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When Martin Whiteford Marion was the Cardinals' shortstop, nobody criticized him. He was generally considered the best shortstop in the game and everybody told him so, but since he's become a manager, he's been hired and fired a couple of times and accused of having no guts, being a softie and too nice a guy.
"After bringing the Cardinals into third place [in 1951] they fired me." Marion still smarts when he talks about it. "They said I wasn't aggressive enough and didn't go out and argue with the umpire and get kicked out of a ball game.... It's the easiest thing in the world to get kicked out of a ball game. The problem is to stay in.
"A manager is expendable. He's fired because you can't fire all the players, and to show you're doing something to help the club win, you get rid of the manager, which is convenient, but not always sound."
He got his second pink slip as a manager when the St. Louis Browns, whom he managed in '52 and '53, moved to Baltimore. Marion was left behind because Arthur Ehlers, the Orioles' general manager, felt that "unfortunately Marty impressed me as having a defeatist attitude."
That rankles, too, in Marion's long, lean innards. "It's a funny thing," he defended himself, "in football, in the beginning of each season, the coaches always say they aren't going to win. If a baseball manager does that, they say he has a defeatist attitude."
In 1954, swallowing his pride, Marion became an infield coach for the White Sox. There was less glory, less money, and there were fewer headaches connected with the job, but Marion wasn't to be aspirinless for long. That fall, when Paul Richards left the ball club to run the Baltimore Orioles, Chuck Comiskey reached into the infield and gave his coach the managerial berth.
"When we discussed the job," Comiskey said recently, "Marty said to me, I don't know whether you're going to like me or I'm going to like managing the White Sox,' but from what I had seen of Marty's handling of the infielders and his over-all disposition, and the way the kids seemed to flock to him as a leader, I knew I liked him. He has a good philosophy. He believes that any boy who's in a major league club knows how to play baseball and wants to win. He knows what he wants to do and he doesn't jump into any quick decisions, but he can crack the whip when he wants to. He's quiet but firm.
"Last year when the team was bogging down, Marty called the men together and told them that after night games they had to be in their rooms within two hours and after day games they had to be in by midnight. 'If you're out after those hours, you're fining yourself $100.' Two weeks later, three boys came in late. Marty didn't browbeat them. He just said, 'Gentlemen, you know the rule. You're fining yourselves!' "
Comiskey was so delighted with Marion's disposition, and the fact that he got the White Sox breathing down the Yankees' neck in the pennant race (the Sox haven't won a pennant since 1919), that he signed him to a straight two-year contract through 1957.
This vote of confidence has not gone unnoticed by Manager Marion.