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That night the papers were filled with the players' intentions. They were going to strike. I saw the headlines as I was going into a restaurant for dinner. I went right to a pay phone and called Harrelson.
"What's the idea?" I said. "You trying to beat me to the golf course?"
He said the players were going to strike.
I said, "Ken, there are two sides to every story."
As it turned out they didn't strike and I was just as glad, because it would have solved nothing. It certainly wouldn't have changed Charlie Finley's mind.
Now came the time in my life that I am least proud of. Or most ashamed of, take your pick. There is a story in the Old Testament, in the second book of Chronicles, about a king named Uzziah who got too big for his britches. He had done everything, had everything, and then he had begun to act like he knew everything, and because he turned away from God he wound up a leper. Alvin Dark's King Uzziah period was 1968 to 1971.
I had taken the Cleveland job in the fall of 1967, still saddened by the Kansas City episode but itching to make a team in my image, the way Leo Durocher did with the Giants in 1951. I had wondered if the way to do it was to be both the manager and general manager. That way I would not only control play on the field but the moves in the front office as well—the trades and the draft picks and the contract negotiations.
It makes sense. With that kind of power you could do most anything with a ball club. In football it is not unusual—Bear Bryant is head coach and athletic director at Alabama; Vince Lombardi was head coach and general manager of the Packers. But there have been very few who ever tried it in baseball. And now I can say with complete candor that I would never try it again. And wouldn't recommend it. I don't think it can be done.
Here's the rub: when you're the general manager, and you're arguing salary with a young man, and he tells you he wants $80,000 and you say, "Son, you're not worth that much," and then you have to go out and coach him and manage him on the field...well, the symptoms alone are enough to kill the patient. Every move is interpreted—"You don't like me, you don't want to give me any money, you don't like the way I play...."
The most sorrowful, most tragic thing that happened to me in 28 years of professional baseball occurred during that time, with me trying to work both ends against the middle. In 1969 Tony Horton had all the earmarks of becoming a great ballplayer. He was a superb athlete, 6'3", 210 pounds. He drove in 93 runs and hit 27 homers, and he was still only 24 years old. His salary was approximately $30,000.