AMERICAN LEAGUE BASEBALL

Keep a sharp eye on the jokers in the second deck, the teams that lie down and play dead. They have the final say on who wins the pennant
April 18, 1955

The most important thing to remember about the American League pennant race this year is not the clear and often demonstrated fact that the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox are overwhelmingly superior to the other five clubs in the league, but the less clear, less often demonstrated but no less significant fact that they—the Indians, the Yankees and the White Sox—play most of their games, 71.4% to be precise, against those same dolefully weak clubs.

This is important, because the number of games, however few, that those dolefully weak clubs win from the top three will probably be the decisive factor in deciding who wins the American League pennant this year. It was last year. It was the year before that.

In 1953 when the Yankees won 99 games, the Indians split even with them, 11-11, and yet finished second, eight and a half games back, castigated as choke-ups, weak sisters, congenital failures. In 1954 when the Yankees won 103 games, the Indians again split even with them, 11-11, but this time finished first, eight games ahead, acclaimed on all sides as one of the great teams in American League history.

What was the difference between the "choke-up" Indians of '53 and the championship Indians of '54? The addition of Mossi, Narleski and Newhouser to the relief pitching staff? The revitalization of starting pitchers Feller and Houtteman? Yes, of course. Pitching was the difference. But only where application of improved pitching had clear and direct results.

THE KEY TO THE PENNANT

Against the Yankees and the White Sox, improved pitching notwithstanding, the Indian's won-and-lost record showed no change whatsoever. But against the other five teams.... In '53 when the Yankees won 75 games from the weak clubs, the Indians won only 70. In '54 when the Yankees won 77 from the weak clubs, the Indians won a smothering 89. The key to losing or winning the pennant obviously lay deep in the second division.

So, despite gay references to two American Leagues—one a three-team fight for first place, and the other a five-team roundelay for fourth (or possibly to avoid eighth)—remember that the American League race is still an eight-team contest, even though the contest is to see which of the three big clubs will eat most of the five little ones.

Thus, though the exciting games of the year, the great moments, the crucial series, the dramatic stuff that baseball is made of, will come on days when the Indians are playing the Yankees, or the White Sox the Indians, or the White Sox the Yankees, the 1955 championship is more likely to be decided on quiet afternoons and evenings in Baltimore or Washington, or even Kansas City, when battered Yank and weary Indian, physically and emotionally drained from a crowded, shrieking Sunday afternoon in, say, Municipal Stadium or Comiskey Park, yawn their way through games with seventh- or eighth-place teams whose only fun in life is winning one occasionally from a pennant contender.

And this year they are apt to win that occasional one a good deal more often than they did last year, even though the Indians, Yankees and White Sox now fully realize the need for beating up the little fellows every chance they get. The five weak sisters will be a lot less agreeable and a lot more inclined to stir things up the way the Red Sox did one weekend last August when they massacred the Yankees three straight and threw them, for practical purposes, out of the pennant race.

NO ONE CAN BE THAT BAD

For one thing, the Athletics cannot be as hapless as they were last year. This year they at least know that Kansas City wants them, and if this is not a definite plus in the factor of morale, at least it removes the definite minus that existed last year in Philadelphia. The Orioles under Paul Richards are improved. They are old, it is true, but improved, better balanced, ready to win a little more often. The Senators are the same team, a little weaker if anything, but in Charley Dressen they have a manager who gets great glee out of creating discomfiture, particularly in the form of victories wangled from better ball teams. The Red Sox and the Tigers, both heady with promise, have new managers and should cause at least as much trouble as they did last year (Detroit took eight games from Cleveland, Boston nine from New York) and probably more.

And if a yawning Ted Williams should decide that baseball is, after all, a more preoccupying summertime sport than just going fishing, and should decide to pleasure himself with just one more good season in Fenway Park, things will be harder than ever for the trio of teams presently lording it over the weakened American League.

Against this rising tide of rebellion, which feudal lord seems best equipped, assuming that once again the top clubs fight each other to a standstill? Which team is most likely to sleep well late in August and early in September when in one 11-day period the Yankees and Indians meet three times, the Yankees and White Sox twice, the Indians and White Sox four times, while in and out and roundabout the same three teams in the same 11 days play a total of 14 other games with Kansas City, Baltimore, Washington and Boston—plus possible added games from earlier rainouts?

Who is most likely to have the fresh and able starting pitchers, the rested and ready relievers, to pick up a tired club and mop the floor with the second division?

Who but the Indians.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
One of the most impressive pitching staffs in major-league history: three superb first-line starters in Lemon (23-7 last year), Wynn (23-11), Garcia (19-8); two fine secondary starters in Houtteman (15-7) and Feller (13-3); three remarkable relief pitchers in Mossi (6-1, 1.94 earned-run-average), Narleski (3-3, 2.22 ERA), Newhouser (7-2, 2.49 ERA); best pitcher in minors last year in young Herb Score (22-5 at Indianapolis, 330 strike-outs). Powerful hitting by Avila, Doby, Rosen, Kiner and Wertz.

WEAK SPOTS:
Probably the worst-fielding infield ever to win a major-league pennant. Generally unimaginative play in field and on bases. Age of pitching staff (Feller, 36; Wynn, 35; Lemon, 34). Rosen's still tender finger.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Score, who has been described as "so good you can't believe it."

THE BIG IFS:
In '54 Indians split 22-22 with Yankees and White Sox, were an incredible 89-21 against rest of league. The Indians must dominate the weak clubs again.

THE OUTLOOK:
Indians seem stronger but so does rest of league (which could not have gotten worse). Still, Indians have the big pitching they pay off on in pennants.

NEW YORK YANKEES

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
As always, depth, meaning a long bench well filled with good players for Stengel to work in and out of games as he sees fit. Plus Yogi Berra, best catcher in baseball, Mickey Mantle, who again threatens to grow from good to great, and a flock of pretty fair pitchers, most prominent among them Whitey Ford, Bob Grim and Bob Turley.

WEAK SPOTS:
Phil Rizzuto, of all people (the once-great Yankee shortstop hit only .195 last year and appears near the end of his career). The void in the pitching staff left by the retirement of nonpareil Allie Reynolds.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Elston Howard, catcher-outfielder, who showed well in spring training. Two young pitchers: Kucks and Sturdivant.

THE BIG IFS:
Turley and others must provide sufficient pitching depth for Yankees to match Cleveland's awesome domination of the weak teams in the league. And if Rizzuto can't play short like the Rizzuto of old, then Gerry Coleman must.

THE OUTLOOK:
Yanks won 103 games last year, held the Indians even, 11-11, and still finished second, eight games behind. Where they finish in '55 depends largely on how close the Indians come to winning 111 games again.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
A handful of gutty pitchers—chief among them the 36-year-old Virgil Trucks—who do a lot of work and whose effectiveness in '54 was second only to the Indians. Brilliant shortstop-second base combination in Carrasquel and Fox. And just about the best all-round player in the league, when he really feels like playing, in Orestes Minoso.

WEAK SPOTS:
The attack, built around singles hitters, is hurt by the lack of power to help Minoso drive in runs. The pitching, once you get past the big men, is thin in comparison with Cleveland and New York. The club, so dependent on hustle, has tendency to let down, particularly against the Yankees.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Pitcher Dick Donovan, a veteran minor leaguer, who was 18-8 at Atlanta.

THE BIG IFS:
The Sox are counting on once-great George Kell to play all-star ball at third, on Walt Dropo (who batted in only 44 runs for Detroit last year) to help Minoso in the power department, and on the pitching to be even better than last year. All are very big "ifs," indeed.

THE OUTLOOK:
Cold logic, eying the strength of the Indians and Yanks, the weakness of the rest of the league, says, "Where else but third?"

BOSTON RED SOX

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Fine outfield, with heavy-hitting Jackie Jensen (25 homers, 117 RBIs) in right, flashy-fielding Jim Piersall in center and promising Faye Throneberry in left if Ted Williams continues to fish. Mel Parnell, injured last year, should be the star of what might blossom into a top-flight pitching staff (Brewer, Brodowski, Brown, Delock, Kiely, Kinder, Nixon, Sullivan). Sammy White is a good hitting, dependable catcher. Sox have an impressive collection of very young players who could erupt into stardom at any time.

WEAK SPOTS:
The infield. Very shaky on the double play. Injury to Shortstop Milt Boiling puts Sox off on wrong foot. Every position is in doubt.

ROOKIE HOPES:
This year's crop includes Catcher Pete Daley, up from Louisville. Many of Boston's younger players, even after a year or two in majors, seem like rookie hopes still.

THE BIG IFS:
The infield. If Higgins can construct a solid foursome from the basketful of candidates, the Sox could shake down into a pretty fair team.

THE OUTLOOK:
Bright. The worst appears to be over in Fenway Park. Good chance for fourth again.

DETROIT TIGERS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Youth, speed and hustle, as a result of an extensive rebuilding job over the last two years. Good catching, competent infield, excellent young outfield. Tigers have genuine stars in Third Baseman Ray Boone, Shortstop Harvey Kuenn, potential stars in youngsters Tuttle, Kaline, Hoeft, House. Two good veteran pitchers: Steve Gromek (18-16 last year) and Ned Garver (14-11).

WEAK SPOTS:
Tigers have a pretty fair starting lineup and three or four reasonably dependable starting pitchers. But the lack of bench and relief strength is appalling. And the team has no bona fide power hitters. Boone and new First Baseman Fain come closest.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Freckle-faced J. W. Porter (he has no given names, just initials) has caught, played outfield, first base, is lead-pipe cinch to help club. Outfielder Bubba Phillips. Several young pitchers.

THE BIG IFS:
Pitching and first base. Harris must find starters and relievers from an unholy mess of rookies and proven undependables. Fain has to recover from last season's bad knee and supply needed run-producing power.

THE OUTLOOK:
Cheerful. Tigers are on way back up and wherever they finish, they'll be fun to watch.

WASHINGTON SENATORS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
A collection of pretty good pitchers (Porterfield, McDermott, Stone, Stobbs, Shea, Schmitz, Pascual) with enough sound talent for shrewd Charley Dressen to work wonders with. A good center fielder in Jim Busby, a good third baseman in Eddie Yost, a good but aging (37 next Friday) first baseman in Mickey Vernon.

WEAK SPOTS:
The old problem of developing a shortstop and second baseman who can make the double play. Batting is limp, with Roy Sievers and Vernon the only power hitters. Catching is weak, and so is the bench.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Bobby Kline (.319 at Birmingham) looks like regular shortstop, with Pete Runnels, a misfit at short last year, moving to second. Dressen also thinks highly of Pitcher Ted Abernathy who is 6 feet 4 inches and built big, like Walter Johnson, and tiny (5-foot 5-inch) Outfielder Ernie Oravetz who is built little, like Dressen.

THE BIG IFS:
Kline, and Dressen's skill at making a silk-purse pitching staff out of what could be—with one or two bad breaks—a sow's ear.

THE OUTLOOK:
The Senators will most likely muddle along near the middle of the American League's five-team second division.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Bevy of fine defensive players, with experienced men available at all positions. Class Infielders Cox and Miranda are as good with glove as any pair in majors. Sharp spring hitting by Outfielders Coan, Evers, Woodling gives promise of offensive strength sadly lacking last year. Alert, intelligent managing by forward-looking Paul Richards.

WEAK SPOTS:
Orioles, for all their "building to the future," are an old team (majority of players are over 30). One-time stars like Stephens, Pesky, Waitkus can't play all out every day all season. Pitching staff has no standout, depends on those who would be doubtful secondary starters on better club.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Catcher Hal Smith, plum the Orioles got in Bob Turley trade with Yankees, is being counted on heavily. Others: First Baseman Gus Triandos, Lefty Pitcher Don Ferrarese.

THE BIG IFS:
Richards' gamble of trading the Orioles' one star, Bob Turley, for a handful of fair-to-middling Yankee players must pay off. Big ifs in the gamble: Rookies Smith and Triandos.

THE OUTLOOK:
Unless Smith and Triandos turn into stars, it looks like a long, dull second-division summer in Baltimore.

KANSAS CITY ATHLETICS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Two men who played like Major Leaguers in last year's miserable farewell to Philadelphia: Pitcher Portocarrero and Third Baseman Finigan. Other than that, the Athletics have only hope that men who once were bonafide Major Leaguers (like Pitchers Shantz, Kellner and Blackwell), or who gave promise to be (like Outfielders Power and Renna), can stiffen the sinew, summon up the blood and imitate the action of tigers like Portocarrero and Finigan.

WEAK SPOTS:
The pitching, which was helpless last year (5.18 earned runs per game) and which does not appear noticeably improved. Timorous batting (last year Finigan was the only regular to hit higher than .258).

ROOKIE HOPES:
Pitcher Art Ceccarelli, a lefty up from Birmingham (15-12), and Infielder Hector Lopez, .316 at Ottawa.

THE BIG IFS:
Shantz, Blackwell and Kellner to pitch, and Gus Zernial, Power and Renna to hit. If they do, the Athletics will play well, if only in spurts.

THE OUTLOOK:
It seems likely that this summer in Kansas City large crowds of people will go out to watch the Athletics play. They will be the only ones going anyplace.

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PHOTOFAR FROM BASEBALL, A SLOUCHING TED WILLIAMS YAWNS AS HE FISHES IN THE SUN PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: HANK GREENBERG PHOTOMANAGER: AL LOPEZ PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: GEORGE WEISS PHOTOMANAGER: CASEY STENGEL PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: FRANK LANE PHOTOMANAGER: MARTY MARION PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: THOMAS A. YAWKEY PHOTOMANAGER: MIKE HIGGINS PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: WALTER BRIGGS JR. PHOTOMANAGER: BUCKY HARRIS PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: CLARK C. GRIFFITH PHOTOMANAGER: CHARLEY DRESSEN PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: CLARENCE W. MILES PHOTOMANAGER: PAUL RICHARDS PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: ARNOLD JOHNSON PHOTOMANAGER: LOU BOUDREAU

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

1ST

111

43

1953

2ND

92

62

1952

2ND

93

61

2

1951

2ND

93

61

5

1950

4TH

92

62

6

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Avila .341

Lemon 23-7

1953

Rosen .336

Lemon 21-15
Wynn 23-12

1952

Mitchell .323

Garcia 22-11
Lemon 22-11

1951

Avila .304

Feller 22-8

1950

Doby .326

Lemon 23-11

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

2ND

103

51

8

1953

1ST

99

52

1952

1ST

95

59

1951

1ST

98

56

1950

1ST

98

56

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Noren .319

Grim 20-6

1953

Bauer .304

Ford 18-6

1952

Mantle .311

Reynolds 20-8

1951

McDougald .306

Lopat 21-9

1950

Rizzuto .324

Raschi 21-8

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

3RD

94

60

17

1953

3RD

89

65

11½

1952

3RD

81

73

14

1951

4TH

81

73

17

1950

6TH

60

94

38

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Minoso .320

Trucks 19-12

1953

Minoso .313

Pierce 18-12

1952

Fox .296
Robinson .296

Pierce 15-12

1951

Minoso .326

Rogovin 12-8

1950

Majeski .309

Pierce 12-16

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

4TH

69

85

42

1953

4TH

84

69

16

1952

6TH

76

78

19

1951

3RD

87

67

11

1950

3RD

94

60

4

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Williams .345

Sullivan 15-12

1953

Goodman .313

Parnell 21-8

1952

Goodman .306

Parnell 12-12

1951

Williams .318

Parnell 18-11

1950

Goodman .354

Parnell 18-10

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

5TH

68

86

43

1953

6TH

60

94

40½

1952

8TH

50

104

45

1951

5TH

73

81

25

1950

2ND

95

59

3

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Kuenn .306

Gromek 18-16

1953

Kuenn .308

Garver 11-11

1952

Groth .284

Gray 12-17

1951

Kell .319

Trucks 13-8

1950

Kell .340

Houtteman 19-12

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

6TH

66

88

45

1953

5TH

76

76

23½

1952

5TH

78

76

17

1951

7TH

62

92

36

1950

5TH

67

87

31

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Busby .298

Schmitz 11-8

1953

Vernon .337

Porterfield 22-10

1952

Runnels .285

Shea 11-7

1951

Coan .303

Marrero 11-9

1950

Noren .295
Yost .295

Hudson 14-14

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

7TH

54

100

57

1953

8TH

54

100

46½

1952

7TH

64

90

31

1951

8TH

52

102

46

1950

7TH

58

96

40

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Abrams .293

Turley 14-15

1953

Wertz .268

Larsen 7-12

1952

Nieman .289

Cain 12-10

1951

Young .260

Garver 20-12

1950

Lenhardt .273

Garver 13-18

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

8TH

51

103

60

1953

7TH

59

95

41½

1952

4TH

79

75

16

1951

6TH

70

84

28

1950

8TH

52

102

46

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Finigan .302

Portocarrero 9-18

1953

Philley .303

Kellner 11-12

1952

Fain .327

Shantz 24-7

1951

Fain .344

Shantz 18-10

1950

Lehner .309

Hooper 15-10

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)