Baseball fans were startled, but it was an easy decision for Billy ("The Kid") Southworth. Last week the soft-spoken little manager, who guided the St. Louis Cardinals to three National League pennants in the last four years, quit to become boss of the Boston Braves.
For once, passing up a red-hot favorite for a lonesome long shot made good sense. The $30,000-plus that Billy the Kid would receive for his annual Boston labors was $12-15,000 more than he got from the penny-pinching Cards. Nor could Southworth overlook the possibilities for gaining new prestige (and perhaps more money): picking the lowly Braves up off the floor would require a lot more skill than keeping the player-rich Cardinals on top.
Billy Southworth had done a good job of pulling himself up by his bootstraps. He first took over the Cards in 1929, and Degan by putting his foot in his mouth. The first day he read a highhanded riot act to the club, and Veteran Chick Hafey whispered to tobacco-chewing Jim Bot-tomley, "Don't look now, but there's a hell on the job." Southworth got fired in midseason.
Eleven years and many aspirin tablets later, Southworth again took over the Cards. By then he had won a personal battle with the bottle, and had learned to handle men—partly through teaching his son, Billy, to play ball.*
The Boston job would require all his skill and a generous share of Braves President Lou Perini's fat bankroll. It was a good bet that Southworth would soon corral, at a fancy price, some of the players who had hustled for him in St. Louis. It was equally likely that he would go on working wonders like his 1945 Card trick with Pitcher Charlie Barrett. Barrett, a no-count Brave tossed into the $50,000 deal for Mort Cooper, won 21 games for St. Louis under Southworth's persuasive handling.
In St. Louis, Cardinal Boss Sam Breadon, who pushes a button and pro duces new talent from his vast farm chain, pushed a special managerial button and up came barrel-chested Eddie Dyer from Texas. Dyer had been a fair pitcher, talent scout and Cardinal farm system director, a well-liked manager at Houston and Columbus. Businessman Sam Breadon had lots of confidence in his new manager; he also regretted losing his old one.
*Billy Jr., who was a promising left fielder with the Toronto Maple Leafs, became an Army Air Forces pilot in 1941, was killed last winter in a B-29 crash. It took Billy Sr. half a season to get back in stride.