For ex-Oriole Turley, a wealth of memories, achievements

January 13, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

Baseball has every right to be proud and boastful of Bob Turley, once one of its premier pitchers -- recipient of the Cy Young Award, a 20-game winner and Most Valuable Player in a World Series -- but what he has achieved with his business intellect is even more astonishing.

He's a multimillionaire, quite possibly a billionaire. And if you just happen to be interested in buying a good house, he'll sell you what he calls Casa Nel Sol, which in Italian means "castle in the sun," that he owns in Marco Island, Fla., for the marked-down, bargain price of $4.5 million.

Turley is here tonight for the Maryland Professional Baseball Players Association's annual banquet at Towson Center. He is to receive the organization's "success after baseball" honor, and greeting him will be Irv Hall, who managed Turley at Aberdeen, S.D., when he put up a phenomenal season of 23 wins and five losses in 1949.

Hall, a native Baltimorean who spent five years with the Philadelphia A's, was managing and playing second base in the St. Louis Browns' farm system when Turley pitched for him.

"In the five games he lost, we were shut out in three of them," recalled Hall. "Of the 28 games he started he finished every one. When I used him in relief he was in there to the end. What I'm saying is he never went to the mound that he didn't finish. That's remarkable."

It's Hall's belief -- then and now -- that Turley was wasting his time in the minors. "I was only out of the American League a couple years," related Hall, "and I knew what the Browns had for pitching. I told them they ought to take him up right then and

he'd be better than any pitcher on the 1949 roster."

Turley, now 64, is senior national sales director of Primerica Financial Services. He winters in Naples, Fla., summers at a mountain home in Big Canoe, Ga., and has 20,000 coded agents working on his staff. A gentle but driven man, Bob flies about the country in his own jet, carrying two full-time pilots, making presentations and keeping appointments with some of the nation's major corporate leaders and prominent financiers.

But what about memories of Irv Hall? "You never forget any of your managers," Bob answered. "Irv was as you see him now, a quiet, considerate man. He was an excellent teacher. Our team in Aberdeen finished second by a game to Eau Claire but won the playoffs."

Hall remembers, apprehensively, that Turley hurt his arm late in the season by accepting a challenge from a teammate who dared him to see if he could throw a ball over the grandstand from center field. A career could have vanished almost before it began and Turley never would have arrived in the majors.

"I'd be pitching a game and getting the ball 'up' ", recalled Turley. "Irv would come in from second base, draw a line on the ground toward home plate and tell me to make sure my front foot stepped left of that line. That way I could get a decent follow-through and keep the ball down. Otherwise, it's difficult to bend."

Turley was a bargain for the Browns. In 1948, they signed him for a bonus of $600 and a salary of $600, or $200 a month. The next year, after he was 9-3 at Belleville in the Illinois State League, he still was making $200, not a penny more, when he was 23-5 under Hall at Aberdeen, in what was his first full season. Raises were hard to come by and, after promotion to Wichita in the Western League, he finally got a $75-a-month boost in pay.

Historically, his first game with the Orioles, in 1954, was the team's return to the American League after 52 years, and Turley beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-1. After that season he was traded to the New York Yankees, and in '59, after going 21-7 in '58, he earned the highest salary the Yankees, up to that time, had paid a pitcher.

"It was $35,000, the most I ever made in baseball. For 10 years, I was a player representative and I know we were able to do advance the cause of the players. The owners used to think the players were a collection of dummies. Maybe they still do, but I hope not. When we hired Marvin Miller as our executive director, the tables turned."

Does Turley see any correlation to competitive athletics and the world of business? "Absolutely. Most people make good because they want to prove they're winners. Baseball taught me you have to do it on your own. No man or woman is entitled to success. It doesn't work that way. Baseball has a way of opening doors for you but then you're on your own and have to produce. Nothing is automatic."

Turley has a high school diploma. He never attended college but in knowledge and business skills is summa cum laude.

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