In the unlikeliest of classrooms, the front office of a major league club, Martin Whiteford Marion learned last week that honesty is the best policy. It is one copybook maxim he can put in the bank and draw checks against.
The moving van which hauled the St. Louis Browns' franchise and duffle to Baltimore last winter also carried a contract calling for Marty Marion to manage the team at least one more season. First order of business was a conference between Marion and Arthur H. Ehlers, hired down from Philadelphia to be general manager.
"It is a dreadful ball club," said Marion, who had the quaint notion that his new boss wanted an honest opinion.
Ehlers was aghast. He had thought all along that it was an aggregation of supermen that had run 46½ games behind the Yankees in 1953. Marion sought to console him.
"Although they are very poor hitters," he said, borrowing freely from Ring Lardner, "they are also very poor fielders."
"Defeatism," Ehlers cried, and ushered Marion to an outbound bus.
Puzzled, Marion consulted books left over from his year at Georgia Tech. "Honesty's the best policy," wrote Miguel de Cervantes. "I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs," said George Washington in his farewell address.
"Always?" Marion wondered, and went and got a job as coach with the Chicago White Sox. Meanwhile Ford Frick advised Baltimore that Marion's salary must be paid in full.
A TRANQUIL SUMMER
Marion had a tranquil summer. He drew a manager's salary from Baltimore. He drew a coach's wage from Chicago. No longer an active player, he suffered not at all from his undisciplined sacroiliac or his damaged knee or the defeatist attitude which had made him, when he was playing for the Cards, the best shortstop and one of the most resolute competitors of his time.
Summer waned and Paul Richards, manager of the White Sox over four seasons, was signed up to run Baltimore's whole show for the next three years. This created a vacancy with the White Sox, whose ownership decided that the brand of defeatism unacceptable in Baltimore was plenty good enough for Chicago.
Next year, Marion will draw a manager's salary in Comiskey Park.
What of Baltimore, where Jimmy Dykes, fired rudely by the Athletics, had succeeded Marion? When he took the job, Dykes gave it as his considered opinion that the transplanted Browns required only a bit of pitching here and there to become pennant contenders.
A ROUSING RACE
In 37 baseball seasons, Dykes earned a reputation for fearless candor. There are men whose admiration for Jimmy was not heightened by this kow-towing to the Ehlers party line with its implied slur on Marion's spirit.
Purged of defeatism, Baltimore put up a rousing race with the Athletics for last place. At season's end next Sunday, the Orioles will be 55 or 60 games behind the winning Indians.
Richards took over Ehlers' job, and Dykes's job, too. He said both men might remain with the organization in positions of lesser authority.
Waiting to collect their share of the third-place money the White Sox have won, Marion and Phil Cavarretta have time for long talks together. Cavarretta was manager of the Cubs until last spring when the owner, Phil K. Wrigley, asked him about the team.
Like Marion, Cavarretta answered honestly: the team smelled. He, too, got fired, winding up as a part-time player with the White Sox.
Says Cavarretta to Marion: "Well, I see where the Cubs are finishing seventh."
Says Marion to Cavarretta: "Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again. I read that somewhere, Phil."