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Of Galahad and Quests That Failed
Roger Kahn
August 23, 1976
Stan Musial was—and is—The Man of the hour, but for one black player and the minor leagues, times have been wrong
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August 23, 1976

Of Galahad And Quests That Failed

Stan Musial was—and is—The Man of the hour, but for one black player and the minor leagues, times have been wrong

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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.

"That's what 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."

"It ain't right, having to work out without getting paid," said Ervin.

"Think of 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."

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