At 6:45 on the
night of Aug. 3 TWA flight 85 roared down the concrete runway of Boston's Logan
Airport and took off on a curious voyage from Boston to Kansas City, with stops
along the way in Baltimore and St. Louis. Scattered in seats throughout the
jetliner were Alvin Dark and his Kansas City Athletics and other members of the
club's party, which included a traveling secretary, two radio broadcasters and
a newspaper reporter. The trip to Kansas City would take five hours. What
transpired during those five hours triggered the most bizarre baseball story of
the year—the fining and suspension of Pitcher Lew Krausse, the firing of
Manager Dark, the outright release of First Baseman Ken Harrelson, and a
small-scale rebellion by a baseball team against its controversial owner,
For the first leg
of the journey, from Boston to Baltimore, there was no liquor aboard the plane,
but Ed Hurley, Finley's traveling secretary, had been assured by TWA officials
that an ample supply of assorted spirits would be wheeled aboard when the jet
touched down at Baltimore. Most managers permit only beer to be served on
airplanes, but Dark, a teetotaler himself, did not object to his players
drinking liquor, although he expected them to exercise moderation.
Back in the air,
the stewardesses served the Athletics their allotted two drinks and began
serving dinner. Dark, Hurley and the A's coaches were in the first-class
section, the players in the coach section. Jack Aker, the club's player
representative and its best relief pitcher, sat beside Harrelson and discussed
a few pitching problems he had had during the road trip. Harrelson suggested to
Aker that he change speeds more often on his sinker. He also made another
suggestion: "Have a couple of Scotches and forget about it."
Sitting a few
seats in front of Aker and Harrelson were Lew Krausse and Mike Hershberger, and
in front of them was Monte Moore, the A's broadcaster, who is known among the
players as "Monte the Ripper," an unaffectionate description of his
broadcasting style. One of the Kansas City players stuffed a piece of paper
into the air-conditioning vent behind Moore, causing an irritating, clattering
noise similar to that which occurs when a boy attaches a playing card to the
spokes of a bicycle wheel with a clothespin.
you guys grow up?" snapped Moore. Just about then Harrelson spotted a full
tray of unused miniature liquor bottles. He asked the stewardess if he might
have a few. "I'm busy, but you can help yourself," she replied.
Assuming they had permission, the players distributed the miniatures.
Moore decided the
players were out of line, and he walked up front and complained to Hurley, who
said: "What do you care? It's none of your business." Hurley, however,
did relay the complaint to Dark, who decided to walk back through the coach
"As soon as I
saw their faces, I knew they were up to something," said Dark afterward.
"They had innocent looks and were staring straight ahead. I asked the
stewardess if she was having trouble. 'Oh, no,' she replied, 'they're a great
bunch of guys.' I didn't think anymore about it." But Dark had interrupted
the "refueling" process. The players were maintaining a look of
innocence while hiding bottles of pinched Scotch.
10:30 the plane landed in Kansas City. Several of the A's left the plane in a
cheerful mood but hardly in a drunken stupor. As far as the players were
concerned, it was not a headline-provoking trip. Yet two weeks later, when they
were playing in Washington, Dark received a phone call from Finley informing
him that he had fined Krausse $500 and had suspended him indefinitely for his
conduct on the plane. Finley also told Dark he was banning the serving of
alcoholic beverages on plane trips.
"Charlie," Dark told the owner, "Krausse's actions weren't that
bad. And I don't think the players are going to accept your decision."
they do?" retorted Finley. Dark finally agreed to read Finley's
announcement to the team in the club house. When he did, one of the players
said: "We already know about that. The story was in the papers this