Search

RISING DYNASTY FOR THE BIRDS?

April 17, 1967
April 17, 1967

Table of Contents
April 17, 1967

Yesterday
Masters
  • It happened a year later than it might have, and only after spectacular displays by others had made the tournament unforgettable, but in the end persevering Gay Brewer won a Masters he richly deserved

The 76Ers
  • Gambling on defense and running relentlessly on offense, both tributes to the dominant play of Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia took a commanding lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Division pro playoffs

Grand National
Hope In Spring
Handball
  • By Tom C. Brody

    Jimmy Jacobs, perennial king of four-wall singles, picked the wrong time to abdicate. While he eased to a doubles win, two brilliant newcomers, battling as fiercely as only he had in the past, usurped his crown

Swimming
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

RISING DYNASTY FOR THE BIRDS?

Baltimore has all the trappings of the old Yankee dynasty—big, strong hitters, splendid fielders, a row of faceless pitchers who win 15 games apiece and, most of all, marvelous-looking rookies trying vainly to break into the lineup. But the Orioles are conning off their first pennant, and the knack of winning two in a now is hand to pick up. Especially when the defender is challenged by the likes of the Tigers, rich themselves in hitting and threatening now to come up with first-class pitching, too. The Twins had a post-pennant hangover the first part of last year but came back strongly later on, and now they have Dean Chance, too, if less power. The White Sox can cause trouble with their impressive pitching, and so can the Indians, but there the league seems to split in half. For the Yankees and the Angels to move up, everything has to break right. The Athletics seem to have plenty of pitching and the Red Sox plenty of hitting, but both lack balance, while the Senators, though balanced enough, lack both pitching and hitting.

This is an article from the April 17, 1967 issue

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

OFFENSE
Baltimore's pitching may not be as good as its World Series performance indicated, which has become the accepted thing to say, but Baltimore's hitting certainly is. In the Series, against great pitching, the hitters produced what was needed when it mattered, and the same thing went on all last season. Although MVP Frank Robinson was slowed this spring by his recent knee operation, he hit the ball hard. Manager Hank Bauer says all he wants from Frank is an average Robinson year, which means about 34 homers, 103 RBIs and a .304 percentage. It's the other Robinson, Brooks, who presents some worry. MVP himself in 1964, he hit .306 last year until July 22, then only .206 thereafter. It was obvious that he was tired. This year he will be rested now and then. Injury-prone Boog Powell slumps at times and strikes out a lot (125), but his .287-34 HRs-109 RBIs indicates he is ready for full stardom. Although Luis Aparicio stole only 25 bases, he had a productive year (97 runs). Andy Etchebarren knocked in some key runs, but he must raise his .221 average. Curt Blefary has hit 45 homers in two seasons of platooning; he can catch, play first and the outfield. Dave Johnson and Paul Blair are just arriving as hitters, and rookie Mike Epstein (.309, 29 HRs, 102 RBIs at Rochester) is in the wings.

DEFENSE
No team in either league is better in the field, and with young fielding genius Mark Belanger around, the Orioles won't suffer if Aparicio or Brooks Robinson sit out a few games. But who knows about the pitching? Steve Barber, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker all suffered with sore arms last year, which leaves Dave McNally (13-6) as the ace of the staff. Rookie Tom Phoebus looked solid in spring training, and the bullpen of Eddie Fisher, Stu Miller, Moe Drabowsky and Eddie Watt is strong, though Watt suffered a serious eye injury in Florida. Help may come from Dave Leonhard and Bill Dill-man, a rookie, and good. John Miller and Frank Bertaina will spot-start.

OUTLOOK
On their hitting, fielding and depth, the Orioles are obviously the team to beat. What could beat them are postpennant letdown and a renewed epidemic of tendonitis among the pitchers.

MINNESOTA TWINS

OFFENSE
Tony Oliva always bats at least .300, Harmon Killebrew generally hits 40 home runs and Zoilo Versalles says he's ready to play the way he did when he was the MVP in 1965. After that, however, the offense degenerates into a lot of question marks like Earl Battey, who drove in only 34 runs last season. Manager Sam Mele likes to play a set lineup every game, but the new look in Minnesota—a lack of punch—may force him to go back to platooning. Mele would prefer to use good fielders Bob Allison (a right-handed hitter) in left and Ted Uhlaender (a left-handed hitter) in center; if either one of them hits, both will stay in the lineup. But if both hit as poorly as they did last year, then Mele will platoon them with left-handed Sandy Valdespino and right-handed Andy Kosco. Or he will try to trade for an outfielder. Either Rich Rollins, a veteran, or Ron Clark, a rookie, will play third, and Cesar Tovar will play second unless the Twins decide speedboy rookie Rod Carew is ready. Russ Nixon is the only experienced pinch hitter on the bench. With Jim Hall and Don Mincher traded away, and Oliva the only genuine left-handed threat, it is not hard to see why the Twins pushed back their right-field fence.

DEFENSE
Dean Chance won 20 in 1964, Jim Grant won 21 in 1965 and Jim Kaat won 25 in 1966. They are the big men on what probably is the best pitching staff in the league, including Chicago's Chance, a farm boy, should pitch better in quiet Minnesota than he did in swinging southern California. Dave Boswell, who won 12 games before injuring his shoulder last August, is the other starter. Mele also has Jim Perry and Jim Merritt as extra starters or long-relief men, and Ron Kline (six wins, 20 saves and a 2.40 ERA with the Senators last year) and Al Worthington (six wins, 11 saves) in the bullpen. In other words, the pitching is fine, but except for Versalles—if he returns to his 1965 pennant-winning form—Minnesota's fielding is not impressive.

OUTLOOK
In changing over from a bat-heavy team with nothing but runs in mind, the Twins may have given away too much hitting for extra pitching strength. The pennant seems slightly out of reach.

DETROIT TIGERS

OFFENSE
Four of the top nine sluggers in the American League played for the Tigers last year and, unfortunately for the opposition, they are playing for Detroit again. Their names are Al Kaline, Dick McAuliffe, Willie Horton and Norm Cash: boom, boom, boom, boom. The Tigers have another potential boomer in 27-year-old Jim Northrup; Northrup hit .265 last year, but 46 of his 111 hits went for extra bases. That means the Tigers have five regulars capable of hitting 20 homers apiece, and the three who are left-handed—Cash, McAuliffe and Northrup—can shoot for that short right-field fence in Tiger Stadium. Added hitting muscle will come from constantly improving Don Wert and huge Bill Freehan. Mickey Stanley is not the power threat of any of the above but he did hit .289 last year, even though he was disabled by a broken hand. Gates Brown, sidelined for a month himself, hit .266 for the season but in 47 tries as a pinch hitter averaged .325.

DEFENSE
New Manager Mayo Smith has moved McAuliffe from short to second to get Ray Oyler's good glove at short. Cash and Wert are fine at the infield corners, and the outfield is better than adequate. Detroit pitching went from young and promising in 1965 to young and foolish in 1966. The Tigers have impressive names—Denny McLain (20-14), Earl Wilson (18-11), Mickey Lolich (14-14), Joe Sparma (13-8 in 1965, though only 2-7 last year), Johnny Podres, Dave Wicker-sham, Bill Monbouquette, Larry Sherry, Hank Aguirre—but those names last year had a distinctly unimpressive staff earned run average: only the ninth-place Red Sox were scored on more than the Tigers. Johnny Sain was hired as pitching coach to correct the situation, and the optimistic Tigers are convinced that he has. McLain expects to cut down on home runs, Sparma feels he has his control back and the bullpen (with Podres and rookie George Korince helping out Sherry, Orlando Pena and Fred Gladding) looks stronger.

OUTLOOK
A more settled atmosphere and expected improvement in the pitching staff could combine with the good defense and outstanding hitting to bring the Tigers their first pennant in 22 years.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

OFFENSE
Once again the excellence of the pitching staff will make Chicago a contender, but hitting—or lack of it—will determine how strong a challenge the White Sox can mount. Manager Eddie Stanky merely takes off his cap and rubs his head when the team's batting average of .231 creeps into the conversation. Over the last three years Chicago has had the best home record (145-98) of any team in the league, and this year's attack will be an all-out go-go style trying to take even more advantage of spacious Comiskey Park. But Pete Ward and Ron Hansen both must come back after injuries, while rookies Walt (No Neck) Williams and Duane Josephson must come through. That may be four musts too many. On the brighter side of things are Rookie of the Year Tommie Agee (.273, 86 RBIs, 22 homers, 44 steals), and Ken Berry, whose average climbed from .218 in 1965 to .271 last year as he cut down on strikeouts and learned to hit to right. Don Buford is an excellent base runner (51 steals), though his .244 average was disappointing; the same thing holds for Tom McCraw (20 stolen bases, .229 average). Smoky Burgess still rolls off the bench to pinch-hit (.413 on-base average), and if slick-fielding Jerry Adair bats .249 again, that will be fine. Bill Skowron, now 36, has to better his .249 average or sit next to Smoky and hope.

DEFENSE
Hansen combines with Adair for a superb double-play combination, but the infield corners seem woefully weak. Agee and Berry are excellent outfielders, and Williams should be adequate, but if Stanky moves Ward to third and Buford to the outfield in order to bolster the hitting, the defense will sag even more. The pitching, on the other hand, is superb. Gary Peters, Joe Horlen, Bruce Howard and Tommy John had ERAs of 1.98, 2.43, 2.30 and 2.62, and each is capable of 20 wins. Jim O'Toole, Jack Lamabe and John Buzhardt are spot starters. The bullpen is strong with Bob Locker, Dennis Higgins and 43-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm.

OUTLOOK
Depth and consistency of pitching will keep the White Sox in the pennant race and all that speed should produce more runs. But the lack of solid hitting will mean no pennant this season.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

OFFENSE
"Any team that can platoon Rocky Colavito and me at the same position is good enough to win a pennant," said Outfielder Leon Wagner as he assessed the Indians' prospects for 1967. Some teams, yes. A team like the Indians, no. New Manager Joe Adcock, already a master of the diversionary cliché, does intend to platoon Colavito and Wagner, who combined for 53 home runs and 138 runs batted in last season, in left field. But considering the puerility of the rest of the Indian attack, both probably will be in the starting lineup by May 1. Vic Davalillo (.250), the diminutive singles hitter, and inconsistent Chuck Hinton (.256, 12 home runs) are the other outfielders. First Baseman Fred Whitfield hit 27 home runs last year but batted only .241, and Third Baseman Max Alvis slumped for the third straight year. Neither Shortstop Larry Brown nor Second Baseman Gus Gil, a rookie, figures to hit .250, and the catchers, Duke Sims (.263) and Joe Azcue (.275), are not exactly threats to win the batting championship. Versatile Chico Salmon is the best on a bench that includes Lee Maye, Willie Smith and Pedro Gonzalez, none of whom has ever played with any great distinction or inspiration.

DEFENSE
Sam McDowell and Sonny Siebert seem to have recovered from their shoulder injuries, and together with surprising Steve Hargan (third best ERA in the league last year) they form a starting three that could prove even more imposing than Minnesota's Chance-Kaat-Grant. Gary Bell, who came out of the bullpen to be Cleveland's busiest starter last season, and flakey Luis Tiant fill out the rotation, while left-hander Jack Kralick, John O'Donoghue and rookie Vicente Romo are spot-starters or long relievers. Rookie Steve Bailey, Bob Allen and Dick Radatz, the Monster turned tabby, are in the bullpen. All in all, the Indians have first-rate pitching. But even though Adcock says he is stressing defense, the infield and the outfield are no more than adequate.

OUTLOOK
Despite the good pitching staff, the Indians do not seem to have enough talent to finish high in the first division. And so Joe Adcock will learn to master another cliché: "Wait till next year."

CALIFORNIA ANGELS

OFFENSE
With Rick Reichardt, their only legitimate power hitter, disabled by a kidney operation the last half of the season, the Angels' attack in 1966 consisted mostly of 121 singles and 24 stolen bases by José Cardenal, 32 doubles by Jim Fregosi and 17 home runs by Bobby Knoop—and they finished an inoffensive sixth. Now a healthy Reichardt is back in left field, the Angels have acquired Jimmy Hall and Don Mincher, two left-handed batters with reputations as power hitters, and they expect to become a hitting team. However, neither Hall, who hit only .239 with 20 home runs last year, nor Mincher, .251 with 14 home runs, can hit left-handed pitchers, as the Angels learned in spring training. Cardenal, Hall and Jay Johnstone will switch around in the outfield, and Shortstop Fregosi will try to hit singles to right instead of long outs to left. Lifetime batting averages show that Second Baseman Knoop (.238), Third Baseman Paul Schaal (.229) and Catcher Bob Rodgers (.240) do not hit safely once in four trips to the plate. Somehow the Angels have been deluded into thinking they have an offense.

DEFENSE
"We may use only two starters and have eight relief pitchers this year," said Manager Bill Rigney as he glumly discussed the Angels' pitching situation. The two starters are left-handers George Brunet and Marcelino López, who between them won 20 games and lost 27 last season. There is hope that right-hander Fred Newman will eventually recover from a winter operation on his shoulder, but it may be midseason before he is ready. Rigney will try Jorge Rubio, Jim McGlothlin and Nick Willhite—a trio that won a total of five major league games in 1966. But the Angels do have a respectable bullpen, manned by Jack Sanford (37 years old), Lou Burdette (40) and Pete Cimino. Rodgers is a solid catcher. Knoop and Fregosi are the best double-play pair in the league. Schaal is steady, and First Baseman Mincher is adequate. The outfielders are consistent but not outstanding.

OUTLOOK
Unless they trade for a pitcher, the Angels may fall to seventh or even eighth place, and to get a pitcher they will have to trade a Hall or a Mincher. It will be a long season in Disneyland.

KANSAS CITY ATHLETICS

OFFENSE
Manager Alvin Dark's plan before spring training began was to have Rick Monday, the $104,000 bonus boy from Arizona State, spend another year in the minor leagues learning more of the little things that may eventually add up to the big ones for the Athletics. But Dark is a realist and when Monday returns from his 30-day service tour this week he will stay with the club because it needs hitting desperately. The A's hit only 70 home runs in 1966, and no other team hit fewer. Once again Kansas City will use the steal, the bunt and the hit-and-run to build scores. This should be particularly effective at homerproof Municipal Stadium, but half the schedule is played on the road and there is no home run threat on the team. Jim Gosger and Roger Repoz are the only hitters who got into double figures with homers last year, and they barely made it (10 and 11). Ed Charles (.286) and Danny Cater (.278) are the most dependable hitters, but Bert Campaneris' speed (52 steals in 62 attempts) makes him the team's leading run scorer.

DEFENSE
Any outfield combination the A's use will help the pitching, because the players have been selected with fielding skills in mind. The infield also is fundamentally sound and Phil Roof is a fine catcher. But young quality pitching is the element Kansas City must depend on until the crop of potential hitters down on the farms can be harvested. The seventh-place finish last season was stronger than the record (74-86) indicates. Following a poor 3-14 start, the A's played one game under .500. The major reason was Jim Nash, who from July on had a spectacular record of 12-1 and a 2.06 ERA. Like all the A's pitchers, however, Nash needed relief help from Jack Aker, who had a record of 8-4, 26 saves and a 1.99 ERA in 66 games. The other starters—John Odom, Lew Krausse, Jim Hunter and Chuck Dobson—average only 22 years. Bob Duliba and Paul Lindblad, 25, will spot-start or work long relief.

OUTLOOK
Young pitching is always a gamble, but with a sound defense, good speed and Dark's sharp strategical moves the A's should continue to rise. Hitting, or the lack of it, will determine just how high.

WASHINGTON SENATORS

OFFENSE
The key to improvement in Washington's feeble attack (fewest runs in the league last year) is big Frank Howard. Howard had 18 homers and 71 RBIs, best on the ball club, and his average (.278) was 10th best in the league. But Manager Gil Hodges, feeling that those home run and RBI figures are nowhere near what they should be for a man of Frank's size (6'7", 255) and strength, has changed Howard's stance at the plate. He wants him to loft and pull, rather than drive earth-searing ground balls to the infield. Rookie Center Fielder Hank Allen, older brother of the Phils' Richie, had 23 homers, 88 RBIs and a .299 average in the Pacific Coast League and hit .387 in nine games for the Senators at the end of 1966. Howard and Allen are both iffy, but if they come through, the Senators will have a cheering one-two power punch. Fred Valentine is a dependable hitter (16 home runs, .276), and Paul Casanova, Ken McMullen, Jim King and Ken Harrelson show occasional power (all had home runs in double figures last year).

DEFENSE
Tall (6 feet 4)Casanova is a highly regarded young catcher but, even so, he led the league in errors. He should improve this year because, he says, "I'm not gonna close my eyes anymore when I go after pop-ups." Shortstop Eddie Brinkman was second in the league in assists and with Bernie Allen now at second base the club should improve its meager double-play total. This would help the pitching, which needs it. The only reliable starters are Pete Richert (14-14, 3.37 ERA), Phil Ortega (12-12, 3.93 ERA) and, as long as his arm remains healthy enough for him to snap off his curve, Camilo Pascual. One or more of the relievers—Casey Cox, Bob Humphreys, Dick Lines, Bob Priddy (6-3 with the Giants last year), Darold Knowles—will see service as a starter. So will Barry Moore and Joe Coleman, a minor league dud (7-19 in the Eastern League last season) but a winner in all three big-league starts.

OUTLOOK
The Senators have been improving ever so slowly the past few years. They may improve again in 1967 but, even so, other rising teams around the league could push them into the cellar.

BOSTON RED SOX

OFFENSE
The Red Sox have greater power hitting potential than any other American League teams except the Orioles and Tigers. Tony Conigliaro and George Scott are definite home run threats and each should drive in 90 runs apiece again. Carl Yastrzemski, who, unfortunately, never has maintained good rapport with his managers, is an ex-batting champion and always ranks up there with the league's best hitters. Rookie Reggie Smith, a switch-hitting center fielder who starts the season at second, won the International League's batting title last year, and Joe Foy has good power. Even slender Shortstop Rico Petrocelli (.238) hit 18 home runs in 1966, but Rico tended to develop injuries last year whenever he went eight at bats or so without a hit—something he managed quite frequently. There is power on the bench, too, with Tony Horton, Don Demeter and George Thomas. Jose Tartabull (.277) plays center against righthanders. Despite all this, the Red Sox never have been able to execute the fundamental maneuvers that win ball games—the bunt, the hit-and-run, the sacrifice fly, the stolen base.

DEFENSE
If just two of their sore-armed, sorehead pitchers become healthy and dependable, the Red Sox could have enough pitching to move up sharply in the standings. But they have been putting "if" before the Bennetts and the Moreheads and the Stephensons for too many years now. So Jim Lonborg, Darrell Brandon, rookie left-hander Bill Rohr, Lee Stange and José Santiago will be the starters—a prospect that won't cause too many hitters around the league to lose sleep. Bullpen veterans Don McMahon, John Wyatt and Dan Osinski will see a lot of work. Petrocelli could make the infield outstanding, and Reggie Smith has one of the best outfield arms in baseball. But new Manager Dick Williams must teach the supposedly experienced Yastrzemski to throw either to the cutoff man or to the right base, basics that Carl has never learned.

OUTLOOK
Dick Williams promises not to tolerate the traditional Red Sox traits of individualism, inattention and ineptitude. If he can find some pitching, too, the 1967 Sox may revive baseball in Boston.

NEW YORK YANKEES

OFFENSE
Gone are the fusillade of home runs and the profusion of timely hits that made the Yankees the most awesome team in baseball for more than four decades. Last year they were seventh in batting (.235) and last in the majors in winning one-run games (15-38). The Yankees' big man, psychologically and statistically, is still Mickey Mantle, who in little more than half a season of play had 23 homers and 56 RBIs. Joe Pepitone had 31 home runs and 83 RBIs, but Joe had 252 more at bats than Mantle. Hopefully, hitting help for Manager Ralph Houk will come from a revived Tom Tresh and from rookie Outfielders Bill Robinson (20 HRs, 79 RBIs, .312 in the minors) and Steve Whitaker (who had 32 home runs and 102 RBIs with three teams in the minors and majors last season). Elston Howard is not the hitter he used to be, and no one else has that old Yankee look.

DEFENSE
If the Mantle experiment at first base continues successfully in regular-season play the Yankees will have a reasonably set lineup, though the infield, with Mantle, Horace Clarke at second, John Kennedy at short and Charlie Smith at third, is a far cry from the collections of fielding wizards the Yankees used to have. The outfield is much better, with Tresh in left, Pepitone in center and the Robinson-Whitaker combo in right. With Howard fighting off age and Jake Gibbs, the catching is acceptable, but the pitching staff is confusing. Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre, Jim Bouton, Al Downing, Fritz Peterson, Fred Talbot and rookie Stan Bahnsen could comprise the strongest half dozen or so starters in the league, but each one is an if; each one must prove himself. Relievers Steve Hamilton, Dooley Womack and Hal Reniff may gel a boost from Thad Tillotson, but none of this bullpen crew is a real stopper, the sort who can trudge to the mound in a late inning, throw three pitches and put a winning ball game in his pocket. Just one more thing the new-look Yankees lack.

OUTLOOK
Last season's Yankees scored only one run less than they gave up, yet finished last. Statistically, they are a .500 team and they should finish somewhere in the middle of the standings.

TEN ILLUSTRATIONS