When the major league baseball owners abruptly forced General William Eckert into retirement a month ago, the action was criticized for being cruel and heartless but secretly admired for being evidence of a new, refreshing trend. Baseball had recognized at last that it needed vigorous leadership, and the often warring owners had united in a search for that leadership. Then, in mid-December, came news that an all-night session of baseball's hierarchy had failed to produce the new leader and that the 19 fruitless ballots had split along narrow lines of league prejudice. Baseball had gone out and bought a new, modern, slimline suit, but the same old potbelly thinking was ruining the fit.
Maybe baseball can still come up with a winner, as the NFL did when it took on Pete Rozelle, who is an owners' man but who runs their business with a ruthless insistence on doing what is right for them, whether they like it or not. Maybe baseball will, but right now it sure doesn't look like it.
—SI, Jan. 6, 1969
After a recent television interview, Yankee coach Yogi Berra was given a check for $100. The check read, "Pay to Bearer." Yogi took a look at it and said to the interviewer, "Come on. You've known me long enough to know how to spell my name."
—Sept. 11, 1978
If It Ain't Broke....
Somebody usually turns up every spring with a fistful of notes on how to improve upon the game of baseball.
In Huntsville, Texas, the other day, the University of Houston and Sam Houston State put some of the latest theories to a test. It all boiled down to a formula for speeding up the old game: Two outs made an inning, two strikes were out, and three balls drew a walk.
Ultimate conclusion by all hands: Baseball is better with all the old fussing around—the pitcher's fiddling with the rosin bag, the feigned speck in the batter's eye, the long, slow walk of the relief pitcher from the bullpen and the full 3-and-2 count that is sometimes agonizingly prolonged by foul balls.
What's all the hurry anyway? A man in a hurry has no place in a ballpark.
—May 12, 1958
Taking Their Cuts
Major league ballplayers have now had a chance to open their mail and study their new contracts. Stan Musial, 39, of the St. Louis Cardinals, was asked to take a cut (from $100,000 to $80,000). Musial, manfully, said the cut was overdue. "I'm glad to sign this contract." he said, "because a couple of times in the past the Cards have had me sign for more than we agreed upon orally. This year I thought I'd be kind to them."
Philadelphia's veteran pitcher Robin Roberts hid whatever else he must have felt when he said, "I have to admit I deserved to be cut. It wasn't a tremendous slice, and for a man who lost 17 games and won 15, it was justified." Whitey Ford of the Yankees was resigned to a cut but wasn't asked to take one. Although he lost 10 games while winning 16 (Who did I beat? Kansas City and Washington!" he grumped), he was promised the same salary as last year, $35,000. "The first thing I did was look for a stamp," said Ford. "I wanted to sign that contract and get it back before they changed their minds."
—Feb. 1, 1960
A Better Boss
The sale of the New York Yankees to George Steinbrenner and his associates, among them Yankee president Mike Burke, is a welcome change.
Big as the Yankees were in baseball, they became small fish in the vast CBS corporate pond. It is impossible to predict how Steinbrenner, Burke and Company will run the Yankees, but the fans, players and other members of baseball's brass now at least can hope for ownership they can focus on: a corporate personality instead pf a wandering mote in the vast, vague, unblinking eye of the TV screen.
—Jan. 28, 1973
Like it or not, the major league baseball fan of today is forced to be monogamous—or, to put it another way, faithful to the league of his city's choice. Only in Chicago can a fan be happily polygamous and enjoy the live baseball of both leagues.
Willie Mays will continue to be a stranger to the fan in his old hometown of New York, barring a World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Yankees. Again barring a Series between the Yankees and the Giants (or the Dodgers), West Coast fans will have no glimpse of Mickey Mantle.
But why shouldn't interleague games become a regular part of the season. with the results counting in each league's own standings, just as they do in professional football? The public would enjoy it.
With or without expansion, the schedule-makers should have enough imagination to pair off one National League team with one American for an interleague game, somewhere, every day. Given the glacial pace of change in baseball, this is perhaps too much to hope for by 1961. But maybe by 1963....
—Feb. 1, 1960
Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson, the principal stockholder of the New York baseball club that will join the National League in 1962, is looking for a name for her team. She has been flooded with nominations from local fans, and the other day she invited some sportswriters to make a few apt selections. Their choices were: Continentals, Skyliners, Burros, Skyscrapers, Rebels, Bees, NYBs, Mets, Jets and Avengers.
We don't believe any of these will finally be chosen. At the moment, Mrs. Payson is partial to the name Meadow Larks for her team, since it will eventually play its home games in a new stadium located in New York's Flushing Meadow.
—Feb. 13, 1961
Casey Stengel and Ted Williams were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., last week. Stengel is beloved: Williams is admired.
Stengel, predictably, was charming: "Yes, yes, yes, young man, I can see that you want another autograph. Who is this one for? Your grandfather? I see, and I'll bet your grandfather buys you gloves and bats and balls and probably buys the Japanese kind 'cause they're cheaper and just as good as the American kind.... You say you go down to Shea Stadium and you meet all those Mets, and your teacher says she doesn't believe that you really meet 'em? What's her name? Miss Citzer? Yes. yes, yes." And Stengel wrote: "Dear Miss Citzer, please believe Danny. Casey Stengel."
Williams, unexpectedly, was beautiful. All anyone thought they would get out of him in the way of an acceptance speech was a "thank you," maybe a "very much" if they got lucky. Instead he said, in part, "I guess every player thinks about going into the Hall of Fame. Now that the moment has come for me, I find it difficult to say what is really in my heart, but I know that it is the greatest thrill of my life. I received 280-odd votes from the writers. I know I didn't have 280 close friends among the writers. I know that they voted for me because they felt in their minds, and some in their hearts, that I rated it, and I want to say to them thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart....
"Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel, not just to be as good as someone else but to be better than someone else. This is the nature of man and the name of the game, and I've been a very lucky guy to have worn a baseball uniform, to have struck out or to hit a tape-measure home run. And I hope that someday the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players who are not here only because they were not given a chance...."
Of Williams's many fine moments in baseball, this was perhaps his finest.
—Aug. 8, 1966
Wrong in Right
The New York Yankees are polling fans, sportswriters, broadcasters and others to determine their alltime All-Star team. Last week listeners heard two Yankee broadcasters, Jerry Coleman and Phil Rizzuto, both former players, discussing their picks. Coleman went first and ended up with his outfield: Mickey Mantle in left, Joe DiMaggio in center, Roger Maris in right. Rizzuto then named his team. When he got to the outfield, he said, "I'll go along with you on Mantle and DiMaggio, Jerry, but I've got to say Charlie Keller (top) in right."
Whatever happened to that fat fellow who used to play rightfield for the Yanks? Hit a lot of home runs once....
—May 12, 1969
Back in 1962, while watching Gaylord Perry (right) in batting practice, Alvin Dark, then manager of the San Francisco Giants, said, "There will be a man on the moon before he hits a home run in the big leagues."
Seven years later, 34 minutes after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Perry hit his first major league home run.
—Aug. 4, 1969
They Said It
•Bob Uecker, Milwaukee Brave rookie, who has hit one homer and is rooming with Eddie Mathews: "Between me and my roommate, we've hit 400 major league home runs."
—March 18, 1963
•Satchel Paige, after being named to the Hall of Fame's new wing for old-time Negro-leagues players: "The only change is that baseball has turned Paige from a second-class citizen into a second-class immortal."
—Feb. 22, 1971
•Tug McGraw, Philadelphia Phillie pitcher, on his $75,000 salary: "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I'll probably waste."
—April 21, 1975