A Baseball Retirement

Damon Runyon

New York American/January 5, 1917

Th Mornin’s Mornin’

Bill Carrigan, manager of the world’s champion Boston Red Sox, refuses to reconsider his determination to retire, first announced at the close of the world’s series last fall.

The new owners of the Red Sox are said to have offered him close to $20,000 to again handle the club, and that must have been a big temptation to Bill. After apparently wavering for a short time, however, he finally declined the proposition.

He has engaged in the banking business up in the state of Maine. He says he is through with the old game of baseball for good and all, and no doubt Bill really thinks he is.

After two grueling campaigns, only the vexations and the worriments of the pastime linger in his memory. The glory and the glamour of the tufted field are momentarily blurred. He seeks now the peace and quiet of a retried life, which is probably the dream of every man whose lot it is to live mostly mid the roar of strife and activity of the sporting game.

The next few years will probably find the former boss of the world’s champions cloistered in peaceful Maine, behind his varnished counters, and thinking in terms of loans, and discounts, and cash reserve. The sweep and swirl of baseball will go on, drawing farther away each year, and presently he will be floating idly in a shallow far removed from the main currents of events, and well-nigh forgotten.

Then one day William Carrigan, banker, will commence thinking of the old times, and the old life; of the cheers, and the excitement, and the frothy tumult of the baseball field; of the old nerve-racking moments of defeat, or victory, and he will find himself living over again the life of Bill Carrigan, ball player.

This Is One Cinch.

Then another day we shall hear rumors that Bill Carrigan is coming out of his retirement to again don the spangles, as the poets of the diamond say, and it will be so. Back will come Bill Carrigan; back over the old Come-Back trail pursued in the past, and beaten smooth by the feet of such as Frank Chance, Jake Stahl, Fielder Jones, and many, many more.

You can bet on it. It is just as sure to happen as the rising of the sun. Back will come Bill Carrigan, ball player, and manager, to the leadership of some club in dire managerial straits, and probably he will come back to find that the ways and days of the game he once knew so well have drifted far from him. That often happens. Individuals count for little in baseball, after all. The game goes on.

Many retire, but few remain put, as we have often remarked before. Bill Carrigan thinks he knows his own mind right now—he must think so to refuse $20,000 a year—but he is wrong. He knows only part of his own mind. He does not know the baseball part; the part that is infected by the virus of the old game, which may remain dormant for a time, but which is bound sooner or later to attack him again with great violence.

Frank Chance thought he was through. It would have been better for the once mighty reputation of the former Peerless Leader had he been correct in that thought. He came back to the big league to score a singular failure. Now we find him managing a minor league club—a successful minor league manger, to be sure, but still a minor leaguer.

Like Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl, “The Born Leader,” quit to become a banker. He returned again to meet with signal success—a success born largely of the fact that he returned to a club of such prowess that even a come-back could scarcely miss fire.

Fielder Jones came back to resume a managerial career only to find his ways—the same ways they are which once carried him to the pinnacle of baseball success—severely criticized as antiquated and behind the game. Many retire, but few stay put.

Some Retiring Players.

More ball players in the ranks retire than managers, but that is only because there are more players than managers. Some ball players make an annual custom of retiring, but you can count those who remain retired on the fingers of your two hands.

“Tillie” Shafer withdrew from the Giants a couple of years ago, at the top of his career, but we hear talk that “Tillie” is threatening a comeback. He may not come back this next season, but sooner or later he is sure to try it. The chances are he will wait until it is too late to make a go of the matter.

Mike Donlin and Harry McCormick retired, only to come back. George Foster, the little pitcher of the Red Sox, announced a retirement the same time as Carrigan, and may go through with it for a season at least, but there is a pretty good reason for Foster’s withdrawal. His arm had gone bad on him. Joe Woods did not actually retire, but he laid off last season because of an injured flinger. He may try a come-back this spring.

The only ball player of any considerable note who pulled a retirement and stuck to it was Bill Lange, the great outfielder of the old Chicago club. Bill never tried a come-back. One manager of prominence quit in recent years, and has apparently quit for good, but he was not a manager at the time he retired. He was a club president.

We are referring to Jim McAleer, once leader of the St. Louis Browns, who was at the head of the Boston Red Sox when he was deposed. Jim now spends his time at his old home in Youngstown, Ohio, playing bridge and poker with the boys.

 Fighters Are the Same.

A lot of prizefighters retire from time to time, but they invariably try the old come-back. Just at present the fistic game is afflicted with a pest of these would be come-backers.

About the only champion who ever stuck to a retirement while he held his title was Jack McAuliffe. His record will probably never be duplicated. There is no chance that Jack will ever try a come-back now, but the past few days have seen the return of Johnny Coulon, once bantam champion, and Tommy Ryan, the former great middle weight, who declares that he contemplates another crack at the game.

Mark what we say: If Carrigan goes through with his retirement now, it will be only a question of time before he comes back. It may be one, it may be five years, but sooner or later it will happen. Baseball is in his blood. He cannot efface it by a mere withdrawal from the old scenes.

(Source: University of Wisconsin/New York American microfilm archive)

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