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At Palatka, Fla., Felske played for Hal Jeffcoat, who spent 12 years in the major leagues. The Palatka club was a loser, and before that season was through Jeffcoat quit. He immediately called a team meeting.
"Before I go, there's just one thing I want you all to understand," Jeffcoat said. "None of you s.o.b.s will ever make the big leagues."
If you play for Felske, you make practice on time or you pay a fine. You work out hard and play hard, or else you are benched. You find the manager present at the ball park and absent from team parties. ("I can manage the ballplayers. I don't know about the wives.") But if you extend yourself, you'll be encouraged, not humiliated, and if your joy is playing recordings of Jethro Tull full blast on the team bus, you'll be tolerated, if not endorsed. "All I can say," Felske shouted over a Tull tape during a road trip last June, "is that it's a good thing for you guys that we don't have a fine for lousy musical taste."
Felske's best prospect and most delicate problem is a bespectacled outfielder-first baseman named Danny Thomas, who was batting .368 when I reached Pittsfield. He had hit 16 home runs, and he was making diving backhand catches that showed perfervid competitive intensity.
A year ago at Reading, Pa. an umpire named Greg Henley called a questionable double play against the Brewers. The Reading second baseman caught the shortstop's toss, dropped it, recaught it at his knees and threw to first. Had he retained possession at second base? Was the lead man out?
Henley thought he was. Thomas disagreed. After the game Thomas waited for Henley to dress. Then outside the ball park he crashed a right into the umpire's face. McKernan suspended Thomas for the season.
Some Milwaukee officials wanted Thomas released at once. Uncontrollable hotheads make poor prospects. But Felske asked for another chance to work with Danny. The two have since held searching talks on youth, wildness and throwing away a possible major league career through insensate rage.
Now the Brewers were playing the West Haven Yankees in the close and exciting second game of a doubleheader. The Brewers moved ahead. West Haven stole the lead. The Brewers tied the score, and when the game went into an extra inning, Felske sent for Lee McLaurine, a small relief pitcher who had not given up a run all season.
With one out, the Yankees' Dennis Irwin walked. Dennis Worth lined a single to center. Brewer Centerfielder Kenzie Davis threw out Irwin at third. Both teams play hard aggressive baseball, and Worth went to second on the throw. Garth Iorg singled to left so sharply that Worth had to stop at third.
Two out. Two on. Tie game. Pete Ward, the Yankee manager, thought briefly of pinch hitting for Mike Fischlin, his shortstop who was batting .198. For no reason Ward could later explain, he decided to let Fischlin hit.