In these travel-happy times, it sometimes seems that almost everybody is just back from Hong Kong, wearing a bargain in a hand-tailored suit. Getting around to faraway places has become a commonplace, and it may turn out that the sought-after man at dinner parties will be the man who has never been anyplace. But, for all of this, there is one form of travel that remains unique and is available to very few—and that's a road trip with a big league ball club.
There is nothing in the world quite like it. Thanks to an institution known as The Traveling Secretary, this kind of travel is completely carefree. There are no ticket or reservation problems; luggage turned over to a bellboy in one town miraculously turns up in the hotel lobby at the next stop. Sixty-seat airplanes are provided for parties of only 40. Each day begins with enormous room-service breakfasts. In the evenings everybody orders the thickest steak on the menu. The monotony of it all is broken by evenings out (for nonplaying personnel) at the places offering the best floor shows. The atmosphere at all other times is that of youth and health and horseplay, all adding up to a gracious kind of living very high on the hog.
Over the years I have made many a trip with many a ball club. But I had always been preoccupied with what was happening on the playing field. A few weeks ago I took a swing around the western circuit with the St. Louis Cardinals, this time to observe more particularly the backstage mechanics of getting a club in and out of town and to note whatever else might happen off field along the way.
Following Traveling Secretary Leo Ward's mimeographed instruction sheet, I brought my bag to the Cardinal clubhouse before the first game of the July 4th home double-header with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Butch Yatkeman, the property man, said he would not start his final packing of equipment until the seventh inning of the second game and that it wouldn't be too much of a rush because the Cards would be starting out with fresh road uniforms. The jump from Chicago to San Francisco would be a little more frantic because the road uniforms would have to be snatched off the players' backs right after the game. Trainer Bob Bauman said the only thing that would hold up his packing (heaven forbid) would be a player injury.
August 21, 1960
Butch and I walked down to Leo Ward's office, and they stuffed brown envelopes with meal money for the players. Players get $10 a day, but the free meals served on the planes along the way usually enable the players to show a little profit on that.
That chore done, Leo Ward picked up the phone and called Manager Bill Hurst of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago. Manager Hurst said he had received the room list, and everything was set. Room lists change slightly from town to town. Writers join up or leave; sometimes players get hurt or sick and must be left at home.
The room list for Chicago called for suites for Manager Solly Hemus and Leo himself and single rooms for Stan Musial, the sportswriters and Bob Nieman, the outfielder. Musial gets a room to himself because he is the big star; Nieman rates one because he is such an excessively loud snorer that nobody can tolerate him. Everyone else is doubled up.
Lee Scott, the traveling secretary of the Los Angeles Dodgers, dropped in on Ward to say hello and swap a few stories. At one point Scott exploded: "Ward, when are you going to stop calling my ball club Brooklyn!"
Ward snapped his fingers and shook his head. "I'm trying to break myself of the habit, Lee, honest I am."
Jim Rohm, the United Airlines man, came in and said that the weather outlook between St. Louis and Chicago was fine and the DC-6B charter plane would be ferried down from Chicago a couple of hours before the scheduled takeoff time.
Outside, the ball park was filling up. Among the early arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sadecki. They had driven all the way from St. Petersburg, Fla. and had brought three of their children along: Tommy, 16, Mary Ann, 12, and Mike, 3. Their oldest boy did not make the trip to St. Louis with them because he was already there. He was Ray, 19, the pride of the family. The Cardinals had signed him for a $50,000 bonus, and he had invested part of the money in a coffee shop in St. Petersburg which his father is now managing for him. It was a big day for the Sadeckis, for Ray was to start the second game.
The Cards took the opener 6-2. Below the stands Traveling Secretaries Ward and Scott went to work, making the rounds to check the turnstiles for the paid attendance. Back in his office Leo totaled it up. It came to 27,790 paid. He picked up the phone and relayed the figure to the press box. Then he filled out a check for $7,642, calculated at 27½¢ a head, and handed it to Lee Scott as the Dodgers' share. He put another check for $1,389.50 into an envelope for mailing to National League headquarters as the league's cut. This left about $40,000, before taxes, as the Cardinals' take on the day. (When the Cards got to Los Angeles, the divvy would be reversed. Leo would get the 27½¢ end of the pot as representative of the visiting club.)
Lee Scott pocketed the check and said, "It's a pleasure to do business with you, Leo." "Likewise," said Leo. "Come often, Lee."
Their work was largely done until plane time. But, meanwhile, out on the field, a minor catastrophe had occurred. Ray Sadecki, with his mother and dad and kid sister and brothers looking on, had served up a home run ball to Norm Sherry of the Dodgers in the fourth inning and then had presented Gil Hodges with another in the sixth. The Cards lost 5-4.
Even so, everybody was in high spirits during the getaway operation at the clubhouse. The Cards were starting on the road, holding fast to their grip on fourth place. It had been a fine festive afternoon, with suitable patriotic ceremonies between games. The 50-star American flag had been raised for the first time, excerpts from the Declaration of Independence had been read from home plate and Ray Sadecki's mother had been invited down on the field to be introduced to the crowd along with Miss Red Bird and the wives of several players.
The players dressed with all deliberate speed, and Butch Yatkeman, the property man, and Bob Bauman, the trainer, had the gear on the waiting trucks in no time at all. Within an hour or so the team was boarding the charter plane for Chicago. The poker players, led by Stan Musial, headed for the tail. With them went Ray Sadecki, making the third major league trip of his young life. He was dealt a hand, and if he had been slightly downcast after throwing his two home run balls he was completely recovered now. His eyes were shining as he sipped a complimentary can of Budweiser beer and maintained just the right note of self-assurance and deference proper in a rookie sitting in on a card game with a big star like Stan the Man.
Forward, Manager Solly Hemus settled down to his continuing gin rummy game with Harry Caray, the radio broadcaster. Across the aisle Secretary Ward, Business Manager Art Routzong and Sportswriter Jack Herman got down to their game of gin. In the galley Ernie Broglio, the pitcher, gallantly offered to help the stewardesses with the dinner trays.
After dinner the card players kept at it. Some of the younger players drifted back to the galley to offer assistance to the stewardesses in the collection of trays, and when that was done, they lingered on to chat with the pretty girls.
Bob Nieman, the great snorer, fell fast asleep in his seat, and the plane's motors barely matched him in decibels. Javier, the brilliant young second baseman, put his feet high on the back of the seat ahead and soon was dead to the world.
There were 35,000 delegates to the InternationalLionsconvention crowding the hotels in Chicago but, of course, the Cardinal reservations were intact. In the lobby of the Knickerbocker, Manager Hemus conferred with Pitcher Ray Sadecki: "You want to start keeping a little notebook on the hitters, Ray. That home run ball you gave Sherry was about eye-high, just where he likes it."
Ray said: "I thought it was about letter-high, just the kind of pitch I struck him out on before."
"I don't think so," said Solly Hemus. "You start keeping that little notebook."
"Yes, sir," said Ray, "I'll sure do that."
The Cardinals beat the Cubs next afternoon 3-2. After the game Secretary Ward got a call from Pitching Coach Howie Pollet.
"Leo," said Howie, "Solly wants to send Larry Jackson on ahead of the team so he can get a good night's rest. Can you get him on a jet to San Francisco tomorrow morning?"
It took a little doing, but Leo managed it. And a good thing, too, because the Hemus strategy was destined to pay off. Jackson went the route against the Giants at Candlestick Park and beat them 7-3.
Meanwhile, back in Chicago, Sportswriter Neal Russo had rejoined the team. He was wearing the gravy-colored tie presented to him by Secretary Ward on behalf of the players, who conceived the gift as a satiric comment on Russo's unfortunate habit of spilling soups and sauces on his shirtfront. The gag misfired a little because Russo declared the tie to be the best and the most becoming he had ever owned. That evening Business Manager Routzong gave a small dinner party at Mister Kelly's and the floor show was a corker.
The Cards got bombed in the second game 10-1. Secretary Ward collected the getaway money from Secretary Bob Lewis of the Cubs, and Property Man Butch Yatkeman got equipment loaded on the trucks in jig time. The players boarded the bus for O'Hare airport, and at the start of the trip there was dead silence for a while. Nobody really felt bad, but it is not at all seemly to appear cheerful after a 10-1 shellacking.
After about an hour on the highway it became clear that something had gone wrong. The trip from the city to the airport ordinarily takes 55 minutes. Nobody said anything for a while. Twenty minutes went by. Then a player called out: "Hey, driver! Shouldn't we be coming into Frisco about now?"
The driver tried to laugh it off. Then, realizing that he had wandered far off course, he began to panic a little, stopping the bus to shout to pedestrians, "Hey, Mac! Where's O'Hare Airport?"
Leo Ward, who is beyond surprises after 20 years as traveling secretary of the Cards, sat unperturbed. He wasn't really worried because the plane waiting at the airport was, of course, another charter job (the Cards were paying $5,587.18 for this one) and couldn't take off until the team appeared.
The hilarity mounted. Soon, the frustrated bus driver was not target enough. Attention turned to a straw hat worn by Jack Herman, the sports-writer. It was roundly denounced. The black edging around the brim was abhorrent to the players. What was it? Where did he get it? Off a horse? "What was the matter, Jack?" Bob Nieman, the snorer, called out. "Didn't they have your size?" With that, Manager Solly Hemus, a man pondering the game just played and the one Jackson would pitch on the morrow, reached over, plucked the hat off Herman's head and threw it out the window. In the framework of the discussion it seemed a perfectly logical thing to do. (Jack Herman himself admitted that when Solly presented him with a new hat next day.)
Leo Ward ordered the bus stopped at the next gasoline station. He got out, asked for directions and then put the perspiring driver back on course. Within minutes, it seemed, the airport loomed up. The team boarded the charter plane. Stewardesses Sue Lilly of St. Louis and Rebecca Fogg of Birmingham, who had never flown with a ball club before, accepted the gallant offer of Pitcher Ernie Broglio to help with the dinner trays. In the tail Stan the Man played poker. Forward, the gin rummy games resumed. Then, against the drone of the engines, there arose the great snores of Bob Nieman, the outfielder, as a sort of dreadful melody in counterpoint. The club was headed west.
San Francisco could scarcely have been better. Larry Jackson, as mentioned, \von the first game, and in the second, Ray Sadecki, who had already begun to keep his little notebook on opposing hitters, turned in a four-hitter to beat the Giants 7-1.
On behalf of the club, Business Manager Art Routzong threw an elegant dinner party at Ernie's for Manager Hemus, the coaches and the sportswriters. Dr. I. C. Middleman, the club physician, and Mrs. Middleman were there. The talk at the two big tables was of high hopes—and why not? Who but a fool could deny, in the splendor of Ernie's, that the club (which was destined to reach second place) might not go all the way to the pennant this year?
But first, it had to play a pair in Los Angeles. Leo Ward called ahead to the Biltmore Hotel and checked his rooming list with Jim Sinclair, the manager. Everything was all set, said Manager Sinclair. He didn't even bother to mention that the Biltmore was a bit crowded as it was the headquarters of the Democratic National Convention. He knew that a ball club on a road trip couldn't care less.
It was annoying, though. The lobby was jammed, and a fellow couldn't find a spot to sit and read his Sporting News in comfort. The elevators were miniature madhouses. And at one point, Traveling Secretary Ward almost blew his top when a whole gang of characters broke into his suite to crowd up to the windows and cheer like nuts as a nonpro named Kennedy drove up with screaming sirens.
It didn't bother the club too much the first day. Boyer's homer beat the Dodgers 4-3. But in the second game the racket back at the Biltmore took its toll. The Cards got bombed 11-7.
The road trip, the swing around the western circuit, was over. The club headed east. There was just one stop to make. Musial, Boyer, White, Jackson, McDaniel and Solly Hemus (who had been fingered as coach) were due in Kansas City for the first All-Star Game. When the charter plane set down at KC, Business Manager Art Routzong got off, too. So did 19-year-old Ray Sadecki who had pitched that four-hitter against the Giants in his last start.
Ray wasn't going to the Ail-Star Game at all. He had a date with his childhood sweetheart, Diane Bush of Kansas City, Kansas. They were going to the 10:30 Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral together.
And after Mass, as the couple came out of the church, all the guests agreed they had never seen a prettier bride than Mrs. Ray Sadecki.