Philadelphia Phillie Manager Gene Mauch stood near second base with his arms folded, trying to think of something. He had just lost his second argument of the evening to the umpires, and the game was long gone to the Cincinnati Reds 8-1. Finally, as he stalked across the foul line on his retreat to the first-base dugout, the thought came.
Mauch wheeled around and made two sweeping gestures, ordering Third-base Coach George Myatt to first base and First-base Coach Peanuts Lowrey to third. The coaches were startled at first, wondering what they had done wrong, but then they remembered they were working for Gene Mauch.
Later, in the wooden relic that is the visitors' clubhouse in Cincinnati's Crosley Field, Mauch explained his maneuver. "Everything else was so fouled up out there," Mauch said, "that I thought maybe I had my coaches in the wrong place." Laughter—and reluctantly Mauch allowed his serious, almost petulant expression to be displaced by a smile.
In the Reds' modernized dressing room, gray-haired winning pitcher Joe Nuxhall, who reached the big leagues earlier than anybody (at 15, in 1944) and now threatens to leave them later than anybody, was vindictively happy.
"I like to win anytime," he said, "but I especially like to beat that little so-and-so Mauch. Did you sec him showboating out there? He wasn't even saying anything to the umpires, but he still stood there. And I don't like the things he does say. He'll yell to a pitcher, 'Why don't you pitch like you can?' Who does he think he is?"
"He gets very personal," another player said. "He says things you just shouldn't say. If you get it from another player, you can give it back to him, but a manager stays in the dugout. How can you get back at him?"
For these reasons the Phillies' collapse last fall was happily received in many corners of many National League dressing rooms. While most people who play baseball for Gene Mauch consider him a very big-league manager, most people who play against him consider him bush. He is getting maximum effort from almost all his own players, but in the process he maybe inspiring the enemy as well.
Mauch, slumped in the dugout, studying Cincinnati's second-line hitters, disagrees. "It would be an insult to the other managers in the National League to say that their players try harder against one team than against all the others. I'd hate to think mine did. What they don't like about me is that I violate their code. I don't go for the let's-play-nice-so-no-body-gets-hurt-and-everybody-gets-the-pension business. You don't get paid to play this game, you get paid to win. I was coaching first base one day, and I told the runner that if a ground ball was hit to the shortstop I wanted him to put the second baseman out in left field. And the first baseman said, 'Don't forget about the pension.' Yes, he was serious. And he was a real good ballplayer, too.
"I have a catcher—Pat Corrales—who came into the league only a month ago. You know what he says impresses him the most so far? The way guys are so careful not to get hurt."
If the Phillies are more gashouse than most teams in the security-conscious baseball of 1965, the differences are marginal. None of the enemy claims broken bones from Mauch's sticks and stones, but his names do hurt. They find his bench jockeying offensive, and he finds it a weapon.
"I'm not a mental giant," Mauch said, "but I am smart enough not to get on an opposing player if I think it will make him more effective. However, I find that it makes some of them less effective, and the idea is to win. Yes, I guess I was a pretty good jockey as a player, but who the hell cares what a utility infielder says? I didn't have enough talent as a player to be effective personalitywise."
Anyone who has seen Mauch stomp his foot like Rumpelstiltskin at an umpire's decision would assume he must have been a candidate for a straitjacket as the pennant vaporized last fall, but anyone would have been quite wrong. "He didn't say a thing," Relief Pitcher Ed Roebuck said. "It was like riding a cheap horse. If he's four lengths in front in the stretch, do you whip him?"
A cheap horse? "Yes, "Roebuck said. "I don't believe we had any business being that far in front in the first place."
"Lucky, they kept saying," Mauch argued. "We didn't play a bad game for 150 days, and they kept saying we were lucky. I don't think these guys lost faith in themselves until after it was over. Then they must have thought maybe they were lucky to have been in first place to begin with. Sure, it had an effect on them. But that's past now. We played as badly as we could the first part of this season—nine games behind on June 20—but how far out of it are we now? Four. There's a difference between doing something nobody believes you can do and doing it when you know you can."
Radio-television Announcer Richie Ashburn, donning his Bermuda shorts to work—"I've found you can wear out a suit in the press box"—doubts that the Phillies were traumatized by last year's spectacular failure. "I don't think ballplayers are like that," he said. "The Braves blew the pennant in '56 and then won two in a row. The Dodgers kicked it away in '62 and came back. Nothing worse ever happened to anybody than to the '51 Dodgers, and they won the next two years."
"I think we're right where we ought to be," said Outfielder Wes Covington. "There were a lot of young players on this team last year, and they're not so young after what happened. I'd rather see us third than first right now, because it's easier to fight for something than to try to keep it."
Gene Mauch and his Phillies ought to know.