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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Through as stormy a career as ever rocked, shocked and shook up big league baseball and Thoroughbred horse racing, Leland Stanford (Larry) MacPhail has gone bulldozing along, confounding his critics, justifying the faith of his friends with comeback after comeback, time and again turning apparent failure into success, seeming disaster into triumph.

Nothing fazes MacPhail. When he was a big-time football referee, bitterly partisan crowds more than once swarmed over the field to get at him. He stared them down. He took two world wars in his stride, as a captain in one, a colonel in the other. He flourished in good times and bad: with night baseball he showed club owners how to increase attendance at the bottom of a depression.

He has thrived on public criticism. He has been unchastened by what most men would consider public embarrassment. One time, when he was running the Cincinnati ball club, he got in a fight with a police sergeant in the elevator of a hotel. Next day the incident was prominently reported on Page One. Thomas Conroy, banker and director of the Cincinnati club, rushed to MacPhail's home where he expected to find him remorseful and penitent. Instead, Conroy said recently, he found MacPhail, showing the marks of battle, one eye swollen shut, chortling over the newspapers. His first words to Conroy were: "Man, how do you like that for publicity!"

MacPhail has weathered some very bad breaks and has been unchanged by some extraordinarily good ones. The comforts that fortune has sent his way—like the $2 million he made out of the New York Yankees, the 1,000-acre horse and cattle farm, the Jaguar, the Chrysler, the station wagons and the boat that awaits his pleasure in Florida in the wintertime and on Chesapeake Bay in the summer—MacPhail accepts as no more than proper rewards for hard work and enterprise.

Nothing fazes MacPhail, but certain old controversies (which I have been dredging up in our continuing conversations) scarcely had a tranquilizing effect on him. I had saved the most explosive subject for the last.

The Jean KM, a 58-foot diesel-powered Burger cruiser, backed away from the Georgetown, Maryland yacht basin and pointed down the Sassafras River for a weekend cruise on Chesapeake Bay.

Seated in deck chairs were the MacPhails: Larry, his wife Jean and their 8-year-old daughter, Jeanie Katherine MacMurtrie MacPhail, for whom the boat was named.

After a while Jeanie went forward and in a moment she could be heard, faintly, practicing on her toy flute, a project that had been occupying her for a week or more.

MacPhail, hearing the flute, gestured in a pretense of anguish. "Oh, no," he groaned, "she didn't bring that flute?"

"She said she absolutely needed more practice," smiled Mrs. MacPhail. There was to be a toy flute chorus at the public school Jeanie attends in Bel Air, Md., a single performance of a work entitled, Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me.

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