Manager for the Ages
Threescore and six years ago, in the riverbank town of Muscatine, Iowa, a warehouse laborer named George Long founded a semipro baseball team and became its manager. Those Muscatine Red Sox are still going strong today, playing in Iowa's seven-team Blackhawk Valley League and, at 7-1 with 19 games to play, aiming for a 66th winning season. Long, his lifetime record a cool 1,222-613, is still the manager. "The players," he rasps, "they know to listen to me."
He is 90 years old and lean, a vegetarian with a weakness for chocolate malts and the hit-and-run. With only brief interruptions Long has spent his years directing the offense from the third base coach's box. "Just having George shouting encouragement is an inspiration," says Muscatine coach John Robinson, 61. "Opposing players come over to shake his hand. He's a legend."
A high school dropout from Buffalo, Long came to Muscatine in the late 1920s to take a job building a road along the Mississippi River. Soon afterward, he went to work at a food warehouse, and in '31, after the semipro baseball team on which he was a pitcher and infielder folded, he scrounged together enough money to form his own. For some 30 years Long played in addition to managing, and he took the field with several baseball greats. In the late '30s he had a barnstorming Babe Ruth in his lineup—"He hit two out for me," Long recalls—and his teams later played against Hall of Famers such as Dizzy Dean and Hank Aaron.
Though Long has quieted some from the chatterbox who barked at his hitters to "find some green" and though he has mellowed from the animated agitator who sprayed umpires with tobacco juice, he is at essence the same man for whom Robinson played from 1957 to '70. "He has an unbelievable devotion to baseball," Robinson says. "You see him on the field, and you just feel how much he loves the game."
As recently as last year Long was the team's chief fund-raiser. He could be seen trundling through the streets of Muscatine (pop. 23,500) clutching a grocery bag stuffed with the fliers and programs he sold door-to-door to pay for equipment, umpires and his players' postgame fare. "All the cheese sandwiches you can eat," Robinson says, "and always, always on rye." That's not surprising, since one of Long's signature sayings is, "If you eat white bread, you're going to be dead."
There's another he uses whenever his Red Sox fall into a rut: "I've never had a losing season," he likes to remind them, "and I don't plan to have one now."
Like He Sees 'Em
In his two decades as an NHL player, coach and television analyst, Mike Milbury was refreshingly brash and candid. And though many men lie low when they move into the executive suite, Milbury seems to have retained his to-hell-with-'em spirit, as well as his sharp tongue, in his position as general manager of the New York Islanders. Discussing negotiations with Paul Krause to re-sign forward Zigmund Palffy last week, Milbury, also the Islanders' coach, told the New York Post: "I think the agent is a moron."
Eye of the Hurricanes
The more we watch Miami coach Butch Davis, the more sincere he seems about his my-way-or-the-highway approach to cleaning up the Hurricanes' football program. Last summer, after linebacker James Burgess was arrested on charges of battery against a police officer and resisting arrest, Davis suspended him for two games. (Burgess was later acquitted.)