SI Vault
Gerald Holland
December 22, 1958
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December 22, 1958

Commissioner Fels Napier's Plan To Save Baseball

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"This went on and on. Stengel talked of this fella and that fella. He said that if he brought the fella from the outfield in to catch he would perhaps put the other fella on first base. I gathered he was talking about Elston Howard and Yogi Berra, but I couldn't be sure. But he always came back to the short fingers and the long fingers. Soon I was completely helpless. I couldn't summon the strength of will to interrupt him. Finally he asked me to hold out my hands. I did and he said I had fine fingers and could have been a big league ballplayer. But, he said, since I was too old for that he would recommend that I become a dentist. I found myself nodding my head. He said I should go to Kansas City and he would send me some books to study while he was making arrangements to get me into the school he attended. He told me to get my hair cut short. He said long hair drained off brain power. He said I should get started right away and suggested that I leave by the kitchen entrance to avoid the crowd outside. I found myself doing exactly what he said. After I had signed a little piece of paper for him, I left, picked up June and we took the first plane to Kansas City. We checked in here at the Muehlebach, the hotel Stengel suggested. In a few days the books on the table there arrived. I've been studying them and waiting to hear more from Stengel. But I haven't heard a word."

He stopped, exhausted again. "You never will, dear," whispered Mrs. Napier, "you never will. Now tell the writer what you have just begun to realize."

Napier jumped to his feet. He turned to his wife. "By golly, sweetheart, I do feel better. It has been good for me to get this off my chest." He turned back to the writer.

"Look here," said Napier, "I see what happened to me now. I've been an expert on soap-selling techniques, perhaps the leading expert on the irritant commercial technique, you know, the insistently repetitive meaningless gibberish with a few key words that plant themselves in the subconscious and induce a compulsion to buy. Well, now I see that this man Stengel has developed this very technique beyond anything we've achieved in the soap industry. I fell victim to a master of my own craft! Do you see? Maybe I was more vulnerable than most people. But I tell you, sir, when I walked out that kitchen entrance, I felt that I simply had to study dentistry, had to, had to, had to!"

Mrs. Napier, looking more beautiful than ever in her happiness, slowly rose from the sofa and put her arms around her husband's neck. "Oh, sweetheart," she whispered, "you're well again, you're well again!"

The writer looked away in embarrassment. Then he turned back as Napier cried:

"You're doggone right I'm well again and we're going home, home to Cincinnati, sweets! Let's start packing now!"

"Fels, Fels," sighed Mrs. Napier, "I've never been so happy in my life!"

"What if I do have to start all over again in Big Soap—even at $50,000 a year!" said Napier. "We can manage!"

"Of course we can!" exclaimed Mrs. Napier.

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