The bus is leased from the Santa Cruz Transit Company. "It's not a brand-new-bus," says Jack Quinn, general manager and president of the Bees, "but it's not an antique. I don't want to put any laurels in my pocket, but it's as good as any bus in the league."
"The bus isn't air conditioned," says Rocky. "It is if you open the window. Every so often we have to tell the driver to throw another log on the air conditioner. We take a lot of interesting trips in our bus. Reno to Bakersfield—that's 10 hours. We stay at a lot of interesting hotels, too. In one hotel lobby they have an artificial plant. Now, it wasn't always artificial. It's just that it's been there since the Stone Age. In another hotel they have television sets which only receive vertical lines. We play in some interesting ball parks, too. In one—well, I don't want to say the mound's high, but when I pitch batting practice I got to chew gum.
"There are three things the average man thinks he can do better than anybody else," says Rocky Bridges, "build a fire, run a hotel and manage a baseball team." Managing in the California League is something else, however.
"In one game," Rocky recalls, "there is a man on first, one out and my pitcher is up. 'If you don't bunt him over on the first pitch,' I tell him, "hit-and-run on the second.' He misses the bunt, takes the next pitch and the guy's thrown out. 'How can you blow a sign when I told it to you?' I ask him. "Well,' he says, 'I forgot.' Four days later there's a man on first, one out and my pitcher is up. Different pitcher. 'If you don't bunt him over on the first pitch,' I tell him, 'hit-and-run on the second.' He misses the bunt, takes the next pitch and the guy's thrown out. 'How can you blow a sign when I told it to you?' I ask him. 'Well,' he says, 'I forgot.' Now, some guys might get teed off at that, but it halfway struck me as kind of funny. For the life of me, I couldn't see how they could do it twice within a week."
Rocky manages the Bees from the third-base coach's box. "I pick one of the older guys on the club, 22 or 23—one thing that bothers me about this job is that I might come down with the croup—and put him on first base. I don't think anyone listens to him. I try to dream up strategy and things on third—like please hit the ball. The first game I managed good, but boy did they play bad.
"You got to treat the troops as pros but in the back of your mind remember they're novices. They do things you probably did and forgot. Of course, some of them it's safer to tell to go out and get an honest job. The other day my left fielder saw some guys rob a liquor store near the ball park and chased them until he got their license number. Afterwards, he told me that he'd always wanted to be a cop. 'Don't give up hope,' I said."
Rocky is an admirably patient and gentle manager. "I always said I'd never forget I was a player if I became a manager, but I wanted to see if I would. How many times you hear of a manager keeping the guys sitting in front of their lockers for an hour after the ball game?
That's an insult to their intelligence. I can't see bringing out the tambourine and jumping up and down, either. You can be a good guy and still have their respect. Of course, if they start to goof off they can be handled in a different way."
"I know when Rock's mad at me," says Lon Morton, a San Jose pitcher, now hors de combat with a sore arm. "He puts his arm around Lon Morton and says, 'I'm mad at you.' " Morton alternately fascinates and exasperates Rocky. "There's a questionnaire all the players have to fill out," Rocky says. "One of the questions is what is your ambition. Every player but Morton put down 'big-league ballplayer.' Morton wrote, 'Hall of Fame.' Then there's Peraza, my left-handed pitcher who can also throw right, and Cotton Nash, the big Kentucky basketball star I got on first. Nash could be an interesting individual. I'm small, but I still like the big ones. Nash offers an interesting target for some of my infielders. Some of my infielders make interesting throws. It makes it very interesting, but then I was sent down here to learn the pitfalls of managing—not winning."
Rocky Bridges was born in Refugio, Texas on August 7, 1927 under the name of Everett LaMar Bridges Jr. When he was one, his maternal grandparents took him to Long Beach, Calif., where he has lived ever since. Rocky never learned to swim, however. "My uncle dumped me in the ocean when I was 6," he says. "I think I walked back underneath the water. I know I didn't walk on top." But then Bridges has always been a prodigious walker. He did not own a car until he got married. The day he signed with the Dodgers he had previously signed with the Yankees, but walking home he thought it over and tore up the Yankee contract. He then took a bus to the Dodger scout's house and walked all the way home with that contract intact—a total of four miles.