If the story is true, Gussie Busch certainly knew nothing about it. With six games to go and the Cardinals only 1� games behind, the Cardinals returned to St. Louis for a three-game series with the Phils. Busch came into the clubhouse before the first game and told Keane he wanted to rehire him. Keane answered that he had a lot on his mind and that he preferred to wait until the series was over.
Three days later, after the Cards had swept the series, Busch made his offer again. Keane again told Busch he wanted to wait.
After the Cards had won the pennant on the final day of the season, Busch came to the clubhouse and made his offer a third time. At the victory party that same night he told Keane, "If it's only money, that's no problem. We'll pay you what you want."
"Let's wait until after the World Series," Keane suggested.
It all builds up, as we know, to the press conference at which Keane's rehiring was to be officially announced and recorded. It never occurred to Gussie Busch that Keane wouldn't gratefully accept the new contract. But at the conference the colorless, if no longer anonymous, Johnny Keane displayed a most laudable sense of the dramatic and a sure instinct for the jugular. He and Bing Devine had been treated shabbily by Busch, and now Keane was paying him back. He knew very well Busch would be sitting there with a blank contract and a roomful of reporters in attendance. Don't tell me he couldn't have got word to Gussie somewhere along the line that he wasn't coming back. But he didn't. Some of the newspapermen who were there have told me that Gussie went into a state of shock. They told me that if Keane hadn't stayed around and drawn the questions to himself, the conference would have ended in a total shambles.
Poor Gussie. After 12 years he had finally won a championship, and all he seemed to be getting out of it was abuse. For one of the few times in his life the St. Louis papers, which have generally treated him with the utmost respect, ripped into him. Bing Devine, the general manager Busch had fired, was voted major league Executive of the Year. And Johnny Keane, the manager he had intended to fire and then had tried desperately to keep, left him flat to become manager of the New York Yankees, the No. 1 job in baseball.
Which brings us to the second half of the drama.
When the Yankees won the pennant, the most astonished person in the country was Ralph Houk. Houk, like Busch and Rickey, had quit on his team, and he had quit with far less reason. The Cardinals didn't really have any right to win the pennant, and when they did Busch had already taken steps that were irretrievable. Houk decided in August 1) that the Yankees were going to lose, 2) that it was all Yogi Berra's fault and 3) that Yogi would therefore have to go. When they fooled him and won after all he could have changed his mind, yet he went ahead with his plan just as if they hadn't.
Houk's rigidity is that of the combat leader who insists that the mission must be accomplished whatever the opposition, whatever the odds. As a combat leader, Houk would study the terrain, absorb the intelligence reports, map out the battle plan and attack. If the battle plan called for him to take a machine-gun nest you could be confident that he would either take it or go down moving toward it. You could be equally confident that his men would follow him every step of the way.
If it turned out that the intelligence report was wrong, that the terrain was rougher than he had been told, that there was a machine gun hitting them from an unknown angle, he would still follow the battle plan and he would still either take his objective or go down moving toward it. Which makes Houk a whale of a combat leader but a disastrous general.