When dealing with another operator—hustler or not—it is well to study your man with an eye to his strengths and his weaknesses, his vanities and his idiosyncrasies. Since hustling begins with a devout, unflagging faith in your own wits and your own cunning, it takes great willpower and even a small dash of humility to admit you are overmatched.
One of the men I least cared to match myself against during my days of freewheeling hustling was Horace Stoneham. Let us, students, consider Horace Stoneham.
Horace Stoneham has two occupations in life. He owns the San Francisco Giants and he drinks. Horace is a dumpy, chubby, apple-cheeked fellow who seems to exist for the sole purpose of being taken advantage of. Some of the most wicked people I know have taken advantage of poor Horace.
Item: In the middle of the 1948 season, Horace, having decided to discharge Mel Ott as manager, paid a courtesy call on Branch Rickey to request permission to negotiate with the Dodgers' all-purpose coach, Barney Shotton. Shotton had managed the Dodgers to the pennant only a year earlier while Leo Durocher was sitting out his mystery suspension in California, deprived of all company except Laraine Day, Frank Sinatra and that ever-ready deck of cards.
"I'll give you your choice," said Rickey. "You can have Shotton or you can have Durocher."
"Well," said Stoneham, his chubby pink cheeks all innocent and aglow, "I'll take Leo."
Branch Rickey had struck again. Papa Branch was anxious to dump Durocher, with the least possible trouble to himself, and he had very neatly shunted him onto poor unsuspecting Horace.
Item: In 1957, Walter O'Malley came to Horace Stoneham to confide that he had a little deal in the works whereby O'Malley would take the Dodgers to Los Angeles and Stoneham would take the Giants to San Francisco. The Empire State Building, being somewhat difficult to crate, would remain in New York.
O'Malley, who has been immortalized in current literature under the name of Goldfinger, had worked out a deal for himself which, though still somewhat sketchy in my mind, went something like this: O'Malley was going to build a ball park and, in return, a grateful Los Angeles legislature was to grant him the divine right of kings. To make his move practicable to the rest of the league O'Malley needed a second team on the West Coast. Oh, how he needed that second team! With troubles enough ahead of him in working his way out of Brooklyn, it was of surpassing importance that there be smooth passage through the league. "Why not come along with me for the sake of fellowship?" he asked Horace.
"Why sure," said poor gullible Horace, beaming happily. Nothing like a cross-country trip to broaden a man's scope. Life has a way of playing these nasty little tricks on Horace.