For me the
official National League season opened on January 10, in Chicago. I was still
working at the Meyerhoff advertising agency, and called home to see if there
were enough olives for the Martini hour. My wife said, "The contract came.
Guess how much?"
We had been
looking for the contract in the mail each day. We had talked about it for six
months. I'd won twice as many games as I'd ever won before in one year in the
majors, and I'd saved seven more games in relief. The only question in my mind
was how much of a raise I'd get.
I cut out from
the agency in time to get the first commuter train home. She greeted me with
her fighting smile, and handed me the registered letter from Bing Devine, the
Cardinal general manager. Devine had written: "Please find enclosed your
St. Louis contract calling for salary of $16,000. If this is satisfactory,
return to me as soon as possible."
Hanging my coat
and hat in the closet, I took the Martini she held out to me and gulped down
the olive that had risen in my craw.
thinking of signing that, are you?" she asked.
Anne, I'm no better off after a good year than I was the year I got out of the
Army!" I said. "This doesn't mean a thing! A thousand-dollar raise!
He'll spend that much on phone calls before the season starts! Maybe he's
trying to test my sense of humor."
I had been
tempted to ask for $25,000! I boiled over for one full page at my typewriter.
"How insulting can you get?" I wrote. "Here I proved I could do a
job for you, and you throw me a bone." Then, yanking these unmailable
comments from the typewriter, I paused to regroup forces. I sat in my
half-paid-for lounge chair in our heavily mortgaged home, with the Chicago
winter running the fuel bill into five figures. Spring training would start
February 20...sea gulls, palm trees, fishing boats lazing on the blue Gulf. I
needed a plan.
principle of contract negotiation," said Musial one day, "is don't
remind 'em of what you did in the past; tell them what you're going to do in
the future." I decided to duel with Devine by air-mail letters. His first
move was obviously a feint. A $1,000 raise was ridiculous. My counteroffer
would be equally unrealistic. "Perhaps you would reconsider," I wrote,
"on the basis of assurance on my part to do as well as I did last year. If
my record is as good as it looks, any improvement would obviously be worth
twice your offer."
Three weeks went
by, and not a word from St. Louis. "Let's pack up and go to Staunton,"
I suggested. "We'll visit with your father. Then, if Devine and I ever do
get together, I'll have a running start to St. Pete."
I called Devine
to let him know where I'd be. "I'll be in Staunton, Virginia," I told
him. "You can reach me at Colonel S. S. Pitcher's home. He's a mathematics
professor and loves to help figure out problems."