Durocher turned and winked at Hatton again. Kittle thought about it and laughed. "You're kidding me, Leo," he said.
"The hell I'm kidding," said Durocher. "You know what I'm gonna recommend for you? Hey, Grady, what's the name of that place where they send the rookies?"
" Covington," Hatton said.
"Well, Hub, that's what I'm gonna recommend," said Durocher. "I'm gonna see if they won't send you down to Covington to work with the babies. That's where you belong. Bartender, gimme the check for everybody."
Durocher stood up and signed the check. He stands very erect and moves like a young man. Kittle sat and looked at him, not sure anymore what Durocher intended. Finally Kittle laughed.
"I'll do whatever you say, Leo," Kittle said.
"Damn right you will," said Durocher.
On his way to the elevator Durocher gave Hatton another exaggerated wink. Durocher grinned and wiggled a thumb back toward the perplexed Kittle to show that this was just a good-time rib, just some good old boys having a little fun with each other. But Kittle couldn't see him. Durocher was scowling when he stepped onto the elevator. Hatton looked over at Kittle.
"Leo's gotten kind of mellow," Hatton said. "In the old days, Hub, he would have really cut you up."
A week or so earlier, Leo Durocher was sitting in his office in the home team locker room down inside the Astrodome in Houston. It is a small room with a desk, a couple of chairs and a private bath. The Astros had just lost a game to the Cubs and had slid deeper into third place in the Western Division of the National League. Durocher is a Leo, born July 27, 1906, and his pride needs a lot of feeding. The Astros had been beaten by the team Durocher managed for six and a half years, until he quit in the middle of last season. Durocher was irritated over losing, especially to the Cubs. It is supposed to be a Leo trait to shout frequently that he is surrounded by idiots, which is something Durocher shouted from time to time in Chicago, to the huge displeasure of many of those who surrounded him.