Three or four days later Devine was fired. With Bing out, Rickey brought in Bob Howsam, who had once run the Denver franchise in the American Association.
On August 28 the Los Angeles Dodgers came to town for a three-game series. Busch, listening to one of the games from his farm, heard Leo Durocher being interviewed. Leo was saying what a great job Gene Mauch was doing in leading the Phillies to the pennant. Durocher was so impressed with Mauch, in fact, that he gave him the highest praise within his power to confer. He said that Mauch managed a club just like Leo Durocher. In discussing his own fallen fortunes, however, Leo grew humble. During the days when he was being offered managerial jobs, he said, he had been too arrogant. He had either turned the jobs down flatly or demanded a piece of the ball club. Now that he was willing to manage on any terms, Leo said, there were no offers.
Busch had always liked the Durocher type of manager, so much so that he had hired two imitation Durochers, Eddie Stanky and Solly Hemus. When the original was recalled so forcefully to his mind Busch put in a call to the station and arranged for Leo to come secretly out to his farm the following morning. What Gussie told Leo in effect was: "Look, it's no secret that we're thinking of making a change next year. If we do, and if you're available, I want you to manage for me."
While that isn't a definite commitment, it's just about as close as you can come. Busch knew he would be looking for a manager at the end of the year, and so did Durocher and everybody else. As for Leo, there was no doubt whatsoever that he could make himself available at a moment's notice. Leo being Leo, the word soon went out along all communications media, including Radio Free Europe, that he was all set to become the next Cardinal manager.
But, as everyone knows, the Cardinals—sparked by Devine's last acquisition, Lou Brock—suddenly got hot. You could see a nicely developing situation where the Cards could finish as high as second place, leaving Gussie in the embarrassing position of having already fired the man who had put the team together and now having to bounce the manager who brought them home with such a rush.
The pennant? Naw, there's no chance of winning the pennant. It's Magic Number time, Mac. What do you want the Phillies to do for you, collapse?
And then it was as if Somebody Up There blew a whistle. The Cards couldn't lose, the Phillies couldn't do anything except lose and Gussie Busch had become the first right-handed beer baron to make himself look utterly ridiculous while winning a pennant and world championship.
It had become unthinkable, impossible and impolitic to fire Keane. The manager who had been publicly humiliated was now sitting pretty. "Isn't it great," everybody was saying. " Keane is in a position now to keep Gussie on the griddle and then write his own ticket."
That wasn't the true situation at all, though. Keane, as a matter of fact, was on the griddle far more than Gussie Busch. He could write his own ticket, Keane knew, only because Bing Devine had tried to protect him and had lost his job in the process. Everything had been turned upside down. If Busch was in a position where the higher his team finished the worse he looked, Keane was in a position where the better the deal he made for himself the worse he was selling out. As a decent man, he had to quit.
Perhaps it would be well to mention here that there may have been another reason Johnny Keane had to quit the Cardinals. There have been persistent rumors, denied by both Keane and Ralph Houk, that early in September, when both the Cardinals and the Yankees looked like certain losers, Keane agreed to manage the Yankees in 1965. Such an arrangement is common enough in baseball. A club, in need of a manager for next season, contacts a manager who needs a job. Simple. Rumor has it that in early September, with the Yankees in Kansas City and the Cardinals at home, a member of the New York organization contacted Keane to see if he was interested. He was. A week later, in Chicago, Keane and another Yankee official are supposed to have reached an agreement by handshake. Nothing was put in writing, so that when Keane was later asked if he had a job with the Yankees before he resigned his job with the Cardinals he could say no with a degree of honesty. After all, handshake deals have fallen through before, as Leo Durocher was to find out. It is an intriguing story, but both Keane and Houk have publicly denied it.