SI Vault
Gerald Holland
August 31, 1959
A shipboard explosion and 'Shoo, Fly' conclude the series on Larry MacPhail
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August 31, 1959

Feuds, Finale And A Fairy Tale

A shipboard explosion and 'Shoo, Fly' conclude the series on Larry MacPhail

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I glanced at my notes. "Benefactor," I said. "An entry I have here says, 'MacPhail's great benefactor, responsible for MacPhail's success in baseball,' and so on and so forth. 'Put MacPhail in as president of Columbus club, recommended him for Cincinnati and Brooklyn jobs.' Etcetera, etcetera." I looked up.

MacPhail had slowly risen to his feet. He hitched up his trousers. He took a final sip from his glass and set it down carefully.

The record player had played its way down to my record, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The chorus sang, "Mine eyes have seen the glory...." I looked up at MacPhail, then back at my notebook. It was too late to turn back now. I quoted another excerpt: "When MacPhail was desperately seeking a new manager at Brooklyn, he called Rickey and pleaded for advice from his old benefactor. 'Why, Larry,' said Rickey, 'you have a man on the club right now who has fine potential as a manager.' 'Who is it, Branch?' cried MacPhail. Rickey replied, ' Leo Durocher.' "

A sound erupted from MacPhail that was a cross between the bellow of a lovesick bull and the blast of a diesel locomotive's horn. It rose over Fred Waring's shouting chorus and reduced it, drums and all, to the level of Jeanie MacPhail's toy flute.

The sound trailed off and I leaped into the lull. "Of course," I said, "that's only one version. Another version says it was John McDonald, your traveling secretary at Brooklyn, who suggested Durocher although you never gave him credit."

This last had a sudden calming effect on MacPhail, like a second blow from a sledge hammer. He sank down on the sofa, picked up his empty glass and looked into it.

The Fred Waring chorus concluded rousingly with "Glory, glory, hallelujah, His truth goes marching on!" It was the last record on the player.

MacPhail again arose with deliberation. He straightened his shoulders and flung his arms as though he intended to throw away his hands. He spoke, as to a judge on the bench, lapsing perhaps into the role of the trial lawyer he was in his youth.

"Let the record show," he said with great restraint, "that I did not introduce the name of Branch Rickey into this conversation. Furthermore, let it be noted that I have never, at any time, gratuitously attacked Mr. Rickey except where it was necessary for me to correct or answer statements or charges by him against me."

I nodded.

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