I didn't want to leave Baltimore when I was traded by the Orioles in 1971. If I had to go, I was glad it was to my home state, California, but I didn't see any chance of managing in L.A. Then when the Dodgers traded me to the Angels, in '72, I thought this was the perfect situation. I figured I would finish my career there, and since the general manager, Harry Dalton, knew me from Baltimore I thought that when the opportunity came the Angels would consider me for the managing job.
But when Bobby Winkles was fired, Dick Williams was available. If you can get a Dick Williams, you take him, even over a Frank Robinson, because Williams has proven himself as a big-league manager. I probably wasn't even considered. In fact Dalton had all but told me that I wouldn't be back next year, even as a player. Williams probably wanted to go with younger guys.
That meant I had to do something about finding the right place to play out what I knew would be my last season, 1975. This past year was the second of a two-year contract with the Angels which had a clause giving me the right not to be traded anywhere without my approval. When that contract ran out, I would have no such rights.
After he left the Yankees, Mike Burke was quoted as saying he had planned to bring me in as manager. That was the first I'd heard of that. But this past June a deal was all set for me to go to the Yankees as a player. The Angels were going to get Roy White, Bill Sudakis and Dick Woodson for me and Rudy May. All I had to do was say O.K. Keating talked to the Yankees and asked them to guarantee where I would be in '75 and to pay me a cost-of-living increase and expenses for moving my family to New York. They wouldn't go for all that, so I stayed with the Angels.
What I'd hoped to do was go to Boston. It makes me feel good to walk into Fenway Park; I've always hit well there. But the Red Sox wouldn't give up the players the Angels wanted for me.
Then in July I was put on waivers. I expected the Red Sox to claim me, but Baltimore got in ahead of them. We talked to the Orioles and they wouldn't agree to terms. So my old team kept me from going to Boston. But later in the year we had just about worked out a deal with Baltimore, and I was put on waivers again. This time the Indians, who had passed me up before, took me ahead of the Orioles. I was stunned.
"Why would he go to Cleveland? He must have known something," people say. But I went there because they met my contract requirements. They hired me strictly as a player. I could see a managerial possibility there, but I didn't create any threat to Ken Aspromonte, the man I'm replacing. He was under fire before I arrived. On the Angels' first trip into Cleveland this year I heard that if we took the series, Aspromonte was out and Larry Doby was replacing him as manager. But the Indians beat us three straight, got hot, became pennant contenders, and I guess that killed Doby's chances to be the first black manager.
So 2� weeks before the season was over and after the Indians had dropped out of the race, I came to Cleveland as a player. Two weeks later, on the Friday before the Thursday press conference, I had words in the clubhouse with Gaylord Perry. He had told the press that, as their best pitcher, he was doing more for the Indians than I was, and therefore he wanted as much as I got next year plus one dollar more. I was under a lot of pressure by then, with people asking me about the manager's job, which I honestly didn't know anything about, and I shouted at Gaylord that I didn't care what he said in negotiations behind closed doors but I didn't want him throwing my name and salary around in public. That same day Aspromonte went into Seghi's office and demanded to know how he stood for the next year. Seghi said he couldn't tell him anything until the season was over. So Aspromonte quit, effective the end of the season.
That evening Ed Keating was in the Theatrical Bar in Cleveland, in the middle of a long-distance call, when oddly enough the voice of Howard Cosell broke in on the phone. "Why didn't you tell me?" Cosell demanded. "Tell you what?" Keating said. "That Frank had an argument with Gaylord Perry and Aspromonte is quitting," Cosell said. It was news to Keating. Aspromonte was sitting right there in the Theatrical. "Did you resign?" Ed asked him. Aspromonte said yes. Ed called Seghi, who said, "Talk to me Sunday." The next day the paper boy woke up my wife at 6:30 a.m. in L.A. to show her the headlines about me, Gaylord and Aspromonte. She says she lost four pounds that day.
On Sunday, while I was getting dressed to play the Yankees in Cleveland, Seghi told Ed that the Indians were offering me the manager's job. They began to talk. The next day, knowing nothing, I went on to Boston for the last series of the year. Keating and I had already worked out a game plan in case the job did come up. We would try to get deal A or deal B. The one Ed got was the lesser of the two, but it included an automobile and an apartment in Cleveland, plane tickets back and forth to the Coast, an expense account and the same salary I'd had in '74. I would manage and be a designated hitter. I won't play after '75, so if I'm rehired as manager in '76 my salary will go down somewhat.