"Well," I said, "perhaps I phrased the question badly. But if Webb and Topping didn't buy out your interest in the New York Yankees, who did?"
"Nobody bought me out!" roared MacPhail. "The Yankee corporation retired my stock, and that happened in August, three months before I made a fool of myself by rushing down to the clubhouse after we had won the World Series and announcing my resignation as president of the ball club." He turned to his wife and said out of the corner of his mouth, "A little more fruit wouldn't hurt her, would it?"
"She's had enough for now, Larry," said Mrs. MacPhail. "She can have some more later on."
"Then may I be excused?" asked Jeanie.
"You may," said Jean MacPhail. Jeanie got up and smiled at her father and he grinned back at her. She went over to an end table and picked up a toy flute.
MacPhail's eyes followed her. "What will you take for that two-bit flute?" he said. Jeanie turned and said, "This is not a two-bit flute. It costs $1.29. That may not be much money to you, but it certainly is to me." She walked slowly away, blowing on the flute, struggling bravely to play Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me. She had a long way to go, and it happened to be a deadly serious business because she had to learn the piece in time to play in a whole chorus of toy flutes at the local public school a few days hence. Jeanie is the dark-haired, dark-eyed image of her mother and the only child of the 69-year-old MacPhail's second marriage (to the former Jean Wanamaker, his secretary when he was president of the Brooklyn Dodgers). The youngest of MacPhail's three children by his first marriage (which ended in divorce 14 years ago) is 32 years older than Jeanie. MacPhail's son, Bill, is director of sports for CBS; Lee is general manager of the Baltimore Orioles; his daughter, Marian, is chief of research for LIFE.
We had dined on the glass-enclosed terrace of the main house at MacPhail's Glenangus Farm near the town of Bel Air, Md. MacPhail had helped to carry in the dinner dishes, and now he began to help carry them out. It was the maid's night off. I stood up and picked up a plate, but Mrs. MacPhail said, "Why don't you both go in the living room and talk? I'll do the dishes." MacPhail shook his head. "No, I'll give you a hand," he said.
As the MacPhails worked in the kitchen I stood looking out from the terrace, down at the pond, stocked with bass and bluegills, and out over the green fields, each with its own spring, each set off by the hedges of multiflora roses which MacPhail planted to serve the double purpose of fencing and cover for game and wildlife. Visible through the trees were herds of Aberdeen Angus cattle (including one bull for which MacPhail paid $35,000) and the cottages that are the homes of some of the 30 fulltime employees of the estate.
Suddenly I staggered a little as an elbow jabbed me in the ribs. I turned and there was MacPhail, wiping a saucer with a towel. "It was a damn fool thing to do," he said, "running down to the clubhouse and announcing my resignation that way. That was a happy occasion and it belonged to the players. I should have kept my big mouth shut." I spread my feet a little, bracing myself, for I had learned that MacPhail punctuates his stories with assorted elbow jabs, chest pokes, shoulder nudges and pushes with the flat of his hand, all with the friendliest of intentions. But this time he just said, "I'll be back in a few minutes and tell you the facts about how I retired from baseball." He turned, and I watched him walk back to the kitchen. He didn't look 69; his hair was thinning but it was still red. He didn't need glasses to read the racing charts. He was a little beefy, but solid as a bullpen catcher. He smiled easily and often, but his eyes narrowed to slits and his lower lip protruded in the process, giving the effect of what someone once called "MacPhail's built-in leer."
I went on into the living room in the white-frame wing that MacPhail built onto the stone structure of the original farmhouse. The big room has a breathtaking picture window, a magnificent stereophonic sound system and a theater-size organ which MacPhail plays almost every day. I looked out the picture window in the fading twilight, down at the training track for the horses stabled at the farm, at the swimming pool and out over the gently rolling hills to the 150-acre tract on which MacPhail has just started his latest adventure in sports, the construction of an 18-hole golf course. He plans to lease it for operation as a private country club. He has other plans for setting aside some acreage for subdivision into two-acre miniature estates. It is his intention to keep intact the 300 acres surrounding the main house.