Next to wrestling alligators and pinching strange blondes, the occupation offering the minimum of security is coaching a college football team. The one guaranteeing the maximum is managing a big league baseball team.
Big league managers are the career men of the baseball bureaucracy, members of the most exclusive gentlemen's sporting club in the world. It is as difficult to crash this tight little coterie as to scale San Quentin's wall, though social requirements for admission are not necessarily more demanding.
Old managers seldom die and never fade away; they just keep changing places eternally in an unending game of musical chairs. Under the rules of the game, somebody is always left standing, for there are more players than seats. The standees aren't eliminated, though. Next time the piano strikes up, they pounce.
Since the 1953 season ended, Birdie Tebbetts has squatted in Rogers Horns-by's place in Cincinnati, Walter Alston in Charley Dressen's in Brooklyn, Eddie Joost in Jimmy Dykes' in Philadelphia, Dykes in Marty Marion's in Baltimore, Stan Hack in Phil Cavarretta's in Chicago, Terry Moore in Steve O'Neill's in Philadelphia, Paul Richards in Dykes' in Baltimore, and Marion in Richards' in Chicago.
Last week Bucky Harris left his seat in Washington, Terry Moore was shifting uneasily on his, and the financial props gave way under Eddie Joost.
And here comes Charley Dressen again.
In 30 seasons as a manager, Bucky Harris has directed, in order, the Senators, Tigers, Red Sox, Senators, Phillies, Buffalo, the Yankees, San Diego and the Senators. His team never has finished last. When he had the poorest players in the league, he induced them to outhustle somebody else.
THE BEST TEAM LOST
Baseball writers admire many qualities in Harris, above all his candor. Some had a sample of this as early as 1925. His Washington club, having won the World Championship of 1924 in Harris' first season as manager, had lost the next World Series to the Pirates. Anticipating a stock answer, newspapermen asked a stock question:
"Well, Bucky, do you want to say the best team won?"
"I do not!" Harris snapped. "Pittsburgh was not the best team. We weren't the best team when we beat the Giants last year. The best team lost both years."
Last week Clark Griffith, the Washington owner, announced Harris' resignation—at Harris' request, he said. In Boston, Harris told reporters: "Believe what you like. No manager ever resigns. I've been through it before."
After 30 years, the single adverse criticism heard from baseball men regarding Harris' work is that he manages a team from 2 to 5 p.m. He expects a ball player to be ready for the big leagues when he arrives, and he does not see himself as a schoolmaster teaching fundamentals to children in morning practice.
Dressen is a different cup of tea. If he ever read a book, or attended a play, or visited a museum, the fact was not publicly disclosed. Baseball occupies his days and nights, and neither is quiet. He is knowledgeable in baseball matters, shrewd, quick-witted and extravagantly proud of his cunning. He delights in outwitting any adversary, especially Leo Durocher, whom he served as coach when Durocher managed Brooklyn. When he does put over a fast one he crows about it so exuberantly as to create the impression that he admires guile above excellence.
Dressen is a bubbling, gregarious, good-humored little guy, difficult to dislike and incapable of holding a grudge. Yet he has a gift for saying and doing graceless things on impulse. Scores of ball players resented it when, as manager of the Dodgers, he openly accused one of his pitchers of cowardice. Months later in a ghost-written magazine piece, he cited the incident as an achievement in handling men.
His wide reputation as a judge of pitchers appears to be deserved. Joe Black was among those who disagreed, claiming that Dressen had ruined him with trick stuff. Under Walter Alston and Ted Lyons, Joe did not improve.
"I made a mistake," is not an admission characteristic of Dressen. After talking himself out of Brooklyn, whose team seemed destined to go on winning indefinitely, he encountered Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a Dodger fan whose horse, Native Dancer, was then carrying Eric Guerin to one smashing victory after another.
"Think I made the right move?" Dressen asked.
"If you did," Vanderbilt said, "Guerin should take himself off Native Dancer."
Should children be stopped from playing baseball on the streets on Sunday mornings while you are trying to sleep?
Yes, said the New Jersey Supreme Court, because "the experience of mankind has shown that in addition to the ordinary rest which the workingman is supposed to obtain each night, he needs occasionally a whole day of complete rest, which by common consent has been fixed by Christian peoples to be Sunday."