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Ron Fairly shot 80," Los Angeles Dodgers President Walter O'Malley said as he sauntered off the last green of his new nine-hole golf course at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., "and I had 115. But I took five bucks from him. It's all a matter of being the better negotiator."
That, and having a partner who shot 87—which O'Malley didn't mention.
Sandy Koufax had a partner, too. Despite the fact that his winning percentage over the past three years was .795 (70-18) compared to Don Drysdale's .571 (60-45) under precisely the same conditions, Koufax had voted Drysdale an even share in a corporation that might be called Horizons Unlimited.
And they had found a negotiator. Perhaps Hollywood Agent-Attorney-Organizer J. William Hayes had found them, but last week the distinction was becoming academic. K&D were standing pat on their demand for a three-year contract that would give them a communal $1 million; Dodger management remained intractable on all of the four issues involved. And, gradually, the population of the little other world of baseball was beginning to accept the outlandish, enormous possibility that the most famous, highest-paid and greatest lefty-righty entry in the history of pitching might not throw a ball in anger this year—or ever again. There was a hard core of traditionalists who refused to believe that K&D would not come out to play, but it was diminishing, interview by interview, denial by denial.
Everyman's mind boggled at a his-and-his reluctance to play games for the $95,000 (righty) and $110,000 (lefty) that K&D would certainly receive if they dissolved their corporation and reaffirmed their love for team and game by approaching the negotiations table in the best traditions of the good old National Pastime—alone, unarmed and unadvised.
Everyman's mind reeled at the top-to-bottom tremors that would shake the National League if "the boys," as O'Malley calls them stood firm in their resolve to make movies, tour Japan and follow the several other opulent nonathletic avenues they—through their agent—suggest are open to them. Try this for openers: the most amazin' chapter in the short and flaky history of the Mets might be one in which the World Champion Dodgers opened the door for their escape from the cellar.
Remote, verily, but not preposterous. The Dodgers are virtually an un-team without Drysdale and Koufax, who started 83 of their games and won 49 of their 97 victories last year. They hop-step-and-jumped to the pennant with a collective batting average of .245, the lowest for any National League champion since it became the fashion to pay baseball players. Everyman would not break down the gates to see Maury Wills ($75,000) steal bases for a team five runs behind. "Not unless everyone of us hit 30 points higher," said First Baseman Wes Parker (.238). "And that might not do it."
It is understandable that Everyman cannot understand. In the Depression, when he was feeding a family of faces on 20 bucks a week, he may have rooted earnestly for Hubbell to get his twenty-two five, but 166,666.66 is the kind of number he sees in the space-shot stories. It was not his kind of thinking that brought about this fabulous impasse. It was, to some extent, Hollywood thinking.
In the spring of 1961, just before he became a winning pitcher, Sandy Koufax noted somewhat sadly that he had not seen much of Everyman since the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Doris Day replaced Hilda Chester and her cowbell. Mickey Rooney, armed only with a bugle, did his best to replace the Dodger Sym-Phony. Walter Winchell prowled the press box, showing the special cops the gun he would draw if the Comrats ever became brave enough to come after him. In Ebbets Field it was a big deal if Joey Giardello showed up. And he wasn't even the champ.
The small talk was big. If William Holden lived into the 21st century the checks from The Bridge on the River Kwai would keep on rolling in. Frank Sinatra, after leaving the ball park in the seventh inning of a 1-1 tie, might tap out the Bank of America in a head-to-head poker game. Milton Berle would be getting $60,000 a year for 15 more years for not being Mr. Television anymore. Talents of much lesser magnitude were rolling in the stuff, and how did they do it? Agents, baby. Even if you can count that high yourself, it's easier to have an agent do it. Shake any tree on Sunset Boulevard and three agents fall off. And anybody Leo doesn't know Danny Kaye does. You're an entertainer, aren't you? Well, what the hell.