The governor walked through a steel gate amid a knot of protecting policemen, thrusting handshakes, as if in deliverance. Harrigan was swept away with a wave of bettors to the mutuel windows, still singing, his notes like cymbals.
The Pittsburgh Pirates fired their droll and hot-tempered manager, Bobby Bragan, early one morning last week; this was a setback in the Bragan career and deprived him of his salary ($25,000 a year) as getting fired always does, but in the larger or artistic sense it was exactly the thing to do. There was really nothing left for him to achieve with Pittsburgh (except that unlikely goal, the pennant), for the day before, at Milwaukee, he had reached such heights as an actor that all he could have done henceforth as a manager must have been anticlimax. Bragan, a man of hilarious ingenuity, simultaneously punctured the dignity of four umpires with no more equipment than a container of orange juice and two straws.
In considering this dramatic achievement—certainly one of the most memorable in the long history of irascible pantomime on the baseball field—it must be noted that Bragan, a Georgia-born ex-catcher, is a young manager of considerable talent. He has long been a protégé of Branch Rickey and has won minor league pennants at Fort Worth and Hollywood. He began his major league managerial career in a burst of glory—the lowly Pirates led the league for a giddy nine days last year. But this year, while the Pirates have been thudding along at cellar level, Bragan has nursed a smoldering conviction that Pittsburgh is suffering not only from lamentable ball playing but also from lamentable umpiring—especially on the part of Frank Daseoli, Frank Secory, Stan Landes and Bill Baker, who work and travel as an umpire team. When Bragan's best pitcher was thumbed out of a game in Milwaukee Wednesday night, Bragan protested to the league president, Warren Giles, succinctly accusing the four umpires of collective "ego and bullheadedness." Next night, as may be imagined, Bragan found himself under alert, and perhaps somewhat baleful, umpirical scrutiny.
Soon enough, they had something to watch. In the fourth inning came a call from Umpire Landee ruling a Milwaukee base runner safe. In the Pittsburgh dugout Bragan dramatically held his nose—a gesture not lost on Landes, who instantly thumbed Bobby out of the game.
Bragan climbed out of the dugout, face as innocent as a choirboy's, and pointed to his own chest, as though to say, "Who? Li'l ole me?" Smiling serenely, he sauntered slowly toward second where Landes was standing, black-browed as a bank guard in a W. C. Fields movie. "Listen, Stan," Bragan said companionably, "I want to talk this whole thing over with you, but first I want a drink." He turned and strolled slowly back to the dugout, where Coach Danny Murtaugh handed him a cardboard container of orange juice and two straws.
Sipping dreamily, he strolled once more out across the playing field. Precious seconds ticked away before the umpires seemed to realize that they were facing anarchy; managers who are thrown out of games do not stroll back sipping orange juice. ("I never saw anything like it in my life," Umpire Dascoli told Warren Giles in a long-distance call. "I didn't know what to do.") But as the crowd bellowed their delight at the innovation, the four umpires imploded on Bragan.
"Get off the field," cried Dascoli, arms waving skyward, "or I'll forfeit the game."
"Now listen, Frank," said Bragan with hideous sweetness, "settle down. You want a sip of my soda?" Bragan tilted his container and straws invitingly toward Dascoli. The manager turned toward Secory: "You want a little sip, Frank?" Secory declined with a "Hell, no!" Bragan thrust his face closer to Secory's scowl. "Maybe it would be better if I threw it in your face, huh?" he suggested softly. "I dare you," cried Secory. Bragan merely smiled and offered sips to Umpires Landes and Baker. Rejected, he stood for a few moments in a pantomime of self-pity and then slowly—ever so slowly—he retraced his steps, sipping, to the dugout and then to the locker room.
He paid, later—although not very much. Pittsburgh officials denied that the incident had anything to do with his being fired. This seemed reasonable enough: Pittsburgh, after all, was in seventh, and Bragan has had definite and strongly expressed differences of opinion with the Pirate management. He was fined $100 by the National League, and President Giles sent him a huffy telegram: "It is not in your nature to take the game...seriously. We and others consider it a serious business and to be conducted as such."