John Felske, the
manager of the Brewers, is a powerful 6'3" native of Chicago whose major
league career spanned three seasons and 54 games. He is authoritarian without
being cruel, organized, precise and convinced that baseball must be a
discipline before it can be fun. Terry Ervin, one of Felske's outfielders, had
just been suspended for bumping an umpire, and Felske made sure that Ervin did
not draw meal money during his suspension.
"I don't get
paid?" Ervin asked.
suspension means. You don't play and you don't get paid," said Felske.
"Then why do
I have to show up at the ball park?"
Felske rubbed a
strong hand through his sandy hair. "When you're suspended, we don't even
have to give you meal money, and we're not going to. I want you at the park
because I want you to be working out."
right, having to work out without getting paid," said Ervin.
that before you bump an umpire again," Felske said coldly.
Felske is 34 and
has seen some boyhood Chicago friends go to prison. "I don't make a big
thing of it," he says, "but we can all go wild as kids. My baseball
career has kept me from making really wrong turns. I've made mistakes, like
telling off Leo Durocher. That got me off the Cubs in 24 hours. But nothing
disastrous, and my little kids are coming along fine."
Felske has a
strong pragmatic intelligence, and through 12 years as a catcher in organized
ball he has mentally recorded managerial excesses. Once he played under Pete
Reiser, an outfielder of infinite talent who destroyed his career by running
headfirst into walls. By the time Felske played for him, Reiser was a sour man
who ragged his players constantly. After one particularly unpleasant session,
Felske went out and got the hits that won a game.
"I only was
on you because it makes you a better ballplayer," Reiser said later.
Telling the story, Felske smiled a hard smile. " Reiser got on me because he
was a disappointed man. Both of us knew that, but I just walked away."