It was the first week of spring training in Florida. At Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg Solly Hemus, wearing the bright red warmup jacket of the St. Louis Cardinals, stood behind the batting cage, his quick, narrow eyes scanning the scene before him. Minutes ago he had been busy fulfilling his role as utility infielder, blocking ground balls at third base, playing pepper with the boys and taking his five swings with the bat, all the time kidding, yelling and needling in the way that is his. Now, watching the others, making notations on the clipboard he carried and glancing occasionally at a pocket watch, he was performing his major function, that of manager of the Cardinals. As such, he was the perfect gentleman. He accepted interruptions gracefully. He answered questions politely. It looked like the effort was killing him.
Hemus, as a player, is tough, even mean. He can't hit very well or field very well, so naturally he isn't a very good player, but he has managed to stick around the major leagues for 10 years. He is good at drawing walks and at getting the old right elbow in front of a pitch, an art he has practiced so successfully that twice he has led the league in being hit by pitched balls. He is also shrewd.
In 1956, when he was traded away from St. Louis to Philadelphia, Solly made a smart move. Spending only a few minutes and a 3� stamp, he wrote a letter to Cardinal Owner Gussie Busch, saying in effect that it had been swell working for such a fine organization and that if at any time in the future Busch should need a manager for the Cardinals, little Solly would love to give it a try.
Just two and a half years later, Busch needed a manager. Hemus was traded back to St. Louis, and now he has his chance.
Last year the Cardinals finished in a tie for fifth place, just three games from the bottom of the league. Has Solly inherited a dying club? No, he doesn't think so. In fact, the Cardinals have a chance to be a real good team. Why no, he wasn't just saying that. If he thought he had a lousy team, he'd say so. Now this team had some fine young players in Boyer, Green, Blasingame, Cunningham....
A young infielder named Lee Tate finished his turn in batting practice and then came around to stand beside the cage, watching.
"Excuse me," said Hemus. "Hey, Tate, every time you finish batting I want you to circle the bases."
Tate, embarrassed, gave him a sick smile. Hemus cooled off quickly. "I don't mean you have to do it now, Tate. Just in the future. By the way, I realize you came out early today. I mean, I know you've been working hard." Obviously feeling better, Tate trotted off.
"The hardest part of this job is player relations," Hemus continued. "It's hard to know how to treat the different guys. Some need encouragement, others need a kick in the pants. Excuse me. Hey, Green, after you finish over there I want you to run.
"Our trip to Japan last fall was helpful. I made some mistakes there, mostly field decisions. For instance, I'd call for a hit-and-run, and it would turn out that the man couldn't hit behind the runner. Now I know the limitations of my players. Excuse me. Hey, Kuhlmann and Staniland. I want both of you to take some extra hitting."