Although it was nearly noon, Mr. Donald Newcombe, lately of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, but currently of Cincinnati, was still in bed. Dressed in red flannel pajamas and propped up by a pillow, he was relaxed and cheerful and quite ready to discuss the recent events which have recast him in a role he has played so often and so well—that of the star.
It was two years ago that Newcombe capped a successful career as a Dodger pitcher by winning 27 games and the National League's most valuable player award. Last year Newcombe won 11 games and no awards. This year, through mid-June, he won no games. So the Dodgers traded him to Cincinnati for a 242-pound first baseman named Steve Bilko and Johnny Klippstein, a pitcher who has proved he can lose in the majors.
At Cincinnati, Manager Birdie Tebbetts waved a majestic hand across the skies and sent Don Newcombe out to pitch against the Cardinals, among whom he met another familiar figure in a new uniform: Sal Maglie (above). For the first time this year, Newcombe won. It made the Cincinnati people happy and it made Newcombe happy, while the Dodgers were left looking around for a uniform big enough to fit Bilko.
When Newcombe had returned to the dugout after giving up a first-inning home run to Stan Musial, Tebbetts told him to go back out there the next inning and have some fun. "Throw hard," said Birdie, "and if they hit you, then they hit you."
June 29, 1958
"Did you have fun?"
"Heck, no. Look, my record was 0 and 6, I was losing the game 1-0 and I was with a new club. How could I have fun! If you think we play this game for fun, you're crazy. This is a business. I'm a ballplayer, just like you're a sportswriter. If I do well, I get paid well and I can support my family. If it means running 15 minutes more a day or taking extra batting practice, it's worth it.
"I knew I wasn't doing the Dodgers any good, but I didn't think I'd be traded. A few days before the trading deadline, I asked Buzzie Bavasi if it was safe to invest in a business venture in Los Angeles. He told me he had no deals on the fire. And I guess he didn't, then. But when I looked so bad pitching on Sunday and Cincinnati made the offer, he changed his mind, I suppose.
"When you stay with one club as long as I was with the Dodgers, you're bound to feel a little bad leaving. We had some great teams, but I guess that's over now. I think people don't realize how much Jackie and Campy meant to that club. I got a nice letter from Jackie after I was traded. He told me he knew I had pride and he knew how I felt because he had been traded away, too. But he thought the trade would be a good thing for me. I think so, too. Cincinnati is a good club. That Bailey is an experienced catcher. He moves the target around a lot like Campy. And Hoak on third base needles me pretty good. Jackie used to do that.
"When I got to Cincinnati, Gabe Paul showed me letters in which he'd made bids for me in the past. And the first night I pinch hit, the crowd gave me a nice hand. They've all made me feel wanted here, and in any business that's a good feeling."