The newly elected president of the Baseball Writers, Columnist Shirley Povich, advises Charley Dressen that he'll be up against austerity baseball with the Senators where the Griffiths still make the decisions
Charles Dressen is the new manager of the Washington Baseball Club, but it isn't clear yet whether he was signed or trapped. He put his signature to a two-year contract and there were happy smiles all-around for the newsreels, but how lasting they will be must remain a matter for speculation.
According to Dressen, he turned down two other managerial jobs in the majors and signed with the Griffiths willfully. If that is a sample of his astuteness, the Nats perhaps came up with the wrong man—a brave one of unchallenged valor but a rainbow-chaser who doesn't know the score in Washington.
A LESSON TO LEARN
October 11, 1954
You could almost see the smirk on the face of Vice President Calvin Griffith when Dressen indicated to reporters that he, as the new manager, would be solidly enthroned in the Nats' organization, with a powerful voice in the buying of players and the development of the farm system. Dressen would be manager and virtually general manager, it was reported.
He'll learn. He'll learn that nobody runs the Washington ball club except the Griffiths. There's no interference with the manager on the field, but the manager makes no decisions otherwise. The front office is a tight little family affair and the managers can only make requests, never a demand. Whatever Dressen seeks, it must go through channels. The Griffiths aren't abdicating to anybody.
They went high for Dressen, with a $35,000 salary figure as the best estimate in the absence of any official figure. There was a reason for it. The Griffiths were panicked. Dwindling attendance, increased muttering by Washington fans, no dividends in recent years goaded them into a kind of desperation. A colorful manager, even if he came high, was a device.
Dressen isn't walking into anything lush except the money he is getting for the job. The Nats haven't finished in the first division in eight years. Their farm system is a joke. Their first-line talent is thin. Their bench is paltry. Bucky Harris worked a minor miracle to get them as close to the first division as they were. Dressen is taking over a club that doesn't figure to win one more game than it did the past season.
For a man inured to baseball operations on a top-drawer scale, Dressen could be quickly disabused. After all, he spent his last 16 years in the majors with the Yankees and Dodgers, where a manager had simply to indicate a need and up popped the finest talent from the minor leagues. Chattanooga, Charlotte and Hagerstown are not Kansas City, Montreal and Oakland, and Joe Cambria is not Paul Kritchell.
For their money, the Griffiths are getting at least a type in Dressen. He's a real switch from the deep calm of Bucky Harris. Dressen has to be an exciting guy. He always was. He storms and rants in the Durocher tradition and he lights up a playing field with his frequent excursions onto the diamond, whether he's fretting with the umpires or jerking pitchers or talking to hitters or generally taking charge.
TEST OF GENIUS
Dressen, it must be remembered, though, was no managerial success at Cincinnati where in four seasons his teams finished eighth, sixth, fifth and eighth. Like Casey Stengel, who was also a flop as a big-league manager until he hooked up with the right club, Dressen's success came later when he took over the Dodgers and won two pennants in three years.
Washington will test Dressen's genius. The stuff the Griffiths are giving him is not to be confused with his talent at Brooklyn. He can't walk into the front office and ask them to bring up Duke Snider from Montreal or Roy Campanella from St. Paul, or Carl Erskine from Fort Worth. Charley has just joined up with austerity baseball.
Each week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED will reprint an outstanding sports column from a daily newspaper. The writer will receive a prize of $250.