cheered this loyal devotion to the Cardinal cause. He praised the speechmaking
of Hemus, Devine and Bauman. " Anheuser-Busch must get back up on top
again!" he cried. "The Cardinals give us a great deal of pleasure when
we win, and they cause plenty of cussing and crying when you lose."
Instruction was the first order of the day. Johnny Keane and Hemus ("What I
say you can consider as coming from him," said Solly) and fifty players
gathered at the mound. Keane raised his fungo bat (all coaches religiously
carry fungo bats in the spring to ward off suggestions that they aren't
working), cleared his throat and said, "Today we are going to teach you how
to run bases."
presumably knew how to get on base, How to Run Bases was the logical
are important," said Keane. "Without fundamentals you can't get to
first base in this game. We're going to go over things that you should know,
because I...and Solly would have, too...learned more coaching runners than
we—or rather I—ever learned running...."
to say that he had never been a coach, but that whatever Keane said you could
consider came from him—Solly. "And be aggressive on those bases, whatever
John has to say," he added. "Go ahead, John."
Keane pounded a
point into the dirt in front of the mound with his fungo bat. "Don't keep
your eyes on the ball, boys."
My ears pointed,
twanged and came to attention. Don't keep your eyes on the ball! Why, for 12
years I'd been warned that bodily harm was imminent for the ballplayer who
didn't keep his eye glued to the ball, be it thrown, batted or lying in the
awakened players gathered more closely around the heretical coach. "What I
mean is," said Keane, pleased with the attention he was finally receiving,
"don't watch the ball after you hit. Just watch it till it hits the bat,
then forget it. The bat will do the rest. Your job is to get out of the
batter's box and down to first base as fast as you can. You might even get to
second base if the ball actually is a base hit. And let me point out something
right now, that it isn't the beautiful slide into second or your blazing speed
going from first to second that turns a single into a double and gives you that
extra base any time. No, sir! Believe me, I've seen it a thousand times. If you
can just concentrate on running as soon as you hit the ball you can get all the
extra jump you need in the first four steps you take away from the plate. By
the time you get 12 feet up the line to first you should be going as fast as
you can go, and don't stop till you have to. Round that bag.
"Now, we got
you on first base and we tell you, 'One man out.' Please nod your head or
something. We know that you know there is only one out, but we want to be sure.
We want you to be friendly with us, and talk to us down at first. So when we
say, 'One man out' it is our little way of getting to know you better.
first base now, and the next hitter hits a ball in the air between the
outfielders. We don't want you to stand halfway down to second, admiring the
scenery and waiting until the outfielder catches the ball. We want you down at
second ready to tag that bag when he drops the ball or can't get to it. It
would be smart, boys, to know what the outfielder's name is, and how well he
throws the ball from the outfield, and even what he eats for breakfast, and how
much he had to drink the night before, because if he can't get the good jump on
the ball the next day you can take that extra base on him every time and that
is what wins ball games, boys. This is your business, boys, and instead of
studying the stock market you ought to be studying the fielding statistics of
the outfielder who might not be able to throw you out if only you knew he had a