The Dodgers’ slow start to the 1963 season, things took a turn for the worse 60 years ago last week with more losing on a trip back east. Manager Walt Alston was fuming, at coach Leo Durocher, at reporters, and at his team on an infamous bus ride.
We’re cheating a bit in the timeline here, since the four-game series against the Pirates stretched into Monday, May 6, technically after this week is complete. But since next week is eventful for another reason (spoiler alert!), we’ll use this week to recap the angst.
Rain washed away two games in New York, but then the Dodgers lost three out of four to the Pirates in Pittsburgh, falling to 12-14 on the season. They were four games out of first place but also tied for seventh in a 10-team league, which was enough to make anyone mad.
Players weren’t pleased, and per an Associated Press report passed complaints about Alston to general manager Buzzie Bavasi. Durocher, on Alston’s coaching staff, passed some of those complaints along himself, as he was likely next in line if the Dodgers parted ways with Alston, who was in his 10th season as manager.
Things boiled over after Monday’s loss to the lowly Mets. Here’s Alston’s response, from Will Grimsely at the Associated Press:
“How does it feel to read that you’re on the griddle and that you may be fired at any minute? Well, I’ll tell you — I don’t like it one doggone bit. But am I staying awake nights, worrying about it? I certainly am not. I have no apologies to make to anybody. My conscience is clear.”
The Dodgers won their lone game in Philadelphia — weird scheduling, if you ask me! — before moving onto Pittsburgh, where LA lost three of four to the Pirates. More bickering ensued on the way to St. Louis.
From George Lederer at the Press Telegram, “There were complaints from some players that the chartered bus was too small. Five players remained standing in protest, although five seats were available.”
It didn’t help that when pulling out of Pittsburgh they saw the Pirates traveling in better accommodations. From the New York Times in 1984:
‘’It was getaway day for both teams,’’ Don Drysdale recalled. ‘’We were on this old city bus that was just about making it on that long hill on the road to the airport. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we saw the Pirates go by us in two air- conditioned buses. That’s when the griping really started.’’
The players complained about the size of the bus, and traveling secretary Lee Scott shot back, per Lederer, “Why don’t you win some ball games?”
That’s when Alston stood up.
What happened next is the stuff of legend, a story told many times in the six decades since. The short version was that Alston stopped the bus, told the players to pipe down and if anyone had any problems with him to step off the bus to deal with the 51-year-old Alston one on one.
Here’s how it was described in the moment, from the Associated Press on May 7, 1963:
“Can everybody in the back hear me?” he asked. Then he told them:
“Okay, I’ve heard enough wrangling about what kind of buses we use. Does anybody want to volunteer to check the buses when we get to St. Louis?”
There were no volunteers, so Alston said he’d take the job himself.
“We’re not going to ride in a better or worse bus than the other clubs do. But if any one of you don’t like the bus I get, you come to me and we’ll step outside and discuss it among ourselves. And that goes for all.”
Nobody got off the bus.
It didn’t take long for news of the bus incident to make headlines, such that the next day Alston sought to downplay the events, telling United Press International, “I’m too old to fight,” and “That’s wrong if anyone interpreted that as wanting to fight. ... It’s all settled.”
Batter of the week
Ron Fairly hit a two-run home run in the ninth on Thursday in Philadelphia, turning a one-run deficit into a Dodgers win. The leftfielder was 6-for-18 (.333) during the week, with four RBI.
Honorable mention goes to Lee Walls, whose three-run pinch-hit home run on Sunday broke a tie in the ninth inning for LA’s second win of the week.
Pitcher of the week
Reliever Ron Perranoski was busy last week, pitching in three of the six games, putting up a 0.00 ERA by allowing only two unearned runs in 8⅔ innings. He got the win in relief in both Dodgers wins last week.
Week 4 results
14 runs scored (2.80 per game)
27 runs allowed (5.40 per game)
.231 pythagorean win percentage
Year to date
87 runs scored (3.48 per game)
95 runs allowed (3.80 per game)
.460 pythagorean win percentage (11-14)
More known for their arms
When Pete Richert doubled against Vern Law in the third inning on Sunday, it would have been understandable if he felt out of place. After all, it was the first hit by a Dodgers pitcher in over three weeks. In between Don Drysdale’s fourth-inning triple off Colt .45s right-hander Russ Kemmerer on April 13 in Houston and Richert’s double on Sunday, Dodgers pitchers were hitless in 42 at-bats, with 18 strikeouts. There was one walk mixed in (by Larry Sherry on Friday) and two sacrifice flies (by Drysdale and Sandy Koufax), plus four sacrifice bunts.
- Monday, Apr. 29: Mets 4, Dodgers 2
- Tuesday, Apr. 30: Dodgers at Mets, ppd. (rain)
- Wednesday, May 1: Dodgers at Mets, ppd. (rain)
- Thursday, May 2: Dodgers 3, Phillies 2
- Friday, May 3: Pirates 13, Dodgers 2
- Saturday, May 4: Pirates 5, Dodgers 0
- Sunday, May 5: Dodgers 7, Pirates 3
Previous 1963 weekly reviews: Snider to Mets | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
1963 Week 4 batting
1963 Week 4 pitching
The week ahead
The Dodgers finish off the road trip before returning home next week, running the Max Surkont gauntlet with one more game in Pittsburgh before heading to St. Louis before welcoming the rival Giants to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.