It is at times like this that Spider, who is a sucker for the absurd situation, is in grave danger of busting out laughing.
"Good," he said, keeping a straight face. "And while I have the chance, Jim, I want to thank you for calling me Babe all season. It's one of those nice little touches that makes a manager feel he's really communicating with his players."
Acton nodded. "I dig, Babe," he said.
"And while I'm on the subject, Jim," Spider went on, "I've been meaning to tell you something. When you get back to California, you'll be dropping in the office of the L.A. Dodgers. Now Fresco Thompson, the vice-president of the club, naturally keeps a pretty close eye on this team because of our working agreement. So this is a little tip for you. Fresco is the type of guy who likes ballplayers with personality. He'll know from my daily reports that your earned run average isn't so hot, but you can get around that if you handle him right."
Jim Acton was listening carefully.
"How do I handle the man, Babe?"
Spider swallowed hard and cleared his throat. "Call him Babe like you call me. Fresco will go for that. He'll think you like him a lot and he wants ballplayers to like him. Maybe, I don't know, he has a deep-down feeling of insecurity. Your calling him Babe will give him a big lift."
"This I appreciate," said Acton.
"I knew you would," said Spider. "Now go on out there and pitch me a ball game."
Acton squared his shoulders and swaggered out the door. In a moment, Spider followed him. Near the dugout, one of his catchers, 19-year-old Paul LaRocca from Valley Stream, on Long Island, was waiting for him.