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Sal Maglie
April 15, 1968
His appearance was sinister, his brushback pitch more than a warning. Sal Maglie knew his craft as few pitchers ever have. Here he begins his bittersweet memories of a career that spanned outlaw leagues and greatness in the majors as player and embattled coach
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April 15, 1968

Baseball Is A Tough Business

His appearance was sinister, his brushback pitch more than a warning. Sal Maglie knew his craft as few pitchers ever have. Here he begins his bittersweet memories of a career that spanned outlaw leagues and greatness in the majors as player and embattled coach

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On the last day of the World Series I stood in the Red Sox dugout and watched a fine young pitcher become humiliated. Jim Lonborg, who had won two games against the Cardinals, was coming back again with just two days' rest. By the second inning you could see that he didn't have it. There was no reason why he should. He was tired, he was bushed. I turned to Dick Williams, the manager, and said, "He doesn't have it today." I was hoping Williams would take him out of there. I think he owed it to Jim to do that. It was the decent thing to do. Besides, we had 10 other pitchers in the bullpen, and if one of them could hold the Cardinals we might win. You never give up. Lonborg was pitching on guts. But Williams is a peculiar guy. He just said, "Oh, Jim's not getting hit that hard," and that was the end of that. Hard? Even the tail end of the Cardinal batting order was whacking him. Bob Gibson homered off him. Williams finally took Jim out in the sixth, with the Sox behind 7-1.

After the game Jim was in tears in the clubhouse. He was crying his heart out because he thought he had failed the team. He hadn't. I said to him, "Jim, you got nothing to be ashamed of. You brought us here, and you took us this far. You did a hell of a job." I meant it. The kid had been great.

All the while I was thinking how lousy it was for a manager to do that to his ace pitcher. You just don't let a guy who pitched as Lonborg had get pounded like that. I should know. I had pitched. I had been a damn good pitcher, and I was the Red Sox pitching coach. But from the way Williams treated me, you wouldn't have known I was on the ball club. Why? I don't know. He's a peculiar guy.

Williams had been all right in spring training. I was on the second year of a two-year contract with the Red Sox, and Williams, who had been a utility player in the majors—one of those holler guys in the dugout—was in his first year of managing a big-league club. He told me in camp: "The pitchers are your responsibility. You handle them." Once the season started he never said a thing to me. It was as though I didn't exist. He never asked my advice, he never said a word. It was all very strange. A couple of times I suggested things to him, but all I got were sarcastic answers. He can be a very sarcastic guy.

After the Series was over I went into his office—I had heard rumors I wouldn't be around next year—and he was with some writers. He said, "I'll see you later." He never did. I stayed around Boston for a couple of days, and I heard that all the other coaches had been hired for the next year. I heard nothing about myself until Dick O'Connell, the general manager, called me and said that the Red Sox were going to make a change in pitching coaches. I wasn't needed anymore. Williams could have told me himself straight out. That's what a man does, and I'd have no kick. I don't know his reasons for doing what he did. You'd have to cut open his head to find out. But I know he hurt my chances to coach this season in the majors. By the time I knew I wouldn't be working for Boston the other teams, particularly the ones with new managers, were all set for 1968. For a year—and I hope it is only one—I was out in the cold.

Now being out in the cold is nothing new to me. I played in the Mexican League once, remember? But I had coached for four different Red Sox managers, Billy Jurges, Mike Higgins, Billy Herman and Williams. For a long time the Red Sox were an easygoing group, more or less spoiled, you might say. We had talent, but we were second division. If one guy was a star, he'd take the other kids out and gallivant. The Red Sox were so relaxed that fun-loving types on other teams asked to get traded to them. But that's one great thing Williams did for the team—he told the players they were there to play ball. Part of the trouble was the front office, which didn't cooperate with the manager very often. Take Herman. He was a good fellow and one of the best field managers I ever worked with. But he was either too tough or too easy in handling the players. They were out of hand, and there was nothing he could do about it. He tried to be tough with players like Rico Petrocelli and Tony Conigliaro and that caused a lot of dissension.

Williams had good discipline. He's very good on details. He gambled a lot in his managing. I thought he managed very aggressively in the first half of the season; then he just went by the book, and a couple of times he pressed the panic button. In the last series in Detroit, for example, he had the bases loaded early, but he didn't use a pinch hitter. The ballplayers still did a hell of a job, came through and won that game. Then in the Series, Williams let Lonborg take that beating. He acted almost as though he didn't want to win it.

This year the Red Sox don't have a chance. Definitely not. Jerry Adair contributed quite a bit last year, but you can't expect him to have a season like that again. Conigliaro was vital and now he is lost. Mike Andrews did a hell of a job; he wants to win. And I never saw a player who made the effort that Yaz did, but you can't expect him to have the same kind of a year. Petrocelli should improve, and George Scott is a .300 hitter. Dalton Jones is a hell of a hitter for 10 games, then he tails off to nothing. He was hot in the Series, but Williams didn't start him in the final game. That was a mistake. Jose Tartabull should have hit against Gibson in the seventh game, but instead Williams played Ken Harrelson, who was a nothing.

But pitching is 90% of winning, and the Red Sox just do not have the pitching this year. Lonborg was the best and most feared pitcher in the league because he hit quite a few batters, but he's not going to be ready until May or June. I talked to Jim about not jeopardizing his career. I told him to stay in shape, work out at the Y and look after himself. Then I read about him going skiing. Holy something! Why do players want to go skiing or fiddle with power mowers? It will be tough for him to come back. He injured the left leg, the one he kicks and lands on. He's apt to hurt his arm. He'll probably have to change his style of delivery.

Gary Bell has to change his delivery. He throws across his body too much, and that's when his curveball hangs inside. Jose Santiago has the same problem. Lee Stange has to have perfect control. He also has to speed up his delivery because he's easy to steal on. The Red Sox got Ray Gulp and Dick Ellsworth, but if they had a tough time in the National League things are not going to be any easier in the American. Ken Brett is a very good prospect. He has good temperament. If he doesn't hurt his arm, and he listens, he should be very good. I like him very much, and he's not afraid to throw that breaking stuff when he's behind. Brett needs a lot of work, and maybe he ought to be in the minors another year.

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