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"Kids today," he said, "are just as interested in baseball as they ever were, if there's a drawing card. But you got to have a name they admire. I'm not just speaking egotistically, but just anybody can't get them to turn out. When I was a kid we didn't have anything but baseball. Today you need a baseball program because there's so much to distract kids. Having someone in uniform out playing with them makes all the difference. My young son, Billy, played pro ball [a White Sox farm club] but he didn't put out enough. My older brother played pro ball, and my mother made my first uniform.
"What does baseball do for a kid? Why, you get more exercise out of baseball—if you play it right—than anything else. But like any other game, you can play it wrong and just stand around. It teaches kids self-discipline, gives them quick reflexes and coordination. It makes them think and teaches them teamwork. I never turn a kid down, no matter what age. We're not trying to get pros, we're trying to get each boy in Chicago to know how to play ball."
"Well, here we are," Hornsby said, as he pulled up to the garage he rents a few steps from his hotel. After backing the car in, a maneuver that seemed destined for a rather spectacular failure, he emerged and started walking at a good pace toward the Edgewater Beach Hotel, where he lives. Along the way, children and adults greeted him, and once he stopped to inquire about the health of a boy's dog. He entered the lobby and disappeared to take off his uniform.
After a quick change he appeared in a tan summer suit with a garish hand-painted tie depicting a man at bat with baseballs careening up and down its length. He started for the drugstore, but permitted himself to be led to a restaurant instead, since he was being invited to lunch.
At the table he self-consciously took out a pair of glasses to read the menu. "My eyes aren't what they were," he apologized, "but I only use these things for reading. I can still play ball without them," he said proudly. After muttering that he "didn't eat much for lunch," he ordered some soup ("It's good to have something hot") and a sandwich.
He fidgeted and looked around, less comfortable out of uniform and off the diamond. He seemed grateful to be asked a question about a newspaper story quoting him as saying bonus players weren't being used enough.
"Oh, they're liable to have a story, I don't read them. I agree with Mr. Wrigley: When he bought me in 1929 he said, 'The most important thing is to keep your name before the public, but it doesn't matter what they say, as long as they spell your name right.' Oh, they've written plenty things about me, about how hard-boiled I am. Why, I'm the easiest guy in the world to work for, if you give 100%. A player doesn't owe it to me as manager, but to the fans, to keep the game of baseball alive, and they owe it to themselves. It's second nature to me to give 100%. Even in this program for boys I'm out there half an hour before time. I like my work, and I think you should. When a player does badly, you don't humiliate him in front of people, but take him off and tell him. I wasn't a guy to put my arm around the pitcher while I was taking him out. I asked for 100% of their ability, what the good Lord gave them, not 100% of someone else's ability.
"One player said, 'All Hornsby wanted is for you to play ball,' and he was right. The player's not going to get praised every day, he's not going to do good every day, and I don't expect that. But if you concentrate on your weaknesses and practice, anyone can improve. I was awful when I started out, but by listening to the older players and putting what they said into practice, I built myself up. Today players have better equipment, have more money—that's what spoils 'em. They have as much ability today, maybe even more, but they don't apply it. And today the business manager has control over the manager. In the old days the owner and the manager were the only ones who ran the ball club; they're the ones who should run the playing personnel."
Hornsby drew a long breath before launching into his version of what happened to his managerial career. "I'm no yes man. If I was, I'd have the jobs those other fellows have."
As he attacked his soup, Hornsby explained something that is obvious. "I live and sleep baseball, I don't care about the other sports." He elaborated on this: "The Chicago Bears' [George] Halas is my personal friend, that's all I care about football.