There is nobody like MacPhail. There is nobody even remotely like Leland Stanford (Larry) MacPhail." So next week Gerald Holland begins a three-part article on the prodigious, amazing, and controversial figure who in the scope of his contributions to sport has seldom been equaled and certainly never surpassed.
Although he has never suffered from any dearth of publicity, to put it mildly, the true character and personality of the man have more often than not been obscured by the high dramatics and flamboyance of the events in which he has played his major roles. But this year Holland had a golden opportunity to discover the real MacPhail when he became, at various times, his guest at his Maryland estate; at a race track where Larry verges on being revered; and in Chesapeake Bay on the cruiser which in winter is the MacPhail Florida home.
Holland met 8-year-old Jeanie MacPhail, who demands harmonic guidance on the playing of her $1.29 flute from her 69-year-old father who plays a theater-sized electric organ in the living room. Holland studied the ashtray which MacPhail kidnaped in lieu of the Kaiser some four decades ago. And he shared with Mrs. MacPhail a quite reasonable apprehension as a fist came down for emphasis on a glass-topped table.
But that is Holland's story to tell.
A fascinating and humorous conversationalist, MacPhail frankly covered all aspects of his fabulous career. He spoke unequivocally of fights now all but, forgotten and feuds still well remembered.
Of these perhaps the most famous of all was that with Branch-Rickey. In that part of his story in which he sheds new light on this stormiest of relationships Holland writes of the "two giants who had done more to change the face of baseball than any other two men or two hundred men ever connected with the game."
Holland came to know well the-other giant four years ago when he wrote Mr. Rickey and the Game (SI, March 7, '55). After reading the story, Rickey wrote Holland a critical appraisal which concluded:
"I confess that your close adherence to some personal detail was too faithful to the facts to be everlastingly welcome. But, I am as I am, and Jane says you got me."
Jane is Mrs. Rickey.
Whether Holland now presents MacPhail as he is, perhaps only MacPhail himself, or Mrs. MacPhail, can say. But as you will begin to see next week, he is prodigious and amazing (and amusing)—and that is not controversial.