disinclination to have "hell" given him betrays more than mere shyness.
It underlines the fact that there were many times when the fans at the Polo
Grounds undoubtedly wanted to do just that, for after a good start when he took
over in 1936—the Giants won the flag two years in a row—a 14-year drought set
in before Bobby Thomson's miracle home run brought another pennant in 1951.
Just how much this was Stoneham's fault is a matter that can be debated, but
there were certainly many oldtime fans, and new ones, who blamed him.
The inability of
the team to come up with key players was the strongest criticism, though money
was spent and, as it turned out, often wasted. Stoneham himself now says,
"Our greatest problem was pitching, but we were also weak through the
middle, at second base and especially in center field. We were always able to
score a lot of runs, but we didn't have the right men in the infield who could
pick up that ball and throw it and those who could go get it in center. I don't
think the blame was in the front office, though. The war came along, the young
men went into service and the old ones went over the hill as players. It all
happened at once, and then it took some time to recover. I think we're about
ready now to go places."
The Giants' farm
system today, under Carl Hubbell and Jack Schwarz, embraces 10 minor league
teams, which is about average. It is considered a good one, with Willie Mays
its prize gem and youngsters like Bill White (in the Army), Willie Kirkland,
Orlando Cepeda and Jim Davenport, all three now playing regularly, the
likeliest jewels. But the system undeniably has had its ups and downs. It was
initiated slowly during the middle of the Terry regime but it really developed
as Stoneham became more experienced and self-confident on his own. "We had
to build it up," he said to me. "The old independent operation, when a
friend would call you up and offer you somebody like Mel Ott on a platter
because you used to play poker with him, was disappearing. The bidding and the
scouting began on a large scale and a farm system became a matter of
The trouble, many
believed, was that the Giants were too slow on the draw, and when they finally
did build up a passable organization, another difficulty, lack of money, had
set in. As Leo Durocher put it: "There's nothing wrong with the Giants'
operation now. It's simply that their farm system could use expansion, but that
takes money. You can't buy talent any more. You have to develop it. Or else
find it, and on today's market it's hard to get young players away from the
glamour clubs like the Yankees and the Dodgers, even if you meet the price.
Even if Stoneham were to offer, say, a kid like Kubek $10,000 more than the
Yanks, it's doubtful he could get him. The Yanks have got this glamour of the
Ruths, the Gehrigs, the DiMaggios and the Mantles."
owner," Durocher added, "who knows more about the game than Stoneham,
unless it might be Rickey. O'Malley doesn't know as much, but he's a good
administrator and he's closer with a buck. Stoneham may be a little too loose
with money, but most of it is given away out of genuine
goodheartedness and loyalty, two of Stoneham's sweetest qualities, can, as
Durocher and others have pointed out, be handicaps in a tough competitive game
like baseball. "Stoneham is loyal beyond the point of good business,"
Leo said. "Personal sentiment should never enter into a baseball judgment,
but with Horace it almost always does. As soon as I took over the club in 1948,
for instance, I knew this was a trouble job because I had no speed. I had to
play one-type ball. I took Stoneham aside and pleaded with him to consider some
trades and to get some guys with legs. 'We can't get extra bases, Horace,' I
said. 'We're getting singles that should be doubles.' "
But Stoneham was
too attached to his sluggers to part with them. He confidently told Durocher,
"We'll win the pennant by 10 games." Leo said they'd be lucky to finish
in the first division, and they finished fifth. At the end of the 1949 season,
Stoneham admitted Durocher was right and together they worked out the trade for
Al Dark and Eddie Stanky at short and second that was largely responsible for
the great 1951 flag drive.
nothing Stoneham hated worse than getting rid of a player," Durocher
continued. "His breaking the news was always a heart-rending ritual in
which Horace apologized all over the place. He always felt like a heel."
One of his favorites involved in the Stanky-Dark deal was Sid Gordon, whom he
had signed for $27,500 at the start of the 1949 season. Gordon had wanted
$30,000, and after the trade took place Stoneham called Durocher into his
office and said, "Leo, I've had the feeling all year Gordon thinks I
cheated him out of that extra $2,500. Suppose I buy a little Christmas present
for his wife? There'd be nothing wrong with that, would there?" And
promptly, according to Durocher, Horace sat down and wrote Mrs. Gordon a $2,500
always felt sorry that run-of-the-mill players and rookies haven't been able to
earn the salary of stars, and the result has been that he has paid them at
exorbitant rates. A case in point has to do with the current Giant manager,
Bill Rigney, who as a second-string infielder in 1952 received $17,500.
"That's an outlandish salary for a utility player," Durocher said.
sentimental streak is also responsible for his habit of bringing players sold
or traded back to the Giants, which has had a tendency to burden the team with
over-the-hill talent. "By golly, if they can still play we like having them
around," he explained when I asked him about this. "We're more familiar
than others with what they can do and we figure they can help us for another
year or two." The entire list of such "homing pigeons" would
comprise a roster by itself, but some outstanding examples are Gordon, who
returned to the Giants toward the end of his career in 1955; Marv Grissom, who
came back seven years after flubbing two chances; and Whitey Lockman, traded in
1956 and brought back a half year later.