In these travel-happy times, it sometimes seems that almost everybody is just back from Hong Kong, wearing a bargain in a hand-tailored suit. Getting around to faraway places has become a commonplace, and it may turn out that the sought-after man at dinner parties will be the man who has never been anyplace. But, for all of this, there is one form of travel that remains unique and is available to very few—and that's a road trip with a big league ball club.
There is nothing in the world quite like it. Thanks to an institution known as The Traveling Secretary, this kind of travel is completely carefree. There are no ticket or reservation problems; luggage turned over to a bellboy in one town miraculously turns up in the hotel lobby at the next stop. Sixty-seat airplanes are provided for parties of only 40. Each day begins with enormous room-service breakfasts. In the evenings everybody orders the thickest steak on the menu. The monotony of it all is broken by evenings out (for nonplaying personnel) at the places offering the best floor shows. The atmosphere at all other times is that of youth and health and horseplay, all adding up to a gracious kind of living very high on the hog.
Over the years I have made many a trip with many a ball club. But I had always been preoccupied with what was happening on the playing field. A few weeks ago I took a swing around the western circuit with the St. Louis Cardinals, this time to observe more particularly the backstage mechanics of getting a club in and out of town and to note whatever else might happen off field along the way.
Following Traveling Secretary Leo Ward's mimeographed instruction sheet, I brought my bag to the Cardinal clubhouse before the first game of the July 4th home double-header with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Butch Yatkeman, the property man, said he would not start his final packing of equipment until the seventh inning of the second game and that it wouldn't be too much of a rush because the Cards would be starting out with fresh road uniforms. The jump from Chicago to San Francisco would be a little more frantic because the road uniforms would have to be snatched off the players' backs right after the game. Trainer Bob Bauman said the only thing that would hold up his packing (heaven forbid) would be a player injury.
Butch and I walked down to Leo Ward's office, and they stuffed brown envelopes with meal money for the players. Players get $10 a day, but the free meals served on the planes along the way usually enable the players to show a little profit on that.
That chore done, Leo Ward picked up the phone and called Manager Bill Hurst of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago. Manager Hurst said he had received the room list, and everything was set. Room lists change slightly from town to town. Writers join up or leave; sometimes players get hurt or sick and must be left at home.
The room list for Chicago called for suites for Manager Solly Hemus and Leo himself and single rooms for Stan Musial, the sportswriters and Bob Nieman, the outfielder. Musial gets a room to himself because he is the big star; Nieman rates one because he is such an excessively loud snorer that nobody can tolerate him. Everyone else is doubled up.
Lee Scott, the traveling secretary of the Los Angeles Dodgers, dropped in on Ward to say hello and swap a few stories. At one point Scott exploded: "Ward, when are you going to stop calling my ball club
Ward snapped his fingers and shook his head. "I'm trying to break myself of the habit, Lee, honest I am."
Jim Rohm, the United Airlines man, came in and said that the weather outlook between St. Louis and Chicago was fine and the DC-6B charter plane would be ferried down from Chicago a couple of hours before the scheduled takeoff time.