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Wherever he is, Richards must be the boss, the man to whom other people in the organization answer. And he wants his own men—people like Courtney and Harris and Harry Dorish—working with him, even if they are not always liked by some of their associates. "They do a certain job for me," Richards says, "and that's all I care about. It is not a case of blind loyalty."
Courtney, who is called "Scrap Iron" or just plain "Scraps," was with Richards one night at Chesler's when Richards looked across the table at him and said, "Scraps here wants to be a manager or a general manager in the big leagues." Courtney nodded and said, "Yeah, Richards, I've been going to school under you a long time now. I'll be ready one of these days."
Richards thought for a minute and then he said, "Well, Scraps, how would you handle a guy like—?" He named a player, not one of the Braves, who is supposed to regard himself as much more important than his manager.
"Richards, he wouldn't run my club."
"O.K., but what would you do with him?" Richards asked.
"I'd call him in my office, Richards, and we'd get everything all straightened out, one way or another," said Courtney.
"You've always got to be right, you know, Scraps. You can't go around taking other people's word for things."
"Yeah, Richards, I know. You gotta be right all the time—just like you." Richards, a slight smile on his tanned face, began to order dinner.
Richards is the boss in Atlanta, and the decisive way he runs the club is a refreshing change for the Braves players, the majority of whom suffered through Bobby Bragan and his novelties the last four years. Things are different this spring. The players talk about the controlled workouts, where they are doing something every minute. They talk about the set lineup every game. They talk about attitude. "This is the best camp we've had since I've been with the club," says Joe Torre, the catcher. "Now Billy Hitchcock or Paul will come up and give you a little pat on the back every so often. I don't care what some people think, you really don't know how much ballplayers like something like that.
"Paul told me the other day that he'll be getting together with me and Gene Oliver [the Braves' other catcher] pretty soon so that we can discuss some of the things he'd like us to do this year. The man is a teacher, and he can spot the little things. You see Cloninger now and you know he will be a better pitcher. You look at Lemaster or Blasingame, and you know that what they are doing is different from what they did last year, when they did not win. Or take us catchers. The other day a rookie didn't come up with a throw down in the dirt. Paul had Courtney take all of us out for about 25 minutes and he threw all kinds of wild pitches at us from a distance of about 20 feet. The man has a purpose about him. It has to help us this year."