On March 7, 1964 -- 41 years ago today -- my Dad (George Lederer) and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Walter Alston changed places for one day. Dad managed the Dodgers -- coming off a World Series sweep over the New York Yankees the previous October -- in a spring training intrasquad game in Vero Beach, Florida, and Alston wrote an account of the game for the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram.
Alston managed the Dodgers from 1954-1976, operating under 23 one-year contracts for owner Walter O'Malley. The Hall of Famer won more than 2,000 games, seven National League pennants, and four World Series championships as the skipper of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. However, his playing career (with the St. Louis Cardinals) lasted about as long as Dad's managerial reign.
George Lederer (far left) with Phil Collier and two umpires, exchanging lineup cards and discussing the groundrules before an intrasquad game in Vero Beach on March 7, 1964.
Here is the article exactly as it appeared in the Long Beach newspaper the following day:
I, P-T Scribe Flop as Mgr.
ED. NOTE: Dodger manager Walter Alston and I, P-T baseball writer George Lederer traded jobs Saturday -- for one day. The following is Alston's account of Lederer's managerial debut and retirement, written exclusively for the Independent, Press-Telegram:
By Walter Alston
(Who feels quite secure today)
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- I'll try to break it to you gently:
Your Dodger reporter, George Lederer, mixed his signals Saturday as he mixes his metaphors. His team -- which he named the "Lettermen," but should have named "Leadfoots" -- lost 6-2 in an intasquad game.
I wouldn't say that the opposing manager, Phil Collier of the San Diego Union, was smarter. I'll let Collier say that.
But I will say that Lederer lost his only chance to win the game when he didn't lodge a protest against Collier during a third-inning rhubarb.
Collier, dressed in street clothes -- a la Burt Shotton and Connie Mack -- broke the rules when he charged onto the field to argue an umpire's decision at second base. At this stage of the game, with the score still 1-1, Lederer was sharp enough to remind the umpires that Collier had no right to be on the field.
But he filed no formal protest and that was to be his biggest mistake.
Lederer at least showed a little class by managing in uniform. He even took calistenics and ran a lap with the squad.
Before the game, Lederer reminded me a lot of Pee Wee Reese. Maybe it was because Lederer wore Reese's old jersey. Come to think of it, there couldn't have been another reason.
One of the writers said, "Lederer in uniform reminds me more of Captain Kangaroo."
One of the contributing factors to Lederer's defeat might have been in the fourth inning when he was a victim of a prank by Pete Reiser, his own coach.
The score was 2-2 with the Collier Cats batting, none out and a runner on first base. Derrell Griffith of the Cats grounded to the right side and collided with Dick Tracewski, the second baseman who was covering first.
Griffith and Tracewski lay sprawled. Neither moved a muscle. Lederer, deep in thought, didn't move either until Reiser yelled to the dugout: "Hey, Lederer, get some water. Hurry."
Lederer panicked. Not knowing whether to bring the hose or a bucket, he fumbled, finally filled a Dixie cup with water and ran to the scene.
"Where do you want it, Pete?" Lederer asked. "Give it to me, and hurry," yelled Reiser. Then Pete drank the water and added a polite, "Thanks."
You should have seen the look on Lederer's face. He was fit to be tied, but not for long.
John Roseboro doubled home the tie-breaking run, Bart Shirley drove in a pair with a single and Griffith's single in the next inning made it 6-2.
After that, George didn't have much chance to manage. He was down and couldn't do anything but wait for a rally.
He found out, though, what it's like to have a player mad at the manager.
Through some ingenious maneuvering, Lederer had replaced Tommy Davis in left field with rookie Barry Erdos, a catcher. Then, when Tracewski asked to be excused, Lederer brought in Jeff Torborg to catch and sent Doug Camilli to third base.
The mistake wasn't so much in having three catchers in the same lineup. It was in switching Erdos and Torborg in the batting order, perfectly legal but unfair in the opinion of Erdos, who never did get to bat.
I'd like to see Lederer interview Erdos now!
* * * *
I was told that Lederer worked under a disadvanatge early. Roseboro happened to walk by the dugout when Lederer explained the signs before the game. The first time George gave the steal sign, Roseboro picked it up, called for a pitchout and threw out Tracewski by a mile. It's too bad we can't get our signs like that during the season.
George appeared a little miffed, too, when he said he gave Wally Moon a bunt sign in the first inning and Wally swung away twice and missed.
I thought at the time that George's strategy was very good. But I thought he had put on the hit-and-run.
I don't think George used many signs after that and I heard Jim Gilliam comment, "This is great. That's the way the game should be played."
Personally, I can't agree.
George Lederer walks away from Dick Tracewski (#44) and coaches Danny Ozark and Leo Durocher prior to the start of the game. Lederer's Lettermen lineup card with Tracewski (2B), Moon (RF), Fairly (1B), T. Davis (LF), Werhas (3B), Parker (CF), Breeding (SS), Camilli (C), and Ortega (P) penciled into the starting lineup.
My Dad. Number one in the Dodgers' program for a day. Number one in my heart for a lifetime.