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They've got me pictured as a quiet and dead kind of a guy," Walter Alston said, not complaining but just stating a fact. "Everybody seems to think I'm pretty easygoing and I probably am. Last year I think I hated to lose as badly as anybody, but I had the feeling that I did the very best that I knew how and the very best that I could do. I didn't have any guilt-consciousness that I shoulda done this or I shoulda done that.
"I always heard the fans here in Brooklyn were really tough, but when the season was over I felt they were even better to me than they might be. I've had no second-guessing or interference from the front office on the ball field. That's very good. It's only natural to want people on your side, but you've got to expect some for you and some against you, especially when you're in this business. You may look real bad one day, and the next day you come out looking like champions."
Thus far Alston's Dodgers, leading the National League by a dozen games, have looked like champions most of the time. Last week Alston himself, a 43-year-old, long-legged ex-schoolteacher, looked comfortably at home sitting behind his desk in his white and royal-blue Dodger uniform No. 24. On the shiny red outer door leading to his office in the clubhouse at Ebbets Field there is no name plate. Only the word "Manager" is printed there, emphasizing the expendable nature of such jobs.
"When I came here," Alston said, "nobody had heard of me, I guess, except in Montreal and St. Paul, but many of these guys had played for me before in the Brooklyn farms. I had always gotten along with them and I didn't anticipate any trouble with anybody.
"No, I wasn't scared when I got the job. When you've been in baseball as long as I have, well, it's just another game. Things are so much the same in AAA clubs and here. Here you have more fans and the pressure's a little more and there's more at stake but, alter all, it's the same baseball game wherever you play it."
Alston—who taught science, biology and industrial arts and coached basketball as well—meted out learning and discipline with equal authority during his scholastic years. Once he spanked a seventh-grade student for "fooling around the water cooler."
"But you can't get away with that in the East," Alston grinned. Instead he imposes fines, suspensions or warnings to bring his class of major leaguers to order.
"To be a good manager you have to have good players," Alston said. "That's 100%, and I'm lucky. Very much so. This club is pretty much professionals who conduct themselves on and off the field as pros, and they don't get much discipline in that regard. I would like to treat everybody fair and square and equal with no pets or favoritism to anyone, and yet in order to get the best out of them, you may have to kick one in the pants or pat the other on the back, and if that's being fair, O.K. You try to treat everybody the same, but you've got to do it a little different way."
"We have plenty of time to talk," Alston said, "they'll ring a five-minutes warning bell." He lit a cigarette and settled back in his swivel chair.