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WHO IN THE WORLD BUT LARRY?
Gerald Holland
August 17, 1959
He has been called a busher, a brawler, a bully, a flop; an incomparable leader, a showman without peer, the purest genius of the sporting scene. Here begins the story—and the stories
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August 17, 1959

Who In The World But Larry?

He has been called a busher, a brawler, a bully, a flop; an incomparable leader, a showman without peer, the purest genius of the sporting scene. Here begins the story—and the stories

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"In the middle of the season in 1947 a New York investment house came to us with an offer of $3 million for a 49% interest in the club. Now, at the time of our purchase of the club Topping, Webb and I had agreed that we would try to get back our original investments if we could do so and still retain a controlling interest. I recommended accepting this offer in 1947 and Topping agreed with me. But Webb did not. So I began to think about my personal situation. With the club now valued at $10 million for tax purposes, I could foresee what would happen if I was hit by a truck someday. My wife and children wouldn't be able to pay the inheritance tax without selling out my shares of Yankee stock. This gave me a lot of concern, and I finally went to Webb and Topping and suggested that the corporation retire my stock. Retire my stock. They agreed on a price of $2 million to be paid to me—not by Webb and Topping personally, but out of the corporation treasury. That left them in sole control of the club on their original personal investment of $500,000 each, which is all either of them has put into the Yankees personally—personally—to this day."

MacPhail took a gulp of No-Cal, held it in his mouth a moment and then swallowed hard.

"That left me," he continued, "with my contract as president of the Yankees which had two years to run. But now that my stock had been retired, I began to give serious thought to my own retirement as an active baseball executive. I knew that Dan Topping would like to be president of the club, and that was natural—anyone would like to be president of a major league ball club. As for myself, well, I had been in baseball for about 25 years and I was getting pretty tired."

MacPhail swirled the ice around in his glass.

"I don't know," he said after a moment, "I don't know if I'd be here today if I hadn't quit in '47. I've had cancer twice in the last five years, and I doubt very much if I would have had the constitution, the physical and mental condition or whatever else it takes to lick it."

He put down his glass and stood up and then came around the table and grasped my shoulder, shaking me until the ice rattled in the Coke glass.

"So in 1947 we won the pennant, and the Series with Brooklyn went to seven games. I'll never forget that seventh game as long as I live. Brooklyn still had some pitching left and we didn't have a thing."

He pushed me back against the sofa and my feet shot up, hitting the coffee table. Gesturing with a pitching motion, MacPhail, his excitement growing, exclaimed: "I had no idea who Bucky Harris would pitch in the final game. It was a very dramatic situation. We didn't have anything left. So Harris settled on Frank Shea. Shea had had only one day's rest. Well, they knocked Shea out in the second and Bevens went in. He was pitching very well, but when we got a couple of men on in the fourth, who's up to bat but Bevens himself! Now the situation calls for a pinch hitter, but if somebody hits for Bevens, who have we got to pitch? Well, Harris makes the decision and sends up Bobby Brown. Bobby hits a double down the left field foul line, then somebody drives Brown home and we're out in front."

MacPhail sank to the sofa and jabbed at me with an elbow, then put out both hands before him. "Get the picture now," he cried. "We're out front, but how are we going to hold the lead with no pitching left?"

He jumped up and put up an arm, peeking over it like a man in hiding. He lowered his voice:

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