And now something else. Never in my experience has a manager of a pennant-contending team been more shabbily served by his general manager during his time of trouble than Berra was served by Houk. During the entire year Houk made only one move. He brought up Mel Stottlemyre, who was widely acknowledged to be the best pitcher in the minor leagues.
Ramos, you say? Oh, no. Ramos wasn't Houk's idea, although he has shown no particular reluctance to accept the credit. Ramos was Dan Topping's idea. When Houk was consulted he argued that the Yankees were too far behind for Ramos to make that much difference. Houk's solution wasn't to go out and get a relief pitcher; it was to tire Berra.
Nor did Ralph stand by his manager like an oak when the players came to his office to cry that Yogi was a poor manager and notably lacking in the essential qualities of gentlemanly behavior and inspiring leadership. It would seem far more probable that they departed with the distinct impression that they wouldn't have to put up with Yogi's crudities for another year, since, as the season progressed, the players felt increasingly free to express their complaints to newspapermen.
To be fair about it, though, I could be doing both Houk and the players an injustice. These were players who had become accustomed over a period of years to bringing their troubles to Houk. Ralph himself is accustomed, by background and by nature, to listening to the troops and distrusting everyone else. It was natural enough, perhaps, that the players would influence him all out of proportion to their intent. It was perhaps inevitable that he would see massive indictment in what they only meant as mild complaint. After that has been said, however, it is still clear enough that it was hardly any service to Berra to permit the players to come around behind the manager's back and weep on his ready shoulder.
When you sum up Berra's year as manager, then, you have to say that he was thrown into the job cold, that his team fell apart on him, that there was a minimum of help from the front office and that he was being undercut by some of his players. And still he won. I wouldn't award him a gold star for the year, but I wouldn't give him a failing mark either. Not by a long shot.
So Berra is gone, and Houk remains to chart the future course. In one way you have to sympathize with him. Now that CBS owns the Yankees, Houk is suddenly playing in a league he knows nothing about. He will find that these faceless television people who smile and cozen him have a ruthlessness such as he has never seen before. He is in there with the mechanical men of our time, with men who are activated solely by the figures being fed them from a machine. We have achieved the age of the robot. If the ratings (i.e., the attendance) continue to go down—the Mets, who finished last, outdrew the Yankees by almost half a million fans—they will chop Houk down, effortlessly, routinely, almost thoughtlessly.
If Ralph does go, he will be replaced by about a dozen CBS vice-presidents. And won't that be fun! If there is anything more ridiculous than a corporate vice-president trying to run a ball club, it is a committee of corporate vice-presidents trying to run a ball club. Comedians, sportswriters and other opportunists should be able to have a field day with them.
The Yankee image was badly scarred and tarnished by the World Series. Where it had previously been cold, austere and chillingly efficient, it became cold, austere and clumsy. In the Series they kicked four games away, something not even the most visionary Yankee-haters ever expected to see.
In the managerial exodus that followed, both the Cardinals and the Yankees suffered a public-relations disaster. After Keane quit, Busch did what he had to do to appease the Cardinal fans. He accepted the more or less forced resignation of Branch Rickey. To replace Keane, Busch hired a local hero, Red Schoendienst. But Gussie is an honorable man. Before he hired Schoendienst, he called Leo Durocher. "I told you that you would be my manager if the job was open," he said. "But under the circumstances, I can't hire you. I know I've gone back on my agreement. What do I owe you?"
Leo has never been famous for his charitable impulses, but where baseball is concerned he does have a code of his own. Leo has always said that if you didn't want him to work for you he didn't want your money, a code which would have wrecked Rogers Hornsby's highly profitable career as a nonmanager. Leo sticks to it. "If I can't work for you," he told Busch, "I don't want your money."