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Lately I've had the strange feeling that I'm living in nothing more than one immense, never-ending misunderstanding, and I'd like to take this opportunity to get across Eddie Stanky's side of some of the controversies I've been involved in. It seems the sports editors chop off most of my quotes to tighten up a story.
First off, I did not lock Vice-President Hubert Humphrey out of my clubhouse in Minnesota, as was so widely and inaccurately reported. Here is what actually happened. We were playing Minnesota with first place at stake. With the Twins ahead 3-2 in the ninth inning, my center fielder, Tommie Agee, led off with a drive off the left-field fence, and he tried to make third with a triple. The third-base umpire could not get back in from the outfield in time, so Umpire Bill Valentine, working the plate, called the play and signaled that Agee was out. I thought he was safe. I also thought that Valentine was out of position and not close enough to third to call the play. I hit the top step of the dugout, fired my cap and really went after Valentine. Agee was so mad he jumped straight up in the air like a rocket off a launching pad, and Grover Resinger, my third-base coach, was down on his knees picking up handfuls of dirt and slamming them to the ground. When I got through saying what I had to say, I went back to the dugout and sat down. Valentine then made a slight gesture indicating that I had been thrown out of a game for the fifth time this season. He hadn't told me that I had been thrown out and nobody in the press box had seen any indication that I had been booted. Then, one out later, Ron Hansen hit a long drive to left field that missed being a home run when it curved foul by only a couple of feet. So we lost, and that's the way we fell out of first place, after two months and two days leading the league.
When you lose a game like that and first place with it, you feel upset, very upset. I shut the clubhouse door to give the players a cooling-out period. I told the clubhouse guard that nobody was to be allowed in until I gave the O.K.—and by that I meant the press. You have to do that or else you or one of your players might pop off to the press about the umpires. Vice-President Humphrey was at the game that day, and he had gone down to congratulate the Twins on their win. He decided that he would also like to pay a visit to our clubhouse and sent a man ahead to clear the way. The advance man was told, "Nobody is allowed into the clubhouse, and that means nobody!"
I never heard a word about it until I picked up the afternoon papers the next day and there was a story saying that Eddie Stanky had snubbed the Vice-President of the United States. Beautiful! Does anyone think that a manager of a big-league baseball team is stupid enough to refuse entry to the Vice-President of the country? All I wanted kept out was the press until my players had cooled off. After I read the story I sent Mr. Humphrey a wire of explanation and apology. But everybody read in the papers that I had snubbed the Vice-President.
Only a couple of days before I took that rotten rap, Joe Sparma of Detroit said that I fined my pitchers for not hitting batters on other teams. He also said that he'd like to throw a ball at me in the dugout and hit me. I gather that for some reason Sparma does not like me. I don't suppose it could possibly be because when he was brushing back our hitters in a game last year one of our pitchers. Bruce Howard, took offense and brushed Sparma back, could it? Sparma is one of those pitchers with the reputation: "Stay close to him and you'll beat him." He tends to weaken when games get tough. He did it once against us already this year. Detroit can have all the super pitching coaches in the world like Johnny Sain to help the staff, but I don't know how much Sain can help a guy like Joe Sparma.
Detroit should be 10 games in front now. They were the best team I saw in spring training. They have Denny McLain, who has won 16 games, and Earl Wilson, who has won 16, and even Sparma has won 12. They have a good outfield, and they have the best defensive infield and catcher in the league. To me Bill Freehan is their most valuable player. But they haven't got my Hoyt Wilhelm and Don McMahon, Bob Locker or Wilbur Wood. It eats away at a team like Detroit when those big hitters of theirs with more than 20 homers apiece last year see a 44-year-old man like Wilhelm or a 37-year-old like McMahon come in from the bullpen and choke off those big bats. They hate to lose to my "dull" ball club, with its team batting average of .230, but they know that we hang tough and that we sneak out of town with a little bag of victories. So far we have played 46 games that have been decided by one run and we've won 30 of them, and I'll take that percentage any time. So will my players. They know how to play this game from the neck up, and more pennants are won from the neck up than from the neck down. We're better from the neck up than any other team in contention. And these players performed this way before I took over two years ago. This is a tribute to the White Sox minor league system.
We have been the type of ball club that has to be alert for signs, and the majority of our players are. With us a missed sign can cost us, because we have to take every advantage that is offered. We have to be aggressive. The White Sox make errors, but they battle the ball and they are not afraid to take errors. They don't give you that one-handed stuff like Zoilo Versalles of Minnesota and Dick McAuliffe of Detroit do to avoid being charged with errors. Those fellows may fool the official scorers, but they aren't fooling anybody who knows anything about the game.
Because I've come out in the open like this, people are going to accuse me of putting a jinx on the White Sox. I don't believe in jinxes or whammies any more than I believe that there is such a thing in baseball as a "hard-luck pitcher." I don't carry a rabbit's foot, and when I walk down the street—and all Stankys walk fast—I don't skip over the cracks. No jinx is going to beat a team out of a pennant.
The Twins were in first place at the end of last week, but Harmon Killebrew has not been hitting lately. As far as I'm concerned, you can have Killebrew and Allison and Versalles and Rollins. Cesar Tovar is the Twins' most valuable player. You've got a better chance making a trade for Killebrew than Tovar. If something happens in center field, Tovar goes in there, and the same is true for third, short or second. Even if he caught, he'd be the same Tovar with the bat in his hands. He wants to put on a pair of spikes. I grant that the Twins have a stopper in Dean Chance, and they have the left-handers, and you need those during the stretch. And their bullpen is well balanced. But if Tovar gets hurt, they are in trouble.
For a while it looked like the California Angels had the best momentum, but that seems to have slowed down. They have the best double-play combination in Jim Fregosi and Bobby Knoop, and that Fregosi is a money player. Minnie Rojas and Bill Kelso are good relief pitchers, and I think that Jim McGlothlin is among the best young pitchers I've ever seen anywhere. Bob Rodgers is a fine mechanical catcher, but it remains to be seen if Don Mincher and whoever plays third for them will turn out to be a detriment.