"If I managed," says Roseboro, who might manage, "they'd probably run me off the first day. If there was a chance, I'd have to take it, every time. I still don't agree with Alston's methods, but I've been with him a long time, and I accept them. And we win."
Shaw said a reasonable man adapts himself to his environment, so the adjustment was not as hard for Roseboro as for, say, Podres. John never really tried to adjust, but Roseboro did, for a reason. He was sitting in the bullpen in Chicago one day late in September because a left-hander was going for the Cubs and Alston had the right-handed-hitting Jeff Torborg (.237) catching instead of the left-handed-hitting Roseboro (.282). "If you're asking me about him as a man," Roseboro said, "I don't think there is any more man than he is. He's all you can ask a man to be." Roseboro was one of those players who needed time to develop as a big-leaguer. Alston gave it to him, and he remembers that. Roseboro is one of the grateful Dodgers, and he says behold the man.
A big, strong, honest man, but there are other parts to a man. You can see them in the way he handles his ball club. Lou Johnson, the elf of the Dodgers, can make you cry because he's beautiful. Fouled up like an unscheduled fire drill, but beautiful. "Spark plug, hell," Alston said to him one day as Johnson girded for battle despite a case of hemorrhoids that would have kept a bank teller in bed. "Are you the spark of this club or the plug? You bust your tail on the field every day, but I have to kick it to get you out of here. You're the last s.o.b. to get dressed every day."
"Hey, Skip," said Johnson, with that incandescent smile, "would you like me to hustle at 12:15, or after the bell rings?"
"I give up," Alston said. "There isn't any way to top that."
Lou Johnson in his life has had troubles. Not bad troubles, but constant troubles, and he'll have more because he's trouble-prone. In a dark hotel corridor in Philadelphia recently a friend of his, a white man, said, kiddingly, "You're so black I couldn't see you," and then realized he had crossed that unwritten line of overfamiliarity that must separate white and black friends for another couple of centuries. He apologized.
"I know you, man," Johnson said, "so I know it was supposed to be funny. And I know you got troubles so it didn't come out funny. I know about troubles." Johnson does not have the Willy Loman trouble about being well liked, because if you don't like Lou Johnson you don't like people and you have the trouble, man. Johnson never had that, but he did have the trouble of believing that he was well liked. And he doesn't have that anymore because Tommy Davis broke an ankle, and now Lou Johnson plays for Walter Alston, the man. "The man likes me," says Lou Johnson, and you see what happiness is.