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One of the things that burns me up more than anything else is the failure of a healthy player to slide. A good ballplayer enjoys sliding, and an awful lot of things can happen to help his team when a man is sliding into a bag. When I was a player I waited to get one star because he was cheating the public by not sliding. Time and again I'd seen him fail to slide when he should have, and finally I got my chance to show him up. There were two outs and he was at first. The ball was hit to third and thrown to me at second for the force that would end the inning. I could see that he wasn't going to slide, so I dropped the ball deliberately. He was upright, and he ran right past the bag. I picked up the ball and tagged him out.
Before we started this season I said to my players, "From opening day to closing day you belong to me." That's a very possessive statement, but it has to be that way with me. I've always said that a manager is instrumental in winning from eight to 15 games for a team if he is a good manager and if he starts managing right from the first day of spring training. Spring training is when a manager makes his big decisions and when he builds his club stone by stone until he has a house that he thinks is strong enough to stand the storms that come up in a 162-game schedule. And if a manager is fortunate enough to have high-caliber coaches as I do—coaches who get the players into shape and mentally alert during spring training—then he is one step ahead of the rest of the teams. But the manager is cooked if he manages from fear of being second-guessed by his own fans or his front office or the press. You have to be confident. Casey Stengel could make a bad play and then tell the press a funny story and it would all be forgotten about. Casey made as many bad plays as anybody, and he got to the Hall of Fame.
Nobody knows all there is to know about this game, and when you find a manager who thinks he does he's on his way out. You'd be surprised how many managers you find who have closed minds to certain situations. Some will never play for a tie on the road, and others will never let the pitcher lead off an extra inning as a hitter at home. If a man opens an extra inning with a triple, some men will automatically walk the next two, regardless of the hitters involved. I'll violate every one of those rules if I think the situation is right.
Nobody really gets paid enough to manage in the major leagues, and when I say that I'm not hinting that I'm underpaid. I'm managing because I enjoy the pit, the arena. Anybody who manages in the majors has to know that from the time the game begins until it ends he is completely happy in his heart. Chicago will be my last major league city as a manager, but I'm going to manage here for seven or eight more years. I'm saying that because last year General Manager Ed Short and Owner Arthur Allyn were so overwhelmed with my good public-relations work that they renewed my contract through 1969. To me that's the only way to tell a manager thanks for a job well done. I'm saying that because only one thing could get me to resign, and that would be if my wonderful wife wanted me to. If I were to be relieved of my duties I'd go back to instructing youngsters in baseball, a field in which I spent many enjoyable and rewarding years. I have no desire to be a general manager or the president of a team. And I'm not going to be one of those guys who gets into the musical-chairs routine of going from one club to another as a manager.
There is no pressure in sports that can compare to the day-in day-out pressure of fighting for a pennant. The pro golfer gets in two practice rounds, maybe three, on the course he is going to play, and then maybe—just maybe—he has to putt from 20 feet on the last day of the tournament to win $20,000. After that he can go on to the next stop or take a couple of weeks off if he wants. In football there's a week of practice between games, and practice isn't like playing. You haven't got that 24-hour thing after you, that pressure, that feeling that you might lose in 19 innings and then have to get on a plane and arrive in some hotel at 4:30 in the morning.
I hope that when I compare the pressures of a pennant race to the pressures of the Super Bowl people will not think that I am denigrating football. Just like everyone else I watched the Super Bowl this winter and was again fascinated by Vince Lombardi, a man whom I have never met but would like to meet very much. You can tell that things go deep with Mr. Lombardi. He looks like an independent and totally dedicated man who has the courage of his own convictions. Mr. Lombardi doesn't seem to care whether he is well liked. He's a fundamentalist and his teams do not beat themselves. I have a feeling that if he were to manage a baseball team he would become as great as John McGraw. When his team won that Super Bowl and the players gave him that game ball, he was a proud man. He's got that killer instinct. I had the feeling that he wanted to win by 99-0. I've never met Bear Bryant, even though I've lived in Mobile, Ala. since 1942, but I'd like to meet him someday, too. He gets young boys to learn enough dedication so that they would run through brick walls for him. The only difference between Bear Bryant and myself is that I just live in the state and he runs it.
My players have heard all the knocks about the White Sox and so have I: "Losing to the Chicago White Sox is like drowning in three inches of water," or, "Getting beat by Chicago is like being whipped by your baby sister," or, "Seeing the White Sox score a run is like watching paint dry." I know that the knocks on the White Sox and myself are not limited to newspapermen. I understand that Phil Rizzuto, one of three announcers for the New York Yankees, has been ripping me pretty good, and you don't expect that from a former player. Rizzuto has been envious of Joe Garagiola and Jerry Coleman since they have been working with him, and if Phil thinks that he is making a bigger man of himself by ripping, that's O.K. I've heard from former Yankees time and again that Phil Rizzuto was an alibi ballplayer, so a guy like him ripping me isn't going to disturb me.
I understand that within the high councils of the league and among many of its dignitaries virtually nobody wants to see the "dull" White Sox win the pennant. They do not want to see us win because they have been mesmerized by some of the poison pens in the press box into believing that we are so dull that if we got into the World Series against the National League we would disgrace the league right at a time when it is trying hard to rebuild its image. Well, there is nobody on this team who is about to displace Frank Robinson as the triple-crown winner. Nobody on our club with as many as 300 times at bat is hitting over .250, and we have nobody with as many as 50 runs batted in. Nobody has more than 14 home runs. But we spent two months and two days on top of the league, and the pressure of staying there that long is going to work in our behalf as the race goes down to the finish. The White Sox have played their hearts out, and every time somebody starts to count 10 over their poor little dull bodies, they've bounced back up on their feet.
Within recent weeks the White Sox made a major investment in winning the pennant by obtaining Rocky Colavito and Ken Boyer. Colavito and Boyer have already helped to win several games, and their presence gives us an emotional lift. But the thing to remember is that we were in first place before Rocky and Ken joined us, which means that poor "dull" players like Ron Hansen, Tom McCraw, Ken Berry, Tommie Agee, Pete Ward, Don Buford, Walt Williams, Wayne Causey, J.C. Martin and the rest must have done some things that went unnoticed by those fellows who sit in the press boxes eating hot dogs and drinking beer. They do not knock my pitching staff, though. When you have pitchers like Gary Peters, Joe Horlen, Tommy John, Bob Locker, Fred Klages, Wilbur Wood, Hoyt Wilhelm and Don McMahon, there isn't any way it can be knocked by anybody.
If I wanted to needle some people—and anyone who knows me well realizes that I never needle—it could be brought out that in a Sporting News poll only seven of 254 baseball writers picked us to win the pennant and three times that many picked us to finish seventh. I don't want to criticize the league officials or the press and I won't say flatly that we will win, but if you look at the standings in the last desperate week of the season those sixth-place White Sox will be right there near the top, or on it.