Every winning baseball team has good pitching. They used to write that when the Dodgers were winning pennants regularly, their weakness was their pitching. Their pitchers were named Roe, Erskine, Newcombe, Labine, Koufax and Drysdale. It looked like they didn't have good pitching because they were playing in that bandbox at Ebbets Field. It's tough to pitch with your shoulders to the wall. (I have to say, however, that I miss Ebbets Field. Parks like that had an intimacy the big sterile new superstadiums can't come close to duplicating, and I think that hurts baseball, too. Fans like to be close enough to see the fire in your eyes, or to breathe hot advice down your neck.)
A baseball manager doesn't control a game, doesn't control his fate the way a good football coach does. You don't see any 10-year contracts in professional baseball. The owners are never completely sure if a manager is any good, because the best sometimes finish last. Managers play musical chairs, going from failure to triumph and back again.
To satisfy the urge to build a champion from scratch a manager must have a young team that has the talent, desire and time to develop, and an ownership and constituency that isn't so jaded or impatient that it can't wait for nature to take its course. Admittedly, that kind of situation is hard to find. But that was what I found when I came to the Athletics in 1965.
My first year with the A's we finished seventh and won more games than Charlie had ever won. I was runner-up for Manager of the Year, and we polished off the season with a three-game sweep of the Tigers. Charlie was very happy. He expressed it in his own modest way. He gave me a Cadillac.
Then came 1967, and trouble, and if it hadn't happened to me I would be willing to see some humor in it. But it did, so I don't. At least not much. I have to say this for Finley: he never once interfered with my field managing. But off the field he was the boss, and when I had to go against him I knew I was doomed.
We weren't doing as well in 1967, and we were coming off a tiring road trip climaxed by a tough loss to Boston. On team plane rides I had made it a policy, win or lose, never to sit in the back, but to stay up front and not rubberneck. I didn't want to know what the players did because I didn't want to prejudice my viewpoint if their habits were different from mine. They knew how I felt about drinking, but I'm not about to tell a man he can't drink. He has to make that decision for himself.
The rule at the time was that each player got two or three cans of beer on the plane. But this particular trip some of them were passing around those little whiskey miniatures. That's all I knew. I got off the plane first, and left. I didn't hang around.
Two weeks later we were on another road trip, in Washington, and Charlie called. He said, "I want you to fine Lew Krausse and suspend him."
I said, "What? What for?"
"Because he was drunk getting off the plane after the last road trip and used bad language around a woman passenger."