For 21 seasons, beginning in FDR's first term and not concluding until JFK's only term, the late Jimmy Dykes held high appointive positions in what some have come to call the private sector. During those years -- in places as diverse as Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland -- Jimmy Dykes managed major league baseball teams.
In all those cities and in all those seasons, no team under the guidance and direction of Manager Jimmy Dykes ever finished first. Or even second.
Likable, non-winner Dykes was able to hold well-paying jobs through the Great Depression because of the bizarre logic of the men who then ran, and still run, baseball teams. The reasoning lurches along the following lines: the only person capable of managing a major league baseball team is a person who has already done it. As anyone other than major league owners can plainly see, this process leaves a maximum of two dozen individuals eligible at any given time for employment as a major league baseball manager.
It must be understood that professional references are not crucial; won/loss records do not matter. Only experience counts. Even if that experience was a losing one (why else would a manager be unemployed?), it does not matter to the owners of baseball teams.
The only other hiring hall in which the baseball-owner approach seems to prevail is one in which every new administration selects its managers of foreign policy.
Paper and aluminum should be recycled like baseball managers and foreign policy experts are. A bad treaty or an unfortunate little war need not disqualify their sponsors from future positions of authority. In baseball and in foreign policy, the rule seems to be that the previous condition of ineptitude should not be considered.
Baseball managers choose their own assistants or coaches to aid them. Foreign policy managers pick proteges for the same purpose. Pitching coaches and proteges are expected to be loyal and may have to become expendable. But if they are very clever and not too obviously threatening, both can hope someday to be managers themselves.
There are, of course, profound differences between the two professions. Take the case of Gene Mauch. In 21 seasons under his management, Mauch's teams have finished in fourth place or lower 19 times. Yet the press who cover Mauch almost all fawn over him. He has the reputation of being smarter than the competition, cleverer. He is, to read the stories about him, a genius.
Mauch, a man of more than average ego, entertains little criticism and less cross-examination about his grand strategy or minor moves. He does not suffer doubters. If charm fails, he has been known to try to intimidate his critics.
Perhaps such tactics on the part of baseball managers are tolerated in the press box. But that tough, hard-hitting team of fearless reporters who work the diplomatic beat would never condone such behavior by any national security adviser or secretary of state. Would they, Henry?
Now is the time when most of the foreign policy types generally emerge. They are not much in evidence during campaigns -- which, after all, abound with all manner of burping, non-cerebral types who are seemingly obsessed with carrying Cuyahoga County. When the election has been safely won, the real foreign policy campaigns begin. By then, the political people, exhausted from trying to carry the Cuyahoga counties, have returned to their homes in hope of rebuilding their lines.
Then is when every winning candidate is left to be captured by the experts with the briefing books and the tables of organization, complete with transparent plastic overlays. It will be interesting to watch as the appointments are made by this non-establishment president-elect, to see if the same old faces are back in the cast.
Certainly there are competent individuals, in both baseball managing and foreign policy making, who also have experience. Earl Weaver, for example, who manages the Baltimore Orioles, has won six pennants in 12 years. He is very, very good at his work.
You can only hope that among all those hundreds of appointments Ronald Reagan will be making in the next few months there will be a couple of Earl Weavers. Because you can be sure there will be more than a handful of Jimmy Dykes.