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Jack Mann
September 05, 1966
Loquacious Manager Harry Walker exhausts his Pittsburgh players with continuing lectures on how to play the game, but his ear-weary team could win the pennant
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September 05, 1966

The Voice Of The Pirates

Loquacious Manager Harry Walker exhausts his Pittsburgh players with continuing lectures on how to play the game, but his ear-weary team could win the pennant

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"I wouldn't say no help," Clendenon said. "I have a habit of turning my head, and when I turn my head I have a tendency to strike out. Every time I do it I hear it from him. Every time. So I guess he keeps me aware of it. But, you know, sometimes when you've made a mistake you know it, and you don't need to be told. When I missed that ball in Chicago he told me I should have gone down on both knees for it. He could have waited until later if he wanted to give me a fielding lesson. The other guys on the bench knew I'd made an error."

It is a point of pride to baseball players that such criticisms not be made in front of the other players. Dick Schofield of the Yankees is still steaming from an incident last year when Walker chewed him out on the bench and saved the compensatory fanny pat for a private session. "He said, 'I'm just trying to make you a better player, kid,' " Schofield says. "But in front of the other players he had said, 'The next s.o.b. who doesn't charge a ground ball, it's going to cost him money.' "

"Why not?" says Philadelphia Phillie First Baseman Bill White. "If I make a mistake in my second at bat, I want to hear about it. I'm going up there two more times. What's the sense of wasting two-at-bats?" White says Walker, as a coach with the Cardinals in 1959, corrected his batting style and saved him from shipment to the minors. "I was walking around lost," White says. "He may be the reason I'm still in the big league. I don't think those guys realize what he's done for them."

"I try to restrain myself from talking too much on the bench," Walker says, "but sometimes a hitting fault can be corrected in one swing. If you tell a guy right away what he's done wrong, he can remember it. You wait till later, he'll try to tell you you didn't see what you saw.

"Look, I don't want to hurt a guy's feelings, but I got to be the boss. I'm not running in any popularity contest. If I play Stargell against left-handers, he'll strike out two or three times out of five. I didn't like taking McBean out after he walked that one man in Chicago, but he wasn't throwing worth a damn. I got to play the guys who can win [quality No. 10: Organizing Ability], and I got to have discipline. It's like that thing in Houston. You let one guy get away with something like that and the next time it's something worse."

That thing in Houston was an argument on the mound between Walker and Gonder after Vernon Law had served a home run to Jimmy Wynn. While waiting for the new pitcher, the manager second-guessed Gonder's choice of pitches, and Gonder told him what he could do.

"Harry took Jesse out of the game," says Catcher Jim Pagliaroni, the team's player representative, "and during the game he made a call to Joe Brown [the general manager]. He said he wanted to send Gonder out. We were ready to have a meeting with him after the game and tell him that wasn't fair. Guys get hot in a pennant race, and things like that happen. But he talked to Jesse, and when Jesse came out of Harry's office he said everything was straightened out. That's all there was to it."

"It was the same as when I told Gonder about his hitting," Walker says. "He was trying to pull everything and turning his head and striking out. Guys get in a slump because they're doing something wrong, and they can't see themselves, so I got to tell them. I got to have command."

Walker's first clue about command came from Burt Shotton, the manager of the Columbus Red Birds in 1941. Harry had hit .306 the previous season and in the process found the muscle to hit 17 home runs (of his lifetime total of 61 in 22 years of organized baseball). So in '41 he came up short of quality No. 4, Concentration, and that diluted his Attitude (No. I). "He chewed me up and down," Walker recalls. "He held a meeting and told the guys there was going to be a new man in center field. I thought he was sending me out, but he wrote my name on the card, and I knew what he meant. I was a new man. I won the Little World Series for him with a home run."

Walker never was truly convinced of his command presence until World War II, when he went to Europe with the 65th Infantry Division. "I was in one of them recon outfits," he says. "You seen Combat on television? It was like that. Thirty men. We shouldn't have seen any action, but they broke through at The Bulge and we got plenty. Once I got three of them, from here to there [the distance from the third seat to the front of the bus], the third one with a pistol, right here [between the eyes]. I guess I killed 14, 15. It was hard to tell because once I had a .50-caliber machine gun.

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