When Giles acted there was widespread talk that Walter O'Malley, perhaps the most influential and thus most persuasive of his 10 bosses, had pressured him. " Mr. O'Malley," said Giles to that, "has never said one word to me on the subject of the balk." Giles did admit that Walter Alston, the Dodger manager, had said quite a few words on the subject to Fred Fleig, the league secretary. It is safe to assume that Alston had confided in (or listened to) Walter O'Malley before doing so, because team managers do not presume to address league presidents on vital matters—even via league secretaries—without first consulting their club owners.
In any case, the big desk in Suite 2601 of the Carew Tower was soon bombarded with telegrams and newspaper clippings from all around the circuit. National League umpires, taking Mr. Giles at his word, were calling balks right and left, and before the end of April had exceeded the entire number ever called during any National League season. They soon reached a total of 96, while their opposite numbers in the American League had called just eight.
Paul Richards, general manager of the Houston Colts (for whom Giles's son, Bill, works as traveling secretary and publicity man), wired Giles that the balk call had better "return to some sensible basis before baseball and the National League becomes a complete joke." Richards wanted to know, "How long is this comic opera going to continue?" Fred Hutchinson, manager of Cincinnati, cried, "It's a mess!"
Meanwhile, the mess thickened. The team of umpires captained by Augie Donatelli led all the others in calling balks—five in one game. According to Columnist Mickey Herskowitz of The Houston Post, Giles confronted Donatelli and asked him, "Are you balk-happy or what?" Donatelli asked him if he wanted the rule enforced or not. "I want it enforced," said Giles. "Well," said Donatelli, "they were all balks and we called them."
Finally Mr. Giles had to do something. So he issued a "directive," which in baseball is regarded as something like a papal bull. He deleted the phrase "of one full second" and wrote that the pitcher must "hold the ball in both hands in front of his body and come to a stop before starting his delivery." Now other tops blew. Fresco Thompson, vice-president of the Dodgers, charged that Giles was not interpreting the rules but changing them. He said he was so mad that he had considered resigning from the rules committee. "What do they expect us to do?" growled Casey Stengel. "Run out on the field and yell 'Stop!' every time a pitcher starts to pitch?" Umpire Al Bar-lick was quoted as saying he would continue to call them as he saw them. Umpire Donatelli was quoted as saying he would not call another balk all season. (Since the Giles directive Donatelli has called none.)
At last, as in all baseball crises, there was a meeting of three of the best available brains in baseball: Frick, Cronin and Giles. Conferring in New York, they pondered only briefly and came up with a statement that supported Mr. Giles's own directive. The phrase "for one full second" would be eliminated. Pitchers in both leagues would be required to stop following their stretch with men on base, but not necessarily for a full second. Meanwhile, baseball's bible,
The Sporting News
, editorially applauded Mr. Giles for "acting wisely and decisively" in resolving a hassle he himself had set in motion. The rules committee (Fresco Thompson of the Dodgers going along) promptly approved the action of Frick, Cronin and Giles.
No doubt Mr. Giles was relieved. But it must be said that at no time during the uproar over enforcement of the balk rule did he betray the merest symptom of panic. At the height of the controversy he received an old friend and benefactor in his office at league headquarters. His caller was the baseball patriarch, Branch Rickey, now—at age 81—senior consultant of the St. Louis Cardinals. Rickey came stomping into Giles's office, a cigar clenched between his teeth, steering a steady course with the aid of a stout walking stick. Pleasantries were exchanged: each man said that he had never seen the other looking better. Neither said anything about balks.
"A social call, Warren," said Rickey, reaching out to borrow a match to light his stump of cigar.
"It's always a pleasure, Branch," said Giles.
"Yes, yes," said Rickey, peering out of the window before turning back to Giles and going on: