BROOKLYN RELIES ON TWO HANDS
There are two times when a baseball player boasts that he's in "real good shape": the day he signs his contract; and the day he reports for spring training. Last week, midway in baseball's annual big spring buildup, a lot of Brooklyn's Dodgers were painfully aware just how out of condition they were after the winter hiatus.
No one is more aware of this than Dr. Harold Wendler, beginning his 13th year as the Dodgers' trainer, as an unending parade of players stream to him with aching arms, pulled muscles, blistered hands and sunburned faces.
In his small training room, cluttered with rubbing tables, a whirlpool bath, a diathermy machine and a table overflowing with tape, gauze and bottled balm, Doc Wendler applies his ministrations (left). But his chief assets are his powerful skilled hands which massage and manipulate muscle and limb back into working order.
March 28, 1955
Besides the expected aches and pains, Brooklyn faces more serious problems. Many of the key men on whom the Dodgers' pennant hopes are pinned remain scarred with old wounds which neither heal quickly nor are easily forgotten. These players, too, turn to Doc Wendler with daily regularity.
Jackie Robinson, five pounds overweight and troubled with failing legs, sits in the soothing 105° water of a whirlpool bath. Don Newcombe, plagued with a sore pitching arm last season, has his arm rubbed and stretched. Carl Erskine, fighting to gain back eight pounds lost in a bout with pneumonia during the winter, eats all the bananas and cream that he can stomach. Pee Wee Reese, with an ailing back, gets heat to heal the strain. Rookie Pitcher Karl Spooner receives special attention for his knee, healing from an operation, and massage for a recently strained arm.
As a result, Manager Walter Alston is caught in a paradox. On one hand, he has a conditioning program designed to run with machinelike efficiency, while on the other, he is allowing—or is forced to allow—those ailing Dodgers to work at their own speed.
On a typical day, workout begins at 9:45 a.m., with 15 minutes of mass calisthenics, and for the next three hours, the 73 players, split into small groups, shuttle every 15 or 30 minutes with timetable precision between batting cages and batter's box, the sliding pits and the four practice diamonds.
The Dodgers will be in shape for opening day, but in Doc Wendler's hands—as much as in Alston's hands—rests Brooklyn's chances of getting off to a good start this season.
BOUILLON IS CHICAGO'S GIMMICK
Years ago, the big problem of spring training was overweight. Players who enjoyed a leisurely wellfed off-season would report to camp with 20 to 30 extra pounds, and they either would be sent to Hot Springs, Ark., or would spend months trying to sweat it off. While this is rarely the case today, every manager has a few boys with a few pounds too many. For Chicago's Marty Marion, it's Jim Rivera.
Although he played ball in Puerto Rico during the winter, Rivera weighed in at the Tampa camp at 203 pounds. Marion ordered him to shed eight pounds: "It's speed that makes you a good ballplayer and every extra pound slows you down." For Rivera, however, eating less food has proved no easy matter. Known for his weakness for double-thick malted milks and creamy desserts, the outfielder never the less forsakes his pleasures, and at last report was five pounds lighter and still losing.
Midway through last season, the White Sox began taking wheat-germ oil in hopes that it would pep up their fading club. This year, they have a new gimmick—hot beef bouillon. Made from imported Argentine beef extract, this beverage has become as much of a locker room fixture as salt tablets, foot powder and chewing tobacco.
On a sheet-covered table at one end of the White Sox dressing room under the grandstand of Al Lopez Field, a four-gallon electric warmer keeps the bouillon steaming throughout the daylong workout (left). A small printed sign pasted above urges players to ladle out as much as they want. The reason for bouillon, as Chicago's two trainers Eddie Froelich and Mush Esler explain, seems logical enough. A ballplayer who has been sweating in the sun and has lost as much as eight pounds, becomes dehydrated and needs liquids. Water is all right, except that it cools a player off and, as a result, slows him down when he goes back on the field. Hot bouillon, says Froelich, won't do this.
Together with crackers, oranges and apples, beef bouillon has also replaced the standard bill of fare of sandwiches and milk that most ball clubs have for lunch. The White Sox are convinced that milk and sandwiches require too much additional blood to digest, leaving a player too sluggish for the afternoon workout. "Besides," Froelich is quick to add, "a cup of this is as nutritious as a roast beef sandwich. We picked up the idea from Paul Brown—and he's won a few football games."
Whether or not it can win baseball games, the 61 White Sox players in Tampa are gulping their bouillon at the rate of nine gallons a day.
CINCINNATI CONCENTRATES ON LEGS
In the view of Birdie Tebbetts, manager of the Redlegs, who has been going through spring training for some 20 seasons, a team encounters two weak periods. The first occurs between the fifth and 10th day. Fielders limp off the field with pulled leg muscles. Batters' hands are pinked with blisters. Pitchers throw as hard as they can, but find they are throwing "nothing-balls."
The second time of weakness is during the fourth week of encampment, as the clubs begin to head north. By then, players who have played in exhibition games are physically tired of training, and when they hit cold weather on the two-week exhibition march north, about 25% of them will come down with the flu or a cold.
"Because of these two periods of weakness," says Tebbetts, "you've got to be careful. If a team isn't in condition enough to throw them off, it can mean the difference between winning a pennant or just having a ball club."
Tebbetts' formula for getting his men into physical shape is to concentrate on the legs. If you can get a ballplayer's feet and legs in shape, the Redlegs' manager believes, his arm and the rest of his body will be fit. Moreover, he won't tire easily.
Like most managers, Tebbetts counts heavily on the work and advice of his trainer, Dr. Wayne Anderson (left). And in Doc Anderson he has one of the best—so good, in fact, that players from other clubs come to Doc Anderson to be worked over. Not so many years ago teams employed $20-a-week trainers—usually club-house attendants—to care for $400-a-week athletes. Nowadays a trainer must be a specially skilled osteopath, physical therapist or chiropractor, and he commands upwards of $15,000 a season.
Doc Anderson, like Tebbetts, has his own ideas about handling players. "When one comes to me with a complaint and I can't find anything physically wrong," says Anderson, "I don't just say 'you're all right.' I always give the boy something. Often, it's only an aspirin—but with a difference. I've got green colored ones, blue ones, pink ones and plain white. They help. It's not that the boys are crybabies; you just have to use psychology."
With Ted Kluszewski, it's a matter of coping with superstition. Before the 236-pound slugger will put on a uniform, Doc Anderson must give him a complete rubdown, use a vibrator on his legs and finish the daily 15-minute ritual by popping vertebra in his back. If Kluszewski doesn't get a hit the first time up, he'll return to the dugout and say, "Doc, better try again. I don't think you popped it."
Besides being nursemaid, psychologist and trainer, Doc Anderson also admits that he is a part-time mediator. "A training room is the first place the players let off steam. If they have a beef, whether it's with the manager or another player, I try to talk to the boy and smooth it out. If it's a really serious complaint, I'll talk to Birdie.
"I look at my job this way. If a man misses a ball game because he's injured or doesn't play his best because he's sore, it's a black mark against me. I've got to have nine men in good shape out there playing every day."
BALLPLAYERS' MEDICAL LINGO
Tired, weak or out-of-condition legs.
Sore feet, fallen arches or pulled leg muscles. Also attributed to player who runs flat-footed or favors one leg.
An arm. Usually the throwing arm. Also called a "flipper."
Rubdown or massage of the throwing arm, as in "crank up my arm."
Joint with torn or loose piece of cartilage, particularly the knee.
Diathermy or infrared treatment.
A mild analgesic ointment for muscle tenderness. Also referred to as "shot of hot stuff." Trainers formulate and mix their own preparations which include a base of mineral oil and liniment.
"Hot stuff" applied to gauze which is taped over sore muscle.
A liquid counterirritant, stronger than "hot stuff," that reddens the skin and draws pain.
Excessive weight around the midsection or a paunchy stomach.
Any fungus infection such as athlete's foot.
THE BAD BODY
Any body rash or acne.
OUT OF JOINT
Complaint for any and all back trouble.
All heel injuries ever since DiMaggio's celebrated "Achilles spur."