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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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One arose out of the charge by Leo Durocher, then Brooklyn manager under Rickey, that MacPhail was entertaining gamblers in his box at Havana during spring training. When the charge was called to Rickey's attention, he deplored MacPhail's alleged consorting with gamblers. MacPhail demanded a hearing by Baseball Commissioner A. B. (Happy) Chandler and proved to the commissioner's satisfaction that Duro-cher's charge was groundless. As an aftermath of this hearing, Durocher was suspended for a year on an accumulation of other counts.

The second significant incident came when MacPhail was chairman of an interleague policy committee charged with working out a method for bringing Negro players into organized baseball. Before the committee could report, Rickey signed Jackie Robinson and, in MacPhail's view, undercut the work of the committee. Later, Rickey was quoted as saying in a speech at a Negro college that the major league clubs (with the exception of the Brooklyn Dodgers) had no intention of ever permitting Negroes to play in the big leagues.

In both cases MacPhail charged that Rickey was crediting himself with lofty motives for bringing about situations that were to his own advantage. To Rickey's professed anguish over Durocher's suspension, MacPhail replied that he wanted to get rid of Durocher anyway and didn't have the courage to fire him. To Rickey's claim that his signing of Jackie Robinson was prompted by a conscientious desire to correct an injustice, MacPhail issued a blistering bill of particulars, distributed by the Associated Press, concluding with:

" Rickey was not interested in doing something constructive for either baseball or the Negro players. In spite of the fact that he accepted an appointment by the major leagues to study this problem and report his findings, he doublecrossed his associates for his own personal advantage, raided the Negro leagues and took players without adequately compensating them for players he took. Rickey was not kidding anybody in baseball with all that bunk about his conscience...Churchill must have had Rickey in mind when he said [of Sir Stafford Cripps], 'There, but for the grace of God, goes God.' "

The boat was turning. MacPhail must have been right: we had gone past Fairlee Creek. As we swung around, a mournful sound came from up on deck. It was Jeanie MacPhail playing her toy flute, still struggling to master Shoo, Fly, against the fast approaching deadline. She didn't quite have it yet.

We had dinner at the Great Oak Yacht Club and afterward, walking around the grounds, I asked MacPhail, "You said you were fired at Columbus, and you quit Brooklyn to go in the Army. But why did you leave Cincinnati just when you seemed to be getting a pennant-winning team together?"

MacPhail said: "There were a number of reasons. Health was one of them. I had developed a nervous facial tic and the doctor said I had to slow down. Then, my father was getting on, and he and my brother Herman needed help in running the investment company back in Michigan in which I was a partner. And there were other considerations. I didn't see eye to eye with Mr. Powel Crosley Jr. on some things. I had gotten him interested in buying $150,000 worth of preferred stock in the club and I had turned over to him options I had on the common stock. It was understood that I would be allowed to buy one-third of the stock when I could finance the purchase. So far, although' Mr. Crosley had exercised options on part of the common stock, he would not permit me to exercise my end of the agreement."

MacPhail kicked at a pebble, hands thrust in his trouser pockets.

"Then there were a few other things. Mr. Crosley and I get along fine today, but in those old days I didn't like some of the things Mr. Crosley had done—like putting up a big refrigerator and a radio, products he manufactured, on the scoreboard. He had insisted on changing the name of the ball park to Crosley Field. I didn't think he had contributed anything to baseball up to that time that warranted naming a ball park after him. There were a lot of little things. He wanted me to fire Scotty Reston as club publicity man because Scotty was supposed to have made some disrespectful remarks about him at a country club bar. I wouldn't do it. (Scotty Reston is James B. Reston, present chief of The New York Times Washington Bureau.] Anyway, I told Ford Frick in August of that year that I wouldn't be back at Cincinnati the following season."

The MacPhails strolled on and I went back to the boat with Jeanie. We sat on the deck and Jeanie picked up a book. "Would you like to hear me read?" she said. I nodded.

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