I like to fainted
dead away right there.
There is no
question in my mind that Larry was a genius. And very little question that he
was also a little crazy. There is that thin line between genius and insanity,
and in Larry's case it was sometimes so thin that you could see him drifting
back and forth. They always said this about MacPhail: cold sober he was
brilliant; one drink and he was even more brilliant; two drinks and he began to
fall apart. He had been fired from the job in Cincinnati after he had gotten
into a number of scrapes, including a fight with two city detectives in a hotel
During my four
years as his manager there was not one dull moment.
That first year,
1939, MacPhail dreamed up a pre-spring conditioning program for our pitchers
because he wanted us to do well in the exhibition season. We had a three-game
series with the Yankees when we returned to New York, and he had been telling
me all winter that if we looked real good down South we'd be able to draw
enough people in the two games at Ebbets Field to get us off the nut.
And we did get
off winning. Early in the exhibition season we were playing the Cardinals at
St. Petersburg, and I'm here to tell you that it was hot. I put my face into
that blast furnace and decided that if I couldn't find a way to sit the game
out I didn't really have the resourcefulness to make a good manager.
We had picked up
a kid named Pete Reiser for $100, one of a gang of players freed when Judge
Landis curtailed the size of Rickey's St. Louis farm system. The kid had looked
very good in batting practice at Clearwater, and although he was listed as an
outfielder, it seemed to me that I had been told he also had played some
shortstop. It also seemed to me like an excellent time to find out what the lad
could do. "Ever play shortstop, kid?" I asked.
said. I'm thinking, what's the matter with this kid? You're the manager and you
ask a raw rookie if he ever played anywhere, he's supposed to say yes.
told him, "you're the shortstop today."
The Cards never
got Reiser out. For three straight games nobody got him out. He got on base 11
straight times, with seven hits. Four of the hits were home runs, two with Pete
batting right-handed and two left-handed.
I just kept
staring at him, wondering if it was all a dream. "Holy cats," I'm
thinking, "what have I stumbled on here? This is a diamond, Leo. All you
have to do is polish him. Sit down and let the boy play." And I'm thinking,
" MacPhail must be flipping. They'll break the gates down at Ebbets Field
just to see what this kid looks like."