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Take Mays. Everyone realized from the first that the strong wind blowing in from left field at Candlestick Park would cut down on Willie's home run production; he would have to quit trying to pull every pitch and hit more often to center and right fields. "In the long run this is going to make Willie an even better hitter," Chub Feeney, who is Stoneham's nephew and a vice-president of the Giants, said at the start of the season. "He may not hit so many home runs this year, but his average should go up." After a month of the season, Feeney was all set to receive his prophet's badge; Willie had hit only two home runs but was leading the league at .425, and the Giants had won 15 of their first 22 games. Mays, however, could see only those two home runs.
"I tried to hit that way for a while," he says, "and it seemed to work all right here. But then we went on the road, and I couldn't pull the ball, man. So finally I quit. Now I hit the ball good on the road and I get my home runs. Back here I just swing and hope for the best." Mays figures that he has hit at least 15 baseballs to deep left field in Candlestick Park for outs which would have been home runs anywhere else. What he does not figure is that he might have been doing the club more good by hitting singles and doubles—at a .425 gait—into right center field.
The unhappiest Giant of all is Antonelli, a man so bitter over the press and public reaction to his now infamous words about the wind in old Seals Stadium that he refuses to discuss the subject. It is easy to be sympathetic to Antonelli, for he hardly deserved the condemnation he received. It is more difficult to understand why he should be so disgusted with the game itself or the people who pay his salary. In any event, he has let the Giant front office know that he wants to be traded; he has told other ballplayers that he will quit baseball within a year or two if he is not.
When a baseball team arrives at such an emotional state as this, it takes a very strong manager to pull it out, a rough whiplash of a man who can lead. A John McGraw, a Leo Durocher, a Paul Richards. "What this ball club really needs," says one of the San Francisco baseball writers, "is Captain Bligh." Instead it has Tom Sheehan, who only looks like Captain Bligh. Sheehan is not a McGraw, a Durocher or a Richards; he is a friend of Horace Stoneham.
Basically the Giants have a sound organization. The game is Stoneham's life; unlike other owners who look upon it as a sidelight or a toy, he has made baseball his business. Feeney is a sharp young baseball man. Secretary Eddie Brannick was with the Giants before Stoneham's father bought the club in 1919, and he is one of baseball's best-loved men. Carl Hubbell and Jack Schwarz run a farm system which consistently produces some of the finest prospects in either league. The Giants have made a lot of money in San Francisco; their 1960 attendance set a record, and this for a ball club that has been in business 78 years. It is a relaxed organization, a pleasant one to be around. Perhaps it is too relaxed.
"From what I have seen," says one San Franciscan, "my impression of the Giant front office is a bunch of jolly old Irishmen with red faces sitting around a table talking baseball and getting squiffed."
In the spring there were many people who thought the Giants would win the pennant, but only Stoneham anticipated a runaway. Overlooking the team's evident weaknesses behind the plate and in the bullpen, too willing to believe that Willie McCovey had proved himself a big leaguer in only half a season of play, Stoneham saw the forthcoming season through a rosy haze, compounded of equal parts foolish optimism and Dewar's White Label.
The Giants played well under Rigney, and on June 12, when they beat the Braves 16-7, they were 11 games over .500 and only half a game behind the Pirates' sizzling pace. Then the Giants lost a game to Milwaukee and three straight to Pittsburgh—and Rigney was fired. "The ball club was getting away from Rigney," said Stoneham. "We had to make the change now before it was too late."
Stoneham owns the Giants, and it is his privilege to change managers when he wants, like a man putting new sparkplugs in a car which is running well but is not winning the race because of two flat tires. In this case, Horace also reached for the wrong sparkplugs. Instead of hiring Durocher, who was available and panting for the job, Stoneham picked Tom Sheehan.
Sheehan has a great deal of baseball experience. He was a pitcher for several big league teams. One of them was the 1916 Athletics, who lost a record 117 games. Sheehan's contribution to this effort was one victory and 17 defeats. He managed minor league clubs for several years and since 1948 has been Stoneham's "personal scout," sitting at the owner's elbow in the private box when the Giants are at home, usually traveling with the club on the road. Both Durocher and Rigney have mentioned that old Tom kept a pretty good eye on the way things were going—and reported what he saw to Stoneham.