Frank Lane, general manager of the Cleveland Indians and the world's champion producer of adrenalin, has heedlessly let many a sun go down on his anger. But in all of his headline-courting career his inverted sense of logic and propriety was never so starkly revealed as it was last week when one day's sun set on the picture of Lane coyly patting the head of Joe Gordon, the Indian field manager. What made it so bizarre was the fact that, just 15 hours before, Lane had fired Gordon and sent him packing. Now, as he was telling the flabbergasted reporters assembled for a special press conference, he was rehiring Gordon with a two-year contract and a $10,000 raise tacked onto his $30,000 salary.
Incredible as it all was, it was little more unbelievable than other Lane exhibitions this baseball season. Lane, who fancies himself hard to beat at histrionic invective, sighted down his nose at Gordon in early summer. Even though Gordon had the Indians in first place in the American League, Lane said in June he was not sure Gordon could even manage a semipro team. "I've got to apologize to Bobby Bragan," Lane said on the same high-handed occasion. "When I fired him last year I told him he was the worst manager in baseball. Now I've got to tell him he's only the second worst." Gordon, more evenly disposed than his boss, kept working while Lane kept talking. Said Lane after Gordon called-for a hit instead of a bunt in a recent Boston game: "A sixth grader who played as much as a third of an inning of Little League ball would have known enough to bunt in that situation." Lane got headlines while Gordon got fed up, and a few days later he turned in his resignation. Lane, like Iago sending Othello a get-well card, wired him: "Undoubtedly you will be located elsewhere in baseball...and I wish to extend my personal good wishes for success to you."
But Lane, whose specialty is the second guess, now found himself on the other end. The Cleveland press roasted him while larding Gordon with praise. At last week's Indians-White Sox game, a crowd of 55,000 booed him while according Gordon a standing ovation. Obviously rattled, Lane snapped back and fired Gordon outright. Then he went home and tried to sleep. But he surely tossed: the boos of Cleveland were a vivid recollection and no mere nightmare.
Lane said later he came to realize in the thoughtfulness of the night that the "best man to succeed Joe Gordon is Joe Gordon" and thereupon decided to hire him back, with interest. And he wanted it to appear to all around that he was still the man who held Joe Gordon's head in his hand. The probable truth is that Lane, during the restless hours of the night, came more to realize that it was his own head he was holding and he had better act accordingly.