This may seem like a silly and trivial reason for firing the top man in your organization. Except for one thing. There are no silly or trivial reasons for firing a man you'd like to get rid of anyway. I think we are safe in saying that if Gussie's confidence in Bing had not already been undermined, Bing wouldn't have had to suffer through anything worse than a stiff lecture on the responsibilities of corporate management.
Rickey, a most unlikely advocate, continued to argue that Keane was the man who should be fired, not Devine. Guessing Rickey's motives is a game the baseball world has been playing, with indifferent success, for more than 50 years. Branch, being nobody's fool, would know how the press was going to handle the firing of Devine, and he could guess what wise old octogenarian was going to be accused of having stabbed him in the back. Branch might be willing to risk that in order to get rid of Bing, but with Bing so completely out of favor Branch would be in complete command anyway.
Besides, Papa Branch's instinct for survival has always been very sharp. If they started firing general managers instead of managers, who knew who might be next? There is, of course, one other possibility we have to face up to manfully. Rickey may have been trying to do nothing more than give Busch the best possible advice.
The one time Gussie should have listened to Branch, he didn't. After he had cooled down a little, he did decide to follow Rickey's counsel to a degree. He decided to delay Devine's execution for a few days so that he would be in a position to introduce his new general manager, preferably a well-known one, at the same time he was announcing the regrettable but unavoidable retirement of Devine.
How do I know this? Oh, come on now! You mean you can't guess what universally beloved and thoroughly unemployed operator eventually came to Gussie's mind?
One evening toward mid-August I was reclining comfortably on my sofa watching the 11 o'clock news and dreaming my usual dreams of fame and fortune when I received a phone call from an old St. Louis friend. "I am authorized," he told me, "to offer you the job of running the Cardinals. You can pick your own title—general manager, president or whatever else you might want to call yourself—but you'll be in complete control and you can name your own figure. Wouldn't it be great to operate in St. Louis with all the money you need, Bill, instead of trying to make it on a short bankroll?"
Well, I've got my pride, too. I reminded him that since I'd operated in Cleveland and Chicago with money pouring out of my tight little ears it would not really mark that unique a turn in my career.
"What about Devine?" I asked. "They're obviously getting ready to unload him. I wouldn't do that hastily if I were Gussie. He's got a good man there."
It was made clear to me that Bing was on the way out. Period. "The job is yours if you want it," he said. And then, quite unnecessarily, he emphasized, "I'm speaking for Mr. Busch, you understand."
"Look," I told him, "I'm very flattered. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't flattered. But I'll tell you something. You have to work just as hard operating a club for someone else as for yourself. If I couldn't buy a substantial piece of the club I wouldn't be interested and, obviously, Mr. Busch isn't going to sell me any stock."