I'd say, "He's not laying down, Spec. He's doing his calisthenics."
"Calisthenics, my butt," Spec would say.
Amen to that, I'd think. Calisthenics is the only way you can lay down on a ball field and make it look legitimate. It kills you. You spend your life looking for the great talent that comes along about once a decade, and you have to sit there and see it being thrown away. I'd look at Cedeno and think, "How do I get to this kid?" How do you tell a 21-year-old who's out of an entirely different culture that you can see him looking back 20 years from now and telling himself, I had it all, and I threw it away.
And then there was his temperament on the ball field. I never saw Mays throw his helmet. I never saw him get mad over a called third strike. I never saw him throw his bat. Did you ever see DiMaggio do anything like that? Or Ted Williams? Or Stan Musial or Hank Aaron or Mickey Mantle? In other words, I never saw Talent do that.
The Pitchers Union always complains that the Williamses, Musials, DiMaggios and Aarons get a fourth strike. You're damned right they do. Especially in the clutch. The umpires respect their ability so much that if it's a close call on, say, a 2-2 count they'll give them the benefit of the doubt. If it was a strike, Ted Williams wouldn't have let it go by. The dumbest thing anybody with that kind of an edge can do is to get the umpires down on him.
Cedeno was getting called out on pitches that were outside by this much. He'd come back to the bench, still screaming, and heave his helmet and bat. The umpires are looking. Not only the plate umpire, the ones on the bases. The umpires are watching and, don't kid yourself, they're all keeping score. I can tell you that just as sure as two plus two equals four, I saw Cedeno steal second base as cleanly as you can do it. Out! One series, he was called out three straight times on bases he had stolen so cleanly that you could have umpired from the bench.
I'd try to tell him he was hurting himself. "Cesar, when the umpires need hollering at, that's my job. We have guys sitting on the bench that can take care of it. You're getting a raw deal, Cesar. We all know that. They're waiting to see if you've learned your lesson."
He never did. That was his way. How dare anybody criticize anybody for doing it their way.
When Mays was breaking in, all I had to do was move my knuckle an inch or two and Willie would start moving, never taking his eyes off me until he saw my signal to stop. Cedeno couldn't be bothered.
We were in Los Angeles with a month to go in the 1973 season. We're leading by one run in the eighth inning, men on second and third, two men out, and I look over to the Dodger dugout and see a skinny kid I've never seen before coming out to the batting circle, swinging a couple of bats. So I turn to the players on the bench to find out if anybody knows him.