In Texas, according to Jimmy Banks, the favorite new sport is bowling, a game conducted in airconditioned immunity to all seasonal change. But even bowling was feeling the impact of autumn. "Boy," moaned one gloomy alley proprietor in Austin last week as the crisp, clear weather lured would-be customers away by the score, "will I be glad when the weather's terrible."
An hour or so before Nikita Khrushchev made his way through New York's Pennsylvania Station last week a commuting sportsman of our acquaintance threaded his way through the station himself—and with, he lets us know, a sudden sense of personal apprehension. The feeling mounted as he realized that police and security guards were already taking their positions on all sides. His mind flooded with the conviction that strong hands would fall on him at any moment. As he walked, he mentally rehearsed the story he would tell. But the story never got told. Despite the extra precautions taken by the police throughout the city that day, despite the milling and curious crowds, despite the general air of furtive expectancy that lurked on all sides, our sportsman got all the way to his office without anybody challenging him at all. And this was odd because, under his arm, only slightly concealed in its carrying case, the fellow was carrying a 12-gauge pump shotgun.
Nice Guy in First
It comes hard for a manager to find the right words to say on winning a pennant, and it is plainly even more difficult to find the right words on losing one. Leo Durocher long ago set the pattern for portentous managerial pronouncements with his grim axiom that nice guys finish last, and the power of the ill-considered word at the end of the season was amply demonstrated last week by the flare-up in Cleveland, where Manager Joe Gordon resigned after a critical blast by Frank Lane (see page 33). News of a sort therefore lay in the fact that nothing but high praise for Al Lopez attended the triumph of the White Sox in clinching the American League pennant, the burden of it being, of course, that he was a nice guy, and he won.
Genius was only one of the words showered over the name of Al Lopez in the sport pages, along with sagacious, wise, good, kindly, friendly, nice, pleasant, wealthy, rich, frugal, sensible, honest, good-hearted, smart, intelligent, unaffected and good-looking. Even the
San Francisco Chronicle
, managing to tear itself away from the Giants for a moment, reported tersely: " Al Lopez is a nice guy."
This paragon among baseball managers last week sat at his littered desk in his windowless office in Comiskey Park, where he had been opening one congratulatory letter after another, and allowed himself to be drawn out about the White Sox strategy and its meaning. Last July, when the neck-and-neck race with Cleveland had already lasted three months, Lopez laid it down that the White Sox could win only by constant pressure exerted by a light, fast team against more powerful opponents. Without one consistent long ball hitter, they had to depend on tight pitching, breaks, speed and plain audacity. "We keep moving and keep the pressure on the other team," he said. "They know they have to rush their plays. The more they rush, the more likely it is they will make an error. With our speed, an error means another base or maybe a run."
But the summer's question soon became: Could the White Sox survive their own frenetic pace and not become frantic themselves? "Well," said Lopez last week, opening a chink in his composed exterior, "it seems to me that I'm the only one who is tight and nervous. I feel it in my stomach, but I try to keep it to myself. Everybody else seems loose and easy. They joke and whistle. I just don't say anything." Preaching audacity to his players, always audacity, he had to maintain an air of benign composure himself, and the combination of long chances on the diamond and good nature in the dugout created something new in the business. Only a nice guy could have done it.
"Winning and developing young players are the rewarding things about managing," Lopez said. "First of all comes winning. But it gives you a mighty good feeling to think you've helped a young man become a better ballplayer." With his temperament, the hardest part of managing is his isolation from the men. He used to play cards with them, but now stays pretty much by himself, goes to movies and reads a lot. He was reading Lady Chatterley's Lover when the White Sox clinched the pennant. Somebody told him it was a good book, and he heard so much controversy that he decided to see for himself. What was his opinion of it? With typical Lopez mildness, he thought it over and concluded, "I think it's a nice book."