has to be taught," Manager Mel Ott said, "that players of his type
aren't very important today. The war is over." But a new war was
The owners of the
big-league teams had never sat so securely in the driver's seat. Baseball, like
almost every other business, looked forward confidently to the big postwar boom
that economists had predicted. Beyond the rosy financial outlook, the
unprecedented flood of players coursing into their training camps elated the
owners. The heroes of prewar baseball were returning from the armed services:
Feller, Musial, DiMaggio, Williams, Mize, Henrich. And every camp harbored at
least a couple of the young players who were soon to become stars themselves:
Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, Ralph Kiner.
Thus there had
grown up among big-league officials an attitude of "Who needs you?"
when a journeyman player asked for a modest raise and the player had no
recourse within the rules of Organized Baseball. The "reserve clause"
in the standard player contract gives the team sole and exclusive right to the
player's services for the rest of his athletic life. If he is traded, that
right passes to his new club. Most of the time the player hardly notices the
reserve clause. When he does, when it effectively hampers an effort of his to
improve his financial position, he resents it deeply. In 1946 a few players saw
a chance to escape it. Gardella saw it first.
through a representative, approached Gardella again in Miami and offered him a
contract to play in Mexico. It called for $8,000 a year plus a $5,000 bonus for
signing. About the same time, Mel Ott called the sportswriters together at the
ball park to announce that the Giants would dispose of the unruly Gardella as
soon as they could arrange a deal for him.
On leaving the
park a few minutes later, the writers were confronted by Danny himself.
"You may say for me," he told them, "that I do not intend to let
the Giants enrich themselves any further at my expense by selling me to a minor
league club. They have treated me shabbily. I have decided to take my gifted
talents to Mexico."
Gardella went on
to say that two other Giant players, Nap Reyes and Adrian Zabala, and Dodger
Outfielder Luis Olmo also had signed with Pasquel. Danny left promptly for
Mexico City, where he became Pasquel's house guest for a few days before being
assigned to Veracruz. During his first week there Danny lost two fly balls in
the tropical sun and cost his team both games.
The echo of
Gardella's move was causing more consternation back in Florida. There were
rumors that Pasquel was sounding out other big-leaguers. A handful of
Latin-American players of doubtful ability accepted the bonuses to which their
big-league status entitled them and ran for Mexico. The Giants' camp, where 60
players competed for 25 places on the roster, continued to be in an uproar. One
vulnerable Giant was an obscure pitcher named Sal Maglie. He had never been
very successful in the minors, but he had won 5 and lost 4 with the Giants late
in Mexico during the winter," Maglie, today the pitching coach for the
Boston Red Sox, recalls, "and I met Pasquel there. I turned down an offer
to sign with him then. But halfway through spring training I began to wish I
hadn't. In one intrasquad game I struck out seven batters in five innings, but
Ott just ignored me.
"Then one day
at the hotel I got a call from Gardella. He said they needed players down
there, and he wanted me to suggest some Giants who might be willing to
George Hausmann, the Giants' regular second baseman, and Roy Zimmerman, a first
baseman who was about to lose his job to the returning Johnny Mize. The three
players did not commit themselves but continued to talk over Pasquel's offer of
a $5,000 bonus and a salary double what they were making with the Giants.
"The Giants gave me $6,000 in 1945," Maglie says, "and I had a hard
time getting $7,000 for 1946."