SI Vault
Robert Creamer
August 22, 1955
Brooklyn's fabulous pitcher talks about his career—about the men who helped him, like Branch Rickey, and about those who caused him trouble, like himself
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August 22, 1955

Subject: Don Newcombe

Brooklyn's fabulous pitcher talks about his career—about the men who helped him, like Branch Rickey, and about those who caused him trouble, like himself

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Newcombe pitched in Nashua through 1946 and 1947, and moved up to Montreal in 1948. But almost as soon as it began, his career in the Dodger farm system nearly ended.

"You know," he said, "I was almost released after that 1946 season. I had borrowed a thousand dollars from Mr. Rickey, and I didn't want to pay it back out of my 1947 salary. I came into Ebbets Field late in the season—it was the first time I ever saw the Dodgers play—and I went over to talk to Mr. Rickey; and he said, go pick up your release in the front office. I walked away and then I said to myself, there's something funny here. So I went back to Mr. Rickey and I said, Mr. Rickey, I don't know what's the matter, but somebody's been telling you wrong. He looked at me and he said, I understand you said you weren't going to pay back that thousand dollars. I said, no, sir, I didn't say that. I said I didn't want to pay it back out of my salary at Nashua. My wife and I couldn't live on what was left. I want to pay it back. I just don't want it taken out of my salary. Mr. Rickey said, oh, I see. Well, in that case, forget about the release. But it was that close.


"People ask me what I think about Mr. Rickey. What can I feel about a man who done what he done for me and my family? People say he's cheap. He was never cheap with me. You ask Campy or Jackie if he's cheap. He did things his own way, but he always knows what he's doing. And to do what he did when he signed Jackie and when he signed John Wright and Campy and me—well, people say a lot of things about why he did it. But it took a man with an awful lot of guts to do it. Brains, too, maybe, but mostly guts. I feel very strongly about Mr. Rickey."

Rickey and Jackie Robinson are the two major figures in Newcombe's baseball career; but another who played a prominent part was Burt Shotton, the sometimes testy manager of the Dodgers at the time when Newcombe came up to Brooklyn from the minor leagues. Shotton was said to be down on Newcombe because of his bad-tempered jumping of the Montreal club in the spring; and there are incidents—such as Newcombe's painless suspension in May, 1950 (he was sent home to "rest") when he told Shotton he could not pitch because of his recurring sore arm—that would seem to bear this out. However this may be, Newcombe today bears his former manager no resentment. "People are always saying I didn't get along with Shotton," he said. "Hell, what ballplayer always gets along with a manager? A player never agrees with a manager. But I got along with Shotton. He was a nice man. He was old and he was quiet. Maybe he was too nice.

" Alston is a lot like Shotton. They play a conservative game. They don't do a lot of talking. Dressen was different. It was a lot of fun to play for Charley. He always kept things alive on the bench. He was always doing things. It was pretty exciting.

"That's why I never could understand why we lost that pennant in 1951. We had that big lead, but Charley never let up on us. He never let us loaf. That's why I don't understand how we lost.

"That game against the Giants when Bobby Thomson hit the home run off Ralph Branca. I was pitching when the Giants got a run in and the men on in the ninth. I was pretty tired. I had pitched three times in five days. I didn't want to go out; but I didn't want to stay in and hurt the team either. I turned around and called Pee Wee and Jackie. They said, how do you feel? I said, I'm tired, but, I said, look, it's up to you. This game is more important than how I feel. It's as important to you as it is to me. More important. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do. If you think I should stay in, I'll stay in. Well, Branca was ready and Charley brought him in. I didn't go to the bench. I just stuck my mitt in my pocket and walked out to the clubhouse. I went right in the shower. That's where I was when Thomson hit the homer. I was in the shower and I heard this yell. It was like an explosion. Then—you know how the hallway from the visiting clubhouse to the Giant clubhouse goes right past the showers there in the Polo Grounds? Well, it was like a stampede, photographers racing past and out the door. I said to myself, oh, oh. I stuck my head out and said, what happened? Somebody said, Thomson hit a home run. From there on it's history."

He stopped, his face brooding on the memory.

"That's a long walk to the club-house in the Polo Grounds. They got partisan fans there, believe me. You know how they wave their handkerchiefs at you when you get knocked out?" Newcombe grinned. "They don't bother me, though. I keep my eyes on the ground."

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