Walter O'Malley, president of the Bums, put his finger on it before the television cameras in the clubhouse right after the Dodgers had clinched the National League pennant. As the Brooklyn Sym-Phoney band blared away and the photographers yelled and the players sang and cheered on cue, Mr. O'Malley blurted what apparently was the first thought to pop into his head on such a happy, delirious occasion: he complimented his head Bum on his dignity.
Walter Alston is not only dignified, he is so self-effacing that he can leave a group of four or five persons without anyone noticing that he has gone. Once, during the Series, some photographers wanted a picture of the Dodgers' starting lineup posed in front of the dugout. Only at the last moment did someone realize that Alston himself had vanished. He was up at home plate, leaning against the batting cage. It had not occurred to him that the manager of the team might be an interesting addition to the picture.
Another time, in the Series, a ragged old man somehow got on the field without press credentials. Feeling no pain, he staggered up to Alston, shook a finger under his nose and cried: "Let's not have any humbug from you, Mr. Walter Alston!"
A less dignified man might have called for the cops. Walter Alston merely said: "You a newspaper man?" The old man's mouth dropped open and all he could say was, "No, I ain't." And stagger into the arms of a ball park guard.
Talk to Walter Alston before and after a game won or lost and you get the same courteous, soft-spoken answers. But you also carry the conversational ball. Ask the most searching questions—what kind of pitch did Slaughter blast out of the park, why did Furillo go on to third, what's with Newcombe—and you get the facts straight. Run out of questions, and you run out of gas.
After the third game, Alston was asked how he felt about things now. Stengel would have been hard to stop after a question like that. Alston wrapped it up with: "Better than last year at this time."
What it is is dignity, just as Walter O'Malley said it was. It's not the most prized characteristic in the Borough of Brooklyn, but a man can be forgiven it—if he can keep those Bums winning pennants.
A wild goose is a wary bird—old hunters swear that only the crow, among all feathered creatures, is wilier. Luring one down within shotgun range calls for a curious and demanding sort of land-air communication. The hunter's instrument of audio contact is the goose call, a reed horn which simulates the language of his prey and allows him to coax the target earthward. Just blowing the darned thing, however, is a waste of breath. Goose calling demands musicianship. The goose must be charmed, as the fakir charms the snake; he must be cajoled, be reassured. A perfect call needs "lots of wind, lots of throat and lots of luck," and it must be muted as carefully as Louis Armstrong mutes Honeysuckle Rose.
Last week, as a result, 8,500 people sat in a baseball park at Missouri Valley, Iowa (normal population 4,000), staring at a hunting blind of willow branches which sat, incongruously, in short center field. One by one, for two days, goose callers from all over the U.S. hid in the blind. Then, while five judges in identical checkered caps and hunting jackets crouched on stools nearby and the crowd maintained a deathly silence, each contestant imitated the calls of the snow goose, the blue goose, the Canada honker and the speckle-bellied goose in hopes of winning the World's Goose Calling Championship.