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Leo Durocher
April 28, 1975
The old way is dead, laments Durocher in an account of his last days in baseball—a time of pampered players and umps who brooked no lip
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April 28, 1975

Goodby To All That

The old way is dead, laments Durocher in an account of his last days in baseball—a time of pampered players and umps who brooked no lip

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But that's expansion, too. You'll go a long way with a good enough arm because you'll say to yourself, Who am I going to bring in from the bullpen with that much stuff? So you try him a little longer and the next thing you know you've got beat.

They do it their way. I've had some of the best drinkers in baseball, and some of the best drunks. Some of them I'd loved, and some of them I'd laughed with. The difference was a difference in attitude. In the old days, it was fun and games. It was "catch me if you can." Today, there's a meanness about it. It's "Who are you to tell me not to drink?" and "What are you going to do about it?"

One day I started to think I'd had about all I needed of the modern player. It was Cesar Cedeno who made up my mind.

Let me say about Cesar that he is not a bad kid at all. He's a good kid. That and a nickel won't get you on the subway. Cesar Cedeno also happens to be the most talented ballplayer in the game today. I managed only two other players in the same class. One of them, of course, was Willie Mays. To me, there will never be a baseball player as good as Willie Mays. Why do I say that? Because I'm prejudiced, that's why. Of course I am. If somebody came up and hit .450, stole 100 bases and performed a miracle in the field every day I'd still look you right in the eye and tell you that Willie was better. He could do the five things you have to do to be a superstar: hit, hit with power, run, throw and field. And he had the other magic ingredient that turns a superstar into a Superstar. Charisma. He lit up the room when he came in. He was a joy to be around.

The other player was Pete Reiser, who was every bit as good as Mays. Might have been better. Pete Reiser just might have been the best baseball player I ever saw. At the age of 22 he hit .343 to lead the league in batting. The next year he was hitting .380 in July when he ran into a fence in St. Louis and busted himself up. He had more power than Willie, lefty and righty both. He could throw as good as Willie—at least as good—and he could throw right-handed and left-handed. You think Willie Mays could run in his heyday? You think Mickey Mantle could run? Name whoever you want to, and Pete Reiser was faster. You want to talk about your Brocks and these guys? They couldn't get out of the box with him. He ran down to first base consistently in 3.6 and 3.7 and, believe me, there has never been anybody before or since who could do that. And he knew how to run the bases. In an era when there wasn't that much stealing, he stole home for me seven times in one year. He'd throw his body out toward the mound as he went by the plate, and the catcher would have nothing to tag but the tip of his hand.

Pete Reiser had everything but luck. Willie Mays had everything. It was the chance to end my career by managing another Willie Mays that was behind my decision to go to Houston. Natural talent? Cesar Cedeno has it to burn. Willie Mays had come to the Giants at the age of 20. His career batting average when he went into the Army a year later was .265. Cedeno had come to Houston at the age of 19. The year I got there he was a 21-year-old and at the end of the season was hitting .320, with 55 stolen bases, 22 home runs and 82 RBIs. He could cover center field just as good as Mays, too, which was absolutely vital at the Astrodome, where anything hit into the hole scooted off the synthetic grass and went all the way to the fence.

So now I'm managing the Houston ball club, and I can see that the talent is there but he's not like Willie Mays. Every day with Mays I would come to the ball park, pick up the lineup card and write his name in. Willie Mays was never sick, he was never hurt, he never had a bellyache, he never had a toothache, he never had a headache. He came to the park every day to put on the uniform and play.

With Cedeno it was: not feeling good today, got tummy-ache. Got headache, I dunno if I can play. He had a very high susceptibility to injury and a very low threshold of pain. Even when he was playing, he was complaining.

All Mays did to loosen up for the game was get a rub on his arm, chase fly balls and get into a pepper game. Cedeno was in the outfield every night stretching his legs back and forth, doing situps.

Every day, Spec would point down to the field and say, "If I catch any more of your players laying down...."

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