The assembled baseball men sat as if they were literally paralyzed—with two exceptions. Branch Rickey, eyes darting back and forth, was thumping the floor nervously with his cane and Casey Stengel was busy eating off the untouched plate of William O. DeWitt, administrator of the $500,000 fund to aid minor leagues. In a moment, Rickey jumped to his feet and raised his cane aloft, shouting to Napier, who was walking off stage.
Napier turned and said, "Yes, Mr. Rickey?"
"Young man," growled Rickey, "allow me to congratulate you on behalf of my colleagues here on a most—uh—a most formidable presentation of your ideas."
"Thank you, sir."
"I propose to you, good sir," said Rickey, "that instead of conducting an open question-and-answer session at the conclusion of the powder-room break, you consent to sit down with a single representative of ours to answer whatever small questions we may have in mind."
Napier shrugged his shoulders. "Quite agreeable to me, Mr. Rickey. Perhaps you yourself would consent to represent your colleagues?"
Rickey shook his head vigorously. "I would not presume to do so, sir," he said, "without consulting my associates. Shall we say that we will designate our spokesman in a 15-minute executive session and send the man of our choice here to meet with you and you alone?"
Napier looked puzzled, then nodded. "Quite agreeable, Mr. Rickey." He bowed and smiled and walked off stage. Immediately Rickey began rousing his stupefied colleagues, laying about him with his walking stick, prodding one after the other and herding them into an adjoining smaller banquet room. Casey Stengel, mopping up the last of the gravy on William O. DeWitt's plate, arose and followed them.
Rickey's speech to the executive session has never been even partially revealed until now. The following excerpt from it was obtained by the writer from the most authoritative source available, a steam fitter who happened to be repairing a broken radiator in the room at the time.
"Gentlemen," roared Rickey when his glassy-eyed associates had taken their seats in the smaller room, "I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said, 'Give me the errors of enthusiasm rather than the indifference of wisdom.' Gentlemen, in my considered view, Franklin was wrong. I yield to no man in my admiration for the young and forward-looking. I salute our commissioner, Fels Napier, for his brilliant career in soap. But, gentlemen, baseballwise, the man is a raving lunatic. He must be got rid of—now—at once!"