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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.
"You aren't thinking of signing that, are you?" she asked.
"Good God, 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.
"The first 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."