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Walter Alston had one distinction before he appeared as manager last spring in the Brooklyn training camp in Vero Beach, Fla. He was the least-known manager in the major leagues. Throughout the season he has made himself memorable by indicating a strong desire to remain so.
"You fellows are going to miss Dressen," newspapermen were warned before training camp opened, and those covering the Dodger base found it true. Used to be they'd ask Charley a question which he'd answer readily enough, adding, "Reminds me of the time—" and copy would pour out of him.
Now Alston submitted to press conferences and answered, "Yes," "No," "I don't know yet." When the Dodgers got home for their first appearance in Ebbets Field, the Ohio schoolmaster seemed faintly bewildered by the clamor. "There will be times this summer," someone remarked, "when Walter will long for the tranquil classroom."
One of those times was last week. Trailing the Giants by three games, the Dodgers barely survived a three-game series in the Polo Grounds, dropping two but averting a plunge to third place by a win in the final. This put them four games off the pace—five back in the important "games lost" column. Now they could not win the pennant unaided; New York would have to lose it.
Alston does not hog the television picture on the field, but in the seventh inning of the first game he played a command performance. The score was tied, the Giants had runners on first base and third with two out. Leo Durocher sent Hoyt Wilhelm up to bat for himself. Wilhelm had not made a hit in the year of our Lord 1954.
Pee Wee Reese, the Brooklyn captain, ran in from shortstop to consult with Jim Hughes, the pitcher. The other infielders gathered around. Reese yelled and whistled for the manager's attention. At length Alston walked into the camera's eye.
They discussed the possibility of a double steal. They debated how to pitch to Wilhelm, whom none could recall seeing at bat, for he had been up only fifteen times this year.
Then Hughes pitched and Wilhelm knocked in the winning run with a single over second base.
Next day a photographer visited the Brooklyn dugout and asked the manager, "Which one is Alston?" Several players tittered and Alston, with a faint, shy grin on his lips, said, "Oh, he's here somewhere."
The photographer laid a paw on Alston's shoulder and turned him, peering at the number 24 on his back. "You're Alston," he accused the man who has run the league champions all summer.