"Listen. A .260 hitter doesn't hit .320. But if you can get that .260 hitter to hit .320 for a while, then you see him fade a bit and get him out of there, then back in against certain pitchers, give him an opportunity in the right situation, boom, he comes through, builds his confidence and before you know it he isn't a .260 hitter, he's a .275 or a .280 hitter."
"Were there times when you felt like you really didn't know what you were doing, when you felt inadequate, when you second-guessed yourself?"
"No, I never felt inadequate. I never felt lost or anything. I didn't second-guess myself very often because you can usually think up good enough reasons to justify any move. Sometimes you wonder, of course. I know we lost a game in New York when the situation cried for a squeeze bunt and I didn't call for it, and I was wrong, as I told the writers right off when they came in afterward.
"We lost another game, to Detroit, when the percentages called for a bunt and the guy hit one over the left-fielder's head for two runs, so you never know. I found out later that Detroit didn't bunt hardly at all the year they won the pennant, and they still won 40 games from the seventh inning on."
When losses piled up, Williams did not throw tantrums, as his critics predicted he would, nor did he quit, as they thought he might. Instead, he said, he always made it a point at those times to pay the club owner, Bob Short, a visit. It was the persuasive Short who drew Williams kicking and screaming out of exile on the Florida Keys.
"When we'd lost five or six in a row, and I wasn't using the right pitchers, and everybody was bitching, I always took the time to look him up and say, 'Gee, what a wonderful opportunity you've given me.'
"But I want to tell you, my admiration for Bob Short never wavered, and if he fired me tomorrow I'd still say he was the smartest man I ever met. Bob Short in three years will know this game as well as anyone. Already he's one step ahead of everybody else, and he's just a spectator, really, just learning the game, but he's got that something that knows what's good and what's bad.
"The happiest thing I can think of right now is—two things. One, that I'm going to make a lot of money out of all this aggravation and, two, that Bob Short will realize a championship before he's through, because he will positively go bananas."
For Williams the safari was as good as over. He finally packed his gear and headed down to Kariba Lake to go after tigerfish, which he had heard much about and which he handled with consummate ease. But if the hunting closed on an anticlimax, it had been good, and already Williams was making plans for going back next year.
"You will have to come earlier," said Rohwer, "when the season is right—August or in September."