 178

Like Sal Bando, the third baseman, Tenace was all man. The last guy on the club you'd want to fight.

   Dick Green at second base wasn't the best hitter in the league, but when a ball was hit to Green you didn't have to look. He always made the play. He had the greatest pair of hands I've ever seen. A chronic back problem affected his hitting a little, but nothing bothered his glove. To tell you how good he was — he won the Babe Ruth Award in the 1974 World Series, and didn't get a base hit.

   Bert Campaneris was the best offensive shortstop I had seen since Pee Wee Reese, and was underrated at his position. He could leg out hits, knock it out of the park, steal bases. Bando at third was the leader of the club, a totally dependable team captain. He was fantastic in the clutch. He had 24 game-winning hits in 1974, and drove in 103 runs. That, boys, is leadership.

   Joe Rudi, had he been a little faster, would have been the most complete outfielder in the league. He never dropped a ball, and worked harder than anybody to make the most his ability. Jackson was a great hitter. You couldn't say enough about him. Billy North was the most unpredictable player on the team, not because he didn't hit or make great plays, but he would make a fantastic catch in center field and then, on the next chance, miss a cutoff play. The thing about Billy I admired most was that he had the humility to own up to his mistakes. He was like I was as a player — winning was what mattered, not how many hits he got. When I left the A's in 1976, I wrote him a letter: "Billy, you can always play for me."

   The pitching was the best in baseball in 1974. Catfish Hunter was a Whitey Ford or a Sal Maglie. He not only won a bundle, he led. Blue and Holtzman were legitimate twenty-game winners (had been in 1973, anyway) and were first-rate pitchers. The bullpen had two excellent relievers: Rollie Fingers and Paul Lindblad. That gave us five truly outstanding pitchers, plus others — Gene Abbott and Dave Hamilton, for two — who could do a job. With that kind of depth you should never (well, hardly ever) get caught without a good pitcher handy.

   But for all that talent, all that character, the Oakland A's were as enigmatic and unpredictable as Charlie Finley himself. Perhaps they were that way because of Finley (all except the talent, of course). Divisive, rebellious, irreverent, quarrelsome, combative, proud, and colorful. Courageous, loyal, gung-ho, and yes, even noble.

Page 179

They were the classic example of the super-talented family that overwhelms the world, but nips, teases, grouses, and battles itself.

   There were no holds barred in the ribbing department. When we tried to make Herb Washington a big leaguer, he took some terrific abuse. I had seen Herbie in a track meet that spring — the fastest man alive for sixty yards (the Baltimore Colts drafted him for the same reason) — and we signed him because Charlie wanted a "designated runner." I said I'd teach Herbie to run bases.

   At first, the other players resented it. Herb was taking the place of a legitimate player. But he was eager and fearless, always winding up with bruises and welts from his slides, and he won them over. He also won eight games for us that year with steals, and scored twenty-nine runs without ever going to bat. There is no measuring the effect he had when he got on base. The opposition automatically got jumpy, and you could feel the tension build.

   But it was a slow process. Washington had no baseball instinct. One game I put him in to pinch-run with Finley watching, and Jackson hit a line drive to left field for a base hit. When I looked up, Herb was sliding into second base, head first, not having a notion where the ball was. Inexperience, that's all it was.

   Early in June, before a game in Detroit, Reggie and Billy North had two fights in the dressing room within a period of ten minutes. They had been roommates, and close friends, but there was a question over a certain girl that North felt had to be resolved, and words led to combat.

   I was on the field at the time and didn't see it, but according to reports it was no marathon. More a two-fall wrestle than a fight. North flipped Jackson twice. Reggie wound up with a sore shoulder. Ray Fosse, who tried to break it up, got a ruptured disc at the base of his neck for his trouble, a fairly serious injury.

   I had to take Reggie out of the game later because the shoulder was bothering him. Afterward, I talked to both of them, and thought it was settled. But that night lying in bed I decided I had better call Finley before he heard it secondhand. A bad move on my part. He said, "Go get Billy North. I wanna talk to him."

   When Billy came in, and had his say on the phone, Charlie blamed Reggie for everything. (He still was no fan of Jackson's. They had a cussing match by phone one day that I tried to arbitrate, with little success.) Billy left the room feeling, I am sure, exonerated.

Page 180

   The next day the papers had the story, except they mistakenly blamed the fight on Reggie's getting on North earlier for not hustling. Mr. Finley, unfortunately, wouldn't let it die. When we got to Milwaukee, he came to the park and called a meeting with the two players and myself. He tore into them, talking about how "terrible it is to fight," how it was "a reflection on all of us." He then asked to speak to the entire team.

   When the others were assembled, he made it unanimous: Everybody got a dose. He told them they were children, and bad children at that, and he wouldn't put up with it. He talked to them as if they were ten-year-olds. I thought it was demeaning. Had it not been this particular group, it could have been demoralizing. They didn't deserve it.

   Right after the speech Charlie took me aside in the training room and said, "How'd I do? How'd it sound? Was it okay?" He wanted a good review.

   That night we played about our worst game of the year, and then lost the next day, too, blowing a lead in the ninth inning. Nevertheless, through June we hung by our fingernails to first place, partly because nobody else — the Rangers, the White Sox, the Brewers — would take the bit. We played listlessly with little sense of "team." No matter how talented the individuals, too much individuality can destroy a ball club. So can constant undermining.

   I was fed up with the attitudes of two coaches, Hoscheit and Noren. The little surly insubordinations of the players were multiplying. Holtzman was an abiding thorn, and Vida Blue was his disciple, picking up the same bad habits. In Boston in the fourth inning of a tight game, runners on first and second and Rico Petrocelli the hitter, I went out to talk to Blue. I said, "Vida, I'd like you to pitch this guy high-inside."

   "Yeah, man. Oh, yeah. Let's go, let's go."

   He wasn't interested. He just wanted me to go back to the bench. So I told Tenace, "Make sure he pitches Petrocelli high-inside."

   I had just sat down when Blue threw a low fastball and Petrocelli hit it into right field for a home run, and we lost the game, 4-1. I didn't say anything.

   We lost three straight in Boston. Back in Oakland, the Yankees beat Catfish Hunter in the ninth inning. Charlie blamed me for leaving Hunter in too long. Hoscheit had told him the bullpen should have been called.

Page 181

I said, "Charlie, Cat's been hurting, but he's okay now and he needs to pitch. He's the ace of the staff and we've got to get him right if we're going to win this thing."

   I told Catfish about my talk with Charlie. I said, "Cat, you have to lead this staff. You're the guy they look to. They react to you. If you have any doubts about me, let me know now and we'll work it out."

   He said, "No, I'm upset about a few things, but nothing major." His next start he shut out Kansas City. I quit worrying about Catfish.

   Then we lost a game to the Red Sox under strange circumstances, and the sequence of events that led to my blowup was triggered.

   In the bottom of the ninth inning, against Luis Tiant, the score tied, Joe Rudi walked. I put Campaneris in to run for him, and Jackson in to hit for Deron Johnson. I then signaled a hit-and-run, and Campaneris took off. He had the base, but Reggie hit a fly to center. Campy had to go back to first.

   Then, probably thinking the count was 3-2 to Tenace instead of 2-2, Campy got decoyed toward second. The pitch was a ball, and Campy stopped running. They tagged him out. We lost the game the next inning.

   Normally after a game I never lingered in the clubhouse, just headed right to my office. This time, for some reason, I walked around a while and was behind a row of lockers when I hear Sal Bando say in a loud voice, "He couldn't manage a meat market."

   I wasn't sure he meant it for me until other players I passed by — Vida Blue, Reggie, Angel Mangual — told me, "Forget it, Sal didn't mean it." I waited a couple minutes, then went to Bando's locker and asked him to come into my office. When we got inside, I said, "Sal, did you mean that for me?

   He said, "Aw, no, Skip. I made the last out and I was frustrated. I had a good pitch to hit, and I didn't, and I just blew up. Listen, if you have any trouble over this, I'll be the first to back you up."

   I told him to forget it, that I had a lot of respect for him and it was no worse than things I had done as a player.

   The rub was that the authority of the manager was already in jeopardy. I couldn't take much more if I was going to be effective at all. Writers who heard Sal's remark wrote about it, and it was another put-down. Sal came to me the next day and said, "You don't know how terrible I feel about this. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it." I believed him, but the damage was done.

Page 182

   In early July, for my own mind and body, I went on a prayer and fasting diet, and took regular plunges into my Bible. I guess you could say I was gearing up. In a game with the Orioles in Oakland, Holtzman had a no-hitter for five innings, then gave up a couple of home runs and North made a bad play and suddenly we were way behind. When I went to the mound to relieve him, Holtzman waved his glove behind him in disgust, then flipped the ball at me. Everybody in the ball park got the message. I told Holtzman it would cost him another $250.

   The following Monday, Sal Bando came to me in a storm. He said he had asked Vern Hoscheit for extra batting practice and was turned down. He told me Hoscheit and Noren were always doing things like that, damaging morale. It wasn't news. Hoscheit was a pipeline to Mr. Finley. Charlie himself told me about the times Hoscheit called him, usually to complain about the way I used the bullpen. When Hoscheit put doubts in Finley's mind, it meant I had to spend extra time explaining my reasoning.

   It was ridiculous. For one thing, Charlie never quite grasped the way I handled pitchers. Early in the season I told him I was going to a five-man rotation (instead of four) because we had the depth to do it. When you can give a pitcher four days rest he is that much stronger. He said, "I don't want a five-man rotation. We've always won with four and I don't want to change." I gradually won him to it, though, and we were about to put it into operation when he said to Wes and me, "Now, you guys might not like this, but I want to talk you into using a five-man rotation." The idea became his, then, and he was all for it. We let him talk us into it.

   I actually wound up defending Irv Noren after another incident. In the latter part of a game in Baltimore, with the winning run, Vic Davalillo, on third, the batter hit a line drive to right. Instead of tagging up, Davalillo was halfway down the line and had to come back. He didn't score, and we lost, and after the game Charlie phoned and said, "Was the guy supposed to tag up?"

   I said, "Charlie, I haven't had time to talk to Irv yet."

   He said, "Get him in your office right now. I want to find out about this."

   Irv came in and I asked him. "Did you have Davalillo tagging up?"

   He said, "I hollered and hollered, but he didn't tag."

   It so happened that Charlie had already talked to Davalillo. Vic said he hadn't heard Noren say anything. Charlie took Davalillo's side. He was furious. He said he wanted to "fire Noren on the spot."

   I said, "Charlie, we can't fire him over something like this. It's a player's word against a coach's. That's all there is to it. You have to back off."

   He said, "Well, you tell him if it happens again he's fired."

   The next day Irv came to my office and asked to be fired. He said he wanted to get his money and go home because he wasn't enjoying coaching the A's anymore. He had told some of the players that with me managing the club wasn't going to win again anyway.

   I said, "Irv, I'm not going to ask Charlie to fire you. You are going to have to work for your money, just like me. You can resign if you want, but I won't fire you." If he resigned, the club would not be obliged to honor his contract.

   He said "No, I can't do that. I need the money." Finally, he asked me to talk to Charlie about it. I said I would.

   Charlie hit the roof. He said, "You tell that so-and-so he can resign if he wants, but he's not getting a dime from me."

   The truth of the matter was that Charlie was as much to blame for Noren and Hoscheit's attitude as they were. He had shrunk the manager's status to the point where there was practically no respect left. To a point where everybody believed him when he said "Who needs a manager? A manager's just somebody to blame if anything goes wrong." He was right — you don't need a manager who has no authority.

   So on that particular Monday I put up a sign that if anybody wanted extra hitting he could have it, and could hit as many balls as he wanted. Hoscheit came to my office with the sign and said, "This really shows up the coaches. You did this?"

   I said, "That's right, Vern. Any time a player wants to hit, he can hit."

   He said, "Well, you just tell Mr. Finley this will be my last year."

   It was his next-to-last day. Finley had already agreed to replace both Hoscheit and Noren. We would bring in Bobby Hoffman, who had been a teammate of mine with the Giants in New York and was managing in the A's farm system, and hire Bobby Winkles, who had a reputation as a fine teacher. Winkles had managed the Angels the year before but had been released.

Page 184

   We made the announcement Tuesday night after a game with Cleveland. There was the predictable backlash from those players and writers who always think you should wait until the season is over. I explained as best I could the need to be rash. They were, for me, bad coaches, bad for morale, bad for the club. We had to make a move.

   In New York, we lost a Friday afternoon game, and then were beaten again on Saturday, and on that day my capacity for absorbing insults reached the limit. Billy North fielded a ball and threw it back to the infield fifty feet in the air. Just blooped it in to show his disgust. I didn't say anything, but I logged it in my mind.

   Meanwhile, Vida Blue had started the game. He was ahead 3-1 into the bottom of the fifth when he walked the first two batters. I hesitated. He had been pitching well and I wanted to get him the victory. I felt I owed it to him. I had deprived him of one early in the season.

   I hesitated too long. Before I could get him out of the game the Yankees had five runs. When I went to the mound he flipped the ball in the air toward me. I let it fall to the ground. He finally picked it up and handed it to me, and stomped off the field.

   When the game was over, another loss, I made up my mind to have a squad meeting the next morning at the park. (At the time, the Yankees were playing at Shea Stadium.)

   I slept very little that night. I rehearsed what I was going to say in my room at the Americana. I prayed about every line. I even put it on tape, erasing it, recording it again, erasing it. I called Jackie to tell her what I was going to say. I wanted to be absolutely sure I got it all out — and no more.

   I saw the sun come up. I didn't linger at the hotel. I got dressed and was at Shea Stadium before anybody. I was anxious.

   Ordinarily, there are two reasons for a manager to hold such a meeting. First, to get his madness out. Sometimes you just have to clear the air for your own relief. Second, to get the team going. It used to be the first reason was enough for me. Nobody had to remind me when somebody needed chewing out. If I was mad I didn't wait for a good reason. I had done it often, and with great intensity. Just blurting it out, letting my anger rule my tongue. But I had managed differently that year. I was controlled and, I think, disciplined. I was trying in every way I knew to establish a strong rapport with the players. You have to have rapport before you can effectively discipline.

Page 185

The Bible teaches that you have to love first. It wasn't working as well as I had hoped because the players had been taught a bad concept: that they didn't need a manager. I don't think they all felt that way, of course. Reggie had said, early in the year when I remarked about how great the team was, "Yeah, but we'll need you before it's over. You'll see." The players wanted discipline, I was convinced of that. All along I had heard them making just-loud-enough remarks. "Why doesn't somebody do something about so-and-so?" A manager who doesn't pick up on those things, who doesn't discipline, can only blame himself when the team fails.

   Nobody was late for the meeting. The players sat in a semicircle in the locker room, and I stood in the middle. Usually when I speak I pace around. This time I stayed in one spot, so I could look into the eyes of the players I made reference to. I didn't always name them, but I wanted the individual to know whom I was talking about.

   I never hollered or cursed. I never raised my voice. I never ad-libbed anything. I wanted to show disappointment, not rage. I said exactly what I wanted to say:

   "I've never been more disappointed in a group of young men in my life. I've never been more disappointed in a team of World Champions. If being a World Champion makes me act the way some of you are acting, no thank you. I don't care to be one.

   "It isn't necessary to act bush — just plain bush — to be a champion. I've never seen so many singles hit to the outfield that were played into doubles. It's hard for me to believe you could have won last year, not hustling like you have been. There's no excuse for guys going from first to third or second to home on ground balls hit to the outfield. I've never seen this in all my days as a big league manager."

   I looked at Billy North. "Outfielders aren't paid to flip the ball back in to the pitcher after a base hit as if to say, 'When are you going to get somebody out?' I've never seen anything like that. Or one ball player mad because another was allowed to hit three and oh. This is supposed to be a unit, a bunch of guys pulling together.

   "I've never seen so many pitchers that blame the manager when things go wrong. Every time a guy hangs a curve, it's the manager's fault. He gets oh and two and throws one the batter hits, it's the manager's fault. It's always the manager's fault with

Page 186

you pitchers. When are you going to say, 'Hey, today was my fault. I was just bad.' I'd like to hear it just one time. It's always someone else's fault.

   "There's a pitcher on this ball club" — I looked at Holtzman — "who's a cancer to the club. He affects the whole pitching staff with his attitude, and I'm fed up with it. If you pitchers want to follow this kind of lead, go right ahead, it'll lead you right down the drain. If any of you pitchers want to manage, or if anyone else does, pick up the phone and call nine-three-nine, two-four-seven-five in Chicago and talk to Mr. Finley. He'll be glad to talk to you. If he wants you to manage, he'll let you know. Otherwise, mind your own business. do your own pitching. I'll handle the ball club."

   I looked at Vida Blue. "I don't mind taking the blame for you guys sometimes, but every time I look up somebody's acting like a bush-league so-and-so coming off the mound. Vida, you're the best left-hander in the game today, but that's going to cost you two hundred fifty dollars, and next time it'll be five hundred dollars, and it's going to be five hundred dollars for every pitcher who flips the ball up in the air at me when I take him out. I don't want to play catch with you. I want you to take a hike, period.

   "Vida, you and I are even now. I screwed you out of a game your first start of the season, and I was never more sorry in my life. But we're even now. I left you out there yesterday, trying to get you a win, and I'm the one who suffers. You degraded the position of manager. Not me, the position, by acting like a bush kid.

   "Well, I'm fed up with all this garbage. We're going to play baseball to win from now on. If we're five games in front or three games or one game, we're not going to play this way anymore. You guys get ahead and you make a joke out of the game. Everything's 'ha-ha, we're going to win.' We're not going to 'ha-ha win,' we're going to bust our tails to win. You're going to play the way you know how, and no less. And you're going to mind your own business and let me do the managing."

   You never know if you've done right, whether you've said the right things or made an impact. Billy North seemed to take it hard. I felt very close to Billy. I saw Reggie consoling him afterward, and I walked over and put my hand on his shoulder and said, "Billy, you're too good a ball player to act like you did yesterday." That seemed to perk him up. He went on a hitting tear that day that pretty much lasted the season.

Page 187

   As it turned out, the whole team perked up. The players spread the word in a hurry. They talked about it to the writers as if they had been spanked, and were proud to say it. Sal Bando said, "We needed it." Monte Moore talked about it on the air. Ron Bergman of the Tribune wrote that I had absorbed their childish ways "like a sponge" for one hundred days and eighty-seven games, and now, on July 14, had finally given them their medicine. Roger Williams of the Examiner said the manager who "came in like a lamb is roaring like a lion."

   I don't think it was nearly that dramatic, but the results were gratifying. We swept a doubleheader that day, beating the Yankees 7-3 and 6-1 to expand our lead to five games. The next day in Baltimore we broke open a no-hitter in the ninth and beat the Orioles, then beat them twice more to run our winning streak to five. We moved to Cleveland and Catfish outpitched Gaylord Perry for our sixth straight. We finally lost there when Dick Bosman pitched a no-hitter for the Indians. No sentimentalist Bosman.

   From that time on, I felt the players, at least, had a better idea who was managing the Oakland Athletics. More important for me, I felt truly a part of the club. I began noticing things. Guys coming up and saying, "Hey, Skip, do you want me to do this?" And, "What do you think about that, Alvin?" I didn't have to call any more team meetings.

   From that time on, there was no doubt in my mind we would win the pennant. Not because of anything I had said, but because I knew they were in the right frame of mind to get the most of their considerable capabilities.

   That left only Charlie Finley to contend with.

   Maybe "only" is not the word.

Chapter 16

Because it is the most obvious as well as the most important part of a manager's job, handling pitchers is the most susceptible to criticism. It looks so easy. Joe Flutterball starts throwing balloons, the fences start rattling, and the manager skips out to the mound and brings in somebody else. The second-guessing begins when you relieve Old Joe too soon (he'll squeal if you do), or wait too long (the results speak loud enough in that case). But even that part is pretty much routine.

   Handling pitchers involves everything from establishing a rapport (a manager has to know what his pitcher can do in a given circumstance, and be able to get him to do it), to setting up a workable rotation (having certain pitchers ready for certain teams, achieving a good balance between left-handers and right-handers); to knowing who will serve best under widely variable conditions ranging from an opponent's lineup to the weather, to the ball parks, to the degree of courage required. All this, plus knowing the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of the pitcher himself. How much rest does he require between starts (and even between innings)? Does he get higher in the strike zone when he's tired? Is he a bulldog in a tight spot? Does he have enough faith in his curveball at 3 and 1 when he is face-to-face with a team of fastball hitters?

   Unfortunately, these requirements are so diverse and potentially confusing that the best of managers is bound to make mistakes handling pitchers and will be second-guessing himself as much as he is second-guessed. In Oakland, I didn't have to do that much because I had Charlie. As king of the second-guessers, Charlie Finley could always be counted on to remind me of my transgressions. He liked to say it was because he "loved" me and wanted me to

Page 189

"win more than Dick Williams ever won," but I didn't buy that. He was just cum laude in the art, a giant among second-guessers.

   It got to the point in August that I sometimes refused to answer the phone at home, just to get a rest from his criticism. I can still hear him, slightly hysterical by long-distance as the pennant race went to the wire: "You're going to blow it! You're going to blow it!"

   I left Holtzman in one batter too long in Chicago one night, hoping to get him a victory. I talked with him on the mound, then left him in, and as I ducked into our dugout I could hear Charlie from his box: "No way! No way!" The batter singled and we lost the game.

   Afterward Charlie and I went to a place where I was supposed to speak to about sixty people. It was a loungelike area of a restaurant owned by a friend of his.

   I knew some of the people there were from a local Baptist church. Charlie had had a couple of drinks and was in an expansive mood. Introducing me, he said, "You all have heard of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a winner. Well, tonight we've got Alvin the Baptist. Alvin the Baptist is a loser. Alvin, tell us how you lost us a game tonight."

   The audience didn't know whether to laugh or wring its napkins. Charlie was trying to be funny. He kept trying. "I want Alvin the Loser to tell us how he lost the ball game." The audience sat on its hands.

   Finally, Charlie said, "Well, I guess this wasn't the best introduction. Suppose I get Alvin to tell you about being a good Christian, and about the Bible. Then he can tell you how we're going to win the pennant and the World Series in 1974."

   I was dumbfounded. He had just called me Alvin the Loser, and now he was inviting me to talk about Christ (I did, too) and about the World Series we hadn't even gotten into yet. There was no end to Charlie's surprises.

   When Dick Williams, having become manager of the California Angels, came back to Oakland the first week in September, Charlie pulled a lulu. With the A's ahead by two runs, and two outs in the ninth inning, Charlie had the public address man play "Goodnight, Sweetheart" on the loudspeaker and write "Goodnight, Dick" on the Panogram scoreboard. He was afraid if he waited until the game was over Williams would miss the dig.

   It was embarrassing enough anyway, but the Angels got a man on and had

Page 190

the tying run at the plate before we finally got them out. Charlie was laughing on the phone. He said, "How'd you like it?"

   I said, "Charlie, it embarrassed me, and I know it embarrassed our team." He thought I was being square.

   The next day Dick Williams was quoted liberally in the papers about his contempt for Charlie's actions. I went to the Angels' clubhouse to apologize. He made a few more cuts at Charlie, then said, "Well, you shoulda known better. This is your second time managing for him."

   Despite Charlie's predictions of imminent collapse, we held the division lead through August. Kansas City was eliminated, and the Texas Rangers were about to be, and it was obvious to everybody but Charlie that we were going to be division champs. On the last trip to Kansas City, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles, Paul Lindblad, and Dick Green planned to go bird-hunting the afternoon of the day we were to arrive. We weren't scheduled to play until the following night.

   I saw no harm in it, but Charlie found out and was upset. How he found out is anybody's guess. The secret service never sleeps.

   "Don't you let 'em go," he said on the phone. "They need to concentrate on this pennant race."

   When I told Catfish of his objections, Cat said, "We always go bird-hunting on this trip." I said I really wasn't that concerned except if they shot a lot of birds their arms might get sore. Cat said, "Skip, I shoot left-handed."

   We were five games in the lead when we set down in Kansas City September 16, at 2 P.M. I always sit in front on the planes and buses so I won't have to witness any horseplay. If it gets out of hand I figure somebody will tell me anyway and I can deal with it then. I didn't want to be a drill sergeant or a nitpicker. I was told later that when the four intrepid hunters got off the plane they were wearing camouflage pants. The way young people dress today, I probably wouldn't have known the difference.

   Their hunting guide picked them up at the airport. I didn't notice that, either, because on an off day you don't pay much attention to who makes the team bus. This was a Monday. On Tuesday, Hunter pitched well but was beaten 2-1. We won the next night to go five up again. Everybody was celebrating, the pennant looming, and when I got back to my office in the clubhouse somebody had placed two cooked birds on a paper plate on my desk.

Page 191

They obviously weren't from the Winn-Dixie. I ate them to destroy the evidence.

   The next morning Charlie phoned me at the hotel. He had left half a dozen frantic-sounding messages for me. "How'd you enjoy the birds you ate last night?" he said.

   I played dumb. I knew Charlie had some pretty active informants, but I figured I could bluff this one through because his ground was shaky.

   "They weren't doves by any chance, were they?" he asked.

   I said I wasn't going to swear to it one way or the other, but they had gotten on my desk somehow and I ate 'em and they sure didn't taste like chicken. I said I wasn't really sure what they were.

   He said, "You're lying to me! You know what they are and you know who went hunting!"

   Well, he was right about the first part. No question. I knew they were doves. I don't put anything in my mouth I can't identify. But I hadn't exactly called a grand jury to investigate their execution.

   Finally, Charlie admitted he had already talked to Darold Knowles. Knowles had unwittingly told him everything. When we got to Chicago, Charlie came to the park and summoned all the fugitives into my office — the four killers and me. He read us the riot act. I told him it was my fault. I had lied for sure, and I apologized. He seemed pleased to catch me in a lie, and immediately calmed down. He grandly dismissed the case.

   We headed back west four and half games in front with only eight to play, and clinched the pennant two days later. I immediately started preparing Charlie for my playoff scheme. I told him I wanted to "give Ray Fosse some work, get him ready." Fosse was coming back from surgery on a disc and hadn't been throwing well, but I planned to catch him in place of Tenace in the playoffs. That way I could move Tenace to first base and Joe Rudi to the outfield in place of Claudell Washington. I wanted to tighten our defense. Fosse was our best catcher, a great handler of pitchers, with a good arm. Pitching was our biggest asset. Fosse, from our previous association in Cleveland, knew better than anyone how I wanted a game to be called.

   As I knew he would, Charlie objected. We argued. We argued some more. I was polite but firm. Two days before the season ended, Charlie called, just before a game with the Angels, to find out whom I was going to catch that night. "Fosse."

   He ordered me and the coaches to come to the Hyatt House in

Page 192

Oakland for a meeting. He gave us his reasons for not wanting Fosse to catch. "He's been operated on. If he comes back and gets hurt, he'll sue me. I had a basketball player in Memphis I was told shouldn't play, and he did, with his foot taped, and he sued me for forty thousand dollars when he got reinjured."

   I said, "Don't worry about Fosse, he's fine."

   He put it to the coaches. He asked each one whom they'd like to see catch. "Fosse."

   When he got to me, he said, "No use asking you. I know who you want."

   "That's right, Charlie."

   "Okay, it's on your shoulders. You're responsible."

   "Fine, Charlie. That's the manager's job. I want the responsibility." We had argued about it for eight days.

   That night the first two men who tried to steal Fosse threw out. You could see the charge it gave the team. Pitchers especially feel more comfortable knowing they have a catcher who can throw runners out. When you have one who can't, it's a circus on the bases and can be very unsettling.

   Fosse went on to play brilliantly in the playoffs. He caught well, and hit a key home run. Afterward, a Baltimore paper reported that Charlie "talked Dark into catching Fosse." I hadn't realized how hardheaded I had been.

   When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, a manager who can't pick the lineup he believes in is no manager at all. I don't mean I won't listen, and certainly with a man as smart about baseball as Charlie Finley you should listen. Sometimes I gave in simply because it didn't matter. In the spring of 1975, for example, Reggie Jackson was fooling around at first base one day and I said, "Try it a while, Reggie. It might prolong your career."

   Charlie read about it. He said, "I don't want that hot dog at first base, showboating around. You take him off first base right now."

   I said, "All right, Charlie. No big deal." Reggie wasn't going to play first base anyway.

   Charlie threw the incident up to me five or six times after that, but I let it ride. Later when he tried to get me to hit Sal Bando ninth, degrading Sal, I put my foot down. Bando had started the season hitting poorly. I said, "Charlie, I can't do that. He's the leader of the club, and a good hitter. He'll come around." Charlie finally backed off.

   Ironically, our last argument over who plays where again

Page 193

involved Fosse and Tenace. Jump ahead a year to the 1975 playoffs with Boston. Claudell Washington was having trouble playing the wall in left field, and I said, "Charlie, I'm catching Fosse, putting Tenace on first, and Rudi in left in place of Billy Williams. Washington will be the designated hitter."

  We argued for forty-five minutes. He said, "I brought Billy Williams here for his bat. I want runs scored. I don't want Fosse behind the plate."

   Wes Stock was in the room. He told me later that it was just this kind of debate that made Dick Williams quit. "Dick would go along with Charlie, and go along until he couldn't stand himself," Wes said.

   I said, "Charlie, I'm going to put Tenace at first base. I want Fosse to catch. If you don't want this, you'll have to write out the lineup yourself. If we lose, I want to know it was my fault, not yours."

   "All right, have it your way," he said, and walked out of the office. I think there were times when Charlie just wanted to be outlasted.

   In my memory, the 1974 American League playoffs and World Series will stand out for two things: 1) The Oakland A's played brilliantly; I was proud of every one of them, and 2) Charlie Finley took the joy out of victory as surely as if he'd used a scalpel. My first World Championship as a manager left me so depressed I decided, for the first time in my life, to quit.

   We zipped through Baltimore in the American League playoffs, winning three out of four. Catfish lost the first game, but then Holtzman shut the Orioles out on five hits, a great effort, and Vida Blue did the same on a two-hitter. Vida pitched probably the best I have ever seen him. He was well rested, and had excellent control, and the Orioles didn't hit a solid ball all day. From the sixth inning of the first game until the ninth of the fourth, our pitchers didn't allow a run — thirty straight scoreless innings.

   Did this make everybody happy? Not everybody.

   In the seventh inning of the third game, leading 1-0 on Sal Bando's homer, Jackson got on base and I went out to be sure he was fit. Reggie had been playing with a pulled muscle and I was relieving him in the late innings when I could. Because there was a chance he might bat again in the ninth, however, I wanted to keep him in the game. He said, "I'm fine, Skip. The leg's wrapped good."

Page 194

   After we had won and I'd talked to the press, I got word Charlie wanted to see me in my office. The message was one of those look-out-here-it-comes types, but I couldn't imagine Charlie being upset. We were riding high. Two straight shutouts, and Catfish due to pitch the next day.

   When I walked in, the coaches were sitting there like their paychecks had bounced. You've never seen such long faces. Before I could say anything, Charlie was screaming.

  "Why didn't you take Jackson out? Why didn't you use a pinch runner?"

   I said something about being ahead in the series, and in great shape to win tomorrow, but he wouldn't have any of that. He was intent on turning a triumph into a tirade. I wondered how he could keep it up without having a stroke. It was unreal.

   Catfish beat the Orioles 2-1 the next day for the pennant. I took him out in the seventh and let Rollie Fingers finish up. That night Finley threw a victory banquet at a Baltimore restaurant. He included the current Miss California, Lucianne Buchanan, on the guest list. He had been showing her off all during the series, bringing her on the plane, having her sing and plink a guitar. She sang that night, too.

   We celebrants sat around eight large tables. Charlie's family, except for his estranged wife, was there, and so was Cal Griffith of the Minnesota Twins. Charlie hopped around, having pictures taken of himself with various people. He showed me one of him taken with Pee Wee Reese and Miss California.

   I said, "My goodness, there's old Pee Wee. He looks great."

   Charlie said, "Never mind Pee Wee, how do I look?"

   There were a number of impromptu speeches, getting more and more breathless as the evening wore on. When Reggie toasted Miss California as the "reason we won," our table decided to pack it in. It was about nine-thirty. Wes Stock and Bobby Hoffman and their wives got up with us and we all went around to say goodnight. When I got to Charlie's table, I said, "Charlie, we're going to bed. Thank you very much. We really enjoyed it."

   He said, "Yeah, you ought to get your rest. You need your sleep." His words oozed sarcasm. I suppose I shouldn't have expected a "well done" or a "congratulations."

   Even if I needed it, I couldn't sleep that night. I finally got out of bed and took my Bible into the living room of the suite we had at the Hilton. I came across a verse in Timothy that, in paraphrase,

Page 195

says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." I read it a second time, then took it in and woke up Jackie to read it to her. I told her I really didn't think God wanted me to manage Oakland anymore. I'd fought the fight, run the course, kept the faith. I was done. After the World Series, I was getting out.

   The next morning, in the Baltimore papers, Catfish Hunter was quoted as saying that he wanted to win for Alvin Dark." I was surprised because nobody had said anything like that all year. Cat went on to say how they were all against me at the start, him included, and that "Alvin didn't have a prayer when he took the job." I knew better, of course. The one thing I did have was a prayer.

   The Los Angeles Dodgers had won the National League pennant, setting up a historic first — an all-West Coast World Series. We flew to Los Angeles the next day, with a day off before the Series was to begin. Charlie wouldn't let anybody watch the in-flight movie. He said the players had to study their Dodger scouting reports. When his daughter asked permission to watch it, he said, "If my players can't see the film, nobody's going to see it." He did, nonetheless, let Miss California serenade us. He held the microphone and she played and sang.

   If the next sounds inconsistent, forgive me. But it was exactly this kind of thing that made me admire Charlie Finley. Grudging admiration to be sure, but admiration nevertheless. We had all the next day to work on the scouting report. There was no rush. But Charlie wanted everybody to think about winning. He was always willing to outwork anybody to do it, and he was always willing to make as many demands on himself as he did anyone else. To the last vegetable on your plate, Charlie Finley ran the show, and winning was the show's objective. No detail was ever too small for Charlie to handle. He dispensed all the World Series tickets for the office and field personnel himself. He didn't want anybody to take advantage of the tickets, including his own family. Out of Baltimore, he made everybody wear the Bear Bryant hats he bought them. He personally checked the buses to see if everyone was present. ("All right, who's missing? Who's missing?") He fumed when his daughter was late.

   But Charlie Finley is a leader. The fact he gets everybody to do these things is proof that he leads. Here he had suffered two heart attacks and was still fussing over every measly incidental,

Page 196

unable to let go. I thought he would surely have heart attack No. 3 in front of the hotel in Los Angeles when we were getting ready to leave for Oakland. The bus for the wives didn't arrive on schedule. Charlie stalked up and down the sidewalk. Wes Stock's wife, Beverly, tried to calm him down. "It's okay, Mr. Finley, it's okay." He wouldn't leave — he kept a limousine for Miss California and other dignitaries waiting until the bus came.

   The A's, faithful to their tradition, gave the Series a brawling sendoff. In our own locker room. On our "practice" day, Rollie Fingers and Blue Moon Odom got into a scrape that left Odom with a slightly sprained ankle and Fingers needed stitches to close a head wound. He had banged into a locker as they wrestled. No blows were struck. After Ray Fosse got hurt trying to break up the North-Jackson fight, the players more or less agreed that anybody who started a fight would have to finish it among themselves. As soon as Fingers and Odom realized nobody was going to break it up, they stopped fighting. Somebody asked Fosse where he was when the action started. "I ran into the training room," he said.

   Finley ordered us not to say anything about the fight, to "keep it quiet." Naturally, it was headlines the next morning: "Oakland's Bound to Win Now, They're Fighting Again."

   Oakland was going to win, all right, but for more logical reasons. First, we had what wins almost every World Series: great pitching, and pitching depth. With Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, and Kenny Holtzman starting, and Rollie Fingers and Paul Lindblad in the bullpen, we were blessed. If pitching is 75 percent of baseball during the regular season, it is 90 percent in a World Series.

   Second, the A's had that remarkable ingredient that defies analysis but unquestionably makes a champion. All along players like Reggie Jackson had soothed me with what they thought was inevitable. "When it counts," Reggie said, "don't worry about us. We'll win." Despite the fights and the hassles and the constant turmoil, despite (and, yes, because of) Charlie Finley, they were a superb team. No one individual was totally relied on; all were. As the season drew to a close, I often remarked to Jackie, "I've never known a bunch like this." Whenever the Rangers or the Royals got close, somebody would pick us up. A .220 hitter like Gene Tenace would suddenly drive in runs. An average pitcher like Gene Abbott would throw a three-hitter.

   There was no doubt whatsoever in their minds they would win. Losses did not discourage them. They didn't clown around after losing,

Page 197

but they never moped, either. Reggie said, "Skip, it's no fun for us if we get too far ahead." That was contrary to the way I'd played, and to folks I'd played with and for — Stanky, Durocher — and it took getting used to. But by the World Series I was almost as bad as they were. I knew we would win.

   I pegged the Dodgers this way: Steve Garvey, the first baseman, was their best player, and the only one I felt we had to pitch around. In a jam, we'd shy from Garvey. Nobody else scared me. And I knew they were short a third starting pitcher, a vital flaw that was to visit us a year later. They had Don Sutton and Andy Messersmith, but they had lost Tommy John. If we got the jump we could very well win it quickly. Charlie was already preparing his post-Series speech. He said, "I'd love for you to win it quicker than Dick Williams did."

   The Series opened on a hot, muggy (for us) day in Los Angeles. The humidity was up, the smog and pollution count out the top. In short, a typical day in Southern California. I had Holtzman starting. He hated hot weather worse than anybody, but he hadn't pitched for six days and had the most rested arm.

   In the top of the fifth inning, Holtzman himself came to bat and doubled. (Designated hitters aren't allowed in a World Series as long as the National League remains in the dark and refuses to use them.) We got Ken to third, and I stopped the game and had Bobby Windles give Bert Campaneris the squeeze sign orally. On a 2-2 pitch, Holtzman broke and Campy laid down a perfect squeeze bunt. Holtzman slid in safely. Shades of the old New York Giants.

   With Reggie Jackson's first-inning home run, that made it 2-0. It also made me doubly concerned about Holtzman. The heat and the extra activity seemed to have drained him. Two errors put him in a jam in the bottom of the fifth, and when the Dodgers scored I brought in Fingers. Rollie coasted to the ninth. Then Jim Wynn hit a two-out home run to cut our lead to 3-2. Garvey followed up with a single to right.

   I called in Catfish Hunter to pitch to Joe Ferguson. Cat was probably as surprised as anybody. He hadn't made a relief appearance in five years. His wife, sitting near Jackie in the stands, almost fainted when she saw him come out. Cat himself never said a word. He would pitch in a snowstorm if you asked him to. He struck out Ferguson.

   After the game, Charlie got me on my way to a radio-television interview

Page 198

and said, "That was great, bringing in Catfish. You got any more surprises for me tomorrow?"

   I told him it was not as magical as he thought. Cat had pitched the last game of the playoffs in Baltimore and was scheduled to open in Oakland in the third game of the World Series. That meant he was going to throw batting practice that afternoon, anyway, so I told Wes Stock to let him go to the bullpen instead. Pitching to one batter wouldn't hurt Catfish, and the psychological advantage had to be immense. How would you like to be Joe Ferguson suddenly having to face Catfish Hunter in a pressure situation — ninth inning, two outs, World Series opener?

   Ferguson got his pound of flesh in Game Two. Vida Blue pitched well enough to win, but Joe hit a moon shot over the center-field fence to stake Donnie Sutton to a 2-0 lead and the Dodgers went on to win, 3-2. Vida said it was a fastball Ferguson hit. "He's a fastball hitter, I'm a fastball pitcher." An object lesson, with questions, for pitchers: What is the percentage of giving the hitter your best pitch if it's his best pitch to hit? If he hits it out of the stadium, who's fault is it then? Answers: 1) No percentage, and 2) Yours.

   We almost pulled the game out in the ninth. We scored a run and with Rudi on first and one out, I put in Herb Washington to pinch run and signaled for a steal. But Herbie got picked off.

   In the interview room, somebody said, "Did Charlie tell you to put in Herb Washington to run?" Charlie is up in the stands. There is no way he can do that. But why spoil the fun? I said, "Yes, I went over to the stands and walked up to where Charlie was sitting and asked him if he wanted me to have Washington try to steal. He said, 'Oh, yes, by all means.' "

   Anita Bryant and her husband, Bob Green, old and close friends of ours, came to Oakland for the third game. Charlie had invited Anita to sing the National Anthem. He liked having pretty girls associated with the A's (he was always being pictured hugging somebody), and Anita is certainly a pretty girl.

   For whatever reason, Charlie didn't want me to start Jackson in the third game. I was still resting Reggie whenever I could because of his muscle pull, and Charlie called. "I don't want Jackson out there. I'm tired of him showboating around, trying to make people think he's running the show. He's injured. Don't play him. He's going to hurt us. He's going to cost us a game."

   I stretched out on the floor with the receiver, knowing I was in for

Page 199

another marathon. We argued an hour. I wasn't about to bench Reggie. His "showboating" was harmless. All he was doing was standing by our dugout waving his arms as if to deploy our fielders around. His leg injury wasn't bad enough to keep him out of a game. Reggie Jackson at 80 percent is better than most players at 100 percent.

   After the workout that day Charlie came and reopened the case. I said no deal. He called the next morning with the same pitch. I said, "Charlie, I have to play Reggie. He's the best we've got."

   "I'm coming to the park."

   Again we argued. I said, "Charlie, he's got to play."

   He hit the bathroom door of my office with the flat of his hand. It sounded like a rifle crack. "All right!" he yelled. "If he costs us a game, it'll be on you, and he won't play tomorrow."

   "Let's just see, all right?"

   Before the game I called Reggie in. "Reggie, Charlie doesn't want you to play right field today. He thinks you're hurt. We gotta show him you're not hurt. Tonight I want you to run harder than you've ever run. I want you to make every play like it's the last one of the World Series. Do it for me."

   Reggie's leg improved instantly. I doubt he ever ran harder. He didn't have what you would call a great Series — one home run, a .286 batting average — but he hustled all the way. And, of course, just having him in the lineup was a lift.

   Dick Green did have a great Series, the best I've ever seen for a second baseman in the field. He started three double plays in Game Three as Catfish beat the Dodgers, 3-2. He wrapped up Game Four with what Walter Alston called the greatest double play in World Series history. I'm not going to argue with Walter because he has been in and seen more Series than I, and he ought to know.

   With a man on first and one out in the ninth, Von Joshua hit a grass burner into the hole over second. Green made a full-bodied dive and backhanded the ball, sliding on his stomach. In one motion he got to his knees and flipped the ball underhanded to Campaneris, who relayed to first for the double play. It was sensational.

   As good as Greenie was, however, Rollie Fingers stole the Series, and was named the Most Valuable Player. He pitched in all four of our victories, and saved the last game for Vida Blue by putting the Dodgers down in the eighth and ninth innings. I said

Page 200

afterward that as a manager of the A's "a fellow has to have faith in God above and Rollie Fingers in the bullpen." But there was one small twist of bullpen fate in that last game that would have given me a winter-long heartburn if I'd been managing the Dodgers.

   The score was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh when the Oakland fans in left field started throwing things at Dodger left-fielder Bill Buckner. Buckner had made some intemperate remarks — or at least was so quoted in the papers — about their beloved A's. Trash, cups, bottles, and Frisbees rained down. An apple hit Buckner in the head, and he ran toward the infield. The Dodger pitcher from the sixth inning was their ace reliever, Mike Marshall. Marshall went out to meet Buckner behind shortstop, and stood there with him as the ground crew policed the area.

   For some reason Marshall can't wear a long-sleeve sweatshirt under his game shirt. As hot as it is in Oakland during the day, the nights can cool off dramatically. The game had started in the heat at five-thirty, but by eight o'clock, when the fusillade began, the temperature had dipped into the fifties. And Marshall stood there not moving. Without a long-sleeve shirt or a jacket, without throwing a single pitch to keep warm. It had to tighten him up, and in that circumstance, if you're the batter, you don't have to guess. A pitcher won't be throwing any curveballs or sliders when he's tight. He'll throw straight fastballs first.

   The first pitch Marshall threw Joe Rudi was an inside fastball, belt high. Rudi said it was "just the pitch I was looking for." Joe's no dummy. He hit it a ton. The home run was the difference in the game, and was the only run Mike Marshall gave up in the Series. He pitched in every game.

   Anita and Bob Green sat in Charlie's box for the last two games. Charlie orchestrated the cheering. Whenever he got up, Anita said, everybody did. Late in the final game, she told him that Number 5 was God's "grace" number. It was the number I wore, and the number of runs scored in three previous games (all 3-2 scores). She said, "If we win, three-two, instead of cheering, how about saying, 'Praise the Lord!' "

   Charlie said, "If we win three-two, I'll say anything."

   When Rudi hit his home run, Charlie's voice could be heard above all the others: "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!"

   But if the truth were known, I don't think Charlie Finley enjoyed the Series that much.

Page 201

He seemed tense and distraught throughout. Before the last game there was a doctor in attendance, checking his pulse. He did get Reggie Jackson to douse the commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, with champagne during the dressing-room celebration, and that seemed to perk him up a little, but by the time we got upstairs to the hospitality room at the park for the post-game festivities, he looked glum.

   He grabbed my arm and said, "Walk around with me." He didn't say a word about the job we had done, or whether he wanted me back. He didn't ask if I wanted to come back. He refused even to accept the championship trophy from Kuhn. When writers asked him about my status, he brushed them off.

   Ron Bergman came over and asked me if I had announced my intentions. He said he had heard I was going to resign. I said, "Ron, I've got nothing to resign from. My contract has run out. I haven't talked to anyone about next year, not even my wife. I'm not even going to think about it tonight. I'm just going to have dinner and go home."

   A victory parade in antique cars was scheduled for the next day. Everybody gathered at the park. Jackie and I were ushered into an open car, but at the last second Charlie's secretary said Rusty and Lori had to ride on a bus provided for friends and family. She said it was Charlie's orders. To my knowledge, they were the only children who weren't allowed to ride with their parents, but I didn't know it then. Things happened too fast. When Jackie learned of it later, she was deeply hurt. The bus went ahead to the reviewing stand.

   It was a muggy day, about 90 degrees. A crowd of 40,000 cheered the fifteen-block parade down Broadway, throwing confetti and booing Charlie. At the reviewing stand, each player had a chance to say a few words. Dick Green said I was the reason he had come back for one more year, and I couldn't help being proud of that.

   Charlie got up, looking grim. In the middle of his talk he made an offhand remark to the effect that "if Alvin Dark wants the job in 1975, he can have it." I didn't respond either way when I spoke. All I said was, "Thanks to Mr. Finley for the chance to manage this team, and to God be the Glory." And I sat down.

   For me, the only thing that mattered at that point was that I give credit to the Lord, not for winning baseball games but for the chance to speak out on His behalf over the year. At first it had

Page 202

been almost taboo. Now it was virtually required. From the first game of the Series to the last, writers who flocked in for interviews always seemed to get around to my faith. I got so I could even have fun with it. Somebody asked, "What's your Hall of Fame lineup?" I said, "Moses leading off, then Isaac, then Abraham, and David cleanup ..."

   Writers I had grown wary of over the racist issue from years previous were unanimously fair in their reports, and even kind in their columns. When one younger guy tried to bait me on the old charges in a news session, Dick Young of the New York Daily News, who had written a pretty scathing column about my return to baseball, turned and cut him off.

   That part of it was almost too good to be true. The religious screwball and duly acclaimed quack of April had become, if not a prophet in August, at least better understood in September.

   We had a great experience that season with Baseball Chapel services. The program was started years ago by Watson Spoelstra, the ex-Detroit sportswriter, and spread throughout professional sports, not as a substitute for church but to give athletes a chance to worship on Sunday on the road. Billy Zeoli, President Ford's personal preacher, lent considerable weight to the program. We started our Oakland chapter with only six or seven athletes, media people, and coaches. By the end of the season, we had regular turnouts of about thirty people. Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson were the chapel leaders on the club.

   As manager, I felt obliged to be as inconspicuous as possible in that group, but before long I had players coming around to talk about their faith. I never insisted. I never intruded. But when they wanted answers, I tried to tell them where they could find them, what "born again" meant, what the cross itself meant to a Christian. It doesn't take two minutes to quote an appropriate scripture. I never said, "Listen to me." I said, "Here, read it for yourself. It's all in the Bible."

   After the parade, everybody was driven to the home of Oakland Tribune publisher Joseph W. Knowland, as dinner guests of his wife, Dee. The ordeal was not quite over for Jackie and me. Charlie sent word he wanted to see me in an upstairs room, a kind of parlor. He didn't waste any amenities.

   "We've been here an hour," he said, "and you haven't said a thing about wanting the job for 1975."

   My first impulse was to tell him I didn't regard a backhanded remark

Page 203

in the middle of a speech as an offer of employment, and that we hadn't even discussed terms. But I had other things on my mind. I was thinking, with all the good that had happened, I might be mistaken about quitting. I said, "Jackie and I are going home to pray about it. I'll let you know tomorrow."

   He said, "Well, if that's the case, you let me know by nine o'clock tomorrow morning — no, make it eight o'clock. Or just forget it."

   Okay, Charlie."

   I found out later he had called Bobby Winkles over and told him if I didn't accept the job it was his. Bobby eventually wound up as the A's manager when Charlie let Jack McKeon go in June of 1977, then quit in 1978 with the A's in first place and McKeon got it back. You might think every manager eventually winds up managing for Charlie, but I know a few who haven't. Bobby happened to be a good choice. He's an excellent teacher.

   Trying to make a quick exit, we got the man who tends the mule at the ball park to take Jackie and me and the family back to the stadium, where the cars had been parked for the parade, only to discover our car had a flat tire. So much for early exits. I was changing the tire when the players' bus arrived. They flocked around, asking what I was going to do. Bobby Hoffman said all the coaches had been asked to come back. "Did he offer you a job?"

   "Yeah, Bobby, but I haven't decided."

   The papers were hot into it the next day, mostly hinting that I'd be a fool to come back. They quoted Reggie Jackson: "If Alvin resigns, he has nowhere to go but up. If he stays, he has nowhere to go but down." Dick O'Connell of the Palo Alto Times had predicted during the Series that I wouldn't be back. "One year," he wrote, "is all you can take of Charlie Finley." Edwin Pope related some of the more hurtful things Charlie had done, the business of not letting Jackie travel with me during the Series, and not letting Rusty in the A's locker room. He called Charlie the "villain" of the Series.

   But I went home that night less convinced I wouldn't be back. The more Jackie and I prayed about it and discussed it, the more we seemed to be challenged by the verse we had come to lean on in 1974: "... Nothing shall offend thee." It was like a bell in our ears. I realized I was letting pride stand in my way. I realized I had an obligation to a lot of people, an obligation I might not yet have fulfilled.

Page 204

   Before eight the next morning, I called Charlie at the Edgewater Hyatt House. "I'll be down to see you," I said. I got there before ten. He already had his defenses up. I think he was under the impression I had come to quit. I said, "Charlie, I want to come back, under certain conditions."

   His hostility vanished. He brightened right up. "Good, glad to have you with us. What do you want?"

   "I want to make the same as Dick Williams made last year." (I had heard Dick was paid $70,000.)

   Charlie said, "I'll give you sixty thousand, which is what Williams made. With the same bonus clauses you had this year." I had received an extra $5,000 for winning the Western Division, $5,000 for the American League pennant, and $5,000 for the World Championship.

   "Okay," he said, "let's go eat."

   I said, "Charlie, it's not just the money. It's the way you treat my family. I want Jackie to go on the road with us when she wants to. I want you to treat Rusty as if he were my son, not some outsider. I don't want you to hassle us so much, hollering and screaming every time something goes wrong, and taking it out on my kids. One night you had Lori in tears, the way you talked to her on the phone."

   He said he didn't mean to offend the children, it was just his way. But he wouldn't allow Rusty in the clubhouse or on the field. "The ball park is my office," he said. "I don't want children in it." He said Dick Williams had gotten in trouble in Boston for having his children in the clubhouse. I didn't challenge him on that because, like Williams' salary figure, I had no way of knowing. He said he wouldn't budge on that issue.

   I said, "In that case, I'll have to put it to the family."

   I went back home and got them all together. I said, "Things aren't going to change for us very much. There'll be no road trips for your mother, no clubhouse visits or workouts with the team for Rusty." The kids were hurt, but said they wanted me to go back. Jackie made it unanimous.

   It could easily be said, I suppose, that that was the safe way. The sure way of keeping a job in baseball. But managers who are lucky enough to manage World Championship teams don't have to sit by their telephones long. I had already received feelers about managing elsewhere.

   However, I honestly felt then that God still wanted me in Oakland,

Page 205

for reasons He'll have to explain to me someday. Maybe too, I'll find out the origins of Charlie's harsh treatment of my family. I suspect it goes back to the seasons in Kansas City, when he found out I was seeing Jackie. More than once after that he had made remarks about the children. When Jackie and I married and I adopted them, he said, "Those still aren't your blood kin," as if adoption carried a stigma.

   I went back to the Hyatt House to give Charlie the word, and have lunch with him. We made the announcement over navy bean soup, prawns, and chocolate ice cream. Charlie told the press I was "the best strategist in baseball," and that I had done "the finest job of managing this club of any manager I've had." He pointed out, as I knew he would that "we won the Series with Alvin quicker [five games instead of seven] than we did with Dick Williams." There is, of course, little significance to such a figure.

   But you have to give it to old Charlie. He knows how to turn a fellow's head.

Chapter 17

This is a personal prejudice. I think there is not very much wrong with today's young people that a little better communication wouldn't cure. The only real difference I found as a manager dealing with young athletes (age nineteen to say, thirty) in the Seventies is that in the past I could say, "Do it this way." Now I say, "Do it this way, and here's why." They want reasons.

   They also want instant respect, whether it is deserved or not, and carte blanche for their life-style. Usually the latter is no more than a collection of aberrations they have picked up on television or in a movie theater, or perhaps something their parents failed to teach them while they were watching television. Life-styles based on "do your own thing" are the cop-out cliché of the decade. No rules, please, and don't tell them what to do at any time.

   Well, not so fast, Alvin. I'm not too sure about the latter. I think the Oakland A's were as fiercely independent as any group of young men you'll ever find, in any sport. But behind the independence and the braggadocio was that same sense of need we all have that is as old as the Bible itself. A need to be guided, to be communicated with. A need for discipline in their lives. A need not only to be respected, but to have respect.

   Gene Tenace used to come into my office all the time to talk. Usually he came on a pretext. A "rest" he didn't want me to give him. A position I wanted him to try (Gene can play anything, so we were always looking). We'd talk, sometimes for hours. Invariably when we finished, he'd say, "I enjoyed it."

   Reggie Jackson was the same. Reggie would come in, take a seat, and announce, "I wanna talk." Then he'd try things on me, topics that evidently intrigued him. The more outlandish the better. I enjoyed it as much as he did. More, probably.

   One day in Boston we talked for three hours in my hotel room,

Page 207

about his family, his business, his friends. Reggie can get pretty engrossed in what he's saying. As a product of his time, he is liable to say anything. He came out with a book in 1975 that infuriated a lot of people and had the baseball commissioner talking about suspension. There were passages in it about dope. Reggie had some things in it about me, too, that made me appear almost senile. He resurrected something I had said to him about the physical qualities of black athletes (something about their superior healing powers) that his ghostwriter leaped on, I guess to let people know that Reggie knew all about Alvin Dark.

   Reggie came to me before the book was out, contrite. "I want you to know there are some things in my book I wish I hadn't said, things I now think are wrong."

   I said, "Reggie, don't worry about it a minute, because I won't. It's all right. I've been down that road, and I'm long past worrying about those things."

   I think in the end Reggie truly came to value the relationship we had. I certainly did.

   On a flight back to California in 1974, one Oakland player — I won't embarrass him with a name — talked to me the whole way across the country about his unhappiness. "Skip," he said, "I can go five for five on a given day, know my businesses are going great, know I've got a fine family, know I'm making a lot of money; yet the next day I wake up unhappy. There's something missing."

   Some of my preacher friends would have handled it a lot better, I suppose, but it was pretty easy for me to take that young man to the Bible to show him his problem was not unique. Incongruous, perhaps, in an age when we shower riches on mediocre talent and everybody is dashing madly toward an early affluence. But not new. When you're missing the essential ingredient for meaning in your life, a six-figure contract and a three-car garage isn't going to help much.

   I think before 1971 I wouldn't have had the patience to listen to such problems. Before 1971 I was more like Durocher. "Who wants to hear that personal stuff? You wanna talk baseball? Fine! Golf? Fine! This other stuff belongs in a room with your minister. Take a hike!"

   But the closer I got to the A's, the more I realized the importance of that kind of communication. The more I realized the depth of feeling involved. It was not just having guys like Kenny Holtzman come around. Kenny had obviously despised the

Page 208

sight of me in 1974 and when he acted friendly (no, not "acted," was friendly) in 1975 the difference was like night and day. Kenny even brought his parents around to meet me.

   Gratifying, to be sure. But the kind of thing I'm talking about is — well, is Angel Mangual. Angel used to join me for breakfast regularly on the road. We'd talk, no holds barred, and I loved to see his enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. Then one day I had to tell him we were releasing him. One of the hardest things I ever had to do. Angel said, "Hey, Alvin, don't worry about that. I'm in the Lord's hands, remember?"

   The point is that lack of communication is the biggest problem besetting professional sport today. The battle between owner and athlete is no more than that, a breakdown in rapport. And the example I am about to discuss is the most flagrant of all that I know of, and was without doubt the most portentous.

   As subsequent events proved, the Athletics' loss of Catfish Hunter by court order in the winter of 1974-75 was a time bomb activated. The breakdown in communication between Hunter and management (i.e., Charlie Finley) set in motion a series of events that still has baseball reeling.

   I think that if Charlie Finley had communicated with Catfish Hunter, or even made an effort, Catfish would never have challenged him on a breach of contract. Catfish would never have been granted his release. Baseball's reserve clause would not have suffered so staggering a blow. Defections would not have become epidemic. Salaries would not have soared to bank-breaking heights. Franchises would not have become so vulnerable to bankruptcy. The entire structure of professional sport would not be living in the shadow of a doom that is prophesied almost hourly.

   All for lack of a little communication.

   Late in the '74 season, Wes Stock came to me in my office in Oakland and said, "Do you know we've got a chance of losing Catfish Hunter?"

   I said, "What? You gotta be kidding."

   "Cat told some of the pitchers he's having a money problem with Charlie. He says he's got an out. He says Charlie has broken his contract."

   I checked it out. The root of the problem went way back. Cat had borrowed some money from Charlie, around $200,000, to buy a farm on a piece of land near his home in Hertford, North Carolina.

Page 209

Cat said from the time he borrowed the money Charlie had agitated to get it back. He said, "It seemed he phoned about it every time I was scheduled to pitch. Like he was trying to aggravate me." Catfish said he finally couldn't take it anymore and sold the property to pay off Finley.

   In 1974, Hunter signed a two-year contract with the A's, at $100,000 a year. His lawyers arranged for $50,000 to be put aside each year as deferred payment. The way it was written, the $50,000 was earmarked as a nontaxable annuity. Charlie's lawyers evidently didn't catch it right away, but it meant that Charlie wouldn't be able to take the deferred payments off his income tax. As written, it would cost him extra tax money. The alternative, they said, would be for him to commit tax fraud.

   Charlie balked at putting the deferred payments in the annuity. He held back the first $50,000. This, of course, was a breach of contract. Catfish's lawyers got into it. On our next-to-last trip into Chicago that year, Charlie invited Catfish up to my suite, and I went to another room so they could talk. Wes Stock had told me Cat was upset, because Charlie was phoning him again. "Every time he's due to pitch, he gets a call." He said Cat would get off the phone, swearing at Charlie. I knew it was true because I heard him myself.

   I don't know what was said in my suite, but in September when we went into Minnesota I walked into the clubhouse one afternoon just as Cat was hanging up from a talk with Charlie. He said, "I've been threatened. Finley said 'good things' won't happen to me if I didn't work this out. I've decided to ask for my release. I'm not going to put up with this."

   During the World Series, they met again, in Charlie's office in Oakland. Commissioner Kuhn was called in. I don't know what happened, but instead of putting the deferred payment into the annuity, Charlie sent Catfish a check for $50,000. Cat sent it back. He didn't want to pay the tax, either. His lawyers said they would get his release in court.

   But privately, Cat was not so adamant. He told Stock, "Wes, I'd love to stay with Oakland. If he [Charlie] would just show a little appreciation. He has never once told me he appreciates me. He has never once said anything about the season I had." All Cat had done that year was win 25 games and, later, the Cy Young award. It was his fourth straight twenty-victory season.

   I didn't think for a minute he would get his release, though.

Page 210

The reserve clause has been in baseball a long time, hovering like a guardian angel, and not even the U.S. Congress has been willing to challenge it. I thought that all parties would eventually bargain to a solution, that Charlie would come to his senses, and Cat would back off.

   Charlie phoned me as the fateful court decision drew near. "Catfish isn't going to blackmail me into a new contract," he said, shouting. If he had come to his senses, he didn't sound like it.

   I said, "How much money is involved, Charlie?"

   "About twenty-five thousand dollars. But it's the principle of the thing."

   I thought, Gee whiz, Charlie, you can't lose a pitcher like Catfish Hunter for a measly $25,000. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish! I tried to make him see how preposterous it was, but I didn't choose my words too well.

   He said, "Stay out of this. It's none of your business. I handle the contracts on this ball club."

   Catfish Hunter's release was granted in December of 1974. The judge ruled it simply as a breach of contract, relinquishing all parties from obligation. To this day I don't think he understood the baseball end of it, the ramifications of the reserve clause. The news stunned everybody.

   Anita Bryant was giving a big Christmas party in Miami and I was just calling Charlie at his hotel to pick him up for it when the decision was announced. Charlie said Catfish's lawyer had called before the news broke, saying Cat would sign with the A's for a $250,000 bonus. It didn't take much of a computation to figure that Cat still felt cheated out of that farmland in North Carolina. He wanted to get square all around.

   Charlie was fuming. "He's not going to buffalo me! I won't be blackmailed! I'm not through yet. I'll take it to a higher court, and I'll win."

   When I picked him up, I asked if he would mind if I called Cat, to see if he would reconsider and come back for the original $25,000 difference. Charlie groused about it, but finally calmed down. "Go ahead," he said, "but it won't do any good."

   I phoned Catfish. Charlie was right. Cat was no longer in a bargaining mood, at least not with the A's. His lawyer had been talking to other clubs who were eager to show they knew how to appreciate a Catfish Hunter. His value was soaring.

   Sad but true, we had lost the best pitcher in baseball for the 1975 season.

Page 211

Like Kenny Harrelson had done eight years before, Catfish Hunter slipped through a loophole that Charlie Finley himself had made.

   Charlie took it back to court, to no avail. As time went by, his incalculable blunder grew in stature. In January, Jackie and I attended the Chicago Baseball Writers Banquet at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago. That afternoon, I met Charlie and appeared with him on the Irv Kupcinet show, together with Ferguson Jenkins, Pancho Gonzales, Don Kessinger, and Doris Day. Afterward, Charlie came back to the hotel for a cup of coffee before the banquet. We were both scheduled to speak. He was obviously depressed.

   "I've done a stupid thing," he said.

   "What, Charlie?"

   "Losing Catfish. I feel degraded. I haven't gone out at all this winter. I haven't felt like it." Normally, Charlie moves around pretty good, in season or out. "I'm embarrassed by the whole thing. My attorneys said I couldn't lose him and I did. I'm ashamed."

   He was, too. I actually felt sorry for him.

   Charlie said, "Listen, I want you to do something for me tonight, something that could make it better for me. When you speak, say something about how dumb I was to lose Catfish, so I can come back at you. I need to shake this thing."

   I thought about it in my room, and when it came my turn to speak at the banquet I said, "Charlie Finley is one of the most brilliant owners and general managers in baseball. It took that to find a way to lose Catfish Hunter. I know why he did it, though. So he could fire me this year if we lose."

   That's all Charlie needed. When he got up, he said, "Managers are a dime a dozen." The crowd booed him good-naturedly. He was soon back to normal, brazen as ever. He got on me pretty good. Afterward he said, "Do you think I was too strong?" He seemed concerned he might have hurt me.

   I said, "No, Charlie, you were fine."

   Later that month Jackie and I were in North Carolina to speak at a church, so we rented a car and drove to Hertford. I wanted to thank Catfish in person for all he had done for us. We had dinner with him and his wife Helen in their kitchen. I said, "Cat, just because you're not with us doesn't mean we're not going to root for you, and pray for you."

Page 212

   He said, "Alvin, if that man had just shown me one grain of appreciation ..." I could tell he still had strong regrets. After dinner, he took me outside to see his hunting dogs. It was bitter cold. I was shivering, but Cat was used to it and didn't seem in a hurry to get back inside. Finally he pointed to where some lights were shining beyond the back edge of his property.

   He said, "See those lights? That's the farm I bought with the money Charlie loaned me. That's the place I had to sell because he couldn't wait for me to pay him back."

   After we returned to Miami, Charlie phoned with his first complaint of the new year. He had gotten wind of my meeting with Catfish.

   "Keep your nose in your own business," he said. "Don't get involved in this Catfish thing."

   "Charlie, he's a friend of mine. All I wanted to do was visit, and tell him how much I thought of him."

   Catfish Hunter wound up with a three-million dollar contract to play with the New York Yankees. I was happy for him, but I had to agree with Finley that it was a bad way for baseball to go. I am convinced that the worst is yet to come. By the same token, I am also convinced that were it not for Charlie Finley's willfulness, his uncompromising nature, his unwillingness to sit down and talk to Cat, he could very well have won him back to the Oakland Athletics.

   The thought of losing Cat for 1975 scared everybody — the players, the fans, even the press. Overnight the A's became damaged goods. For the first time in four years, they weren't even picked to win the Western Division.

   For me, however, it was no time to sit around and mope. If I did a better managing job that year, it was partly because I had more managing to do. On the plus side, I had a much more agreeable environment to work in. My relationship with the players had turned 180 degrees. The fans were terrific. They obviously liked the way we scrambled to win. They flocked to the stadium over a million strong, setting a club record. I couldn't have had a better press. Ron Bergman, Glenn Dickey, Art Rosenbaum — writers who had seemed more like antagonists the year before — were eminently fair.

   Early on, Charlie did his best to help solve our pitching problems, wheeling and dealing as best he could. Over the years, I have never known an owner who was more responsive to a club's

Page 213

personnel needs when the chips were down. We wound up getting Dick Bosman and Jim Perry for Blue Moon Odom, traded for Sonny Siebert, and got Stan Bahnson from the White Sox for Dave Hamilton. When we got Jim Todd, a sinkerballer from the Cubs, and I saw what he could do, I thought, "Well, why not? Maybe we can piecemeal it through and still win the division."

   The rub was that Todd was a relief pitcher, not a starter. We remained one good starter shy. Behind Holtzman and Blue, it was a patchwork. Perry and Siebert were at an age where you couldn't expect too much. Bosman turned out fine, winning 10 of 13 decisions, but past the fifth inning Wes and I had to watch him closely.

   I thought we might have had an answer when a nineteen-year-old rookie named Mike Norris looked good in the spring and pitched a shutout in his first regular-season start. I told the press I was naming him Jeremiah: Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things." Norris himself liked the idea. But after his second start Jeremiah Norris came up with an aching elbow. X rays revealed bone chips, requiring surgery. He was lost for the season.

   Handling the pitching staff became an extremely busy proposition. Blue was really our only nine-inning pitcher. Ken Holtzman, as good as he was, began to fade in the late innings, especially in hot weather. Beyond that we had a collection of five-inning pitchers. Rollie Fingers, Paul Lindblad, and Jim todd seemed always to be trudging out of the bullpen to put out a sixth-inning fire.

   To show you how wild it was, and what a pattern we had established, on the last day of the regular season the Oakland A's pitched a no-hitter. Four A's pitched one no-hitter. Blue went five innings (we had agreed beforehand he would stop there), Abbott and Lindblad one each, and Fingers pitched the last two. Blue got the victory, his twenty-second, a great year for Vida. I read later that Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore combined for a no-hitter for the Red Sox in 1917 (Ruth pitched to one batter and got thrown out of the game). Steve Barber and Stu Miller did it for Baltimore in 1967. But a four-pitcher no-hitter was unheard of.

   I probably called more pitches in 1975 than I ever had. The built-in problems were no different than in other years: Quarterbacks want to call their own plays, catchers want to call their own pitches. But in a situation in which we were relying on so many

Page 214

arms, I wanted as close control of what was coming off that mound as possible. I didn't want pitchers shaking off a lot of signs. I didn't want catchers second-guessed.

   I wasn't so hidebound as to refuse discussion on the matter, of course. But when I insisted on a pitch, I wanted it pitched. I called one for Rollie Fingers one day in Cleveland with runners on second and third and two out, and he shook it off, then gave up the base hit that beat us.

   I didn't say anything then, but we talked it out the next day. You have to be flexible with a pitcher as smart as Fingers because if he has strong feelings about a certain way to go and doesn't get a chance to throw what he has in mind it could result in a loss of faith. Especially if the curve you ordered hangs and the batter puts it in the seats. If you've spent enough time with him, though, and have a pitcher's attention and respect, all it should take to resolve a conflict of ideas is to flash a sign to the catcher: "I want the pitch I called." I think in 1975 I had that kind of rapport with most of my pitchers. I didn't have to worry as much about injured feelings.

   Wes Stock and I had our heads together all the time that year. The secret of getting the utmost from a pitching staff is making sure everybody gets enough work, without being overworked. By work I don't mean warming up every other day, or pitching batting practice. It has always made good sense to me that if I don't give a pitcher game experience, if I go fifteen or twenty days without calling on him, I might as well forget it when I suddenly need him in a tough situation.

   Keeping the bench and bullpen active is imperative for psychological as well as physical reasons. Every player from the Little Leagues up wants to feel part of a team. The only way he can do so is to play. If that means resting a star hitter in the late innings and letting a .220 hitter get a time at bat, you do it. If it means resting a star pitcher who might have a shutout going in the seventh inning, but is ahead by seven runs and not really needed any longer, you do it. Interestingly enough, we never lost a lead by taking a starting pitcher out of a game from the seventh inning on in 1975.

   I don't know if it was the old Alvin Dark trying to resurface, or whether I was just more obvious, but I had one other distinction that year. I got thrown out of two games. In Minnesota, Claudell Washington stole second base and the umpire didn't give it to him. Washington was actually beginning to stand up, his foot anchored to the bag, when they called him out.

Page 215

   I took off running toward second base, and when I got there Washington's helmet was on the ground in front of me, perfectly placed. I kicked it. Right over the umpire's head. He interpreted this as an offensive gesture and invited me to take a shower.

   On a force play at third base one night in Boston, I thought we had the runner cold. A television replay confirmed as best it could that we had him by about six feet. The umpire, Rich Garcia, signaled "safe." I argued. Nothing profane, just a simple statement of my views on the matter.

   The next night, Garcia was umpiring at second base. It was a tie game in the eighth inning when we threw another man out at second. This time by about eight feet. Garcia signaled "safe."

   Campaneris and Phil Garner (our second baseman after Dick Green retired), converged on Garcia and were screaming and hopping up and down like rabbits when I got out there. My joining in didn't have much effect on anything except the volume, but when I finally got it all said I punctuated my remarks with "You don't have a gut in your body."

   Garcia said, "What did you say?"

   "I said, 'You don't have a gut in your body.' "

   "Okay, you're out of the game. Now you can call me whatever you want."

   I said, "I'm not going to call you anything. You don't have a gut in your body and you shouldn't be umpiring in the major leagues. If you weren't in Boston you'd have called him out. You kicked the play last night, and you kicked this one."

   I turned to go off the field, past the Red Sox runner on second base, knowing he represented the winning run, and I was just about to step on third when something fundamental moved inside me. I said, "That son of a gun has given them two bases in two nights. I'm taking one myself."

   I reached down and pulled third base out of its mooring and walked off the field with it. The Boston fans booed at first, but the sight of it must have tickled them because they started clapping. By the time I reached the dugout I was the object of a standing ovation, my own players included. The fans were yelling and clapping as if the Red Sox had just won the World Series.

   I passed the bag over the top of the dugout to one of the fans

Page 216

and ducked into the runway leading to the dressing room. I stayed there so I could follow the game by ear. I could hear the umpires yelling for the bag.

   We won the game on Sal Bando's hit in the ninth inning. The players brought me the game ball. Holtzman came in giggling "What a show!" he said. Charlie was on the phone almost immediately. He had been listening on the radio and said Monte Moore called it "Dark's sixtieth steal" (I had fifty-nine as a player). Charlie said, "Be sure to tell the press I always told you 'Thou shalt not steal.' "

   I said, "You trying to steal my thunder, Charlie? Quoting scripture?"

   I had my dark glasses on when I walked out of the clubhouse. The first people I ran into were the umpires. They started laughing. The next day one of them brought me a spike that was about a foot long and said I wouldn't be stealing any bases that day because they had nailed them all down.

   Lee McPhail, president of the American League, wrote me a letter advising me that he was aware of my actions, but that in view of my past "circumspect conduct," he was not going to fine me. He said he didn't think I was "capable of such colorful and controversial histrionics ... It could be that your long association with Mr. Finley is beginning to show in various ways." I framed the letter.

   We won 10 of our last 12 games after that incident. We wound up winning 98 for the year, eight more than we had in the championship season. We won despite injuries galore, despite losing Norris, despite Rudi and Campaneris and Claudell Washington being out at various times with crippling infirmities. We won despite Catfish Hunter, who haunted us by returning to beat us four out of four. We won our division by seven games, in a walk, and went on to the playoffs with the Red Sox as 7-5 favorites and, I'm sure, everybody thinking we could indeed win it all without Catfish Hunter.

   I knew better. As I said, your chances in a short series are not good when you have only two top-flight starting pitchers. Why couldn't we piecemeal it with the bullpen and the spot starters the way we had all year? Because over the course of a season you play eleven other teams. You don't face pennant winners every day, or championship-caliber pitchers. During the regular season if you reach the seventh inning of a game leading a lesser club 3-2, you feel safe in going to your bullpen. Against a top club that hits better

Page 217

and has that third standout pitcher, you might not be ahead 3-2 in the seventh, you might be behind 3-1.

   Against Boston in the playoffs, we kicked the first game away with four errors. We were terrible in the field. Kenny Holtzman didn't pitch poorly, but the Red Sox got five in the seventh inning and won easily. In the second game, we had a 3-0 lead with Vida Blue pitching, and before I could get him out in the fourth inning it was 3-3. We lost 6-3. Carl Yastrzemski and Rico Petrocelli hit home runs.

   Back in Oakland for Game Three, I felt I had no choice but to pitch Holtzman with two days rest. It might have been another story if we would have still had Catfish Hunter. With Cat, I think we would have split the first two games, and I wouldn't have had to use an unrested pitcher. It might have all turned around. You never know.

   An unrested Holtzman, as good as he is, was no match for the Red Sox. But if you'd been in Oakland that day you might have witnessed something wonderful. In the eighth inning, when we were behind 5-1, I suddenly realized everybody in the stadium was up and cheering. Cheering louder than I had ever heard. It sent chills up my spine. We lost, 5-3, but by the sound of it you would have thought we had won. Maybe it was something they sensed, I don't know. Maybe it was sensing without knowing that they were seeing the last of that marvelous team. In two years, they would be paying to see almost a complete new cast.

   I was stunned that it had ended so quickly. Even with two outs in the ninth inning, and down by two games, I had come to have such faith in this team that I thought we would somehow pull it out. In defeat, I felt a stronger kinship than when we won. Defeat was actually less traumatic. Reggie Jackson came and hugged me afterward. He had tears in his eyes. He said, "Skip, I'm just sorry we didn't win for you."

   A bunch of us went over to congratulate the Red Sox and wish them well in the World Series. Yastrzemski, who had been brilliant in the playoffs, was quoted as remarking on what "great character" the A's had. I've never been so proud of a club — the way they handled themselves, the way they played. For three-time World Champions, they scratched and clawed like guys who didn't have a dime. I couldn't be upset with any of them.

   Charlie phoned down to the clubhouse within two minutes after it was over, praising me for the good job we had done, for getting

Page 218

as far as we did without Catfish. This was nine days before our final split.

   Did I have any regrets? None whatsoever. In fact, when I sat down later to review that last year, I knew, for me, it had ended the only appropriate way. My work was done in Oakland. I believe that in God's plans, if you are willing to follow them, you always have a definite way to go, and mine called for a new way. I felt whole, complete. There had been so little happiness in that bittersweet first year, and such great satisfaction in the second.

   One of the writers called 1975 a "season of serenity" for the Oakland A's. I suppose it was, by comparison. It had its moments, however, and I wouldn't want to deprive Charlie of the recognition.

*    *    *    *    *

   In the spring, an evangelist friend of mine, Jerry Falwell, had published a big-print Bible. Jackie and I ordered forty of them for spring training, with the idea we'd give them to the players. The Bibles arrived in the clubhouse by mail on a Saturday. Two or three players wanted them, and I obliged. On Sunday, Charlie phoned. "Do you have Bibles in the clubhouse?"

   "Yes, sir."

   "Have you given any out?"

   "You get those Bibles out of there. I don't want you giving my players any Bibles."

   Nevertheless, Charlie or no Charlie, the Bibles were soon dispensed. We had them in our room and guys kept coming around asking for them. We had to order more. When we went to play the Angels in Anaheim that spring, Dick Williams came to our dugout and said, "Got any more of those Bibles?" Except for an occasional hello, it was the first conversation Dick Williams and I ever had.

   I said, "Sure, Dick, you want one?"

   "I'd like to have one."

   "When you come to Mesa, I'll have one for you."

   I had the Bible when he came to play us a week later. He asked for a Modern Translation and I got him one of those, too. Then on our first trip to Anaheim during the regular season, on a Sunday afternoon before a packed house, second game of a doubleheader, Jim Todd beaned one of Dick's players, Bruce Boethe. Dick ran to the mound after Todd and a fight started, emptying the benches.

   When order was restored, Dick was still standing between home and third base, near the coach's box.

Page 219

As Todd got ready to pitch again, Dick started yelling. One cuss word led to another and Williams started moving toward Todd. The whole thing was about to explode again.

   I jumped off the bench and ran out to intercept him. The umpires must have thought I had more than that in mind because they quickly got between us. I said, "Don't worry, fellows, I'm just going to talk with Dick." They stepped back a little, and I said, "Hey, listen, Dick, it's all over. You keep going on like this and we'll have ourselves a real riot. This is a big crowd. It could get out of hand in hurry. A lot of people could get hurt."

   Williams cooled down, and after the game the writers wanted to know what I thought about him leading the charge to the mound. I told them I was a little surprised, especially when he tried to get it going again. I said I thought it was dangerous, "the wrong thing for Dick to do."

   Naturally, they went to him with my remarks. Dick sent back a message: "Tell Alvin to pray for me."

   Charlie loved it. He thought I was a hero. He told one newsman, "You see the way my manager got right up there in Williams' face and told him off?" The hard line was always more appealing to Charlie, even if it wasn't quite the truth.

   I suppose if you accept the notion that Charlie lived on controversy and turmoil, you would have to say he didn't have much of a meal in 1975. Vida Blue destroyed a water cooler with a bat one night and got fined, but it hardly merited a paragraph. Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson had a near fight that got about the same attention. The fact that we were flying into towns on game days (we made one game with only three hours to spare) caused a renewed outpouring of criticism for Charlie's penny-pinching ways, and got Vida Blue another fine for missing a plane, but all in all the writer was correct. Serenity was the order of the year.

   My relationship with Charlie settled down considerably, though I knew better than to expect a lasting peace. I was quoted in Time magazine (in response to the question, "What's it like to work for Charlie Finley?") as saying Charlie was "tough and rough, and at times cruel." Charlie demanded to know what I meant by "cruel."

   I repeated what I had told him the year before. That I could take his mean little indignities, his ranting and raving. I could take his second-guessing, and his demeaning way of ordering people around. I could even take the distinction of being the only

Page 220

manager in baseball who didn't have an expense account. Charlie had had a flap over "extraordinary expenses" with Dick Williams and told me there would be none for me. It got to be a point of honor. I wouldn't even put in for cab fare when I loaded players up to go to ball parks for early workouts. When Jackie caught a ride from Cleveland on a team flight, I sent Charlie a check for her fare.

   As individuals, Jackie and I could take anything Charlie could dish out. He didn't frighten us at all. The real cruelty was the way he treated our kids. In the spring of 1975, I had brought Rusty and Lori out to Mesa and hired a tutor for them. The deal I made with the school was that Rusty would be taking a physical education course under me. As his final exam, he was going to race Sal Bando, Gene Tenace, and Herb Washington.

   Knowing Charlie's feelings, I tried to make Rusty as inconspicuous as possible. I had him shagging flies when there were spaces that needed filling in the field, and when I was giving Phil Garner extra work at second base I got him to take the shortstop's position to field Garner's flips. Garner, at least, was appreciative. Rusty is a good athlete. And, after everybody else was finished, I let him take some batting practice with the Iron Mike pitching machine.

   Charlie phoned. He said, "Is your son out there on the field?" The clubhouse boy had evidently spilled the beans.

   "Yes, sir."

   "Get him off! Don't you let him take another step on my ball field! Get him out of that uniform, and keep him out!"

   I called Rusty over and told him he had to leave. He didn't say a word, just went in to get dressed. I was as upset as he was. Paul Lindblad came over and said, "What's the matter with Rusty? How come he's dressing so early?"

   A few minutes later Lindblad came out of the dressing room and asked if it was okay if he took Rusty fishing that afternoon, "To give him a chance to get out of here. He's way down." I said fine. We had an exhibition game that day, but Lindblad had already worked out and had the afternoon off.

   All during the game I sat outside the dugout, barely moving, mad and depressed at the same time. The whole team had heard about it. Reggie Jackson and Billy North cursed Charlie in absentia. I said, "He's got his rules. There's nothing I can do but abide by them. But this may be the last straw for me."

   I went back to the motel later and told Jackie what had happened,

Page 221

and as we sat toying with our dinner I told her I was going to resign. "There comes a point when you have to draw the line, when you have to protect your family. I'm calling the coaches and telling them."

   Tears were streaming down her face. Rusty's her blood, and she can't stand to see him hurt. But she said, "You can't quit. You made an agreement."

   I said, "What do you mean?"

   "You put it on the contract you signed with Charlie. The verse from Galatians. That when two men sign a contract they're bound to it. You can't quit."

   She was right. It had been my way of promising Charlie I wouldn't quit him the way Dick Williams had. How ironic — me trying to protect Charlie from an embarrassment.

   There is, of course, no way to protect Charlie from himself. The Oakland Athletics of 1972-75, perhaps the greatest baseball team of all time, were years in the building. Charlie Finley was the man most responsible for the creation, for concocting that exquisite blend of talent, character, guts, and guile. Almost overnight he undid what he had done. The dismantling was swift and sure. A snap of the fingers and that great team was history.

   On the opening day of the 1977 season, Catfish Hunter, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace, Reggie Jackson, Campy Campaneris, Jim Todd, Paul Lindblad, Claudell Washington, Rollie Fingers, and Sal Bando were still stars of baseball, but in other uniforms. In one way or another, they had been dealt away. Mostly they had played out their options and gone to better deals. Some became overnight millionaires.

   In June of 1976, Charlie tried to beat the inevitable by turning the defections into profit. He sold Rudi, Fingers, and Vida Blue (all of whom had announced their intentions to follow the example of Catfish Hunter) for three and a half million dollars — Vida to the Yankees, Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox. Commissioner Kuhn has let other clubs deal away unhappy star players without lifting an eyebrow, most notably Tom Seaver of the Mets (traded to Cincinnati). I can't say I blame Charlie for screaming.

   As far as I know, he still hasn't used up all his appeals in the Catfish Hunter case. I'm sure as long as there's a chance for litigation he'll be in there swinging. If nothing else, I've learned that you never count

Page 222

Charlie Finley out. But the sad part for us sentimentalists was seeing that team scattered to the winds. When the dust had settled, the only two bona-fide stars left were Billy North and, surprisingly enough, Vida Blue, who must have gotten the contract concessions he wanted. Chuck Tanner was the new manager. To be replaced later by Jack McKeon. To be replaced by Bobby Winkles. To quit and be replaced by Jack McKeon. To be fired and replaced by Jim Marshall. And by the end of 1978, Blue and North were gone, to the Giants.

   Quite unintentionally, Charlie had made rich men out of many of the players who left him. I often wonder how many really wanted to go. Sal Bando said it made him sick even as it made him rich. Sal is a sentimentalist, too, and he said it was heartbreaking to see the best team of this era going down the tube. Sal is also a realist, however. He said Charlie had "no one to blame but himself." Maybe that's the saddest part.

   Someone asked me later if I'd ever manage for Charlie Finley again. I said I didn't think he would ask me, but yes, I would manage for Charlie again. I'd be a little more particular about the ground rules, but I'd manage for Charlie. He's an amazing man. I love him — I don't always like him very much — and I wish him well. And this you won't believe — I miss him.

   I didn't speak to Charlie again for two years. I did, however, send him tapes of the speeches I made at banquets, luncheons, and churches. I sent them as often as I could, whenever there was a reference to him in my talks. I wanted him to know exactly what I said about him.

   When I got fired by the Padres in 1978, I called him — collect. I said, "Charlie, I got a news flash. I've just been fired."

   He was very solicitous. "What? You've been fired? Don't you have a two-year contract?"


   "Then what do you care?"

   "Charlie, I love baseball."

   He said, "Stay where you are, I'll call you back."

   Ten minutes later he was on the phone. He said, "Would you like to work in Denver?" At the time he was negotiating to sell the club to a Denver man. He said the man was "interested" in talking to me about managing the A's if he made the deal. I went to Denver to talk, but, of course, Charlie never sold the club.

Page 223

It's still his favorite toy, even now in 1980, when it's the worst team in baseball. I've thought since 1976 he'd sell, but why should he? He's not losing money. He's frugal. It's one of his major assets, I suppose. Anybody else would have been down the drain long ago.

[Note: Charlie Finley sold the A's to Walter Haas, Jr. in 1980, after this book was published. Haas paid $12.7 Million, and sold the club in 1995, shortly before his death, for $85 Million. Charlie lived to be age 77 and died in 1996. Alvin Dark is age 92, but not to worry, he doesn't want to manage anymore!]

Chapter 18

I have said it often. God dragged us through a keyhole in 1971, and when Jackie and I came out the other side there wasn't a lot in life we didn't feel we could cope with. Because of that inner strength I don't mind saying that I have absolutely no fear of the future. I've placed the future in larger hands.

   I felt in 1976 that if a door was going to be opened for me in baseball, I'd be back in baseball. If not, I had other work to do. The door to baseball didn't open, but other doors did. I had more opportunities to speak out for Jesus Christ that year than ever. Even when it wasn't intended — or didn't seem intended — I would suddenly find myself being persuaded to tell what He meant to me.

   It got to be almost a joke. Some people make no bones about it: they aren't interested in Alvin Dark talking about religion, what his faith means to him, the strength he gets from it, the meaning it gives to his whole life. Jesus Christ is a hot potato for a lot of sophisticated people, even some Christians. "Please, don't talk about Jesus. It makes us nervous. You might offend our friends. Talk about Charlie Finley instead."

   However, every time the circumstances of my leaving Oakland came up, I was right back into my faith. For example, I went on a sports show in Detroit that winter. The sportscaster spent ten minutes beforehand coaching me, telling me this wasn't a religious hour, just a simple sports show. He didn't want me talking about anything but sports. I said, "Fine. Whatever you say."

   And the first question he asked me was, "Why didn't Mr. Finley rehire you for 1976?"

   There was nothing to do but tell him. For the first fifteen minutes of the show I told him. I told him what I meant by my reference to sin and Hell, about being "lost," and the opportunity Charlie Finley and everybody else had to ask Jesus Christ for

Page 225

forgiveness and allow Him to take control. He couldn't stop me. It was his question.

  The same thing happened time after time. I was, in some respects, a curiosity. A big league manager who stood up for his beliefs, and in a sense, was persecuted for them. I was even in demand. The Lord provided us with as much money speaking in 1976 as I made managing in 1975. I was able to fulfill financial promises I had made to my church in Miami and still keep the cupboard filled at home. It was a growing and learning experience, and I am thankful.

   But I don't kid myself. Baseball is the platform God gave me. I think without a doubt I serve Him best in that field, just as others might as postmen or doctors ("gifts differing according to the grace given to us," Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans).

   I thought I could serve better as coach of the Chicago Cubs, a job I accepted in the winter of 1976. It gave me the chance to reunite with my old friend and benefactor, Herman Franks, who had been named the Cubs manager the year before. Herman and I have always been close — we battled the Dodgers together, we had business deals together — and I have the utmost respect for him.

   I thought I could serve even better as manager of the San Diego Padres, a job I accepted after the 1977 season was well underway. I knew I would have more opportunities as a big league manager than I would as an occasional mumbler-in-the-pulpit. I have no illusions about my speaking ability.

   Certain members of the Oakland A's told me they had begun to feel that same sense of responsibility, the need to put their faith on the line. They said they had come to realize that not only did Christ mean something to them, but that the relationship and the obligation was a two-way street. As big league stars, were they more valued in God's sight? Of course not. But look at it another way. Look at all the people Reggie Jackson can impress when he opens his mouth and something comes out besides salary talk or an argument with Billy Martin.

   Or Sal Bando. I've had letters from Sal since I left Oakland that I wouldn't trade for anything. I especially value an experience we had in 1975. Sal was in the middle of a miserable season by his high standards. In August, he was hitting down around .200 (he finished his career with a .254 average), and I was trying everything to keep him from getting despondent. One day I walked over to him at third base and said, "Sal, you're having a great year in the field."

Page 226

   He laughed. He knew what that meant. He was the leader of the club, and he sure wasn't conducting with his bat. I would have been better off saying nothing.

   He said, "Skip, let me tell you this. Despite how bad I'm hitting, I wouldn't trade 1975 for any year I've had in baseball." He said he had learned so much from our chapel services, and had accepted Christ as his savior.

   Ten days later we were in Texas for a five-gave series. We were leading the league, but not by much. Sal had the worst series I've ever seen a great player have. The night of the fourth game, he reached rock bottom. He was totally ineffective. Afterward, he was talking to Gene Tenace by his locker and I said, "Sal, God may have something better in store for you." I was thinking about him some day becoming a manager, which I think is his destiny. [Bando became a GM with the Brewers]

   Tenace is a kind of Dennis the Menace type. He said, "Yeah, Sal, as bad as you're playing, God probably wants you for Pope." (Webmaster's note: Bando is Catholic).

   The next night was no better for Bando, and we lost for the third time in five games. It's funny how often your won-lost record runs parallel to the playing of your team leader. Anyway, I went around the clubhouse trying to get some spirits up, and not really worrying too much about it (the A's never got very far down) until I came to Sal. He had his face in his hands. He said, "I don't understand it, Skip. The Lord knows baseball means more to me than anything on earth. I just don't understand it."

   I said, "Sal, keep your chin up. God is never in a hurry, and He's never late. Just remember that."

   A month later we were back in Dallas for a doubleheader. The race had tightened up and the pennant was in the balance. We needed every win we could get. The Rangers threw their best two pitchers at us in the doubleheader, Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry. In the eighth inning of the first game, with two on and no outs, Bando came up. My dilemma was classic: Should I let the slumping star hit away, or make him try to move the runners with a bunt? With Jackson and Rudi behind him, the bunt seemed the way to go. Especially the way Sal had been struggling. On the other hand, a big hit at that moment could blow the game open.

   Sal looked to Bobby Winkles in the third-base coaching box since Bobby passed my signs to the batters. I didn't give one. Automatically you hit away in that situation. Sal took a ball. He stepped out and looked again, surely expecting to get the bunt sign. Bobby looked at me. No bunt. Hit away.

Page 227

   Sal hit the next pitch over the left-field fence. We wound up scoring eight runs in the inning and swept the doubleheader. In the dressing room Bando was the center of attention. I went to him and said, "Sal, tremendous. That was just tremendous."

   He said, "Do you remember what you told me a month ago?"

   I said, "About God never being late?"

   "Yeah. I'll never forget it."

   From there to the end of the season, Bando raised his average almost fifty points and was our best hitter in the playoffs.

   As an object lesson, I suppose every manager has such a story to tell, whether a person's faith is involved or not. Some pretty rakish individuals have been known to hit .350, and some pretty sorry life-styles have been held up as examples because of the marvelous things an athlete did with the talent God gave him. I don't intend to argue that point because it's a dead end. Accepting the Christian life isn't going to make you a twenty-game winner or the heavyweight champion. It will help, however in this respect: It will make you a better man, and a lot more sure of what life is all about, and that will give you something to base your ambition on. People who live in spiritual vacuums soon discover that at the center of a vacuum is nothing.

   Unfortunately, most people — Christians included — think they deserve more in life than they're getting. The fact is that if you're born again you won't get what you deserve. Certainly if Alvin Dark got what he deserved he'd be in a pretty sorry state today. The mistakes I've made, the sins I've committed, are spiritual scars I will bear the rest of my life. By the same token, I am convinced that Christ gives me the strength to bear them. They are featherweights compared to what He bore for me.

   The racist issue resurfaces every time I take another job in baseball, but as time goes by the facts of the case are only dimly remembered. My misleading answers to that young reporter's questions long ago have made me pay a thousand times. But the Bible teaches forgiveness; I have forgiven, and been forgiven for a lot worse sins.

   Jackie and I realize, too, that the ghosts will never completely go away. The mistake is believing that God won't let you live with them, or use you again. It doesn't take a Bible scholar to find examples that dispute that notion. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David — they all committed horrible sins in their lives. David might have been the worst. He stole a man's wife, then had the man murdered.

Page 228

David repented and was forgiven, and was used by God again. I'm no David by any means, but I intend to be used as long and as often as there's breath in me.

   I can say without qualification, however, that I don't recommend anyone taking the path we took. Jackie and I are happy now in our marriage, but we have been convinced a thousand times that we were wrong and should never have taken that first fateful step.

   I had a chance not long ago to advise a young man who had what he thought were all the reasons in the world for a divorce. He said, "My wife and I aren't meant for each other. We just can't cut it." He said he had prayed about it, but there was another girl. He loved the girl so much there was no doubt in his mind what he should do. He came to me thinking I had been down that road and could sympathize with him.

   I didn't sympathize. I gave him the full load. I said, "Billy [that's not his name], you're as selfish as you can be. You're just like I was, letting pride get in your life. Jackie and I got to that point. We wanted nothing else but each other. It was wrong for us and it's wrong for you. What you're doing is a sin, and I know it better than anybody. If you go through with this thing, you'll be the sorriest person in the world. This isn't love. This is plain old sin."

   I said everything I could to stop him, to keep him and his wife together. Jackie talked with the girl, and we told them together, "Don't put us up as examples." I told them Jackie was the only one I ever sat and prayed with, and read the Bible with, and it was still painful to us.

   The young man didn't leave his wife. They stayed together, and seem very happy when we see them. I had to think how God can turn around your worst mistakes to His honor.

   The subject here, ostensibly, has been the managing of baseball teams. But I have reached a point in my life, after many trials and more than a few tribulations, where I am convinced of what I said earlier: You can't manage anything or anybody until you first learn to manage yourself. For me that was not possible until I put God in His rightful place — first.

   I intended to manage in San Diego with the same patience and understanding I had, or tried to have, in Oakland. Long years ago my friend Eddie Stanky and I came to have a mutually shared obsession. We would someday manage a big league team. The chance to do so, with all the excitement and strategies, with all the fun of handling the greatest athletes in the greatest game there is,

Page 229

was available to me at an early age. Today my enthusiasm for it is greater than ever, and I feel I have more to offer now, that God has given me more to offer.

   When Buzzie Bavasi called me from San Diego about the Padres job, we discussed everything but salary. We discussed rules (I had a few in mind), we discussed players (I was pleased to be reunited with Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace), we discussed everything but money. I had to laugh. When he got back to me and I accepted, Buzzie said that Mr. Ray Kroc, the owner, who is also chairman of the board of McDonald's, was amazed that I had not asked for a salary figure. Buzzie said Mr. Kroc told him, "He sounds like just the man we need."

   Buzzie was the Padres' general manager. He told me there was "security" managing for him. That he "seldom changed managers." The record shows, however, that Alvin Dark lasted the '77 season, but before the next season Buzzie Bavasi was gone. And so was Dark — right in the middle of spring training.

   I started this narrative by pointing out that if you aspire to manage in baseball you can count on getting fired for the wrong reasons. I'd like to oblige you with a few more examples from San Diego, but the frame of reference isn't very broad or clear when you're caught in a revolving door. I barely made it to the registration desk. In many respects, it was the silliest hiring-and-firing sequence of them all, which I suppose makes it pretty typical at that.

   Mr. Kroc, king of the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder, and the Egg McMuffin, is an intelligent man and a fine gentleman. He said, when we first talked, "The reason I hired you was to bring discipline to this club." He said there was talent there that needed shepherding, that he wanted me to "teach the Padres to be winners." They had never finished higher than fourth place. "Trade, make changes, try things," he said. "Do what it takes."

   So I made some changes, and influenced some trades, and did some of the things I thought necessary. And got the usual feedback. Some players got upset, some front-office people complained, some writers got on me. I expected that.

   I put in a no-drinking rule on team flights right away, not for moral or religious reasons but because in thirty-two years in baseball I've never had a player come to me and say, "Boy, I'm so glad for all the drinking I did, the way it helped my career." Ryne Duren and Don Newcombe have written books recently about

Page 230

what drinking did to their careers, and it wasn't pretty. I figure if I can add two or three years to a young man's career at that point when he has reached the highest level of his earning power, I owe it to him and the club to try.

   I also feel that professional athletes don't project much of an image when they file off a plane pie-eyed. They have to walk through airports, check into hotels. Or, worse, face their wives and children. What they do in private — when they get to their rooms, when they get home — is their business, but the impact they make in public is the club's. The only time I ever had to break up a fight on a team plane was when guys were drinking. This is not as radical a rule as some would make it. The Dodgers, Astros, and Reds have the same rule.

   Anyway, I went about my job in San Diego looking to make improvements, planning for the future. We were lacking in so many areas. After I'd been around the league once I said, "If we can play five-hundred ball the rest of the way, I'll be happy." From June 28 to September 7, we won 32 and lost 32, a pace I could live with for a while. Not everybody could. I picked up a paper and sure enough, a columnist was quoting a "very good source" as saying that I'd soon be fired.

   When Buzzie resigned, he said a "triangle" had existed on the club: Mr. Kroc, Buzzie, and me. I was pictured as operating behind Buzzie's back. Well, if talking to Mr. Kroc was going behind Buzzie's back, I'm guilty. Mr. Kroc asked me to keep him posted, and I did. It's his club, his money. I never once said a single derogatory word about Buzzie Bavasi, though, and anyone who says otherwise is going to have a longer nose in the morning.

   Bob Fontaine took over as general manager. He had been Buzzie's assistant and had never sat in the first chair before. Buzzie had told me in 1977 that I wasn't his choice, I was Mr. Kroc's choice. Fontaine let me know soon enough that he felt the same way.

   In case you're wondering what a manager's chances are in a situation like that, I'll tell you: None. He's a dead duck. If the general manager doesn't back the manager with the players, the press, and the owner, the manager might as well head for the bus station.

   When the other shoe fell, we were in Yuma, Arizona, at our spring base, getting ready for an exhibition game. I won't bore you with the details because they're too petty, but it came out that I had a "communications problem." I have to say that this is true in

Page 231

one respect — I didn't communicate too well with Bob Fontaine.

   It is also true that I wanted to find a replacement for Roger Craig as our pitching coach, not because I didn't think Roger had ability. I do. But sometimes you make a change in baseball the way you might if you're a professional golfer looking to get a second opinion on your swing. You go to another pro. A chance to get a new slant, maybe shake things up a little.

   I told Fontaine I wanted to bring in Chuck Estrada, who was coaching our minor league pitchers. He said, "Definitely not. I have other things in mind for Chuck Estrada." When Roger Craig was named to succeed me as manager, guess who made Chuck Estrada the Padres' pitching coach?

   I felt it was disgraceful that I didn't even get the chance to start a season with the Padres, and I told Fontaine so. But in public I wished everybody well and told Mr. Kroc he'd be in my prayers. Mel Durslag, the Los Angeles columnist, wrote that Dark is "impervious to pain ... San Diego can't hurt him," and he was almost right. I'm not impervious to pain, but I know that in the long run there's nothing on this earth that can hurt me, certainly not a lost job.

   Durslag had followed the Padres longer than I, so I suppose he was well within his province to rap them for firing me. He called it the action of a "green" ownership, and said that "when a manager is detached in March, the ownership had better sit down for quiet introspection. The problem is closer to home than it suspects."

   But the thing Durslag wrote that pleased me most — if I needed to be reminded why I had grown to love managing so much, the being involved, the teaching — was that I was "one of the most knowledgeable men in baseball." He quoted Sparky Anderson as saying that my handling of the A's in the 1974 World Series "was the most perfect piece of managing I've ever seen," something I did not realize Sparky had said. Durslag quoted Sal Bando as saying that I knew more about operating a game from the bench than anybody. When people like that are for you, who can be against you?

   Ironically, the day I was fired the team we played in Yuma was the team of my young manhood, the Giants. It gave me a chance to say my good-byes to some dear old friends: Joe Altobelli, now their manager ... Dave Bristol ... Jim Davenport ... Frankie Bagazi. Guys I've known for years. They came around and wished me well. Some had tears in their eyes.

Page 232

   The continuing, overriding irony of managing, however, is this: Freed from the influence of Alvin Dark, whose salary they are obliged to pay for two more years, the Padres are still struggling. They are still striving for .500. They are still in the second division. For a manager, gone on to the next bus stop, the temptation is to feel vindicated or bitter. I can truthfully say that for me it is neither. I wish nothing but the best for owners like Mr. Kroc, who try so hard to satisfy their fans, and for the players I got to know in San Diego.

   Billy Almon, a Padres infielder, was one of those. He took me aside that last day in Yuma and told me something I'll treasure forever. Something that makes me realize why God keeps jerking me back into this business.

   Billy said, "Skip, when I was growing up my dad was very tough on me. He was a strict disciplinarian. But he loved me very much. He told me, 'Billy, it's always for your benefit I do these things.' You've been just like my dad. From the first day with this club, I've been learning, and I appreciate what you've tried to do. Every day I look forward to coming to the ball park."

   So do I.

   One last thing and I'm done. On our second trip into St. Louis in 1977, Buzzie Bavasi called me, laughing. "You wanna hear something funny, Alvin?"


   "I got a telephone call today from Charlie Finley."


   "He's already talking about firing Bobby Winkles. He said, 'Buzzie, you wanna make some news?' I said, 'Whaddya mean, Charlie?' He said, 'Let's trade managers — Winkles for Dark. It'd be an all-time first for baseball.' "

   I said, "You gotta be kidding. He's gotta be kidding."

   Buzzie said, "No, he was dead serious."

   Come to think of it, he probably was.   

Alvin Dark's Testimony

   During my earlier days in baseball, if anyone had told me that one day I would exchange a bat and the dugout for a Bible, golf clubs, and attendance at a women's Bible class, I would have laughed it off as the joke of the year.

   Yet beginning in 1971, when I was on what you might call a "sabbatical leave" from baseball, all this came to pass. I'd been fired as manager of the Cleveland Indians after a losing year that had resulted in low attendance at the gate and a squeeze on money.

   Everybody in baseball knows that firing is part of the game, but it's not something you ever get used to. At that same time, I was struggling with some deep family problems too. Underneath I was hurting and plagued with bouts of depression.

   The golf clubs came first. With two and a half years remaining on my contract and a steady income, I decided to submerge myself in a game I'd played at intervals during my professional baseball career. My wife Jackie and I happened to live on a golf course in Miami, which made playing golf easy and convenient. Before long I was on the fairways five or six days a week. With all that practice I got better and better and drove myself to become the best amateur around. I knew I was neglecting my wife and our children, Lori and Rusty but, caught up in my golfing mania, I couldn't help myself.

   Secretly I was glad when Jackie started attending a Thursday morning Bible class at our church. Each week she came home excited about what she was learning and enthusiastic about the Bible teachings. I began to notice an upward swing in her outlook and a perking up of her spirits.

   After a few weeks, she began inviting me to go with her.

   "Any men in the group?" I asked


   "Then I'll just play golf."

   Jackie didn't give up easily. Almost every week, she'd invite me again.

   "Any men there yet?" was my stock question.

   When she'd shake her head no, I'd pull out my golf gear.

   This went on for awhile, until one morning I started feeling guilty. I was surprised to hear my own voice, "Wait for me. I'm going too."

   Jackie didn't say a word when I wore my golf clothes and sat in the back row. If the class went on too long, I figured I could slip out to the golf course without being noticed. Naturally, I felt uncomfortable about being the only man in a group of at least 100 women, but I stayed for the entire session.

   The same thing happened the next Thursday, and the next. I found myself enjoying each class taught by the teacher Barbara Stevenson and looking forward to the next Thursday. Coupled with the great preaching of our pastor, Dr. A. C. Janney, this class taught me that I could not walk in obedience to the Lord if I didn't know His Word.

   I guess you could even say I fell in love with the Bible. Though I'd received Jesus Christ as my Saviour at age 11 and had begun to tithe with my paper-route income, I had never gotten into God's Word before. Now for the first time, I was studying Scripture and trying to understand its depth.

   I'm no scholar, but I found it helped to memorize verses and relate them to my life. Just as important, I was receiving assurance that, despite all my sin and rebellion, Jesus Christ loved me and wanted me to make Him Lord of my life.

   Some of the men in my church began to gripe about the impact my new preoccupation was having on their home life.

   "My wife tells me you're in her Bible study class every week," one friend complained. "She's insisting that if Alvin Dark can be there, so can I. You're putting me on the spot, Alvin!"

   The pressures in some of their homes must have been too much. Before long eight male companions joined me on the back row.

   Each week I was reading 44 chapters of the Bible in compliance with our homework assignment. I have never been an avid reader, so for me to make such a commitment was a big step. Then Jackie and I made the discovery that it was exciting to read the Bible together.

   It was a little like searching for buried treasure. "Listen, did you know this?" one of us would ask, reading a certain verse aloud. "Isn't the Lord good?"

   "He had this verse written just for me," the other might answer.

   Paul writes in Romans 2:4, "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" - and it did!

   When we heard that the church was starting a course in Christian counseling to be held Thursday afternoon with our same wonderful teacher,I said to Jackie, "I suppose you want us to join that one too."

   "Can we?" she asked.

   Almost without thinking I said, "Sure, why not?" I knew I could squeeze in a round or so of golf between the two sessions.

   As part of this study, I learned to relate myself to some of the men of God in the Bible, Abraham, Job, Moses, David, Peter, and others — they'd all had periods of disobedience, but that didn't stop God from love them or using them again, once they had repented.

   Those men gradually became more real in my life and offered important examples on how nothing in life is right if y our priorities are mixed up. My own had been baseball, baseball, baseball, and then golf and more golf. Finally down the line came family and God.

   I knew I needed to ask God to forgive me and turn my life over to Christ to use for His glory. I also knew I needed to set new priorities according to God's will, putting Him first, then family, and then my work.

   Toward the end of our second year of Bible study, I began to speak in churches. One afternoon Edwin Pope, a sports editor for the Miami Herald, called to discuss the upcoming World Series. During the next 20 minutes we talked baseball, but at the end of the conversation, he said, "By the way, I understand you tithe."

   "Yes, I do. But there's a lot more to the Christian life than just tithing," I answered. Then I filled him in on some of the principles from the Word of God and how they were changing our lives as we applied them.

   "Edwin, I don't know how much of this you can write without my coming off as a 'goody-two-shoes'," I remarked, "for the Lord, you, and I know how far I am from that."

   I doubted that he'd write about the religious part at all. But the next morning I saw that his column hardly mentioned our talk about baseball, but he had quoted many of my remarks about my faith in Christ and His Word.

   When I got back into baseball in 1974, first as manager of the Oakland Athletics, then as coach of the Chicago Cubs, and in 1977 until early 1978, as manager of the San Diego Padres, my faith was tested over and over. A big league manager who stood up for his beliefs and talked about the Bible was a curiosity. I was not particularly popular, but the Lord reminded my family and me of God's peace. He taught us to take all our insults to Him and leave them there. "Great peace have they which love They Law: and nothing shall offend them." (Psalm 119:165).

   At the same time, being back in the game opened many opportunities to tell others about Christ.

   During that period, baseball was the platform God gave me. I accepted many invitations to speak before church groups and tell others of God's love and faithfulness.

   Sometimes a player would come to talk with me about some of the difficulties he was facing. I always took him to the only source of truth I know - the Word of God.

   Today Jackie and I travel constantly, bragging about what Jesus Christ has done for us and telling others what He will do for any who seek His will.

   "Don't you miss baseball?" I am often asked as I travel. "Baseball is my business," I replay. It has been for 30 years, and I believe I know it well. But it is not my life, Jesus Christ is the center of that.

   If an opportunity came to manage again (where both the owner and general manager wanted me and had confidence in me), I would enjoy the opportunity to get back into the great game of baseball. But I would have to feel accepted, with my banner clear.

   I would declare with the Apostle Paul, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) (Or to the baseball player).

   The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It tells us in John 1:12, "But as many as received Him (Christ), to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name."

   Since all ball players and fans deal in statistics, here are some to consider:

   "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

   "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:28

   "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

   When ball players began to realize that Jesus Christ died for them personally so that they could be saved from the penalty of their sins, and have eternal life in Heaven, by the scores they have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They could not turn away from such love. Jesus loves you like that!

   Will you receive Him into your heart today?

Click Here to Start Reading at Chapter One

All rights reserved. Used by permission. No portion of this online edition of the book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, except for brief quotations for the purpose of review, comment, or scholarship, without written permission from the author.

When in Doubt, Fire the Manager is hosted online by ccel.us

christian books online books