Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg has found the transition from player to front-office executive rocky. Rookie Manager Kerby Farrell started in organized ball 25 years ago, began managing 16 years ago, has been directing Indian farm teams for the past 10. A worrier who can't stay in one place long, Farrell is excellent handler of young ballplayers. A subdued Eddie Stanky will coach third, white-haired Red Kress first and former Indian Pitching Star Mel Harder will handle the pitchers.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S INDIANS
Pitching, pitching and more pitching. Indian staff has been best in baseball since end of war (led league in earned run averages six times and accounted for nearly half the 20-game winners). When Bob Feller slipped slowly from the heights, burly Mike Garcia came along to take his place. Two years ago Garcia lost his effectiveness and the brilliant left-hander Herb Score moved right in to pick up the slack. In the meantime, 36-year-old Bob Lemon and 37-year-old Early Wynn—nucleus of staff—keep rolling along as if they were ageless. If Garcia, at 33, can come back strong, pitching this year will be even more overpowering. The two relief specialists, righthander Ray Narleski and left-hander Don Mossi, had less work to do last season, but that's understandable when you have three 20-game winners on the staff. They still are best one-two bullpen punch in league. At first base, bald-headed Vic Wertz gives team most of its power, and in Outfielder Al Smith, Indians have one of best all-round players in game. Jim Hegan, despite his 36 years and low batting average, remains one of outstanding receivers in league. A coach as well as player, part of pitching success is undoubtedly due to his presence.
Hitting is weak, defense porous, speed lacking. Last year team tied with Orioles as worst-hitting club in league. Only Wertz knocked in more than 100 runs, and he was just a .264 batter. Second Baseman Bobby A Vila's average plummeted 117 points from league-leading figure of three seasons ago. In center field, Jim Busby slumped 77 points in four years to anemic .235. Catcher Jim Hegan is consistent .220 hitter, Shortstop Chico Carrasquel averaged only .250 for past three seasons. With figures like these, team can't afford to play .211 infielder George Strickland, the man who could tighten up inner defense. Carrasquel could have been one of great shortstops but never set his mind to it. At second, Avila, never a great fielder, has slowed up, and Wertz is still a converted outfielder playing first. Third base is in a state of flux with Al Rosen gone from the scene.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Indians desperately need new faces who can run, throw and hit. They may have them in seven graduates of 1956 American Association pennant winners, Indianapolis. Best of crew is Roger Maris, a strong-armed, speedy outfielder who hits with power. Sore arm has hampered Larry Raines, a polished infielder and an outstanding base runner. Catcher Russ Nixon is rangy 22-year-old who never hit below .319 in the minors. Billy Harrell hit .421 in 19 at-bats in his one look at major league pitching two years ago and has been thrown into third-base derby. Three outstanding prospects, Hank Aguirre, Bud Daley and Stan Pitula have been waiting patiently in minors for room to appear in Indians' pitching staff. This year one or more of them might make it.
THE BIG IFS
Despite Avila's tailspin, his lifetime average is still a healthy .289. At 30, it's not unreasonable to expect him to reverse his downward trend this year. If Smith could get back over .300 where he belongs, and Strickland hits as he has been this spring, team's batting attack will be back up where it should be. Carrasquel has shown in brief flashes of brilliance that he could play shortstop as well as anyone in the league. A Carrasquel going at full speed and the ability of some of the flashy fielding rookies to hit major league pitching would tighten up the defense. If Garcia comes back strong and some of the rookie pitchers develop into major league winners, the team will be ready to challenge anybody.
As long as the old pitchers, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn, and the young one, Herb Score, stay healthy, the Indians will have a strong first-division team. Even with a miserable .244 team batting average and a lead-footed attack last year, the club was the best in the league outside of Yankees. This year it is hoped that a new manager, who will insist that the team keeps hustling, some new faces and more stress on fundamentals will bring the rest of the team somewhere near the level of the pitching. But a lot of big ifs would have to be resolved to win the pennant.
Largest stadium in baseball. Located on downtown lake-front, a little over a quarter of a mile from the center of town. Continuous shuttle bus service before games from Public Square (10¢—five minutes). No buses after day games because pedestrians in streets kept them from moving. But there are round-trip express buses from 14 outlying points at night (60¢). Easy to walk to. Parking lots hold 6,000 cars (50¢ weekdays, 75¢ Sundays and holidays). Take Lake Shore Dr. to West Third St. if you're driving. Figure half to three-quarters of an hour to get away by car after game. With 55 exits, stadium can be cleared in 20 minutes.
City employees keep stands clean, with seats frequently dusted. Little waiting at the 46 rest rooms and 14 concession stands, even on capacity days. All are easily accessible from any spot in the stadium. Try the 65¢ pizza pie introduced last year. Ushers are well paid, and don't require tips. Watch out for beer-waving excursion parties in the stands or you're liable to get a shower before the game is over.
Best place to see the game is behind home plate and along first-and third-base lines in both upper and lower decks. Ramps to upper deck are very steep and it's a long climb for most people. If you sit in the center-field bleachers, bring along a pair of binoculars. You'll be a long way from home plate.
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
runs batted in