FEBRUARY 20: From
our rented beach house at Indian Rocks I drove to Al Lang Field in St.
Petersburg. The first workout was scheduled for 10 o'clock. The clubhouse was
filled by 9, and we sat around for an hour, anxious to go. August Busch Jr.,
the owner of the Cardinals, sat in the background, smoking a pipe. Solly Hemus,
the new manager, was understandably nervous. Spring training has a convocation
ceremony that follows strict patterns all over the baseball world. Manager
speaks: "Wanna welcome all you new fellows; wanna impress on you that you
each got a chance to make this ball club. We got a big job to do, and with a
couple breaks I think we can win the pennant. These are my coaches; what they
say you can consider it came from me."
and wisely, turned the floor over to Howard Pollet, the pitching coach, a
quiet, soft-spoken gentleman. He echoed Hemus' remarks about each pitcher
having a chance to win a job. And he reminded the pitchers that they were not
going to impress him by throwing hard during the first three days: "All
you'll do is hurt your arms and make it harder on everybody. Just be patient
and we'll give you a chance to show us what you can do."
Sitting in front
of me and spitting tobacco juice into the sandbox was Marv Grissom. I nudged
him and asked for a chew as Johnny Keane and Harry Walker, two other coaches,
spoke a few words. They had both managed for years in the minor leagues, and
since Solly had already used the traditional manager's speech they had nothing
much to say. Solly brought it all to a close. He said, "Let's go get
'em!" We charged out of the clubhouse into the sun.
FEBRUARY 24: I
was reading the stock-market quotations before the workout when Sal Maglie
arrived. He walked down the aisle between the lockers, carrying his duffel bag
and shaking hands right and left. The sight of Maglie sidling toward me was
worth a fanfare. Sal isn't a pleasant-looking man—he looks like an ad for the
Mafia, in fact—but he has a nature that transforms his face in the light of any
friendships. If he feels that his troubles also trouble you, he will even
listen to you tell them. "Hey, veteran right-hander," I called, "is
everything all right?"
"Well, I tell
you, driving down here from Clearwater," he said, loosening an impeccably
tasteful tie, "that's where I'm staying, with a friend there, I felt my
back going stiff on me. Feels like pleurisy, or something. I'm going to talk to
Solly about running too much today. How's everything with you,
said, " Grissom was right. He said that you and he got it made down here.
Train on your own, and all that. Like, you reach 40, and you tell them how much
you run. Is that right?"
Grissom's a lot older than me, you know," said Maglie, referring apparently
to the number of hours separating their respective 41st birthdays. "What he
says about training wouldn't apply to me too much. He still throws just as hard
as he did when Ty Cobb was breaking into O.B. Whaddya say, Griss?"
this guy tells I can double," he said, pumping Maglie's hand. The contrast
between Grissom's huge, fast-balling meathook and Sal's slim-fingered
curve-ball claw pinched my memory. Many suns had set on pitchers' duels that
featured Maglie and Grissom. Finesse and Power. With so many young prospects
cluttering up the place, these two old gentlemen would add some much-needed
balance to the clubhouse picture. There's something to be said for a few
less-hungry faces staring at you, avid to take your job away.
MARCH 1: "How can you expect me to run with a foot like
that, Doc? Look at the length of those nails, and that little blister
there. No, no, next to that soft corn. Could you fix me up in time
for the workout, Doc? Ordinary man would be in the hospital."
Doc Bauman's eyes
were getting pouchy. During the latest clubhouse convocation he said, "I'll
be here from 7 in the morning, and I'll be here as late as you want