The all-star Game is a recognition by professionals of the best performances during the first half of the season. That recognition goes to players alone—but if an All-Star manager were also elected, the votes for standout performance in the first half of 1959 would have to go to Jimmie Dykes, the salty little Irishman who has restored Detroit's faith in its Tiger.
Jimmie came to the city in early May, the new manager of a team with a record of two wins and 15 losses. The Tiger lay in a dark corner, beaten and sniffling Jimmie Dykes picked it up, wiped its nose, gave it a kick in the rear and told Detroit the Tiger would reach the .500 level by All-Star time. That time is now here and the Tiger is over .500, just a few games out of first place.
It is possible you already know Jimmie Dykes from some place; Philadelphia, perhaps, in those roaring years following the first war, or Chicago, during FDR's long inning. More recently, Jimmie has been in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and it may be that you got to know him in one or another of those towns, especially if you spent any time at the ball park.
Dykes has spent much of his life at the ball park. He is a professional baseball man, in his time a player, a manager and a coach. Thirty seasons ago he was Connie Mack's boy; a tough little infielder who helped the Athletics win three straight pennants. He played 22 years, the last seven for Chicago, and he was the American League's starting third baseman in the first All-Star Game ever played, in 1933. He became the manager of the White Sox in 1934 and held the job for 12 years. Since leaving there, his career has been a hodgepodge of baseball jobs, some managing, some coaching. He began this season, at the age of 62, as a coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But on May 2, as he was taking a shower in the Pittsburgh locker room, the phone rang, and 10 minutes later, Jimmie Dykes was the manager of the Tigers.
On Sunday, May 3 Detroit was to play the Yankees in a double-header. Two hours before game time Dykes held a brief clubhouse meeting. As a rule he is against such gatherings.
"They're like golf lessons," he has said. "You get the players to thinking about so many things, they forget to hit the ball."
But this first day seemed to demand some sort of talk. Dykes stood before the disheartened team and told them: "I can't hit, I can't throw, and God knows I can't run, so I can't help you." That was about all he said. The Tigers went out and beat the Yankees in both games and were on the way back.
Six weeks later Jimmie Dykes was in Baltimore, dressing for a game. Hoyt Wilhelm was scheduled to pitch against Detroit that night and, so far, Wilhelm was undefeated. This, however, did not bother Dykes. Nothing could have bothered him. His Tigers were winning.
As he dressed, cramming his stocky body into his heavy gray flannel uniform, a gathering of reporters, photographers and old acquaintances stood by. The world loves a winner, who was it said, and Jimmie Dykes was the latest example.
Dykes reached into his locker and produced a box of expensive cigars. Nobody in baseball smokes more cigars than Jimmie. He is rarely without one. He opened the box and placed it on the table.