The old fastball
was gone, and it was not until 1963 (it took him three seasons to win his last
16 games) that Wynn got his 300th. To do it, he had to pitch in pain and
terrible weariness, but 300 was the goal and he got there. "Hell, I've lost
more than 200," he said.
His rage to live
persisted, and one night he asked if there were any interesting parties in New
York. We tried one, which was dull, and another, which was worse. "Let's go
down to the Village Barn," he said.
downtown," I said, "I haven't been there since college."
"I just want
to see that place one more time."
The Barn was
barren. It was getting very late. We had some drinks. "The hitters may not
know this," Wynn said, "they aren't all that smart. But I know it. I
can't get 'em out anymore."
your 40s, Early, what did you figure? You knew this was going to
His face assumed a
look of inexpressible sadness. "But now it's happening," he said.
After retiring, he
drifted through a predictable mix of baseball jobs: pitching coach, scout,
minor league manager. But he never became a politic man. In 1969, when Billy
Martin managed the Twins, a columnist's story enraged Martin. Three
sportswriters, Red Smith among them, appeared on the field. Martin began
cursing at the perfidy of the press. "Anyone who talks to any of those
newspaper bastards is crazy," Martin yelled.
Wynn had known
Smith for 20 years. He was also Martin's pitching coach. Before Martin's
popping eyes, Wynn walked over to Smith and welcomed him warmly to the field.
He was not Martin's pitching coach again.
I spent a week
with Wynn in Orlando in 1972, riding buses through central Florida, working out
with the team when he would let me, tasting life at the bottom of the minors.
He seemed to be an excellent manager. Some of the players, notably pitchers,
were awed, so Early took them to dinner or visited their homes. The Twins
resisted the idea of supplying beer for the team bus. Early bought the beer out
of his own pocket. "I sort of have to be head counselor," he said.