". . . And it's bye, bye baby . . . !!"
- Giants announcer Russ Hodges's standard call of home runs
In many ways, the story of Alvin Dark is the story of America: a nation’s reconciliation, redemption and new understanding, followed by socio-political restructuring. This describes how the American South struggled to find, as Abe Lincoln called them, “the better angels of our nature.” In many ways through sports, the South came to grips with new racial realities, then saw the Republican Party husband the region “back into the Union” until they became not a marginalized New Deal voting bloc, but “rose again” to emerge as an economic and political powerhouse.
Al Dark was that walking conundrum of Dixie: the hardcore Baptist Christian burdened by racial prejudice. Through baseball, he was able to get out of the South and become a man of the world. It first led him to New York, where he starred for the 1954 World Champion Giants. A great picture exists of Dark and the black superstar Willie Mays, smiling in each other’s company during the team’s Broadway ticker tape parade.
The Giants of the early 1960s were one of the first truly integrated teams. Mays, Willie McCovey, Felipe Alou, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda were black and Latino stars of the first order.
Dark, who lived in Atherton, appeared at religious functions. The Holy Bible went everywhere with him and he read it . . . religiously. The Giants were in contrast to the secular nature of The City. Aside from Dark, they had a large number of Christian players. The Latinos, in particularly, were strong Catholics. Mays and McCovey, while never known for being outgoing Christians, were from the Bible Belt and could not help but be influenced by that upbringing.
Despite that, Dark refused to make the Giants' clubhouse a church. "He had a rule against presenting his Christian testimony to any of the players while in uniform, a rule I was also to abide by," said Felipe Alou. "He told me he felt there was ample time to talk about my beliefs, but that while I was in the clubhouse and on the field I was to be dedicated to winning baseball games."
Dark was particularly careful about talking religion with the San Francisco press corps, among which there were Jews and Left Coast secularists. In Spring Training he did draw a parable, calling the cut-off play "just like the Bible. You don't question it, you just accept it."
Off the field he neither smoked nor drank. On the field he was aggressive, a gambler who "instilled an aggressiveness in that ballclub," recalled catcher Tom Haller. "He wanted us to play hard. Alvin loved to win, but hated to lose. And he did curse. He'd get hot under the collar and could get quite angry at times."
After screaming profanities to umpire Shag Crawford, he "confessed" that "the devil was in me," that it was "not a Christian thing to do," to the San Francisco Examiner. "Never before have I so addressed any man - and with the Lord's help, I hope to have the strength to never do so again." Dark could be a martinet, lumping the good in the with bad after a tough loss which embittered all.
Dark was born on January 22, 1922 in Commanche, Oklahoma, the son of an oil well engineer. The family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana where he grew up in a staunch religious household. Life in the Bayou state of his childhood was heavily Baptist, with strong racist and segregationist overtones. Laws outlawing integration had been on the books since the Civil War era. When Felipe Alou played in Louisiana in 1956, he and a minority teammate were banned from future action by a law forbidding whites and blacks from playing with or against each other.
Dark's religious convictions were the shield against instinctive racism. His years in New York with black and Latino teammates certainly moderated him further. "Since I had been a kid, the ways I have used to express myself have been mostly physical . . . I was not good at expressing my thoughts verbally or on paper," said Dark.
Dark was not alone in the Southern white's interpretation of the racial dynamic. "I felt that because I was from the South - and we from the South actually take care of colored people, I think, better than they’re taken care of in the North - I felt when I was playing with them it was a responsibility for me," he said in Jackie Robinson's 1964 book Baseball Has Done It. "I liked the idea that I was pushed to take care of them and make them feel at home and to help them out any way possible that I could playing baseball the way that you can win pennants."
Alvin played football and baseball, but his love was baseball. At age 10 he played against 19-year olds. He was all-state in football, captain of the basketball team. LSU beat out Texas A&M for his services. He played football and baseball for the Tigers. In 1942, his sophomore year, Dark was the running back along with Steve Van Buren, later a Hall of Famer with the Eagles.
Dark was in the Marines during World War II, and was assigned to officer candidate school at Southwestern Louisiana State, where he earned football All-American honors. He played halfback on an overseas team in 1945 before going to China. Sports kept him out of major combat, as it did for numerous college and pro athletes. Despite being drafted by the NFL and the All-American Football Conference, Dark went for the Boston Braves, breaking into the big leagues in 1946. He played all of 1947 at triple-A, then helped lead the Braves to the 1948 World Series at age 26.
The middle infield of Dark and Eddie Stanky was distinctively Southern. Stanky taught the youngster the intricacies of the game. Dark's .322 average earned him Rookie of the Year honors over Philadelphia's Richie Ashburn. In 1949 Dark and the Braves tanked. Manager Billy Southworth lost his son and drank heavily. Dark learned from Southworth things not to do. Dark and Stanky were too opinionated. Both were traded to the New York Giants.
Leo Durocher loved Dark's fiery ways. When Dark turned down $500 to make a smoking commercial, Durocher paid him the money and made him captain. He thought of Dark as a player-coach, a manager on the field.
Over the years, Dark played for Gene Mauch, Charley Dressen and Fred Hutchinson, all respected baseball minds. "You get the chance to learn managing from a Durocher or a Mauch - that's a pretty good education," he said.
Dark helped New York win two pennants and the 1954 World Series before being traded to St. Louis. He later played for the Cubs, Phillies and Braves. Whenever a new man joined teams Alvin played for, Dark would take him out to dinner, which was "something as a player that only one other man in baseball did to my knowledge," said ex-teammate Lee Walls, who played for the Dodgers in 1962.
In 14 years he had more than 2,000 hits and batted .289. In late 1960 Milwaukee traded him to San Francisco for shortstop Andre Rogers, and he took over as their manager in 1961.
"I never thought I'd say this about anybody," Willie Mays told writer Charles Einstein a few years later, "but I actually think more of 'Cap' <Dark> than I did of Leo. You know what he did when they made him manager? He sent me a letter, telling me how glad he was we were going to be back together again. How can you not want to play for a guy like that?"
Dark's hiring both fell in line with but deviated from owner Horace Stoneham's normal methods. On the one hand, the Stoneham family had hired former Giants players in the past; Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Bill Rigney. They liked loyalty and tradition. There was a feeling that to be a Giant was something bigger than to be a Phillie or a Red. But Stoneham also liked hail-fellow-well-met types who he could share a cocktail and camaraderie with. Leo Durocher had not played for the Giants, but was certainly not averse to drinking. So was the Irishman Tom Sheehan.
"Normally, Horace insists that his managers drink with him," recalled Bill Veeck. "It goes with the job. When he drinks, everybody drinks. Especially if he is paying their salaries."
Dark, 39, did not drink. He was loyal to Stoneham and would perform his job 100 percent, but he would not drink. Stoneham understood and did not press the subject. Dark's coaching staff, hired in 1961, came straight out of the great 1951 pennant winners: Larry Jansen (40), Whitey Lockman (34) and Wes Westrum (38). The coaches as well as Dark were all active players in 1960.
"He had a lot faith in our judgment," said Jansen. "Wes was a solid defensive catcher and a great guy. Lockman really knew how to deal with people, and I guess Alvin thought I knew enough about pitching to help him."
"I know what each of us can do," Dark told the media. "When I assign them their work at Spring Training, I can relax. I know the job is getting done because they know what I want done. And they do it."
Dark's temper was difficult for him to control in those days. "We were playing the Phillies and lost three straight games by one run," Dark recalled. "We had our opportunities, but couldn't score. After one of those ballgames I heard some guys at the other end of the clubhouse laughing. What they were laughing about, I don't know. It was probably something I should have found out before I got so mad. But it hit me all at once. How could anybody laugh in a situation like this?"
Dark picked up a stool and threw it with full force against a door. His finger had lodged into the chair and he lost the tip of his little finger. On another occasion Dark turned over the food trays in Houston, ruining one of Willie McCovey's cherished suits. Willie Mac was a clothes horse. Dark provided the first baseman with a check the next day to pay for a new outfit.
Dark had not been away from the playing field long enough to gain the proper perspective for managing. He wanted his players to play as he had, and was upset at the "new breed" of athlete that was just starting to emerge in the 1960s. It was not just a matter of race, although the game was rapidly changing its "complexion"; but the modern player was different, less intense, more worldly.
Great managers and coaches have always been identified as those who could change with the times. That was the key to John Wooden's success at UCLA, and Bear Bryant's at Alabama. Dark was old school. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Charles McCabe said that Dark's attitude was a "very dangerous thing," that the manager felt that he needed to "win every game himself."
Dark stood in the dugout "like Washington crossing the Delaware," one writer quipped. He did not have time for jokes or tobacco-jawing, saying that he had seen too many managers let the games pass them by. He had no use for individual achievements, even though his team had some of the greatest individual stars in baseball. It was a challenge for him.
Dark immediately noticed at his first Spring Training that the team was divided between whites, blacks and Latinos. He had equipment manager Eddie Logan mix the cubicles so that blacks would be next to whites, Latinos next to blacks, and the like. "It went over like a lead balloon," Dark admitted.
Dark also had a sign posted in the clubhouse that read: "Speak English, You're in America." Dark had a meeting of the Latinos and said the others complained that they jabbered in Spanish. There were worries that they were telling jokes or hatching plots behind teammates' backs. But Cepeda called Dark's complaints "an insult to our language," and the Latinos kept talking in their native tongue.
Felipe Alou understood what Dark was trying to do, which was to assimilate these players into the culture, their new country, and with their teammates, but said it was forced. "Can you imagine talking to your own brothers in a foreign language?" he said, and he should know; brothers Matteo and Jesus were all in the Giants' organization. Besides, many of the Latinos spoke poor English, so it was hard for them.
Dark, however, was not rigid. When he imposed an edict that did not work, he realized it and stopped the practice, as he did with the cubicle-assignments and the "only English" rules.
"My intentions were good but the results were bad, so I stopped it," he said.
Unlike Walt Alston, Dark was not a "by the book" manager, said pitcher Billy O'Dell. He thought out every move and had reasons for them. He liked using defensive replacements and went to his bullpen early by the standards of the day. He juggled his batting order, tried to apply defensive strategy based on his interpretation of the shifting Candlestick winds, and warmed up relievers just to bluff opponents.
"Alvin overmanaged, but even he admitted that," said Charles Einstein. The writers called him the "mad scientist." He had fake pick-off plays and other gadget maneuvers.
"I don’t think I ever managed thinking some move was the 'safe' thing to do," said Dark. He said he wanted to "have some fun. But you only have fun when you win."
Dark was competitive at everything; gin rummy (which he was taught by Leo Durocher, a master) and golf. He beat his players on the greens and used that to extract a psychological advantage.
Dark could play "little ball" even with the slugging Giants, and had a grading system that awarded points to players whose obvious statistics were not comparable to a Mays, McCovey or Cepeda. If a player moved a runner along 30 or 40 times in a season, Dark had kept a record of it and the players were able to use that in contract negotiations.
When Dark told the writers that third baseman Jim Davenport's plus/minus record was excellent, but that Orlando Cepeda's was "terribly minus," he asked that it not be printed in the headlines. The papers ran it anyway. Look magazine printed Cepeda's so-called "minus-40" rating, and the sensitive first baseman sued for defamation of character. He lost.
In March of 1962, the conflict between Cepeda and Dark took a turn for the worse when, after a brilliant 1961 campaign, Orlando held out of Spring Training for $60,000.
Dark's biggest concern entering Spring Training was the age of his pitching staff. Sam Jones and Billy Loes, both effective pitchers in the 1950s, had nothing left. Dark was relying on 32-year old Don Larsen and 35-year old Billy Pierce. Larsen was a hard drinker whose lifestyle made him a decade older. Pierce had been an outstanding pitcher with the Chicago White Sox, but in the Cactus League he was terrible. His spring ERA hovered around 16.00. He gave up a plethora of home runs.
Billy O'Dell held out and Jack Sanford was an unknown quantity; maybe excellent, maybe a bust. Stu Miller was the bullpen ace. A host of untested young pitchers included Jim Duffalo, Bob Bolin and Gaylord Perry. 23-year old Mike McCormick offered huge potential but was always seemingly troubled with arm injuries. Juan Marichal was worried sick about his girlfriend, Alma. Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo had been assassinated, and violent extremists threatened to throw a bomb through the window of her families' home.
Marichal requested a leave so he could go to the Dominican Republican, marry Alma, and bring her to America. Dark never hesitated.
"He was terribly unhappy and needed to get that gal up here," recalled Dark.
Marichal was deeply grateful and wanted to do something for Dark. He asked Willie Mays for advice.
"Win," said Mays.
Dark certainly could count on Mays to provide veteran leadership, hustle and his usual brilliance. Ed Bailey was a veteran catcher. Tom Haller was a youngster. 32-year old Harvey Kuenn could still hit. Jose Pagan would provide good defense. Jim Davenport was solid at third base. Chuck "Iron Hands" Hiller was the second baseman. Dark decided to make him a project in Spring Training; to improve him defensively.
"That showed me that Dark could be a teacher, and he made Hiller into a second baseman," said San Francisco Examiner sportswriter Harry Jupiter.
First base was a festering controversy, albeit an embarrassment of riches: Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. After Cepeda finally signed, Dark needed to find a place for Willie Mac. Left field was the only solution, but his outfield was also full: Kuenn, the Alou brothers, and of course Mays in center.
Team trainer Frank "Doc" Bowman posted a sign on the clubhouse wall in Phoenix: "Work hard this year - and eat corn on the cob all winter." It did not make a lot of sense but its meaning was clear. They had potential, and if they made the most of it a championship was theirs for the taking.
Felipe Alou, 27, averaged .274 in four previous seasons. When he was out with a sore elbow, the club lost six of eight. When he returned they won eight straight. In June Alou was hitting .345, one point from the National League lead. "I just am hitting better through the middle than I ever did," he said. "I have no worry about whether I hit .170 or .300. I have great confidence since Al Dark play me regular. Don't worry. I just swing."
Batting fifth instead of first as in 1961, the six-foot, 195-pounder said "This year I like where I am batting. I am too big for a lead-off man. I cannot try to get walks. I am a swinger, not a waiter."
Alou embarked on consecutive-game hitting streaks of 11, 10, nine, and eight games in 1962. He was also very mature; a solid influence on moody fellow Latinos Cepeda and Marichal; as well as a pathfinder for younger brothers Matty and Jesus.
"Felipe was a very classy person, and a good team ballplayer," said Billy Pierce. "He led a great life and carried himself well. He would try to work with the guys. If some of the Latin fellows got a little excited, he would be the man to calm them down. I don't know if Felipe would ever swear about anything."
Felipe carried his Bible with him at all times, which helped him form a bond with Dark. But he spoke up to writers and was no "shrinking violet," according to writer David Plaut. When Dark kicked over the food table, Alou picked the food off the floor and ate it while staring at Dark. The message was clear: food was a gift from God. Born into poverty, Alou never wasted it.
Alou was born in the fishing village of Haina, Dominican Republic in 1935, the eldest of four sons. His father, Rojas, was a blacksmith and, like Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter. He made hand-carved bats for his sons, who practiced by hitting lemons.
In high school Felipe was a track star, but played baseball in the summer leagues. At 16 he worked in a concrete mix facility and became a legend when he wrestled sharks with his bare hands! His grades were excellent and he attended the University of Santo Domingo to study medicine. He played on the baseball team, coached by a Giants "bird dog" named Horacio Martinez. Alou's father lost his job and Felipe quit school to support his family. He signed a $200 bonus for the Giants and went to Lake Charles, Louisiana of the Evangeline League.
He was barred by his color and sent to Cocoa Beach, where he led the Florida State League at .308. He impressed the Americans by learning English and in 1958 made it to San Francisco. In 1961 he became a starter, but pitchers could get him out on the outside corner.
He arrived at Spring Training in 1962 and closed up his stance. It paid off immediately. He hit .500 in the Cactus League and stayed hot in regular season play, was moved from lead-off to fifth, and displayed power. Alou went on a 12-game tear. His homer in Cincinnati shattered the letters on an advertisement atop the Crosley Field scoreboard.
He killed the Dodgers in an April series, prompting a Dodger fan to send a telegram to San Francisco: "Roses are red, violets are blue . . .we'll give our team for Felipe Alou."
He continued hitting well in the first half and made the All-Star Game. He had nine straight hits at one point.
For all of Alou's on-field exploits, however, his greatest contribution might have been when he saved Juan Marichal from drowning off the coast of Haina.
Jim Davenport made the National League All-Star team in 1962. He finally came into his own after years of injuries. He already was generally viewed as the best-fielding third sacker in the senior circuit. If he could stay healthy he was destined for greatness. The press dubbed him "a man for all lesions."
His injuries were an anomaly, since he had been a college safety at Southern Mississippi without any health problems. Alabama originally recruited him but 'Bama had a rule against married players. Since Davenport was wed, the scholarship was rescinded and he ended up at Southern Miss instead. In his sophomore and junior years he led his team to upsets over the Crimson Tide. The losing quarterback both times was Bart Starr.
Davenport was an original 1958 Giant, but suffered rib and ankle injuries. In 1959 it was an eye infection. On his 26th birthday he tore his knee up in a collision with then-Reds catcher Ed Bailey. Larry Jackson 's pitch cracked his collar bone. Bleeding ulcers landed him in a Milwaukee hospital. He hurt his groin. His injuries made it tough to run and train properly. The lack of conditioning affected his stamina. The writers speculated that the missing ingredient between 1958 and 1961 was Davenport. Despite his injuries, he led the league in fielding percentage three years in a row.
"Here was a guy who was so quiet, and he never sought out publicity, but he is still the best fielding third baseman I ever saw," said Bob Stevens, a legendary baseball writer for the Chronicle who eventually had the press box named after him.
Second baseman Chuck Hiller, on the other hand, was a defensive liability who would lead the National League in errors in 1962.
"One time in Cincinnati, we went to see the very first James Bond movie," recalled Tom Haller. "At the end of the picture, it was discovered that the bad guy, Dr. No, had no iron hands. So poor Charlie got nailed with 'Dr. No' for awhile."
That was inter-changed with "Iron Hands." The play-on-movie-words repeated itself two years later with San Carlos, California-born first baseman Dick Stuart of the Boston Red Sox. A power hitter with zero defensive skills, Stuart was given the nickname "Dr. Strangeglove" after the title character of the film Dr. Strangelove.
Hiller had actually led two minor leagues in fielding after being signed by the same Cleveland scout who had inked Bob Feller. The Giants picked him up in 1959 and he hit over .300. Hiller was a talker who Cepeda called "Abner," as in Doubleday, because "he talked like he invented the game."
But Hiller began to press, and the more he pressed the more it affected his play at the plate and in the field. After spending 1961 at triple-A, Hiller was told by Dark he was the starter in 1962. Hiller spent the spring fretting over whether he would blow the opportunity, but when the season started and he was the starter, he was his old "Abner" self again. His fielding, despite the errors, was adequate and he was adept at turning double-plays. None of the Giants pitchers was a strikeout artist; certainly not like Koufax and Drysdale, so they needed those twin-killings.
Hiller's partner was Jose Pagan, who "has been making me look good on double-plays . . ." said Hiller in 1962. "When <he> gained confidence in me, we started to function as a combination. We're at ease with each other now."
Pagan was probably the least-publicized player on the team. He was a Latino on a team of high-profile, high-temper Latinos, but he remained quiet and reserved. "With big stars like Mays, Marichal and so many others, it’s too bad Jose never really got the recognition he deserved," said Cepeda. "He was there every day, made all the plays and he could hit."
"You didn’t have to worry about Pagan at all," said Billy O'Dell. "He was in the right place all the time. Some of the other guys, you might have wanted to move them a little bit, but not Jose."
Pagan had been signed by Pedro Zorilla, credited with the Cepeda signing. He played five years of minor league ball, and stuck in 1961 when he beat out Ed Bressoud for the job. Teammates called him "Humphrey" as in Bogart because of his non-plussed facial expressions, which the actor effectuated on-screen.
When the club had a scare flying to Chicago in 1962, the cabin went silent until Pagan broke the quiet with a blessed joke: "I say we should take a vote. I'm for taking the bus."
The remark eased the tension. Pagan hit eighth but drove in a lot of clutch runs. His fielding percentage in 1962 led the National League.
Harvey Kuenn was a former American League batting champion. He had hit .300 in eight of the previous nine seasons. Kuenn graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1952 and announced that he was accepting bids for his services, which came in. Detroit won the "bidding war," signing him to a $55,000 package.
After 63 minor league games the shortstop was brought up in September, 1952. In 1953 he was named Rookie of the Year. The 21-year old picked up the tab for a lavish team party at his hotel. He was barely old enough to consume the alcohol that flowed, and in some ways Kuenn was the first of the "new breed"; college-educated, rich and savvy.
He hit .300 every year, switched to the outfield and was a perennial All-Star. On a team that included Al Kaline, he was the captain. His .353 batting average in 1959 won the batting title.
In 1960 a controversial trade sent Kuenn to Detroit for Rocky Colavito. Kuenn was booed, but he batted .308 and was the player representative. Cleveland fell below .500 after years of success and general manager Frank Lane traded him to San Francisco for Willie Kirkland and Johnny Antonelli. Harvey chewed Red Man on the field and smoked big cigars off it. Sports Illustrated did a piece on him. Writer Tex Maule said he kept the team loose, entertained and united.
"I don't think there was anyone on the club who enjoyed life or playing in the big leagues more than Harvey," said Billy Pierce.
One day Mays arrived to find a gift-wrapped package in his locker. The box of candy was opened to reveal two dozen decoratively wrapped pieces of horse manure.
"I know you done it," giggled Mays at the laughing Kuenn. "I know you done it."
At mid-season Kuenn's dad died, but the club rallied around their friend.
"He taught the younger players about hitting, volunteering his own time which was something Mays didn't do," said Bob Stevens. "He also became very close to Stoneham. He loved drinking margaritas with Horace during Spring Training."
Charles Einstein noted that Kuenn was effective "drunk or sober."
Matty Alou, the younger brother of Felipe Alou (and older brother of Jesus Alou) was born on December 22, 1938 in Haina, Dominican Republic. At 5-9 and 155 pounds he was much smaller than his powerful brother. He grew up with Juan Marichal and was part of the wholesale exportation of Dominican baseball talent to the United States that has become more than a cottage industry.
Matty played four Major League games in 1960 and 81 in 1961. He was a decent outfielder who threw and batted left-handed.
Carl Boles's only year in Major League baseball was 1962. He was called up from El Paso in mid-summer. He would play the rest of his career in Japan. He had one distinctive trait, one reason for being memorable: he was a dead ringer for Willie Mays.
"It was really noticeable when we made a trip back to the Polo Grounds," said Boles. "Willie would get these huge ovations there. That night I came out through the center field bleachers before he did and the crowd thought I was Mays."
The Mets' fans gave him a standing ovation, until they noticed that his number was 14, not Mays's 24. Then they booed him. After games, fans wanting Willie's autograph would mob Boles. Sometimes he would sign Mays's name as a joke. He got excellent service at restaurants and roomed with Willie McCovey, which further made people think he was Mays, since the two Willie's from Alabama were linked.
Catcher Ed Bailey, 31, loved to talk about women, which is the favorite subject of most athletes anyway. His spicy descriptions of girls, alcohol and his golf game earned him the nickname "Words" and "Mr. Clean."
"He loved to give guys the hot foot," said McCormick. Wes Westrum was his favorite target because he fell asleep on the team bus.
Hailing from Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, Bailey broke into the bigs in 1953 and developed into a three-time All-Star catcher. In 1961 he was traded to San Francisco to make room for Johnny Edwards. The Reds won the title but Bailey was still happy to be in San Francisco. Cow-milking contests were occasionally held in big league stadiums, and the country boy Bailey usually won.
Just as Bailey had been traded to make room for young Johnny Edwards, he discovered a young catching sensation on his new team. Tom Haller, 24, had been a quarterback at the University of Illinois. Born on June 23, 1937 in Lockport, Illinois, he was the prototypical athlete/catcher. Haller was boyishly handsome, the All-American type possessing great leadership skills; a first rate throwing arm; and a powerful left-handed bat. He was 6-4, 195 pounds, and had been called up to play 30 games in 1961. He was the Giants' future behind the dish. Bailey was there in case he was not ready, but Haller was ready in '62.
"Alvin told us we were both going to play, but it's only natural for them to want to go with the youngest guy they've got and look to the future," recalled Bailey. "And Dark liked having me available to come off the bench."
Bailey was involved in several "pier six brawls" in his career. In 1962 he followed Cepeda after a homer, and Pittsburgh's Bob Friend went after him. Catcher Don Leppert tackled Bailey. He and Friend exchanged shouts while being restrained. Then Bailey hit a 400-foot home run, giving rookie Gaylord Perry an 8-3 win, the first of his career. It started a 10-game winning streak.
Bailey and Haller provided 35 homers and 100 RBIs out of the catching position.
Billy O'Dell liked Bailey so much that the two operated without signals. Theirs was almost a telepathic relationship.
O'Dell was from Newberry, South Carolina; like Bailey south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Baltimore signed him out of Clemson. Given the name "Digger" after the main character in Life of Riley, he never pitched in the minors.
He gained needed weight in the military and in 1957 made the bigs for good. He was an All-Star in 1958. Pitching for Baltimore in front of the Orioles' fans, he threw three scoreless innings in a 4-3 American League win, but hurt his back the next year. O'Dell's back injury plagued him, and eventually he and Billy Loes were traded to San Francisco.
At first he and Dark feuded over how he was used. He was fined and they had shouting matches. Dark wanted to put him in the 1961 expansion draft but Stoneham insisted he be kept.
In 1962 Spring Training Dark told him he was the fourth starter "until you show me you can't do it." After an awesome spring he started game two of the regular season, beating the Braves with a four-hitter. The key was his relationship with Bailey. He was effective and consistent all season.
"He never really got credit for being a good catcher, but I thought he was a great receiver," said O'Dell.
Billy O'Dell's catcher was Ed Bailey. Jack Sanford's guy was Tom Haller. Sanford was 33 years old and won 16 games in a row in 1962, his best year in the big leagues by far. The six-foot, 196-pound right-handed pitcher from Wellesley, Massachusetts had been the 1957 Rookie of the Year with the Phillies before a 1958 trade to the Giants.
"Jack wasn't the easiest guy to know," said Haller. Sanford was from the "wrong side of the tracks" in a rough Boston neighborhood. Like all Boston Irishmen, it seemed, he had to "battle for everything in his life."
He was not a prospect in high school, which in cold Massachusetts was not much anyway. The Red Sox rejected him in a try-out, but Philadelphia took a shot at Sanford. He spent eight years in the minors and even drove the team bus. He was the hardest thrower in the Philadelphia organization, but could not control his emotions. He almost punched a club official when told he was being sent to minors. When traveling secretary Johnny Wise told him he was being sent down on another occasion, Sanford tried to plead his case, but Wise just told him he had a bad attitude. Then the Army drafted him. He hurt his arm pitching in an Army game and developed a clot in his pitching hand after a fight. The Army wanted to operate and cut into his clavicle, which would have ended his pitching career. He got up and left.
Out of the service he came back and, in 1957 at 28 Sanford won Rookie of the Year honors with 19 wins and a 3.08 earned run average. But he had worn out his welcome in Philly and was traded to the Giants, where he was 40-35 over the next three years.
He was surly on game days and his family avoided him. He maintained silence all through the pre-game routine. He was a loner anyway. The clot made it hard for him to complete games and he was called a "composer of unfinished symphonies." The Candlestick weather did not benefit him, and his reputation was that of a "six inning pitcher," a bone of contention during contract negotiations.
In Spring Training of 1962 Dark told the hard thrower to worry less about strikeouts. This and Haller's influence helped him reduce his pitch counts, maintain stamina and pitch longer into games. He went less for the big strike and more for ground ball outs on the corners. He became one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling his 16-game streak between June and September. He refused to celebrate it, however, calling it a "fluke." Rube Marquard of the Giants had won the all-time record of 19 straight, but Sanford just said it was "ridiculous" and that the record meant nothing to him. It was his nature to be surly.
Billy Pierce was already a veteran star pitcher by 1962.
"If he didn’t win, it didn’t quite cut him as bad as it did people like Sanford," said O'Dell. Perhaps that was because Pierce had never made a practice of losing much; not in Chicago, certainly not with the Giants, and at Candlestick Park in 1962: never. Twice a 20-game winner with the White Sox, he was a seven-time All-Star and helped the Chisox to the 1959 American League crown, only the second time since 1948 a team other than the Yankees won the flag. He lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning against Washington in 1958.
At 35 the White Sox decided his best years were behind him and he found himself San Francisco-bound. Pierce wanted number 19, Dark's number. Dark said fine. In Spring Training, however, Pierce was awful, and the Giants had second thoughts. When the regular season started, however, Pierce won his first eight decisions.
Pitching coach Larry Jansen was convinced that the cool Candlestick weather was the key to Pierce's success. Chicago was brutally hot in the summer and could wear a pitcher out. Dark used Pierce as Casey Stengel used Whitey Ford, holding him out for homestands.
"And the results were about as good as I could expect because I won 13 in a row at home," said Pierce.
He missed a month of the season with a spike wound, but that made him fresh late in the year.
The player who came over in trade with Pierce was Don Larsen. He is a legend in New York because he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, but the native of Point Loma, California near San Diego was a legendary drinker. His buddies were Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, major drinkers all. They called him "Goony Bird."
Mike McCormick said drinking was more common in baseball then than today, but "even I marveled at how much he could consume."
After the perfect game, great things were expected of Larsen, but he never found his form in New York. He was traded to Kansas City then went to the minors. In 1961 Larsen was 7-2 at Chicago, giving life to his career. When the Pierce trade was negotiated, San Francisco insisted on Larsen's inclusion. He pitched effectively in 1962. Against Pittsburgh, Larsen came in with the bases loaded and none out, striking out the side on nine pitches. Larsen enjoyed frog-hunting in the Sacramento Delta and cooked the delicacies.
Stu Miller never threw more than 85 miles per hour, but his junk was effective as a closer.
"Stu had the best off-speed pitch of anybody in the history of baseball," said Ron Fairly of Los Angeles.
Choo Choo Coleman went from the Phillies to the Mets in 1962. He said when he swung at a Miller pitch "the ball was THERE! I swung where it was. How could I miss it?"
They called Miller "the Killer Moth" because his pitches resembled one. Dark had felt in 1961 that the staff relied on Miller too much, and forced pitchers to go the distance instead of bowing out in favor of the reliever.
Miller loved crossword puzzles. Miller and Mike McCormick, a native of Los Angeles with great promise, were the only former New York Giants on the staff. Bob Bolin was "the hardest thrower on the staff," according to Bailey. Gaylord Perry was a rookie from North Carolina. At 6-4, 205 pounds he was the younger brother of Jim Perry, who was a star pitcher for Cleveland.
Bob Garibaldi was a huge prospect from Stockton who had starred at the nearby University of Santa Clara, where he pitched the Broncos into the College World Series and earned Most Outstanding Player honors. At the time of his signing, he was considered "can’t miss."
Causes Steven Travers Supports
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