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Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York • 122

Melville, New York
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The Pride and Fall of Warren Spahn By George Vecsey There was a time when Warren Spahn had as much skill as pride. But that time IS gone now and Warren Spahn is left with mostly pride. The Greeks call it "hybris" -excessive pride. It was the tragic flaw that brought great men to grief. Warren Spahn's grief happened yesterday at 4 PM when the New York Mets fired him.

They released him as a pitcher and they released him as a coach. He can be purchased by any other team for $1 and the Mets owe him a month's salary. He has 360 victories, more than any left-hander in history, and he owns a large cattle ranch in Hartshorne, Okla. He has a future berth in the Hall of Fame and a chance to write a book. He has all those records but he doesn't have a job.

George Weiss, the president of the Mets, told Spahn Sunday that he was through as an active pitcher. "But I had the impression that 1 I was still the coach," Spahn said. He wasn't. Wes Westrum will handle Met pitchers for the remainder of the season. Misjudged One Pitcher Spahn might have made an excellent pitching coach but there was one pitcher that Spahn misjudged.

That pitcher was a 44-year-old left-hander whose time had run out. His name was Warren Spahn. The Mets purchased him last November to pitch and to coach. There was a disagreement between Spahn and Weiss this spring about the conditions of the job. When it was cleared up, Spahn felt free to say, "I'm a pitcher first and a coach second." He ran as hard as any of the pitchers and his brain worked faster than most.

He pitched some wonderful games early in the season and then he started to lose. He lost eight straight--the last one on Saturday--and his record was 4-12 with a 4.43 earned-run average. The pitching coach didn't believe the pitcher's statistics. He insisted that pitcher Spahn remain in regular rotation. With a weaker manager the coach might have had his way.

But the manager of the Mets is a young gaffer with a stubborn streak by name of Casey Stengel. A power struggle was waged behind the scenes although neither Stengel nor Spahn would refer to it openly. But there was tension between the manager's office and the coach's locker and electricity filled the Met clubhouse as Spahn kept pitching and losing. Spahn chose to pitch against the Cubs, one of the league's weaker teams, July 5. He had three days' rest.

Stengel preferred to pitch Spahn with four days rest. Spahn had to be taken out with a 3-2 lead after four innings. Larry Bearnarth protected the lead and was the winning pitcher. The irony is that Spahn had wanted to farm Bearnarth out early in the season and Stengel would not allow it. Spahn had repeatedly called on other men in the bullpen only to have Stengel call from the dugout to have Bearnarth warm up.

Spahn's last start came Saturday against Houston after Stengel had speculated that young Dennis Musgraves would get the start. When Spahn heard of Stengel's plan he blurted, "This is something we're going to feel out more or less." Spahn lasted one inning against the Astros. "A nightmare," he called it. The nightmare had repercussions and Spahn is gone. "Our move was not based on economics." Weiss said.

"We knew how much he was getting when we bought him from Milwaukee. We bought him because we thought he could help the club. I sincerely hope that he -catch on with another club." Weiss emphasized the decision was Stengel's. "I want a younger man to have an opportunity on the roster in our youth development program," Stengel said. "I had told him earlier that he would not be a starter in our future plans.

He offered to go on relief and try and work his way back as a starter, but I felt he would be depriving a younger man of the chance to make good." Spahn had scorned bullpen work In Milwaukee, which is why the Braves unloaded him after 19 seasons. The Mets did not have to pay Spahn his $70,000 salary just to coach. They could have released him, then negotiated a new contract for him. But they chose not to negotiate anything with him. "I was quite dismayed," Spahn said last night from his Flushing apartment.

"I wasn't offered anything. It was never discussed. I can't tell you whether I would have taken a job as coach because that job was never offered. I have no idea why it was not offered. You had better ask Mr.

Stengel and Mr. Weiss." Spahn, said he hoped to catch on with another team soon, preferably one higher up in the standings. "I thought I pitched pretty good ball at times," he said. 'Pressing Too Much' Asked for his final critique of pitcher Warren Spahn, he said, "I lay in bed thinking of what I've been doing wrong in recent outings and I've come to the conclusion that I have been trying to muscle the ball instead of pitching my old way. That's because I've been pressing too much.

Losing all those games in succession did something to me. "I feel I can still go nine innings. Physically, I feel fine and my arm is strong. I'll take an oath on it. There isn't any reason why I can't pitch creditably for any club in the big leagues." The Mets are in the big leagues and how creditable is an ERA of 4.43? Spahn took the stand that his pitching was creditable and he lost his jobs--all of them.

VA AP Wirephoto FAIREST OF THEM ALL? "You are," the mirror in the Met dressing room answered earlier this season. But it correctly answered Warren Spahn only four times and yesterday it stopped answering for good. Pitcher Spahn, coach Spahn and the Mets parted company. Westrum: Responsibility Wes Westrum is a melancholy man with rounded shoulders that need a complimentary pat once. in a.

while. Wes Westrum would like to be a manager some dav; he will settle for more responsibilitv. The Mets named Westrum pitching coach vesterdav to succeed Warren Spahn, who was fired. Westrum has been assisting Casey Stengel on the bench this season while Yogi Berra was on display on the first-base coaching lines. Westrum never wanted to be on, display.

But he couldn't steal signals from the dugout the way he could from first base. Now he has responsibility again. "This is the first I knew of it," he said by telephone from Minneapolis. He was on his way to St. Louis to join the Mets for tonight's game.

He had seen the All-Star Game Tuesday and visited his mother back in Clearbrook, Minn. It takes Westrum a long time before he will promote himself. can't say what I will do as pitching coach. I imagine I'll talk over with Mr. Stengel: But let me say this: I'll take the job.

"Don't forget--I was the pitching coach at San Francisco in 1958. We were in first place at All-Star time. (They finished third.) We had an all-rookie pitching staff that year." The next year Westrum was moved to the baselines and he lasted there until he was traded for Cookie Lavagetto after the 1963 season. Westrum and former Giant manager Alvin Dark never got along very well. Westrum was a Giant in the glory days of 1951 and '54.

He broke a bone in his hand in August of 1954 and Leo Durocher told him not to worry. "Just catch every day and I don't care if you hit .100," Durocher said. Westrum handled the pitchers every day in September, batted .187 and the Giants won a world helped the Mets by stealing signals. Now championship He was known as a fine catcher and handler of pitchers. He has he has responsibility.

"I'm very elated," he said softly into the -Vecsey An All-Star Party Is Short, But Oh, So Sweet By Joe Donnelly Newsday Staff Correspondent St. Louis-All-Star time adds up to more than nine innings. They play the game in two hours and 45 minutes and everybody runs out of Minneapolis. But you come away with memories. They are sad, sweet, funny and beautiful.

It's those things you remember long after you've forgotten the score. It's the plane to Minneapolis stopping in Milwaukee and picking up Ben Barkin, Ed Fitzgerald and Bud Segal. They're officers In Teams, a Milwaukee group trying to get another major-league team for their city. They're going to Minneapolis to meet with baseball's expansion committee. They're more expansive than the men they'll meet.

The trip is in vain. It's Jeff Heath meeting baseball arrivals at the Minneapolis Airport. "Who's Jeff Heath?" Kranepool says. Thursday, July 15, 1965 Yogi Berra checking into the Rad- guys. The concessionaires left in the sec- cans at me.

You remember?" Yogi TeIt's disson Hotel with his wife. They are ond, the fans in the third and the people membered. shown to a suite and Carmen says, "Are the cracks in the It's time for the player bus to the stavou sure we're supposed to be here?" dium and little Maury peeping through Wills is finally Carmen knows the suites are reserved for fourth." slowed down. It took two big bags and a managers, George Weiss and not coaches. It's still the party the night before the shaving kit.

But Casey Stengel didn't make this trip, All-Star game and Sam Mele, a nice man, It's the first peek at the friendly alleys and Carmen may have reason to be glad is accepting handshakes of congratulation in Metropolitan Stadium for some Nasome day that Yogi did. from acquaintances and strangers. tional Leaguers. Willie Stargell takes a friends, It's Earl Battey stopping by and bring- It's time for sleep and then breakfast. look at how well the ball carries and tells ing with him a barnstorming memory of Johnny Keane and Red Schoendienst try: Tony Oliva, "You should have broken Jesse Gonder to All-Star time.

"We get the coffee circuit together: Nobody runs Babe Ruth's record last year." The Twins' hold of some moonshine liquor before the over to shake their hands. What do you sophomore grins. game and Don Newcombe had somebody say at a wake, It's Ernie Banks, a beautiful man, comelse's share Battey recalled. "He's It's Cal Hubbard, the grizzled chief of ing up to Willie Horton by the batting got to pitch. His first three whistle behind American.

League umpires, kidding Berra cage grasping his hand and saying, "Hello, Jesse's head. Jesse, goes out after him with about the time he threw him out. "You Willie Horton, my name is Ernie Banks. the bat. Newcombe's facing Bob Boyd, just hit a homer to go ahead and you're It's nice to see you here." A veteran rewho's playing first base, and Don's yell- trying to keep Tommy Byrne in the porter says that there are three plavers in ing, 'C'mon, Jesse, you want a piece of game," Hubbard savs.

"You're making the National League who shake your hand me, get over Those were days. We strikes at balls from all over. You swoon at. first. "Two are rookies," he said.

"The played one game and split $17 among 28 a call. You had to go. They threw beer. other is Ernie Banks." 0 39 5.

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