Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Here is the complete Stan Isaacs column of 7/23/64

(Credit: Watchdog)

A couple of loyal readers were interested in reading the entire Stan Isaacs column referenced in my Sunday newspaper column.

Alas, the copy exists on microfilm, not electronically, and thus cannot be linked to in the conventional manner.

So I now am going to re-type the entire thing. At 11 o'clock on the Sunday night of Memorial Day Weekend.

Please don't tell Mrs. WatchDog, as she will begin to worry about me . . . more than she already does.

(Keep in mind that despite the long quotations Isaacs uses from Dark, he said he did not take notes during the interview.)

Click below to read the full column.San Francisco - The Giants are the kind of team that makes people unhappy. They are in the thick of the pennant fight, but the squandering of their talent makes them one of the most enigmatic of sports teams.

Duke Snider, the ex-Met recently traded to the Giants, says, "You wouldn't believe some of the things this team does." Snider, an ex-Met, should be used to everything, but the Giants have shown him things all their own. Mistakes by the Giants are worse, of course, because they have talented players who supposedly should be above most Met botcheries.

Alvin Dark, the Giants' embattled manager, agrees the Giants make atrocious mistakes. He is more emphatic than anybody else about his team's bumblings. That is suprising, because errors of omission by talented athletes often can be blamed on the inability of a manager to keep his team hustling and alert or on his failure to get the most out of his men.

Normally, Dark would agree. But not in this situation, because he believes it is a special case. "We have trouble because we have so many Negro and Spanish-speaking players on this team. They are just not able to perform up to the white ball player when it comes to mental alertness." (The Giants' lineup usually has at least three Negroes and two Latin-Americans in it.)

This is a feeling that exists among other brains of the major league trenches. It is not peculiar to Dark alone. What may set Dark apart is that he discusses his views openly, considering it "a subject which you New York writers and I disagree on."

Dark edged to a seat next to the visitor on the couch in his office, took off his cap, ruffled his wavy black hair in a characteristic motion, and continued in what turned out to be a cordial dialogue, despite the strong difference of opinion.

"You can't make most Negro and Spanish players have the pride in their team that you can get from white players," Dark said. "And they just aren't as sharp mentally. They aren't able to adjust to situations because they don't have the mental alertness."

He agreed there were a few exceptions like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays - but insisted that they were the rare exceptions. "You couldn't name three colored players in our league who are always mentally alert to take advantage of situations."

This kind of thinking is, of course, consistent with the traditions Dark grew up with in Louisiana. He insists, however, that it was experiences with the Giants these past three years which have convinced him of the inferior mental capacities of Negro and Latin players.

He said, "You would have to be here day in and day out to see what happens." He ticketed off numerous instances in which his players made the kind of mistakes that drive managers wild. "They are not the kind of thing a manager can correct - missed signs and such - but they are inabilities to cope with game situations when they come up. And one of the biggest things is that you can't make them subordinate themselves to the best interests of the team. You don't find the pride in them that you get in the white player."

When it was suggested that Dark himself was at fault for this, that his own prejudices had served to set up a barrier between himself and the others which make them unable to respond as he would like, he disagreed.

He brought the conversation around to the man who symbolizes his frustrations, Orlando Cepeda. "We've tried," Dark said. "You do not know how hard we've tried to make a team player, a hustling ballplayer out of Orlando. But nothing has worked for long. I worked with him. I turned him over to our coaches. He says he will do what we want, but he doesn't hustle consistently, he doesn't sacrifice himself, and he so often doesn't respond to situations."

"This year," Dark continued, "I've had coaches Cookie Lavagetto and Herman Franks working with Cepeda since the spring. At first, it went along well, but then he started getting sloppy. Even though Cepeda has been doing the best job ever of batting in runs for us with crucial long hits this year, I'd still have to say he's giving out only 40 percent. Yet, the other day, he went over and thanked Cookie and Herman for what they have done for him; he thinks he has been doing what we want."

All of sociology, and the ideals that went into fighting the racist theories of the Nazis would make one think a man like Dark - neither unintelligent nor with malice toward his fellow men - could think such things. He does. So do others.

The Boston Celtics were mentioned. A predominantly Negro team, now the Celtics are the personification of mental alertness and loyalty to team above self. With a sympatico coach in Red Auerbach they dominate pro basketball. Dark shrugged.

"I don't know about that," he said. "I only know what I've seen on this team and other baseball teams. If I'm wrong then I have been getting an awful number of the slow ones."

Tags: baseball

Add new comment

advertisement | advertise on am New York

Neil Best on Twitter

advertisement | advertise on am New York