Inside Stories From A Major-League Locker Room
by Jim Ksicinski
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I don’t think Joe had a lot of rules, but he had one important one. Some teams allow players to drive their own cars to the airport and meet the team there when leaving for a road trip. In New York, it’s not the best idea to leave your car unattended for a week or more, so the Yankees park their cars in a secure area at Yankee Stadium and all go to the airport by bus. If a player missed the bus, he would have to buy the team dinner. In his first year as manager of the Yankees, Joe walked into the clubhouse and said, “Jim, you don’t have to put out a postgame meal tonight because I’m taking care of it.” He explained the rule, admitting that he was the first one to break it. Joe was late for the bus, and they had to wait for him. He wanted to set the tone on how this was going to be done.
“I’ve heard that Giovanni’s is a good Italian restaurant,” he said. “That right?”
I told him that it was a very good restaurant.
“Give me the number,” he said, and told me he wanted to get their most expensive meal sent in. “I know the maître d’,” I said. “I can probably get you a good price.”
“I’m paying full boat,” he said. “I’ll even set it up.”
He got on the phone, and all I heard was “best of this” . . . “best of that.” My good meals probably ran around $200 at that time. This probably cost him $600, $700.
“Joe,” I said. “You sure you want to do this?”
“That’s the rule,” he answered. “I’m going to do it this way. If one of those guys breaks the rule, they’re going to have to pay for the same kind of meal.”
Torre reminded me a lot of Ralph Houk, who managed the Yankees and Detroit Tigers. Ralph served in the Marines during World War II, earning a bunch of medals as well as the reputation of being a pretty tough guy. I don’t think I ever saw him angry, but if there ever was a manager who had the respect of his players, I would have to put Houk right up there. He was always the same, win or lose. If they won, clap, clap, “Way to go, guys.” If they lost, clap, clap, “We’ll get ’em tomorrow, guys.” He’d go to his locker, spit out his chaw, grab his toothbrush, and talk to the reporters. Exactly the same after every game.
John McNamara could be tough when a guy like Steve Lyons was thrown out on an ill-advised attempt to steal third base, but he was a good man and well liked by his players. His routine was a little different than most managers. One day late in the 1986 season, the Red Sox were close to clinching the title in the American League East, and John walked into my office in the back of the clubhouse before the game and closed the door. A few moments later, he walked out and called me over.
“Jim,” he said. “Did you forget my pregame ritual?”
He liked to have a couple of beers in my back room, where no one could see him, before most games. Maybe he liked to calm his nerves with that ritual, I’m not sure, but Mac was a good, good man, and I was happy to do extra little things for him. I smuggled a couple of beers into my office. The routine continued.
From Jocks and Socks by Jim Ksicinski and Tom Flaherty.
Copyright © 2001 by Jim Ksicinski and Tom Flaherty. Reprinted by permission of the McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.