"I'll decide when you'll steal a base."
"I might help the ball club," I said. "I usually can tell when a pitcher will throw a breaking ball or off-speed pitch, and those are the kind I steal on."
Hodges glared at me and said, "I told you I'll give you the sign when I want you to steal."
That was the end of the interview. And all during the time I played for him Hodges didn't once give me the steal sign.
The first few weeks I was with the club weren't too bad. I started hitting better, got a few home runs and helped win a couple of ball games. Hodges really worked at making a first baseman out of me. What McGaha had done for me that day in spring training after I made all those errors against the Yankees, Hodges was doing every day.
In one way he helped me more than McGaha had. Hodges knew every trick of the trade. He taught me things about playing first base that most ballplayers never know. I didn't like the guy, and still was wary of him, but I appreciated his help. And I felt sorry for him because we were in an awful losing streak.
One day, after a terrible error, I decided to do something to help out. In the eighth or ninth inning of a close game at Minnesota, Zoilo Versalles of the Twins was on first base with one out when the hitter slammed a wicked shot down the first-base line that I made a great diving stop on. I was off-balance—practically on my back, in fact—and the only play I had was to tag first and get the hitter. Instead, I tried for Versalles, a fast man, at second and threw the ball away. It cost us the game.
I felt awful—so bad that when we got back to the hotel I phoned Hodges and asked if I could talk to him. I wanted to apologize for costing us the game. He told me to come on up. When I got there, he was in pajamas, ready for bed.
"I just want to tell you, Gil, how bad I feel about throwing away the game," I said.
"Don't feel bad," Hodges said, "that could happen to anyone. You made a great stop, and I was glad to see that. Your fielding is coming along fine."