Last December Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, said that the club, in a violent divorce with baseball tradition, would have no manager this year. Instead, a panel of coaches would direct the team, dividing their time between the Cubs and the minor league farm teams and taking turns acting as head coach. Hearty laughter greeted the innovation and echoed through the winter, so loudly that Wrigley last month released to the press a 21-page booklet explaining in detail the club's new philosophy (everything will be directed towards developing better players), comparing it to modern business-management ideas ( IBM computers have replaced blackboards), defending it (the Cubs have not been out of the second division in 14 years despite their use "of every type of manager from inspirational leader to slave driver"), and chiding the press for its sarcastic criticism of the experiment. Here is a report from the Cub training camp on how Wrigley's experiment is working out.
Elvin Tappe, coach, sat on a trunk in the locker room of the Chicago Cubs' training camp in Mesa, Ariz., filling out a lineup card for the day's exhibition game. When he finished, he passed the card to Verlon Walker, coach. Walker read it and nodded. "One vote," said Tappe, grinning. He passed the card to Harry Craft, coach. Craft okayed it. "Two votes," said Tappe. Then he gave the card to Vedie Himsl, coach. Himsl nodded. "Three votes," said Tappe. "Say, this is a good day."
That was all the votes Tappe got for the moment, because Bobby Adams, coach, Rip Collins, coach, and Goldie Holt, coach, were not present. Anyway, it wasn't really Tappe's own lineup. He had written it down on the orders of Charlie Grimm, coach, who for that day was head coach. The next day Tappe would be head coach and could make out his own lineup. On the day after that it would be Craft's turn. And it wasn't really a vote either, but merely an exchange of opinion among the coaches who were jointly managing the Cubs in spring training. The head coach of the day was merely a prime mover; not until the regular season began would the manager pro tern act like an old-fashioned manager and then only during his tenure in office.
All this seeming nonsense began last winter when Phil Wrigley, owner of the Cubs, decided to eliminate the job of manager and create instead a faculty of coaches. John Holland, the general manager, admits he thought Wrigley was nuts. Charlie Grimm says that, coming from the old school, he was skeptical. The press made fun of it—an attitude Wrigley resents—calling the coaches the "enigmatic eight" and the team "the unmanageables." There are still many who question Wrigley's motives.
"It's just a ploy to counteract all the publicity Bill Veeck got with his scoreboard in Chicago last year," said one sportswriter.
" Wrigley loves to be the nonconformist," said another Chicago man. "That's why he hasn't installed lights in his ball park and that's why he's doing this thing now."
Perhaps these men are right. Certainly Wrigley and the Cubs received fountains of publicity this spring when normally the team, always a solid choice for the second division, would have been lost in the shadows of the cactus around Mesa. And yet, in theory at least, there appear to be a number of practical advantages to Phil Wrigley's new idea.
The Wrigley system—rule by a group of coaches with equal authority—is aimed primarily at developing the young players on Chicago's "associated teams." ("We don't call them minor leaguers," says John Holland. "They're all Cubs.") The coaches will circulate through the Cub organization during the season. Four coaches will always be with the major league Cubs, one of whom will be head coach. The other coaches will be with the "associates." During the season, every coach will spend some time with the Cubs and some in the minors. The changes will be made according to need. "Suppose," said Elvin Tappe, one of the four—the others are Craft, Adams and Himsl—who will be with the parent club at the start of the season, "suppose a young catcher on the San Antonio club is having trouble blocking pitches in the dirt. I'm a catching coach. If I happen to be with the Cubs at the time, even if I'm head coach, I'll just fly down to San Antonio for a while and change places with the coach there. He'll join the Cubs."
The Cub front office picked the coaching staff as deliberately as President Kennedy chose his cabinet. "We had to be careful," said Holland. "We couldn't hire a Durocher or Stanky, although they're good baseball men. We didn't want the type of guy who wants it done his way or else. We needed harmony, men who can be overruled and not take it personally. We needed men of varying personalities and capabilities. And that's what we got."