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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
A dignified, fastidious Southerner who managed in street clothes and nervously slid up and down the bench so much that he frequently wore out his trousers, George Stallings compiled an 879-898 record and won only one pennant in 13 seasons as a major-league manager, yet that single gonfalon was enough to ensure his undying fame as "The Miracle Man."
Stallings was profoundly superstitious – if his team mounted a rally he would freeze in position until the rally ended – and it's fun to imagine what his antics must have been like during the Braves' incredible run. Once, or so the story goes, he happened to be leaning over to pick up a pebble when the Braves started a rally; after it was over, he was so stiff he had to be helped off the field. Stallings also abhorred peanut shells and pieces of paper on the field, much to the delight of mischievous opponents.
When a doctor asked him if he knew why his heart was so bad, he supposedly replied, "Bases on balls, you son of a bitch, bases on balls."
Stallings was notorious for his temper and superstitions. He ranted at players if they left trash behind in dugouts. Yellow signs and yellow clothing annoyed him; yellow ballpark advertisements had to be painted over before he would let his team play. He refused to talk to rookies until they had played one week, insisting that his silence tested their courage. If he was in a particular physical position, no matter how uncomfortable, when the Braves began a rally, he remained in that position until the rally ended. When asked after the 1914 World Series why the Braves won, he replied that it was because of a "lucky penny." He also attributed the team's success to a "lucky dime" that had been blessed by a priest in Cuba.
Away from the diamond, Stallings is remembered as "cultured," "dapper" and "Chesterfieldian in his manners." But at work, "his language would sear asbestos," wrote Edwin Pope in "Baseball's Greatest Managers."
When a player told Stallings he didn't "cotton to your kind of talk," the manager's reply was apparently "about the most fearsome string of cusses I ever did hear," Pope wrote of the exchange.
Stallings' style also put an emphasis on superstition, demanding that bats be kept in exact order, the drinking cup hung just so on the fountain spigot and the color yellow be banned from the park, Pope wrote.
Because he believed that being wished good luck had the opposite effect, Stallings would avoid good-byes by arriving at train stations two hours early, wrote The Mercerian in 1972.
"If he was caught leaning over picking up a pebble in the coach's box at third base and the light-hitting Braves started a rally," Pope once wrote. "George would freeze in a stance that was almost catatonic until the rally was over, when he would often be so stiff he'd have to be helped to the dugout." #