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Until this season, Tolleson, now 27, had a career major league batting average of .128 in 52 games. In 38 games for Texas last year he hit .114. In 71 Triple A games at Denver he hit .241. Under Rader this season he is hitting .278 as the lead-off man and has 23 steals.
When the 40-year-old Klein took over as the Rangers' general manager last October—they didn't really have a G.M. for much of the '82 season—he knew exactly what he was looking for in a skipper. "What this club needed after the depression of last year was a motivator," says Klein, who has worked in the organization as a minor league player and manager and director of player development. "I didn't think a recycled major league manager was the sort of person we wanted, so we made a thorough search among younger coaches and guys who had been successful as Triple A managers. I had naturally heard a lot about Doug, but I thought that even if he'd done all the crazy things he was supposed to have done, they might prove to be more of an asset than a liability. He could still be an attraction, after all. We needed someone to get the players' attention.
"Then I looked at his career. He spent nine seasons with one team [Houston] and was its captain in his last two years. He was traded [to San Diego], then coached and worked for three years as a minor league manager [in Hawaii]. The only way I could interpret all this was that what we had here was stability. The rest, the reputation, was just window dressing. I'd never met him before, so I wasn't exactly picking an old drinking buddy. And when I did meet him, he made a terrific first impression." That should come as something of a surprise to Rader, who asserts he doesn't make a good first impression or a good second impression or....
Rader's managerial philosophy is based partly on a synthesis of his own good and bad experiences with managers he encountered in his 11-year playing career and partly on instinct. "The managers who had the most positive influence on me were Johnny McNamara [in San Diego in 1976 and part of '77] and, to a certain extent, Harry Walker [in Houston from '68 to '72]," says Rader. "Harry had a very good heart, something a lot of people don't know about. Johnny Mac showed me that there doesn't have to be a gap between the manager and his players, that familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt."
McNamara and Rader even collaborated on a prank during spring training in 1976. McNamara called a team meeting on the practice diamond. "We're on a tight schedule this morning," he said, placing a watch he had borrowed from Coach Don Williams on the ground in front of him, "but there are some things I want to say." At this juncture Rader, by pre-arrangement, leaped to his feet, shouting, "Mac, your time's up." Then, before the horrified eyes of the coach, he grabbed a bat and smashed the watch to smithereens. It was a gag McNamara tried several years later with the Angels, this time with Reggie Jackson as co-conspirator. When Jackson swung at and missed the watch, Rod Carew commented dryly, "Skip, next time you've got to pick a contact hitter."
Rader learned from McNamara that a manager could be stern without being distant, in control without being insensitive. "I want to be friends with my players," Rader says. "I want them all to know that I give a——about them. At the same time, I don't want to get so that I go around shouting, 'Hey, guys, where're we going tonight?' The Dick Williams [distant] approach may work over the short haul, but for long-range results I think it's important that you be sensitive to personalities.
"I think you also have to give responsibility to your coaches. When I coached in San Diego [under Roger Craig] in '79, I felt useless. I epitomized the popular notion of what coaches do—pick up helmets and hit fungoes. That's not the way it should be.
"I'm not a great exponent of computers, either. I think you should manage your own team, not manage against another one. Instinct is more important to me. You've got to have a feel for this game—not that I have a choice. The way I treat these guys is the way I am. I do have some advantages, too. I'm a little bit younger, so I'm not so far removed from playing that I can't remember how hard it is, and, of course, I haven't been fired yet so I don't have any prejudices against certain types of players."
Rader hasn't gone as far as inviting the Rangers over for Sunday breakfast, as he did the Hawaii Islanders in the San Diego chain when he managed them in 1980, '81 and '82, and he can't very well take his players snorkeling deep in the heart of Texas, as he did his players in Hawaii, but he does have an easy rapport with them, and he does treat them impartially in that he calls them all Meat. But then again, he also calls his mother Meat. "She calls me Son," says Rader.
If McNamara was Rader's inspiration as a manager, Alvin Dark, who succeeded Mac in San Diego in 1977, was nearly the cause of Rader's quitting baseball forever. "I've seen Doug down only once," says Rettenmund, who was his teammate on the Padres that year, "and that was when Dark sold him to Toronto in '77 because he said he was a bad influence on the team. Bad influence? Why, he was the heart of the club."