Eckert put down his fork.
"I think," he said, "that in this great democracy we live in, if a man wants to take his property somewhere else and can do it legally, then I could not stop him. But I could certainly make known my opinion."
It was, said Reichler, the only possible answer.
But not all of these are strong answers, and some of them are circuitous, and they raise afresh the other nagging doubts about the man. For example, he seems to regard as an infirmity his meager baseball background; he glosses it over by reciting the 30 or 35 different sports he has played in his lifetime. He reacts the same way to questions about his heart attack, as if there were shame in it, despite the fact that his recovery was so complete he is back playing squash and tennis. And though he insists those first picky, piddling criticisms did not bother him, he will in the next breath tell how even President Johnson uses cue cards and how you couldn't possibly fly airplanes, from trainers to jets, for 35 years and be a nervous man.
It is part of this curious ambivalence that makes him brush off the true accomplishments of his life—Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, a three-star general at 51, etc.—in a sentence, and then dwell for as long as you like on the brilliance of his son, Bill. Bill is 6 feet 3 and a great athlete. Bill got straight 800s on his college boards. Bill is on the supe's list at the Air Force Academy. Bill is a lot smarter than his old man.
Still and all, it has been a good three months—four months now—for William D. Eckert. It is possible he will yet live down to those first impressions, but it could also be true that a second impression was more accurate: that the owners have chosen a commissioner in spite of themselves. If nothing has happened that is spectacularly encouraging at least nobody in baseball asks who Spike Eckert is anymore.