Lefty O'Doul, now a San Francisco restaurant owner and springtime batting coach for the Giants, is friendly with Stoneham and Sheehan, too ("Old Tom is a fine fellow," says O'Doul. "Great storyteller, heart as big as all outdoors"), but he is as mystified as anyone else as to why Sheehan got the job.
"I'll tell you one thing," says O'Doul. "Horace can be a very stubborn man. If somebody tells him he should hire so-and-so to manage the club, you can bet right there that Horace is going to hire somebody else. He doesn't like people telling him how to run his ball club.
"No, I don't know how it happened—but it might have happened like this. Tom sat there for so long telling Horace how Rigney should have done this and that until Horace finally decided, 'Well, now, old Tom's pretty smart, we'll let him run the ball club.' Now I don't say that's what happened. But it might have."
With Sheehan running the ball club, the Giants lost five straight, fell six and a half games behind and into third place. In early July they lost five in a row again and dropped into fifth place, eight and a half games behind. After one brief spurt in the last week of July, they hit the skids again, this time losing six straight in one period to kill off any hope of ever escaping the second division. That is where the Giants are now, winning a few through sheer talent, losing a few more through shoddy defensive play, uninspired base running and erratic hitting.
A SUDDEN TOUGHNESS
The ballplayers like Sheehan, for he helped scout and sign many of them, but they run all over him and he does not have their respect. Usually he is too easy on them; then, suddenly, he tries to get too tough, often in the wrong way, pointing the finger at individuals during group clubhouse meetings. He has publicly called the deal for Blasingame "the worst trade the Giants ever made." He says the pitching staff is too soft, that "those fellows need a tough guy like Maglie to show them how to pitch."
Unable to second-guess the manager, he now second-guesses his players. "I never saw anything like it," says one of the Giants. "Whatever you do is wrong. He's the only manager I ever saw who criticized line drives." On the National League All-Star team plane, going from Kansas City to Yankee Stadium, Sheehan was a riot; the show he put on left everyone in tears—except that the tears on the cheeks of the Giants were not the laughing kind. "Now you know," said one of the Giants to another National Leaguer, "why we're not going to win the pennant."
The basis for a winning team in 1961 is still there: Mays, Cepeda, Kirkland, Alou (the most pleasant development of a dismal year) and the potentially fine pitching staff built around Sam Jones, McCormick, Jack Sanford, Marichal and Billy O'Dell. But the Giants need at least one good infielder, desperately, and they need a catcher and a relief man who approaches the Lindy McDaniel- Roy Face class. In trade, the Giants have only Antonelli to offer as big bait—and how do you trade for a leader?
The Giants must also do something about the wind in Candlestick Park, and a dozen suggestions, some weird, some within the realm of reason, have materialized from various quarters. The most popular one, because of its scope, if nothing else, is to cut down Morvey's Hill. The theory is that the wind would then blow steadily over the top of the stadium, from home plate out toward center field, permitting Mays and Cepeda to bash a few baseballs into Union Square. There is no guarantee, of course, that without the protection of Morvey's Hill Candlestick Park itself might not blow into Union Square.
Another suggestion is to install a high, baffled fence atop the left-field stands, similar to the ones which deflect jet exhausts upward at the end of airport runways. "The people who want to build it insist that the thing will work," says Feeney. "They say that the baffle will not only block off the lower layer of wind but will shoot it straight up, forming a wall of air which will also deflect the higher layers. I don't know; we're ready to try almost anything."