I am asked tospeak of the game," said Branch Rickey, restating a question that had beenput to him, "I am asked to reflect upon my own part in it. At the age of73, on the eve of a new baseball season, I am importuned to muse aloud, totouch upon those things that come first to mind."
Seated in hisoffice at Forbes Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Branch Rickeynibbled at an unlighted cigarette and sniffed the proposition like a mansuddenly come upon a beef stew simmering on a kitchen stove.
Abruptly he threwhimself back in his chair and clasped his hands over his head and stared up atthe ceiling. He looked 10 years younger than his actual age. Thanks to ahigh-protein, hamburger-for-breakfast diet, he was 30 pounds lighter than hehad been three months before. His complexion was ruddy and his thick brown hairshowed only a little gray at the temples. Now his great bushy eyebrows shot upand he prayed aloud:
"Lord make mehumble, make me grateful...make me tolerant!"
March 7, 1955
Slowly he camedown from the ceiling and put his elbows on the desk. Unconsciously, perhaps, ahand strayed across the desk to a copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Thehand was that of an old-time catcher, big, strong and gnarled. He turned slowlyin his chair and swept his eyes over the little gallery of framed photographson the wall. Among them were George Sisler, Rickey's first great discovery, oneof the greatest of the left-handed hitters, now at work down the hall as chiefof Pittsburgh scouts; Rogers Hornsby, the game's greatest right-handed hitter,a betting man for whom Rickey once dared the wrath of baseball's highcommissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis; Jackie Robinson, chosen by Rickey as theman to break down baseball's color line; Honus Wagner, the immortal Pittsburghshortstop, now past 80, at this moment growing weaker by the day at hissister's house across town; Charley Barrett, the old Cardinal scout, Rickey'sright arm in the days when St. Louis was too poor to make a Southern trainingtrip.
Turning back tohis desk, Rickey grimaced and then spoke rapidly, almost harshly:
"Of my careerin baseball, let us say first of all that there have been the appearances ofhypocrisy. Here we have the Sunday school mollycoddle, apparently professing asort of public virtue in refraining from playing or watching a game of baseballon Sunday. And yet at the same time he is not above accepting money from a tillreplenished by Sunday baseball."
He paused and bitthe unlighted cigarette in two. He dropped his voice:
"A deeplypersonal thing. Something not to be exploited, not to be put forwardprotestingly at every whisper of criticism. No, a deeply personal thing. Aman's promise, a promise to his mother. Not involving a condemnation ofbaseball on Sunday, nor of others who might desire to play it or watch it onSunday. Simply one man's promise—and it might as well have been a promise notto attend the theater or band concerts in the park."
His eyes wentaround the room and were held for a moment by the blackboard that lists theplayers on the 15 ball clubs in the Pittsburgh farm system. His lips moved andthe words sounded like, "But is the boy ready for New Orleans?" Then,with a quick movement, he leaned across the desk and waggled an accusingfinger.
"Hell'sfire!" he exploded. "The Sunday school mollycoddle, the bluenose, theprohibitionist has been a liberal! No, no, no—this has nothing to do withJackie Robinson, I contend that there was no element of liberalism there. Iwill say something about that perhaps, but now the plain everyday things—thegambling, the drinking, the...other things. I submit that I have been a liberalabout them!"
He was silent. Hedid not mention or even hint at the names of managers who won major leaguepennants after everyone but Branch Rickey had quit on them; nor the men whogladly acknowledge that they are still in baseball because of the confidenceRickey placed in them.
The telephonewith the private number rang. Branch Rickey picked it up and traded SouthpawPaul La Palme to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ben Wade, a relief pitcher."You announce it," he said into the phone, "and just say La Palmefor Wade and an unannounced amount of cash. We'll talk about a Class Aballplayer later. Anybody but a catcher. I don't need a catcher at thatlevel." He put down the phone and his eyes twinkled. "Later in the dayI may make a deal with Brooklyn," he said, "if I can get up thenerve." As things turned out, either he did not get up the nerve or he wasunable to interest the Flatbush authorities.
He whirled aroundin his chair and stared out the window. He could see, if he was noticing, theend of a little street that runs down from Hotel Schenley to the ball park. Itis called Pennant Place, a reminder of happier days for the Pittsburgh fans,now so ashamed of their eighth-place Pirates that only a few of them show up atthe ball park—even for doubleheaders.
Rickey ran bothhands furiously through his thick hair.
"A mantrained for the law," he said, "devotes his entire life and all hisenergies to something so cosmically unimportant as a game."
He examinedminutely what was left of his cigarette. Carefully, he extracted a singlestrand of tobacco and looked at it closely before letting it fall to the floor.Usually he chews unlighted cigars, but this day it was a cigarette.
He began tolaugh.
"Thelaw," he chuckled, "I might have stayed in the law. I do not laugh atthe great profession itself. I am laughing at a case I had one time—the onlycase I ever had as a full-time practicing attorney. I had gone to Boise, Idahofrom Saranac to try to gain back my strength after recovering fromtuberculosis. I got an office and hung out a shingle and waited for theclients. None came. Finally, I was in court one day and the judge appointed meattorney for a man who was being held on a charge the newspapers used todescribe as white slavery.
"I wasapprehensive, but at last I summoned enough courage to go over to the jail andsee my client. Oh, he was a horrible creature. I can see him now, walkingslowly up to the bars and looking me up and down with contempt. He terrifiedme. I began to shake like a leaf. After a minute he said, 'Who the hell areyou?'
"I tried todraw myself up a little and then I said, 'Sir, my name is Branch Rickey. Thecourt has appointed me your attorney and I would like to talk to you.' Helooked me up and down again and then spat at my feet. Then he delivered whatturned out to be the final words of our association. He said, 'Get the hell outof here!' "
Rickey threw backhis head.
"I not onlygot out of there," he said, "I got out of the state of Idaho and wentto St. Louis and took a job with the St. Louis Browns. I intended to stay inbaseball for just one year. But when the year was up, Mr. Robert Lee Hedges,the owner, offered me a raise. There was a new baby at our house. And not muchmoney, new or old. So I was a moral coward. I chose to stay with thegame."
Rickey thought amoment.
"I might havegone into politics," he said. "As recently as 14 years ago, there wasthe offer of a nomination for a political office. A governorship. Thegovernorship, in fact, of Missouri. I was tempted, flattered. But, then as Iventured a little into the political arena, I was appalled by my own ignoranceof politics. But the party leaders were persuasive. They pledged me the fullsupport of the regular party organization. They said they could not prevent anyBilly Jumpup from filing, but no Billy Jumpup would have the organization'sbacking. It is an overwhelming thing to be offered such prospects of reachinghigh office. I thought it over carefully and then tentatively agreed to run, oncondition that another man—a seasoned campaigner—run on the ticket with me. Hesaid that was utterly impossible. He invited me to go with him to New York andtalk to Mr. Herbert Hoover about the situation in Missouri. But afterward Istill was unable to persuade my friend to run. He was Arthur Hyde, Secretary ofAgriculture under Mr. Hoover. Later I learned to my sorrow the reason for Mr.Hyde's decision. He was even then mortally ill. So, regretfully, I asked thatmy name be withdrawn. The man who ran in my place was elected and then went onto the United States Senate.
"So,conceivably, I might have been a governor. Instead, I chose to stay with thegame."
Rickey madeelaborate gestures of straightening the papers on his desk.
"A life ofpublic service," he said, peering over his glasses, "versus a lifedevoted to a game that boys play with a ball and bat."
He turned andpicked up a baseball from a bookcase shelf.
"Thisball," he said, holding it up.
"This symbol.Is it worth a man's whole life?"
There was justtime for another mussing of the hair before the phone rang again.
"Pooh,"said Rickey into the phone after a moment. "Three poohs. Pooh-bah." Hehung up.
"I waslistening last night to one of the television interview programs," he said."Senator Knowland was being interrogated. It was a discussion on a highlevel and the questions involved matters affecting all of us and all the world.I was listening intently and then I heard the senator say, 'Well, I think theAdministration has a pretty good batting average.' "
Rickey blew outhis cheeks and plucked a shred of tobacco from his lips.
"It must havebeen a full minute later," he went on, "and the questions had gone onto other things when I sat straight up. Suddenly I realized that to answer asomewhat difficult question this United States senator had turned naturally tothe language of the game. And this language, this phrase 'a pretty good battingaverage,' had said exactly what he wanted to say. He had not intended to befrivolous. The reporters did not smile as though he had made a joke. Theyaccepted the answer in the language of the game as perfectly proper. It wasinstantly recognizable to them. I dare say it was recognizable even inLondon."
He frowned,thinking hard. Then his face lit up again.
"The gameinvades our language!" he exclaimed. "Now, the editorial page of theNew York Times is a serious forum, not ordinarily given to levity. Yet at theheight of the controversy between the Army and Senator McCarthy, there was theline on this dignified editorial page, 'Senator McCarthy—a good fast ball, butno control.' "
Rickey slappedhis thigh and leaned over the desk.
"Now, didn'tthat tell the whole story in a sentence?"
He waved an arm,granting himself the point.
He cherished hisremnant of a cigarette.
"A man wastelling me the other day," he went on, "he said he was walking throughTimes Square in New York one blistering day last summer. The temperature stoodat 100° and the humidity made it almost unbearable. This man happened to fallin behind three postmen walking together. Their shirts were wringing wet andtheir mail-bags were heavily laden. It struck this man that these postmen mightwell be irritable on such a day and, since he saw that they were talkinganimatedly, he drew closer so that he might hear what they were saying. Heexpected, of course, that they would be complaining bitterly of their dull drabjobs on this abominable day. But when he had come close enough to hear them,what were they talking about with such spirit and relish?"
He paused foreffect, then with a toss of his head, he exploded:
"Leo Durocherand the New York Giants!"
Carefully, he putdown his cigarette butt. Then he leaned back and rubbed his eyes with the backof his fists. He tore furiously at his hair and half swallowed a yawn.
"Mrs. Rickeyand I," he said, "sat up until 2 o'clock this morning playinghearts."
He straightenedthe papers on his desk and said as an aside: "I contend it is the mostscientific card game in the world."
He searched theceiling for the point he was developing, found it and came down again.
"The threepostmen, heavily laden on a hot, miserable day, yet able to find a happy,common ground in their discussion of this game of baseball. And in their freetime, in their hours of leisure, if they had no other interest to turn to,still there was the game to bring color and excitement and good wholesomeinterest into their lives."
He took up thefragment of paper and tobacco that was left of the cigarette as though it werea precious jewel.
"Leisure," he said, sending his eyebrows aloft, "is a hazardousthing. Hero in America we do not yet have a leisure class that knows what to dowith it. Leisure can produce something fine. It may also produce somethingevil. Hell's fire! Leisure can produce a great symphony, a great painting, agreat book."
He whirled aroundto the window and peered out at Pennant Place. Then, turning back like apitcher who has just cased the situation at second base, he let go hard.
"Gee!" hecried. "Leisure can also produce a great dissipation! Leisure can beidleness and idleness can drive a man to his lowest!"
He recoiled, asfrom a low man standing at the side of his desk.
"Idleness isthe worst thing in this world. Idleness is doing nothing and thinking of wrongthings to do. Idleness is the evil that lies behind the juvenile delinquencythat alarms us all. It's the most damnable thing that can happen to a kid—tohave nothing to do."
He put thetattered cigarette butt in his mouth and spoke around it.
"The gamethat gives challenge to our youth points the way to our salvation. Thecompetitive spirit, that's the all-important thing. The stultifying thing inthis country is the down-pressure on competition, the some-thing-for-nothingphilosophy, the do-as-little-as-you-can creed—these are the most devastatinginfluences today. This thinking is the kind that undermines a man's characterand can undermine the national character as well."
COBB AND WILLIEMAYS
He studied hisshreds of cigarette with the deliberation of a diamond cutter.
"Labor andtoil," he intoned, "by the sweat of thy brow shalt thou earn thy bread.Labor and toil—and something else. A joy in work, a zest. Zest, that is theword. Who are the great ballplayers of all time? The ones with zest. Ty Cobb.Willie Mays. The man down the hall, one of the very greatest, George Sisler.Dizzy Dean. Pepper Martin. We have one coming back to us this year here atPittsburgh. Dick Groat. He has it. Highly intelligent, another Lou Boudreau,the same kind of hitter. He has it. Zest."
Rickey smiled."Dick Groat will be one of the great ones. There will be others this year.We have 110 boys coming out of service, 475 players under contract on all ourclubs. A total of $496,000 invested in player bonuses. There will be other goodprospects for the Pirates among these boys. This ball club of ours will come intime. No promises for this year, but in '56, I think, yes."
He turned to lookdown the street to Pennant Place, then added: "A contending team in '56—atleast that."
(At thebarbershop in Hotel Schenley it is related that Rickey's defense of hiseighth-place ball club is considerably less detailed. "Patience!" hecries, anticipating the hecklers as he enters the shop.)
The door openedand Harold Roettger, Rickey's assistant, entered the room. A round-faced,studious-looking man, Roettger has been with Rickey since the old St. LouisCardinal days. He was in the grip of a heavy cold.
"Do youremember a boy named Febbraro?" he asked, sniffling, "in the ProvincialLeague?"
"Febbraro,Febbraro," said Rickey, frowning. "A pitcher. I saw him work in a nightgame."
"That's theboy," said Roettger, wiping his eyes. "He's been released."
"Aha,"said Rickey, "yes, I remember the boy well. Shall we sign him?"
"We ought totalk about it," said Roettger, fighting a sneeze.
"Harold,"said Rickey, "Richardson [Tommy Richardson, president of the EasternLeague) is coming down for a meeting tomorrow. I wish you could be there. Idevoutly wish you were not ill."
"I, too,devoutly wish I were not ill," said Roettger. "I'll go home now andmaybe I'll be ready for the meeting."
"Please trynot to be ill tomorrow," said Rickey. "I desperately need you at themeeting."
"I will tryvery hard," said Roettger, "and will you think about Febbraro?"
"I will,"said Rickey. "Go home now, Harold, and take care of yourself."
(Later, Roettgerrecovered from his cold and signed Febbraro for Williamsport in the EasternLeague.)
As Roettger left,Rickey searched for the thread of his soliloquy.
"Hornsby," he said suddenly, "Rogers Hornsby, a man with zest forthe game. And Leo, of course.
"Leo Durocherhas come a long way, off the field as well as on. A quick mind, a brilliantmind, an indomitable spirit. A rugged ballplayer—and I like rugged ballplayers.But when he came to St. Louis, Leo was in trouble. No fewer than 32 creditorswere breathing down his neck, suing or threatening to sue. An impossiblesituation. I proposed that I go to his creditors and arrange for weeklypayments on his debts. This meant a modest allowance of spending money for Leohimself. But he agreed.
"There wereother matters to be straightened out. Leo's associates at the time were hardlydesirable ones. But he was not the kind of man to take kindly to any criticismof his friends. I thought a lot about Leo's associations, but I didn't see whatI could do about them.
"Then one dayduring the winter I received a call from the United States Naval Academy atAnnapolis. The Academy needed a baseball coach and they asked if I couldrecommend a man. I said I thought I could and would let them know.
"I knew myman. But I didn't dare tell him right away. Instead, I called his wife[Durocher was then married to Grace Dozier, a St. Louis fashion designer] andasked her to drop in at the office. When she arrived, I told her that Iintended to recommend Leo as baseball coach at the Naval Academy.
"She lookedat me a moment. Then she said, 'Would they take Leo?' I said they would if Irecommended him. Then I told her I proposed to get a copy of the Naval Academymanual. I said I knew that if I handed it to Leo myself, he was quite likely tothrow it back in my face. But if she were to put it in his hands, he mightagree to look it over. Mrs. Durocher thought again. Then she said, 'Get themanual.' "
(Rickey has ahabit of presenting ballplayers with what he considers to be worth-whilereading. When Pee Wee Reese was made captain of the Dodgers, Rickey sent himEisenhower's Crusade in Europe.)
"When I toldLeo," Rickey continued, "he was stunned and unbelieving, thenenormously but quietly pleased. I told him that I would arrange for him toreport late for spring training. I made it clear that he was to decline anypayment for his services. Treading softly, I mentioned that the boys he wouldbe coaching were the finest our country had to offer. I suggested gently thatany leader of such boys would, of course, have to be letter perfect in hisconduct. Leo didn't blow up. He just nodded his head.
"When hereported to spring training camp, he was bursting with pride. He showed me awrist watch the midshipmen had given him. He said, 'Mr. Rickey, I did it, I didit!'
"I said, 'Youdid half of it, Leo.'
"'What do youmean, half!' he demanded.
"To be acomplete success in this undertaking, Leo, you must be invited back. If theyask you back for next season, then you may be sure you have done the jobwell."
"They didinvite him back," he said. "And this time the midshipmen gave him asilver service. He had done the job—the whole job—and I rather think that thisexperience was a big turning point for Leo. It lifted him into associations hehad never known before and he came away with increased confidence andself-assurance and, I am quite sure, a greater measure ofself-respect."
(Years later,just before Leo Durocher was suspended from baseball for a year by CommissionerA. B. Chandler, Rickey called his staff together in the Brooklyn Dodgers'offices to say of his manager: "Leo is down. But we are going to stick byLeo. We are going to stick by Leo until hell freezes over!" Today, in amanner of speaking, it is Rickey who is down—in eighth place—and Leo who is up,riding high as manager of the world champions.)
Rickeystraightened his tie. He was wearing a four-in-hand. Ordinarily, he wears a bowtie, but once a month he puts on a four-in-hand as a gesture of neckwearindependence.
"More than ahalf-century spent in the game." Rickey mused, "and now it is suggestedthat I give thought to some of the ideas and innovations with which I have beenassociated. The question arises, 'Which of these can be said to havecontributed most to making baseball truly our national game?'
"First, Ishould say, there was the mass production of ballplayers. The Cardinals werethree years ahead of all the other clubs in establishing try-out camps. Welooked at 4,000 boys a year. Then, of course, we had to have teams on which toplace boys with varying degrees of ability and experience. That brought intobeing the farm system.
"There wereother ideas not ordinarily remembered. With the St. Louis Browns, under Mr.Hedges, we originated the idea of Ladies Day, a very important step forward.Probably no other innovation did so much to give baseball respectability, aswell as thousands of new fans.
"With theCardinals, we developed the idea of the Knot Hole Gang. We were the first majorleague team to admit boys free to the ball park and again the idea was sooncopied."
(In thebeginning, boys joining the Cardinal Knot Hole Gang were required to sign apledge to refrain from smoking and profanity—clearly the hand of Rickey.)
"These wereideas," Rickey went on, "and baseball was a vehicle in which such ideasmight comfortably ride."
Rickey's eyesstrayed to a framed motto hanging on the wall. It read: "He that will notreason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool and he that dares not reasonis a slave."
Rickey bent downand went rummaging through the lower drawers of his desk. In a moment he cameup holding a slender book. The jacket read: "Slave and Citizen: the Negroin the Americas. By Frank Tannenbaum."
"Thisbook," said Rickey, "is by a Columbia University professor. Let me readnow just the concluding paragraph. It says, 'Physical proximity, slow culturalintertwining, the growth of a middle group that stands in experience andequipment between the lower and upper class; and the slow process of moralidentification work their way against all seemingly absolute systems of valuesand prejudices. Society is essentially dynamic, and while the mills of Godgrind slow, they grind exceeding sure. Time will draw a veil over the white andblack in this hemisphere, and future generations will look back upon the recordof strife as it stands revealed in the history of the people of this New Worldof ours with wonder and incredulity. For they will not understand the issuesthat the quarrel was about.' "
Rickey reachedfor a pencil, wrote on the flyleaf of the book and pushed it across the desk.He leaned back in his chair and thought a moment. Then he sat straight up.
"Some honorshave been tendered," he said, "some honorary degrees offered because ofmy part in bringing Jackie Robinson into the major leagues."
He frowned andshook his head vigorously.
"No, no, no.I have declined them all. To accept honors, public applause for signing asuperlative ballplayer to a contract? I would be ashamed!"
He turned to lookout the window and turned back.
"Suppose," he demanded, "I hear that Billy Jones down the streethas attained the age of 21. Suppose I go to Billy and say, 'You come with me tothe polling place.' And then at the polling place I take Billy by the arm andmarch up to the clerks and say, 'This is Billy Jones, native American, 21 yearsof age,' and I demand that he be given the right to cast a ballot!"
Rickey leanedover the desk, his eyes flashing.
"Would anyonebut a lunatic expect to be applauded for that?"
It immediatelybecame clear that although Rickey deprecated his right to applause, he hadnever minimized the difficulties of bringing the first Negro into organizedbaseball.
"I talked tosociologists," he said, "and to Negro leaders. With their counsel, Iworked out what I considered to be the six essential points to beconsidered."
He started tocount on his fingers.
"Numberone," he said, "the man we finally chose had to be right off the field.Off the field.
"Number two,he had to be right on the field. If he turned out to be a lemon, our effortswould fail for that reason alone.
"Numberthree, the reaction of his own race had to be right.
"Number four,the reaction of press and public had to be right.
"Number five,we had to have a place to put him.
"Number six,the reaction of his fellow players had to be right.
"In JackieRobinson, we found the man to take care of points one and two. He was eminentlyright off and on the field. We did not settle on Robinson until after we hadinvested $25,000 in scouting for a man whose name we did not then know.
"Having foundRobinson, we proceeded to point five. We had to have a place to put him.Luckily, in the Brooklyn organization, we had exactly the spot at Montrealwhere the racial issue would not be given undue emphasis.
"To take careof point three, the reaction of Robinson's own race, I went again to the Negroleaders. I explained that in order to give this boy his chance, there must beno demonstrations in his behalf, no excursions from one city to another, nopresentations or testimonials. He was to be left alone to do this thing withoutany more hazards than were already present. For two years the men I talked torespected the reasoning behind my requests. My admiration for these men islimitless. In the best possible way, they saw to it that Jackie Robinson hadhis chance to make it on his own.
"Point four,the reaction of press and public, resolved itself in the course of things, andpoint six, the reaction of his fellow players, finally—if painfully—workeditself out."
Rickey reachedacross the desk and tapped the Tannenbaum book.
"Time,"he said, "time."
He despaired ofhis cigarette now and tossed it into the wastebasket. His eyes moved around theroom and he murmured half to himself: "We are not going to let anythingspoil sports in this country. Some of the things I read about boxing worry me,but things that are wrong will be made right...in time."
"I don'tthink anyone is worried about wrestling. Isn't it a rather good-natured sort ofentertainment?"
He chuckled alittle more, then frowned again.
"I am askedabout the minor leagues. The cry is heard, 'The minors are dying!' I don'tthink so. The minors are in trouble but new ways will be found to meet newsituations and new problems. Up to now, I confess, the major leagues have beenunable to implement any effort to protect the minor leagues from theencroachment of major league broadcasts."
(A baseball manonce said that Branch Rickey is constitutionally unable to tell a falsehood."However," this man said, "sometimes he pours over the facts of agiven case such a torrent of eloquence that the truth is all butdrowned.")
The door openedand Rickey jumped to his feet. His eyes lit up as he cried:"Mother!"
In the doorwaystood Mrs. Rickey, carrying a box of paints the size of a brief case.
"Well,Mother!" cried Rickey, coming around from behind the desk. "How did itgo? Did you get good marks?"
Mrs. Rickey, asmall, smiling woman, stood looking at her husband. Childhood sweethearts inOhio, they have been married for 49 years.
Rickey pointeddramatically to the paintbox.
"Mother hasjoined a painting class!" he exclaimed. "At 73 years of age, Mother hasgone back to school! Well, Mother? Did you recite or what? Do they give marks?What is the teacher like?"
Mrs. Rickeywalked to a chair and sat down. It was plain that she was accustomed topursuing a policy of containment toward her husband.
"They don'tgive marks," she said quietly. "The teacher is very nice. He wastelling us that painting opens up a whole new world. You see things and colorsyou never saw before."
"Wonderful!" he cried. "Isn't that just wonderful! Mother, we mustcelebrate. I'll take you to lunch!"
"Allright," said Mrs. Rickey. "Where will we go?"
"The DuquesneClub," said Rickey.
"That'll befine," said Mrs. Rickey.
(In sharplystratified Pittsburgh society, there are two standards by which to measure aman who stands at the very top: one is membership in the Duquesne Club, theother is a residence at Fox Chapel, the ultraexclusive Pittsburgh suburb.Rickey has both; the residence is an 18-room house set down on 100 acres.)
Rickey was thefirst to reach the sidewalk. He paced up and down waiting for Mrs. Rickey,flapping his arms against the cold, for he had forgotten to wear an overcoatthat morning. Guido Roman, a tall, handsome Cuban who is Rickey's chauffeur,opened the car door.
"You want toget inside, Mr. Rickey?" he asked.
"No,Guido," said Rickey, blowing on his fingers, "I'm not cold."
A car drew up andstopped across the street. A tall, muscular young man got out.
Rickey peeredsharply and ducked his head. "A thousand dollars this lad is aballplayer," he muttered out of the side of his mouth. "But who is he,who is he?"
The young mancame directly to Rickey.
"Mr. Rickey,you don't remember me," he said. "My name is George—!"
"Sure, Iremember you, George!" Rickey exploded, thrusting out his hand. "You'rea first baseman, right?"
"Yes,sir," said George, blushing with pleasure.
"Go right inthe office and make yourself at home, George," Rickey said, beaming."There's another first baseman in there named George—George Sisler. Sayhello to him!"
"Say, thanks,Mr. Rickey," George said, hurrying to the office door.
In a moment Mrs.Rickey came out and the ride downtown in Rickey's Lincoln began. As the carpulled away from the curb, Rickey, a notorious back-seat driver, began a seriesof barked directions: "Right here, Guido! Left at the next corner, Guido!Red light, Guido!"
Guido, smilingand unperturbed, drove smoothly along. As the car reached the downtown businessdistrict, Rickey, peering this way and that, shouted, "Slow down,Guido!"
Guido slowed downand then Rickey whispered hoarsely: "There it is, Mother! Look!"
"What?"smiled Mrs. Rickey.
"The largestlamp store in the world! Right there! I inquired about the best place to buy alamp and I was told that this place is the largest in the whole wide world!Right there!"
"We only wanta two-way bed lamp," said Mrs. Rickey.
"I know,"said Rickey. "But there's the place to get it. You could go all over theworld and not find a bigger lamp store. Right turn here, Guido!"
"One way, Mr.Rickey," said Guido, cheerfully.
That was thesignal for a whole comedy of errors, with Rickey directing and traffic copsvetoing a series of attempts to penetrate one-way streets and to execute leftturns. Rickey grew more excited, Mrs. Rickey more calm, Guido more desperate asthe Duquesne Club loomed and faded as a seemingly unattainable goal.
"JudasPriest!" Rickey finally exclaimed. "It's a perfectly simple problem! Wewant to go to the Duquesne Club!"
"I knowhow!" Guido protested, "I know the way!"
"Then turn,man, turn!"
"Get out ofhere!" yelled a traffic cop.
"For cryingout loud!" roared Rickey. "Let's get out and walk."
"I'm notgoing to walk," said Mrs. Rickey, mildly. "We have a car. Let Guido gohis way."
"Oh, allright," Rickey pouted. "But you'd think I'd never been downtownbefore!"
In a moment thecar pulled up at the Duquesne Club and Rickey, serene again, jumped out andhelped Mrs. Rickey from the car
"Take the carhome, Guido," he said pleasantly. "We'll call you later."
"Yes, Mr.Rickey," said Guido, mopping his brow.
A group of womencame out of the Duquesne Club as the Rickeys entered. The women nodded andsmiled at Mrs. Rickey. Raising his hat, Rickey bowed low, then crouched towhisper hoarsely behind his hand:
"Classmatesof yours, Mother?"
He stamped hisfoot and slapped his thigh, choking with laughter.
"One of themis in the painting class," said Mrs. Rickey placidly. "The others arein the garden club."
At the luncheontable on the second floor, Rickey ordered whitefish for Mrs. Rickey and roastbeef for himself. There were no cocktails, of course; Rickey is ateetotaler.
("I shudderto think what might have happened if Branch had taken up drinking," aformer associate has said. "He does nothing in moderation and I can see himfacing a bottle of whiskey and shouting: 'Men, we're going to hit that bottleand hit it hard!'")
The luncheonorder given, Rickey excused himself and made a brief telephone call at theheadwaiter's desk. Returning to the table, he sat down and began to speak ofpitchers.
"The greatestpitchers I have ever seen," he said, "were Christy Mathewson and JeromeDean."
(Rickey likes toaddress a man by his proper given name. He is especially fond of referring toDizzy Dean as "Jerome.")
"Mathewson," Rickey continued, "could throw every pitch in thebook. But he was economical. If he saw that he could win a game with threekinds of pitches, he would use only three. Jerome, on the other hand, had atendency to run in the direction of experimentation. Murry Dickson (formerly ofthe Pirates, now of the Phillies) has a fine assortment of pitches, but hefeels an obligation to run through his entire repertory in every game."
The food hadarrived and Rickey picked up knife and fork and, eying Mrs. Rickey closely,began to speak more rapidly.
"Yes," hesaid loudly, "Murry is the sort of pitcher who will go along splendidlyuntil the eighth inning and then apparently say to himself: 'Oh, dear me, Ihave forgotten to throw my half-speed ball!' And then and there he will throwit."
Abruptly, Rickeymade a lightning thrust with his fork in the direction of a pan-browned potatoon the platter. Mrs. Rickey, alert for just such a stratagem, met the thrustwith her own fork and they fenced for a few seconds in mid-air.
"Jane!"pleaded Rickey, abandoning the duel.
Mrs. Rickeydeposited the potato on her own plate and passed over a small dish ofbroccoli.
"This will bebetter for you," she said quietly. "You know you're not to havepotatoes."
Rickey grumbled:"I am weary of this diet. It is a cruel and inhuman thing."
"Eat thebroccoli," Mrs. Rickey said.
"Jane,"said Rickey, "there are times in a man's life when he wants aboveeverything else in the world to have a potato."
"You getplenty to eat," said Mrs. Rickey. "Didn't you enjoy the meat patty atbreakfast?"
Rickey shruggedhis shoulders, conceding the point, and attacked his roast beef and broccoliwith gusto.
"The subjectof my retirement comes up from time to time," he said. "And to thedirect question, 'When will you retire from baseball?' my answer is, 'Never!'But I qualify that. Now, I do foresee the day, likely next year, when I shallspend less time at my desk, at my office. I shall spend more time in the field,scouting, looking at prospects, and leave the arduous responsibilities of thegeneral manager's position to other hands."
He lookedadmiringly at the baked apple before him. He put his hand on the pitcher ofrich cream beside it and glanced inquiringly across the table. This time theveto was not invoked and, happily, Rickey drained the pitcher over hisdessert.
After he haddropped a saccharin tablet in his coffee, he leaned back and smiled at Mrs.Rickey. Then he leaned forward again and rubbed his chin, seeming to debatesomething with himself. He grasped the sides of the table and spoke with theair of a conspirator.
"Here issomething I intend to do," he said. "My next thing. A completely newidea in spring training."
He arranged thesilverware to illustrate the story.
"A permanenttraining camp, designed and built for that purpose. Twin motels—not hotels,motels—with four playing fields in between as a sort of quadrangle. A publicaddress system. Especially designed press accommodations. Now. One motel wouldbe occupied by the Pittsburgh club, the other by an American League club. Theywould play a series of exhibition games and would draw better than two teamsfrom the same league. Everything that went into the camp would be the result ofour experience with training camps all through the years. It would befoolproof. And it would pay for itself because it would be operated fortourists after spring training. I have the land. At Fort Myers, Florida, thefinest training site in the country for my money. I have an American LeagueClub ready to go along with me. I have two thirds of the financial backingnecessary."
Rickey leanedback in triumph, then came forward quickly again.
"Everybodyconcerned is ready to put up the cash now," he whispered, "exceptme!"
He paused foreffect, then suddenly realized he had not said exactly what he intended. Heburst into laughter.
"Sh-h-h,"said Mrs. Rickey.
"What Imean," he said, sobering, "is that I can't go along with the plan untilwe have a contending ball club. But we'll get there. We'll put over this thing.It will revolutionize spring training."
It was time toget back to the office. Rickey was for sprinting down the stairs to the firstfloor, but Mrs. Rickey reminded him of his trick knee.
"Ah, yes,Mother," he said. "We will take the elevator."
On the streetoutside, Rickey remembered he had sent his car home.
"We'll get acab down at the corner," he said. "I've got a meeting at the office.Where can I drop you, Mother?"
"Well,"said Mrs. Rickey, "I thought I'd go look at some lamps."
"Oh,yes," Rickey exclaimed. "Go to that store I showed you. Mother, Iunderstand they have the largest selection of lamps in town."
Mrs. Rickeylooked at him and shook her head and smiled.
Rickey, alreadythinking of something else, studied the sidewalk. He raised his head and spokefirmly over the traffic.
"The game ofbaseball," he said, "has given me a life of joy. I would not haveexchanged it for any other."
He took Mrs.Rickey by the arm. They turned and walked down the street together and vanishedinto the crowd.