Charley Dressen received a blaze of headlines two autumns ago when he was dropped as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers after winning two consecutive pennants, but since then he has, for the most part, been buried deep in paragraph 12, column 7, page 34—which is about where you would expect to find news of the manager, last year, of the minor league Oakland Oaks and the manager, this year, of the somewhat minor league Washington Senators.
Lately, though, Charley Dressen has been stirring things up a little, what with his seventh-place Senators being a prime cause of the mumble, stumble and trip gait of the American League pennant race. Two weeks ago, for instance, the day after the Cleveland Indians had won a stirring series from the New York Yankees to move into a tie for first place, the Senators moved into Cleveland and walloped the Indians in both ends of a double-header. This has been going on all year. The lowly Senators have defeated the Indians 12 times while losing only seven to them. More than that, the Senators have recently visited similar distress on the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox, whom they have defeated in games the Yankees and the White Sox dearly wanted to win.
All in all, Charley is having as pleasant a year and as sunny a September as a seventh-place manager has a right to experience—except that the headlines have been few and far between.
Last week, however, a small bouquet finally came Charley's way and from a most unexpected source. Billy Martin, the "fresh kid" of Casey Stengel's dreams, came out of the Army on furlough to rejoin the Yankees and lead them, if he follows the script, to victory in the American League pennant race. Casey Stengel at once proclaimed with Stengelian extravagance: " Martin will play shortstop [though Martin is a second baseman by trade] for the rest of the season and right through the World Series!"
Martin, who at times has indulged in extravagant speech himself, was quiet and appreciative of the chance to play. He smote a double and a single in his very first game and looked, that day at least, like the hitting shortstop the Yankees have needed all season long. After the game, in a TV interview with Red Barber, he said modestly, "I've been lucky to have played for the two best managers in baseball: Casey Stengel and Chuck Dressen."
Everyone knows about the perfect love that exists between craggy old Stengel and brash young Martin. But Martin and Dressen?
"Sure," Charley Dressen said in Yankee Stadium before last Saturday's game between his Senators and the Yankees. "I had Billy at Oakland in 1949. He wanted to hit homers all the time. But he learned to hit the way he should hit. Cookie Lavagetto and I worked with him a lot. Hit grounders to him for hours. Came out before batting practice with him. He wanted to learn. And he learned."
Dressen's face crinkled in a smile.
"But, gee, he was a fresh kid," he said. "He was a good ballplayer, a real good ballplayer. But he was fresh, always scrapping.