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When George M. Weiss, general manager of the New York Yankees through 13 spectacularly successful years, left the club last October, everyone in baseball wondered whether he had quit or had been fired. Weiss himself, a close-mouthed man, said nothing. Now he has decided to review his 42-year baseball career and, in particular, the secrets of that final season. As he puts it: 'For the information of friends, fans and the press who may be interested—and it is gratifying how many have let me know they are—I am telling my story'
IN 1958 I BEGAN TO SENSE TROUBLE
I have the reputation of being an unemotional man but, after almost 30 years with the Yankees, I have plenty of emotions about no longer taking an active part in their operations. No one can remain with a team that long, watch it become the most consistently successful in the history of baseball and not have pangs over leaving. I take a proper amount of pride in having helped establish and maintain the great Yankee record, and I won't pretend that my present unanticipated state of inactivity is altogether welcome. My ties, of course, are still with the Yanks, as an adviser, but I keep remembering what happened to Ed Barrow, my predecessor as general manager, when he moved over into an advisory capacity: his advice was seldom sought. Barrow was a great baseball man from whom I learned the art of constant application, of attending to business 12 hours a day 12 months a year, and with him in mind I made a point of turning down Dan Topping's offer of an office at the Yankees' midtown headquarters in Manhattan. Temporarily I've kept an office at the Yankee Stadium, but I've spent most of my time at my home in Greenwich, Conn., going through my files and answering the phone before heading south for the start of spring training. I wouldn't miss that, and I intend to see plenty of games this season too; but otherwise I'll most likely sit this year out. I must admit I've been flattered by the important baseball jobs that have been offered me during the last few months. They've come from all over the country, but with the picture in baseball changing so tremendously I have frankly decided to sit back and do some quiet stock-taking. Fortunately, my health and vigor are good, and this does not necessarily mean I won't be back in the game at some future time.
I was never told by Topping or Del Webb, the Yankees' co-owners, that I was too old to be general manager. The question of a retirement age was never even mentioned to me. My previous long-term contract expired at the end of the 1960 season, and it included a five-year advisory period to follow. When the season ended, I was simply told by the owners that "we thought this was the way you wanted it, we thought you wanted to take it easy." I made it clear that I wished to remain in charge during the World Series. We then carried on some brief renegotiations which ended in my being allowed by the Yankees to accept another job as general manager after one year instead of five, as originally called for, and to hold down any other executive post elsewhere immediately. After 42 years in the game I didn't want to be put in the position of being unable to take another baseball job if I wanted to.
When my opinion was invited, I gave my approval of Roy Hamey as my successor and of Ralph Houk to succeed Casey Stengel as manager. By dint of their special training and experience, I think they're the logical men to take over. I'll have more to say about Casey subsequently, but I'll say right now that, in my book, there's never been a greater manager in baseball, and there's nothing I'm prouder of having done for the Yankees than advising his hiring back in 1949. I wish he could have stayed on, and I told Topping and Webb that I thought they were making a mistake, but I doubt that Casey would have remained anyway. For a number of reasons, I would have had my reservations also.
Casey and I never had any real disagreement about anything but, naturally enough, having worked so closely together for so many years, we sometimes had different ideas about specific things. Significantly, however, we've both always known that the key to the success of the Yankees was to have each man in the organization do his own job without interference. Before I get into that, let's put things into perspective by looking at the record.
A floor on Fifth Avenue
When I first came to New York as farm director in 1932, the Yankees occupied a three-room suite overlooking Bryant Park at Forty-second Street. Now they have a whole floor at 745 Fifth Avenue and additional offices on the first floor and under the stands at the Stadium. In the years since I took over as general manager in October 1947, the operation has steadily increased in scope. The details of running it, including player moves and signings, supervising the farm system and scouts, negotiating for TV and radio rights (which provide about two-thirds of the profit nowadays), setting up ticket plans and instituting improvements at the Stadium, made the job during my regime similar to being operating head of a large corporation. In those 13 years the Yankees won 10 pennants and seven World Series—and the three we lost went to seven games. As for the last one, without taking any credit away from those pesky Pirates and their hard-rock Pittsburgh infield, I'd like to play them over a 154-game schedule and see what happens!
The Yankees have often been accused of being a hardheaded, hardhearted organization of unsentimental businessmen with a bunch of talented but mechanical ballplayers carrying out their functions in the field. This isn't so at all. We have simply always realized that modern-day baseball is a highly practical enterprise that has to be run systematically, and this includes everything from operating a good restaurant for members of the Stadium Club to two-platooning on the field when the circumstances demand it. But don't you believe that there's no sentiment left on the Yankees! It's knitted firmly into that famous pin-stripe uniform, and if you saw Mickey Mantle cry after the last game of the 1960 Series, as he did in the clubhouse, I think you'd agree that we have plenty of heart and spirit. Maybe we don't reveal it as readily as some others do over the course of the season, but it's there, all right.
I've sometimes been accused of being distant and aloof myself, but if I've given that impression it's because the job of overseeing all the round-the-clock chores that have mounted up through the years since those quiet days at Bryant Park hasn't given me much time to be a good-time Charlie. And, unlike some of the more flamboyant executives in the game today, I haven't ever believed in operating on the executive side as if baseball were a game of musical chairs to be played by hopping every year or so from one city to another, playing with franchises as if they were circuses and making trades helter-skelter for the sake of glamour and change alone.