As a baseball manager, Jimmie Dykes was always on the move. He was fired out of Chicago, out of Philadelphia, out of Cleveland and even out of Hollywood. He was traded away by Detroit, and he left Baltimore of his own free will. This restless path convinced him that a manager is only as good as the players he ends up with. In his autobiography, You Can't Steal First Base (J. B. Lippincott Company, $3.95), which was written with the help of Charles O. Dexter, Dykes says of all field managers like himself, "If he's managing a loser he just smells firing in the air." Public statements to the contrary, "a general manager's 'vote of confidence' is regarded as a sure sign the axe is being sharpened."
Of all Jimmie's bosses Bill DeWitt was the biggest headache: "[He] offered me free advice every day. But what irked me most of all was that no detail of Tiger play was too small for his eagle eye...." Wives sitting together spell trouble, too, says Dykes. "They compare salaries and when they find that one husband is being paid less than another they needle their husbands when they go home."
The most spirited portions of Dykes's book deal with his years as a player rather than as a manager, years with the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox—when he was trying to hit Burleigh Grimes's spitter on the dry side, avoid Pepper Martin's spikes-high slide into third and, of course, beat the Yankees. The Yankees "not only beat us [the Athletics] regularly in the days when we'd been the footstool of the American League," writes Jimmie, "they never stopped. They were remorseless, rabid. They kept right on hitting until they were weary and we were flat."
But from their prone position those foot-stoolers rose to become Connie Mack's powerful Philadelphians of the late '20s. They won three pennants in a row and two World Series.
September 17, 1967
Like all baseball talk, Dykes's book is liberally seasoned with corn syrup. Dykes reflects tradition and convention by insisting that baseball will never be what it was in the good old days. He even touts the crack trains from Philadelphia to St. Louis—with the rookies in the upper berth—over the jet travel of today. "We took things as they were," Jimmie says. "We didn't have air-conditioned clubhouses with wall-to-wall carpeting. We hung our street clothes in narrow, open lockers and trod bare boards. The showers trickled tepid water."
"Yeah, Jimmie, we know—we know," the reader may sometimes feel like saying. Still it's interesting to hear him tell about it all.