(This is the third article in a fourpart series on Harvard's athletic managers.)
"You know where a manager earns his keep? It's in his ability to cope with unexpected problems," hockey manager Max Bleakie revealed.
What does one do when the buses he has ordered to transport a team 300 miles south for a game that afternoon arrive on time, not in Quincy Square as he has asked, but in Quincy, Mass.?
Or what does a manager do when, in the midst of a good-natured victory celebration in a New York hotel, a mini-Sahara desert is formed on the tenth floor when a spirited player turned self-styled sheik inverts a few cement cigarette urns? It's not that easy to dispose of a beach in a hall-way without rasing a few eyebrows.
These are just a few of the examples of the nightmares managers experience during the season. In dealing with problems of this nature, the manager is often forced to make "split-second decisions," according to one veteran who has experienced his share of the unexpected. While these decisions are often necessary, a good manager will try to plan ahead so he won't be forced to make them.
Unfortunately, the unexpected will often not allow itself to be controlled. One such unforeseen situation involved this year's football trip to Columbia, where due to an unexpected intense fog the team was not able to fly out of Logan at its prearranged Friday morning time.
"We got to Logan at 11:30 a.m. and at 2 p.m. it got to the point where we thought we couldn't fly out at all. Then we started trying to get a bus line," versity manager Joe Donovan said. "I used $20 in dimes just calling to get a bus. The trouble was that that day, just everything was wrong. There was a derailment between Boston and New York and there were no trains, the visibility was so bad that the bourgeois dogs were renting Hertz rent-a-cars instead of waiting indefinitely for the planes, and everyone else going to New York was taking buses. We just couldn't get one."
So with close to 80 people at Logan itching to go, Donovan was faced with all 80 screaming. "Hey Joe, when are we gonna go?" Kids were sprawled out all over the place, Rich Szaro was kicking a ball around, and everyone else was playing solitaire. Finally Donovan called Grayline and they said. "Keep your shirt on, we're getting you a bus from Chestnut Hill and it'll be there soon." He thought this would be great but when two hours, three hours, four hours later and still no Grayline, he wasn't quite so sure.
Finally, the bus arrived at 6:30 p.m. Everybody was tired and disturbed. The managers loaded the team on the buses, but by this time the sky had cleared a bit and the plane had been given clearance to take off. Donovan ran to the buses and took a team vote. The players decided to fly. The buses were emptied, the plane was boarded and the team finally left Boston at 7:30 p.m.
They eventually arrived at New York but (surprise!) there were no buses waiting to take the team to the hotel. So Donovan took a cab and went completely around the airport, in an attempt to find the Force Bus Line. He finally led the buses to the team, loaded everybody, checked the roll and found out one player, Paul Masaracchio, missing. The managers then scoured the airport, finally found Paul upstairs in the restroom and brought him down.
At last the two buses pulled away from the curb and headed, one behind the other. toward Manhattan. Things went fine until the first possibility for a further delay presented itself, about 55 seconds after departure. A fork in the road proved to be the next downfall as the bus drivers could not agree on the correct route.
"Here I am with one bus carrying half the team going to Columbia and the other one quickly fading out of view, in a direction marked 'Downtown finally got to the hotel everyone was Newark'," Donovan said. "When we really down and tired. I had started the day with $300 in my pocket but due to meal expenses, etc. I had only $25 when I reached Columbia, eight hours after scheduled arrival. The kids really had a bad trip, it hurt team morale and I think it had a lot to do with losing the game."
Problems you just don't expect to happen may also surprise you out on the field. For example, an extra-inning away baseball game can really mess up a manager's plans. "When a game reaches the 12th inning and our flight departure time gets closer and closer. I begin to worry." baseball's Hollis McLonghlin said. "I start to pray 'Please God, give us a double play so we can get out of here.'
"Along about the 15th inning with the sun starting to set and the last plane back to Boston streaking past overhead, I figure I better start planning a way to get out of there."
(Monday-The concluding episode, Part IV: A Manager and His Boys.)