It was one of those days you run into sometimes in Arizona this time of the year that leaves you with the feeling you wish you hadn't. The sun boiled down from a cloudless sky and then bounced back up in shimmering waves that distorted the distant mountains and made the numbers dance on the scoreboard out in right field. Little puffs of dust arose from the red base paths where a young shortstop named Andre Rodgers and a no-longer-young second baseman named Schoendienst moved into position for the next hitter. A drop of sweat trickled off the nose of the third base coach, who in this case happened to be named Eddie Stanky, and he flung it impatiently to the ground. And the writers, sitting atop the uncovered press box behind home plate, took their shirts off, and cooked, and wished they were back in the cool green swimming pool at the Adams Hotel. It was not a day for great exertion or great deeds; although those friendly old enemies of the spring, the Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants, were playing a baseball game, it was still a month before opening day and this really didn't count.
Yet this is what happened.
A Cleveland rookie named Roger Maris drove a pitch down the line into right field, turned first base at top speed and slammed into second ahead of the throw. Another Cleveland rookie, Joe Caffe, singled into center. Willie Mays came in fast, took the ball on one hop and, seeing Maris take a threatening turn around third, heaved a magnificent strike into the catcher's hands. The throw was too magnificent; it went directly to the catcher, without a hop and out of reach of the cut-off man, and as Maris jogged back into third, Caffe raced into second base.
Joe Altobelli, who is also a Cleveland rookie, swung, and the ball went whistling right back at Pete Burnside on the mound; the young Giant left-hander scrambled over to pick it up, cast a worried look at Maris dancing off third, another glance toward Caffe leading off from second—and by then it was too late to catch the scurrying Altobelli. Chico Carrasquel looped a single into center, scoring Maris from third, scoring Caffe from second and sending Altobelli, who was gone with the pitch, racing all the way around to third to beat a perfect throw from perhaps the best arm in all baseball. Bob Lemon forced Carrasquel at second, but Altobelli scored. George Strickland singled, again to center, and now it was Lemon, 36 years old and pounding along like an angry and very determined rhinoceros, who turned second without breaking stride and bore down upon the frantically beckoning Stanky at third.
April 8, 1957
Mays fielded the ball but, perhaps remembering the play of a moment before, hurried a little too much; he juggled it for a second and then, although the throw once again was perfect, Lemon arose from the dust cloud safe. He grinned at Stanky and Stanky grinned back and down at second base stood Strickland, grinning too. Bobby Avila popped up but Jim Hegan singled into left and Lemon scored. So did Strickland; Stanky took one look at slow-moving Hank Sauer fielding the ball out in left field, calculated the short throw against Sauer's arm and sent Strickland on in, too. It wasn't even close.
The Indians had five runs without the benefit of a walk or a Giant error or a passed ball or a wild pitch and while they will never show up in the American League statistics this year, they were very important runs just the same. On a hot day in Phoenix, with nothing at stake, the 1957 Cleveland Indians had refused to stand around on the bases waiting for a Kiner or a Doby or a Rosen or a Wertz to hit a home run and bring them home. And over in the Cleveland dugout, a square-shouldered refugee from a cotton farm in Tennessee, a man with big ears and a broken nose and the wrinkles from 25 years of looking out across sun-baked ball parks pinching up his eyes, leaned back and smiled. He was the man who made the Indians run. His name was Kerby Farrell.
DON'T STOP AT SECOND
Major Kerby Farrell (the first is a name, not a title) is 43 years old and nobody's fool and he has been around long enough not to confuse the 1957 Cleveland Indians with the old Gashouse Gang of the St. Louis Cardinals. He also knows that there is no way of stealing first base and the biggest problem he must face as the new manager of the Indians is base hits. But if Kerby Farrell has a philosophy, it is this: "You do not win a baseball game by stopping at second." So he has the Cleveland Indians running as they have not run in years.
Despite these spring heroics, second is probably about as far as the Indians can go—but second place, not second base. Farrell knows this and so does General Manager Hank Greenberg; overconfidence is not likely to become very infectious in this league as long as the New York Yankees are around. Yet the important point is that although Cleveland fans have begun to show a contempt bordering upon scorn for second place (in 1956, as the Indians finished second for the fifth time in six years, the attendance dropped below one million for the first time since 1945), the Indian front office hopes that a different kind of second-place finish might bring the fans back. The man they have chosen to lead the way is Kerby Farrell.
Farrell does not have to catch the Yankees, at least not this year, but he must begin to rebuild a ball club which in the past has been good but not quite good enough; at the same time he must change its style of play. From a team which has depended upon the best pitching staff in the league and occasional bursts of great power to offset a leaky defense, lack of speed and erratic over-all hitting, Farrell must develop a club that can run and field and throw and somehow hitch up a batting average which last year shared with Baltimore the doubtful honor of being worst in the American League. Fortunately, the magnificent pitching is still there.
To many, this would hardly be classified as an enviable job; to Farrell it is a job to be welcomed with vast enthusiasm since it is the job toward which he has been working for almost 20 years.
BRAVE NEW BREED
Kerby Farrell is a representative of the new breed of major league baseball managers, one of the younger men with little or no major league playing experience but with shining managerial records in the minors who have come along to break up the old game of musical chairs which used to send such leathery veterans as Charley Grimm and Bucky Harris and Rogers Hornsby and Steve O'Neill bouncing back and forth amongst the 16 teams like ricocheting billiard balls. Unlike Walter Alston or Mayo Smith or Jack Tighe, who were never really major leaguers, and unlike Bob Scheffing, who was up for a long time but played only spasmodically, Farrell was a big league regular for two full seasons. But those seasons were 1943 and 1945, and Kerby Farrell is the first to say, "I was just a war-time major leaguer. I was helping keep the store while the good boys were away."
Farrell has been called a Tennessee hillbilly but this involves a certain amount of poetic license with little regard for geographic fact. Leapwood, where Farrell was born—or at least born near—on September 3, 1913, is indeed in Tennessee and even appears on some maps. But Leapwood is located in the western part of the state, in the rich cotton lands between the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers and almost 200 miles from the first rise of the Cumberland Plateau. The favorite outdoor sport in those parts is baseball, not dodging revenooers, and that is where Farrell's baseball career began.
He did most of his growing up in Bethel Springs, which is several miles west of Leapwood and almost four times as big, having a population of some 600 citizens and a railroad as well. The Gulf, Mobile and Ohio doesn't always stop there, however, and Farrell insists that a lot of people who travel the route will never appreciate the wonders that exist in Bethel Springs. "If you sneeze as you go through," he says, "you miss it."
He was an outstanding basketball and baseball player in high school and managed to stay out of the cotton fields in the summer by playing for semipro teams from the big cities of Jackson and Gleason and Henderson. He went to Freed-Hardeman Junior College on a basketball scholarship, and there occurred the two most important events in Farrell's life: a Memphis scout signed him to a professional contract and he met old Dr. Hardeman's niece, a pretty, brown-haired girl named Mildred Nell Ledbetter.
In 1935, after Kerby Farrell had advanced through Jackson and Beckley and Tyler to Memphis of the Southern Association, he and Nell were married. "Since then," he says with a hoarse, almost raspy drawl which sounds like rocks scraping against each other in a Tennessee creek, "I haven't had to worry about anything but baseball." Together they traveled on, through Greenville and Canton and Erie, where Kerby got his first managing job in 1941, and finally to the Boston Braves in 1943. It was there that Farrell first ran into a man named Casey Stengel; in a preseason workout, during infield drill, a ball off Stengel's bat took a bad hop and broke Kerby's nose.
"He gave me trouble then," says Farrell, "and I guess he'll give me more now. But as far as I'm concerned, Casey will always be all right. He brought me all the way from Class C to the majors and he gave me a job. 'You got a family?' he asked me. I told him I had a wife. 'Well, you can bring her on up,' he said, 'I don't know where you'll play but you'll be up here all year.' And I was."
Farrell hit .268 as a first baseman and did some relief pitching but the next year he was down with Indianapolis. After a .293 season, the White Sox bought him, and he played there in 1945, hitting .258. Then it was back to the minors and back to his interrupted managerial career.
"I could run and I could throw," he says now, "but I never was a major league hitter—and I knew it. But I was pretty lucky. I had managed before I got up there, so I spent a lot of time looking around and watching and learning—and I had some pretty good managers, both in the majors and minors, to learn from: Stengel and Dykes and Southworth and Prothro and Hudlin."
He won a pennant at Spartanburg in 1947, the year after Ben Kerby Farrell was born and the season that Dixie Amanda Farrell came along. He dropped to seventh in '48 but after that spent seven of the next eight years in the first division. There was a pennant at Reading in '53, another at Indianapolis in '54 (which earned Farrell The Sporting News award as Minor League Manager of the Year) and still another at Indianapolis in '56. The last, in which he came from nine games behind in late July to beat Denver by five, not only wrapped up another Manager of the Year title but won for Kerby the chance to succeed Al Lopez as manager of the Indians.
"It was the hardest winter of our life," says Nell Farrell, who can smile when she says it now. "Mr. Greenberg told Kerby at the World Series to sit tight, that he might have something for him. So we went back home to Henderson and sat tight—for two months. The phone would ring, and it would be somebody offering Kerby a good minor league job—and each time I'd say 'Take it.' But he'd just shake his head and say no and hang up, and there we would sit some more. Somebody wrote a story saying that we didn't move away from that telephone for all that time. Well, we went out once in a while—but we always made sure somebody was around to answer it just in case."
AND THEN IT RANG
In any event, Kerby Farrell, who is a great fan of the University of Tennessee football team, didn't see a single football game last fall and he stuck his beloved duck gun in the closet and there it sat until the phone finally rang with the one big call. All Farrell said was "Yes."
Winning ball games, to Kerby Farrell, is the most important thing there is. But win or lose, Farrell is a worrier. He is a dugout pacer who takes the ball game home with him at night and, as Nell Farrell says, there is no necessity for anyone to second-guess him "because he's always second-guessing himself. If he needs any help," she adds, "I'm always there to tell him exactly how to run the team—although I usually don't get very far. He just tells me to take care of the kitchen and he'll take care of the pitchin'." He also gets up very early in the morning—probably to get a head start on the other worriers in the league—and will sit up until the wee hours after a game, drinking coffee and replaying the whole thing, sometimes pitch by pitch, as long as anyone will listen. In this way Farrell has gained a reputation as a great coffee drinker, but his wife doesn't think he really cares that much about it. "It's just an excuse," she says, "to sit up and talk baseball."
He has also been accused of using tablecloths to plot lineup changes, and writers who were with him at Indianapolis say he leaves the history of the pennant race behind him in pencil marks on the linen of restaurants where the team eats.
But he has never had an ulcer in his life ("You don't lose with your stomach, you lose with your head"), and the young ballplayers—and because he has been with the Cleveland organization for 10 years, the 1957 Indians are loaded with his former pupils—swear by him as a teacher and a fair man. "He'll chew you out, maybe," says Larry Raines, the flashy shortstop, "but he'll never do it in front of anybody else. And when he does, you always deserve it."
"I think he's a patient man," says Rocco Colavito, who was almost Rookie of the Year in the American League last season. "Sure, he gets excited, just like any other manager. But he'll work hard with you and he doesn't play favorites."
Kerby Farrell is a ballplayer of the old school himself, and he knew of only one way to treat the broken noses and broken fingers and spike-slashed legs which marked his career ("You just taped it up and kept playing"), but he is willing to make allowances now for any of his young men with physical aches and pains. "Were we tougher?" he growls. "Naw, I think maybe we were just stupider."
But he will insist upon hustle for Farrell is a hustler himself. "You're only out there for two hours," he will say. "It's not asking too much to give it everything you've got," and he had the word HUSTLE written all over the clubhouse at Indianapolis. When he moves on the field, he moves at a jog, and baseball writers used to finding such quiescent sages as Stengel or Lopez anchored firmly in the dugout sometimes can't find Farrell at all. He may be in the dugout one minute, at the batting cage the next, in the outfield a minute later and even up in the stands. "I guess I'm just not used to having all this help," he says, looking toward his three coaches, Mel Harder, Red Kress and Stanky, and the player-coach, Jim Hegan. "I sit here for a minute and then I have to get up and do something. I grab a bat and hit some fungoes if nothing else. You can't let those outfielders just stand around."
It is certain that the Indians will run. This spring they have worked at a sliding pit which was not even there before. Stanky has put in hours getting each individual ballplayer to learn the maximum lead he can take and still get back to base. And in the spring games, base runners have been taking chances which are often foolhardy, it is true, but chances which are designed to show Farrell and the player himself just what he really can do.
HIT AND RUN, RUN, RUN
This also ties in with the way Farrell believes the game should be played in the first place. "Our business," he says, "is to please the fans, and it's only natural to like an aggressive, running type of ball club. The accent is on speed everywhere these days: planes, cars—and ball clubs. I think a runner sliding in with the winning run from second after a single to the outfield is more fun than winning with a home run." The Indians are so concerned with speed, in fact, that Farrell just grinned when Stanky was caught driving 75 in a 60-mph zone between Scottsdale and Tucson and fined $20.
Whatever comes out, the Indians are almost sure to find themselves wrapped up in another battle with the Red Sox, White Sox and Tigers for second place. One day a Cleveland writer asked Casey Stengel what he thought of Farrell as a manager.
"All I know about Farrell," said Casey, "is that he wins in the Eastern League and he wins in the American Association and he comes from eight, nine games behind and he beats out my Denver club that I gotta get a left fielder and maybe a pitcher from and he beats me again in the playoff and then he beats Rochester in the Little World Series. All I know is that if you're a manager and you win all the time you're a genius."
Which would make two in the American League this year. But Casey has seniority.