SI Vault
Jack Mann
September 27, 1965
Riding a 14-game winning streak, the San Francisco Giants ripped open the tight National League race. The prime movers were an all but unknown manager and the best player in the game
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September 27, 1965

They Love Herman And Willie

Riding a 14-game winning streak, the San Francisco Giants ripped open the tight National League race. The prime movers were an all but unknown manager and the best player in the game

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Happiness is a four-and-a-half-game lead. Happiness is having Willie Mays on your side. Happiness is the San Francisco Giants, who are about to hoist a bartered pennant into the winds of Candlestick Park because they made two pointless trades early in the season.

Well, not completely pointless. While the only good reason for making a trade is to get something better than you had, professional baseball more often trades for two not-so-good reasons: l) the team is looking so bad—as the Giants were last May—that any exchange of personnel may placate the restless natives by persuading them that the management is trying, and 2) even a bad trade can be good if it unloads a player with an undesirably high salary. You can tell when an executive knows he has made a bad trade, because he calls it a "change."

The "change" the Giants made with the Chicago Cubs last May would have been justifiable on the balance sheet simply because it sent away Harvey Kuenn and Ed Bailey, both of whom had enough time in grade to command impressive salaries and neither of whom was much help. The change was especially desirable to a management which was facing the fact that it was about to pay the postoperative Orlando Cepeda around $50,000 for not playing.

In exchange, the Giants took Dick Bertell, because catchers nowadays are hard to find, and Len Gabrielson, a serious young man who had not been taken seriously as a hitter either in Milwaukee or in Chicago. They did not make the change to get Gabrielson, who, since joining the Giants, has hit just 10 points less than Mays.

Similarly, the cosmos was unshaken when the Giants gave up on Jose Pagan and sent him to Pittsburgh for Dick Schofield, a lifetime .239 hitter who never inspired a sonnet to his glove work at shortstop. "He won't embarrass you," the man from San Francisco was saying in Milwaukee last Saturday afternoon. "He doesn't have much range to his right, or his left either. But he doesn't miss the ball straight at him." The praise, so faint as to be almost inaudible, had hardly blended with the quiet of County Stadium when the Braves' Frank Thomas hit a ground ball through the left side of the infield, past the third baseman. When it got to the grass Schofield was there, backhanding it. The ball threatened to run up his wrist, but he somehow got it to his bare hand and flipped it, like a scrambling quarterback. The throw got to first base on a feeble hop. But it got there before Thomas.

Thus happiness was Ron Herbel, a well-established six-inning pitcher, throwing seven all-but-perfect innings past the Braves' karate attack, leaving the Giants in a situation where .500 baseball on their part would oblige either the Dodgers or the Reds to play at a near .800 pace to catch them.

Happiness also was Herbel, a 1-for-43 hitter, somehow batting in two runs. And Rookie Frank Linzy coming to the aid of Herbel last Saturday with his necessarily low sinker pitch, throwing it disastrously high and having Pinch Hitter Mack Jones line it into an inning-ending double play.

But mostly happiness was Giant Manager Herman Franks, touring the dressing room in his customary postgame uniform (cap on, pants off), acting like the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang and making everybody love him. So laugh, but if baseball players ever loved a manager the Giants love Herman Franks.

"I used to hit them," Franks said, interrupting Tom Haller's press conference, "the way McCovey hits them." Haller's home run had dropped into the second row in right, Willie McCovey's cleared the bleachers ( Franks hit three home runs in 403 big-league at-bats).

"You," Franks said to Cepeda, "are halfway up my hate list. You're in trouble." Cepeda crooked his finger and led the manager to the scale. "Two thirty-five," Franks said. Two twenty-five, the scale said. "You'd look good at 195," Franks said. Cepeda walked away with a smile.

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