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THEY ALL PUT KANSAS CITY LAST

April 18, 1955
April 18, 1955

Table of Contents
April 18, 1955

Events & Discoveries
Spectacle
  • Dr. Cary Middlecoff, the Masters winner, waited out his birdies and conquered lovely Augusta National, one of golf's works of art

Red Smith
Preview
Horses
Wrestling
Column Of The Week
  • Austen Lake reports that Frankie Carbo has kept his word to Jim Norris and Tony DeMarco, the new welter champ, is safely in the IBC camp

  • One of the strangest pageants of nature occurs in the West every spring when sage grouse gather at traditional prairie mating grounds and strut before their ladies

Acknowledgments
The Masters
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back
  • A salute to some who have earned the good opinion of the world of sport, if not yet its tallest headlines

THEY ALL PUT KANSAS CITY LAST

Surgeon Smith does a deft exploratory operation on the soft underbelly of the American League, caustically drags forth a burgeoning fact the league has chosen to ignore: the item it is richest in is Very Bad Teams

Spring and the ballplayers were creeping north on reluctant feet, scenting the air with peach blossoms, arnica and sweat. Businessmen lunching together in New York argued baseball and challenged one another to handicap the pennant races, as thousands of others may have been doing at the same moment in a hundred other cities.

This is an article from the April 18, 1955 issue Original Layout

There were 10 at the table in New York. When they had drawn up their forecasts for the American League, five had the Yankees on top and the Indians second; five had Cleveland on top and New York second; all had the White Sox third; all placed Kansas City last.

These were amateur handicappers, which means they could be misguided, though probably not so grievously misinformed as the professionals whose opinions get published. Yet amateur or pro, their Delphic doodling called sharply to attention a fact which the American League prefers to ignore:

From third place down, there isn't any American League race. The league is out of joint like a contortionist's sacroiliac, unbalanced like the books of a horse-playing bank teller.

To put it with uncharitable candor, within less than two years two franchises have died and gone to Baltimore and Kansas City, whose resemblance to Heaven is superficial; as far as championship pretensions go, all but three are strictly from Saskatoon.

It is difficult to say how this came about in a league that used to go around busting its buttons with smug pride in its acknowledged superiority to the older National League. Maybe that smug pride is the answer; American Leaguers have been living in the past. They still think of their lodge in terms of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and Connie Mack, and while they preened themselves they were left behind.

Finding themselves in trouble, the owners have resorted to the oldest, seediest dodge known to the heads of poor ball clubs. They have taken to firing the manager.

As this season begins, only two of the eight teams are under the direction of the men who managed them last year. Casey Stengel, a bandy-legged godling, remains in New York where he has become a tourist attraction like the Radio City Music Hall or the Empire State Building. Al Lopez, whose Indians won the pennant last season, returns to Cleveland.

Paul Richards, whose White Sox finished third, quit Chicago to make better money as general manager and field manager in Baltimore. The five other managers got fired because their employers could think of no better way to make the fans believe they were trying.

Here's how the brains are distributed: Marty Marion's intellect now operates on behalf of the White Sox; Bucky Harris does the thinking for Detroit; Mike Higgins is apprentice genius in Boston; Charley Dressen's gray matter belongs to Washington; Lou Boudreau's skull encases most of the Kansas City talent.

All are gifted men, lacking nothing save ballplayers. Five of them figure to be lonely men this summer, pretty generally ignored while the fans watch New York, Cleveland and Chicago. What of these three? Well, take the Indians first, since they are defending champions.

Chances are there is no such title as "world's greatest baseball scout." If there were, nobody would have a stronger claim to it than slick, sly Cy Slapnicka of the Indians. He is a reformed pitcher who, according to the soundest authorities, knows all there is to know of the art of doctoring a baseball to make it do tricks which discourage and disconcert batsmen.

Years ago this adroit operator went out to Van Meter, Iowa, and there he found a farm boy who could do by accident all the things Slapnicka knew could be done to a baseball by design. This furrow-jumper's name is Bob Feller, maybe the greatest pitcher of our time and certainly one of the best in any era.

A couple of years ago Slapnicka came upon a cop in Lake Worth, Fla., who told him about a boy, transplanted from Long Island, who was pitching for the local high school. Ultimately Slapnicka gave this kid a $60,000 bonus to join the Cleveland organization. The kid is coming up this year and already the headlines are acclaiming him.

He is Herb Score, currently the most important single addition that has been made to the American League. He won 22 games for Indianapolis last year and set an American Association record with 330 strike-outs. In exhibition games this spring he awed the Giants with his fast ball.

Not once in a decade is a rookie pitcher the key man in a pennant race. Score doesn't have to be. Cleveland already had the most formidable pitching staff in the league. Add Score to a group that includes Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Art Houtteman, Bob Feller, Don Mossi, Hal New-houser and Ray Narleski. There's no crew to compare with that.

The unreasonably articulate Dressen, who feels it incumbent on him to speak well of the Washington club because nobody else will, has brushed off Cleveland's prospects with the remark that "it all depends on how far Kiner has went back."

Fact is, Ralph Kiner is another addition to the Indians. Whatever ability this muscular character may have left, no matter how far he has went back, it is ability that Cleveland did not possess last year. This is the same team that won 111 games in 1954, plus Score, plus Kiner. In the World Series these slow-footed, brawny aborigines didn't look like the Indians who fought at Little Big Horn, but there isn't a real tough Custer in the whole American League.

CASEY STENGEL'S PRAYER

Defeated last season when old age caught up with their best players, the Yankees didn't go sit on a rock and cry. They went instead to Baltimore and got two pitchers, Bob Turley and Don Larsen, and a shortstop named Bill Hunter.

Turley is young and strong and fast and willing. Larsen is big and young and strong. Hunter is today what he was when the Browns brought him out of the minors two years ago, an infielder of unfulfilled promise. Even for the bale of players they got in exchange, the Orioles hated to give up Turley and Hunter. They were willing, to the point of eagerness, to give up Larsen.

When the New York training camp opened, Stengel didn't know who his regular shortstop would be, counted on Bob Grim and Whitey Ford as his first two pitchers, hoped Turley would be the Number Three man, counted on Ed Lopat as Number Five and prayed for guidance in the search for Number Four.

Starting the season now, he knows exactly what he knew then, and he's still praying.

New York won 103 games last year, enough for a pennant when somebody else doesn't win 111. The White Sox won 94, enough for a pennant if nobody wins 95. The Chicago situation is not unlike that of the Yankees: there's been a bit added here, a bit there, and it may or may not be enough.

If Walt Dropo can play first base, if George Kell is physically sound at third, if Chicago's pitchers are as good as they have been in the past, then the White Sox have a solid, balanced club, a bona fide contender.

That's the league.

In Boston they talk about Ted Williams—will he play or go fishing? The fans and newspapers don't know, the club doesn't know, and if Williams knows he isn't telling.

In Detroit and Washington and Baltimore they just talk. In Kansas City the rookie owner, Arnold Johnson, talks about the million he has on hand to spend for ballplayers. One of these days somebody will overhear him, and take the million.

View this article in the original magazine

PHOTORITE OF SPRING SINCE 1910—THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. OPENS THE BASEBALL SEASONILLUSTRATIONARNOLD PORTOCARRERO: Pitcher: KANSAS CITY ATHLETICSILLUSTRATIONAL ROSEN: 3rd base: CLEVELAND INDIANSILLUSTRATIONHAL SMITH: catcher: BALTIMORE ORIOLESILLUSTRATIONBOB KEEGAN: pitcher: CHICAGO WHITE SOXILLUSTRATIONFERRIS FAIN: 1st base: DETROIT TIGERSILLUSTRATIONFRANK SULLIVAN: pitcher: BOSTON RED SOXILLUSTRATIONBOB TURLEY: pitcher: NEW YORK YANKEESILLUSTRATIONROY SIEVERS: outfield: WASHINGTON NATIONALSEIGHT ILLUSTRATIONSILLUSTRATION70ILLUSTRATION10ILLUSTRATION106ILLUSTRATION16ILLUSTRATION77ILLUSTRATION8ILLUSTRATION11ILLUSTRATION38ILLUSTRATION"Stay out of it. We have our own problems."

COLLECTORS' ITEMS

Baseball's opening day found the bubblegum season in full stride, small collectors scurrying everywhere in their determination to get every trading card available, including the choice selection of American Leaguers presented on the opposite page (courtesy Topps Chewing Gum, Inc.)

ALBERT LEONARD ROSEN
third base Cleveland Indians

Height: 5'10½"

Weight: 180

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Home: Cleveland, Ohio

Born: March 1, 1925

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

One of the most feared power hitters in Baseball, "Flip" placed high among the R.B.I. leaders last season. It was the 5th straight year he's chased more than 100 runs across the plate. In '53, Al was the first man unanimously voted the Most Valuable Player! In his first full season at Cleveland, he led the League with 37 Homers and has twice captured the R.B.I. Crown (1952-1953).

MAJOR LEAGUE BATTING RECORD

FIELDING

Games

At Bat

Runs

Hits

2b

3b

H.R.

R.B.I.

B. Avg.

P.O.

Assists

Errors

F Avg.

Year

137

466

76

140

20

2

24

102

.300

601

188

18

.978

Life

784

2817

478

832

134

17

156

575

.295

1276

1408

91

.967

Robert Charles KEEGAN
pitcher Chicago White Sox

Height: 6'2½"

Weight: 207

Throws: Right

Bats: Right

Home: Rochester, N.Y.

Born: Aug. 4, 1922

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

The handsome former Bucknell University Baseball Star began like a "house afire" last year with a 12-3 record by July! Bob has the ability to scatter his opponents' hits and bear down when the pressure is on. He joined the Sox in '53 after a brilliant year at Syracuse where he racked up 20 Wins. Starting as a Yankee farmhand he's pitched for Kansas City, Newark and Binghamton.

MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHING RECORD

Games

Innings

Won

Lost

Pct.

Hits

Runs

E.R.

S.O.

Walks

E.R. Avg.

Year

31

210

16

9

.640

211

84

72

61

82

3.09

Life

53

309

23

14

.622

291

118

102

93

115

2.97

Franklin Leal SULLIVAN
pitcher Boston Red Sox

Height: 6'7½"

Weight: 210

Throws: Right

Bats: Right

Home: Burbank, Calif.

Born: Jan. 23, 1930

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

Formerly a relief pitcher, "Sully" left the Red Sox bull pen last year to take over a starting role. It proved to be one of the most successful Boston experiments since the Tea Party! He led the Sox mound staff in almost every department including Most Shutouts (3) Most Complete Games (11) Best E.R.A. and Victories. Frank joined Boston late in '53 and earned 1 Win.

MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHING RECORD

Games

Innings

Won

Lost

Pct.

Hits

Runs

E.R.

S.O.

Walks

E.R. Avg.

Year

36

208

15

12

.556

185

81

72

124

66

3.15

Life

50

232

16

13

.552

209

97

88

141

77

3.41

ROY EDWARD SIEVERS
outfield Washington Nationals

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 195

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Home: St. Louis, Mo.

Born: Nov. 18, 1926

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

Roy found a home with the Senators last year and showed his gratitude by leading the team in Homers and R.B.I.'s. He placed 6th in the American League for driving in runs and had-a terrific .446 Slugging Average. Roy broke with Hannibal in '47, and showed his terrific power by leading the League in Runs, Hits, Homers and R.B.I.'s. In '49 with the Browns, he was Rookie-of-the-Year.

MAJOR LEAGUE BATTING RECORD

FIELDING

Games

At Bat

Runs

Hits

2b

3b

H.R.

R.B.I.

B. Avg.

P.O.

Assists

Errors

F Avg.

Year

145

514

75

119

26

8

24

102

232

350

15

9

.976

Life

532

1759

255

454

94

12

59

301

258

1640

123

35

.981

ARNOLD MARIO PORTOCARRERO
pitcher Kansas City Athletics

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 195

Throws: Right

Bats: Right

Home: Bethpage, N.Y.

Born: July 5, 1931

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

Arnold returned from 2 years in the Army last season, rarin' to go! Not only was he the "winningest" pitcher on the A's staff but he posted the team's best E.R.A. Signed to an A's contract after a sensational schoolboy record, Arnold won 9 games at West Palm Beach in '50, and followed with 12 Wins at Lincoln in '51. He's one of the most promising young pitchers in the A.L.

MAJOR & MINOR* LEAGUE PITCHING RECORDS

Games

Innings

Won

lost

Pct

Hits

Runs

E.R.

S.O.

Walks

E.R. Avg

Year

34

248

9

18

.333

233

124

112

132

114

4.06

*Life

63

409

21

25

.457

384

189

152

175

169

3.34

Harold Wayne SMITH
catcher Baltimore Orioles

Height: 6'

Weight: 195

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Home: Lincoln Pk., Mich.

Born: Dec. 7, 1930

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

The Orioles hope that Hal will add plenty of hits to the lineup in '55. Judging by his Minor League record, there's every reason to believe he won't disappoint them. Hal batted .363 for Newark in '50 with 108 R.B.I.'s. At Quincy in '51 he hit .308 and batted .311 for Birmingham in '53. Last season he was the star of the Amer. Assoc. and he won the Batting Title.

MAJOR LEAGUE BATTING RECORD

FIELDING

Games

At Bat

Runs

Hits

2b

3b

H.R.

R.B.I.

B. Avg.

P.O.

Assists

Errors

F. Avg.

Year

110

386

51

135

29

3

7

50

.350

537

68

17

.973

Life

613

2146

258

682

139

19

29

330

.318

2883

425

83

.976

FERRIS ROY FAIN
first base Detroit Tigers

Height: 5'11"

Weight: 174

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

Home: Walnut Creek, Calif.

Born: Mar. 29, 1922

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

After being on the sidelines most of last season with a knee injury, Ferris was traded to Detroit during the winter. His absence from the White Sox lineup was a big blow to their '54 Pennant hopes. With the A's in '51 he led the A.L. with a .344 mark. The next year he repeated his sensational performance and was high man with .327 topping the Loop in Batting and Doubles.

MAJOR LEAGUE BATTING RECORD

FIELDING

Games

At Bat

Runs

Hits

2b

3b

H.R.

R.B.I.

B. Avg.

P.O.

Assists

Errors

F. Avg.

Year

65

235

30

71

10

1

5

51

.302

565

31

8

.987

Life

1037

3672

563

1072

202

30

46

539

.292

8846

869

133

.988

ROBERT LEE TURLEY
pitcher New York Yankees

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 215

Throws: Right

Bats: Right

Home: Troy, Ill.

Born: Sept. 19, 1930

© T.C.G. printed in U.S.A.

Blazin' Bob will be wearing a Yankee uniform this season after enjoying a sensational year at Baltimore in '54. One of the most talked-about newcomers, he has a bullet-like fast ball that helped him rank as No. 1 Strikeout artist in the A.L. last year. Bob joined the Browns in '51 and after two years in the Army, he returned to register 61 Strikeouts in only 61 innings in '53.

MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHING RECORD

Games

Innings

Won

Lost

Pct.

Hits

Runs

E.R.

S.O.

Walks

E.R. Avg.

Year

35

247

14

15

.483

178

106

95

185

181

3.48

Life

46

314

16

22

.421

228

136

123

251

228

3.53