"What Bristol has done," says Gordy Coleman, "is to restore the self-pride and self-respect of all 25 men. They come to the park knowing that they are going to be used in some way to help win. For a professional athlete it is not enough to stand up when someone else hits a homer and to pat him on the back and shake his hand and then sit down and be through for the day. You have to get a chance to contribute, or you begin to lose your own self-respect."
Ever since the Reds won their last pennant back in 1961 under Fred Hutchinson they have been either the springtime favorites or cofavorites to win. After the 1965 season, when Cincinnati scored 117 more runs than any other team in the league yet finished in fourth place with a pitching staff that only the Mets could covet, Owner Bill DeWitt fired Manager Dick Sisler. Sisler was a popular person in Cincinnati. When the announcement was made of his firing early in October, 500 people were polled in downtown Cincinnati concerning the wisdom of the move. Only 75 agreed with DeWitt. Three weeks later DeWitt chose as Sisler's successor the 54-year-old Don Heffner, a friend of DeWitt's since 1938 and also a man who had been criticized several times in the press for the conservative way he coached third base for the Mets. Heffner was given a two-year contract, and when he was asked at his opening press conference if he had any ideas about trades, he said, "That's DeWitt's field."
The results of the way DeWitt played his field are already a part of the game's folklore. In December he traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Pitchers Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Outfielder Dick Simpson, thereby creating a running gag among ballplayers: "You know how little boys say their prayers in Baltimore? They get down on their knees every night and say, 'God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy and God bless Bill DeWitt.' " Among the fans in Cincinnati there are variations.
Right from the start of this season things went wrong for the Reds. Three times in a row their traditional Opening Day game was rained out, and when they finally did get started they lost 13 of their first 17. Late in June Cincinnati won 10 of 11, but this was followed by disaster. Just prior to the All-Star Game the club went on an 11-game losing streak and toppled to eighth place, 16 games behind San Francisco. Don Heffner went home for the All-Star break and never returned.
The man who returned in his stead is still very young—far too young, some would say, to be Manager of the Year. But he's already got a lock on the last two weeks of July and the first two in August.