Executive Vice-President William Walsingham, veteran National League executive, was brought in this year to direct and coordinate front office functions. General Manager-Field Manager Paul Richards will still operate in his dual role but will be relieved of a lot of paper work. Lean and tense, Richards is considered one of the keenest practitioners of baseball strategy. Coaches Al Vincent (first) and Luman Harris (third) handle the bases, while Harry (The Cat) Brecheen directs the Oriole pitchers.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S ORIOLES
Biggest thing going for Orioles is Manager Paul Richards' uncanny knack for getting maximum mileage out of a team comprised mostly of major league castoffs. Under tutoring of Richards and Pitching Coach Harry Brecheen, pitching staff, in some respects a weak spot, could be strong factor in whatever success Orioles achieve this season. These two have been tireless in their efforts to help certain pitchers correct flaws in delivery and perfect new pitches. In George Zuverink, Orioles have one of the better relief pitchers in the league and over a portion of last summer he was best in baseball. Gus Triandos is perhaps second best hitting catcher in league and source of most of the team's power. Bob Nieman, Al Pilarcik and Dick Williams give Orioles strong outfield, offensively and defensively. And a healthy George Kell is strong point for any team because of his poise and sheer class.
Team, as a whole, is woefully weak in hitting. (Worst in the American League in 1956 batting, runs scored, hits and total bases.) Good power hitter is desperately needed to team up with Gus Triandos. Bench has been improved but there are still too many good glove men who can't hit and bonus babies who have yet to show they belong in majors. A team trying to better itself in the league can not afford to carry a .217 hitting shortstop (Willy Miranda) next to a .231 hitting second baseman (Billy Gardner), no matter how well they field. Despite Richards' admitted genius in handling pitchers, staff still lacks standouts who can go the distance (only 38 complete games pitched last year). It will be same staff—unless one of the rookies comes through—that had only one pitcher (Connie Johnson) with a lower ERA than 4.00. The Orioles would also like to come up with a good hitting catcher to spell Triandos behind plate.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
An early dividend from the Orioles' growing farm system could be Third Baseman Brooks Robinson. Originally brought up to spell Kell at third, he may force that veteran to move to first. A finished fielder after only two years in the minors, Robinson has been hitting consistently all through spring training. Another product of farm system, Charlie Beamon, could add some needed youth to pitching staff. Throwing good sinker, slider and fast ball, Beamon made dramatic entry into league late last September when he shut out the Yankees 1-0 and spoiled Whitey Ford's chances to win 20 games. Al Pilarcik, obtained in trade with Kansas City, will probably start in right field. A good fielder with strong arm, Pilarcik will add punch to powerless lineup. Smooth-fielding Jim Brideweser, purchased from Detroit this spring, adds depth to infield but no extra batting strength. The original bonus baby of Orioles, Bill O'Dell, returns after two years in service to prove that $40,000 he received for signing was no mistake. He has looked impressive on mound this spring. Other rookies with good chance of sticking are Outfielder Carl Powis and Catcher Tommy Patton.
THE BIG IFS
A strong, season-long performance by aging but still stylish George Kell is vital to Orioles if they are to retain grip on sixth place and, possibly, move closer to log jam of clubs between them and Yankees. If Kell proves sound, if young Brooks Robinson can hit major league pitching, if Pitcher Don Ferrarese learns control and Charlie Beamon's bright promise is fulfilled, if First Baseman Bob Boyd's arm troubles are over and Pilarcik hits up to expectations, team will have as cheerful a season as it's possible for an improving second-division club to have.
As Orioles stand now, they are not yet ready to move into the pack fighting for four spots below Yankees—unless one of those four suffers an unexpected relapse. Club's main concern is to continue developing fresh talent for future without dropping in standings. Farm system has already begun to produce (Robinson, Beamon, Tito Francona), and other classy youngsters (Ron Hansen, Gary Walker, Lennie Green) are only a year or two away. Richards is thus in position of having improved team without much chance of finishing higher.
Looks more like football bowl than ball park. Outfield walls are devoid of advertising. Rest rooms are clean and there is waiting only on capacity days. Fans must go to refreshment counters for beer, since city law prohibits sale in stands. Since the round trip consumes about a half inning, a hungry Baltimore fan sometimes has difficult decision to make. Pizzas and crab cakes are specialties.
No. 3 bus takes you from downtown to the ball park—located in an attractive north Baltimore residential section—in 20 minutes for 20¢. Figure on 10 to 15 minutes by car. Parking costs 25¢ on private lots surrounding stadium and is free (except for 25¢ "tip" to "parker") on city lot across the street. Over-all, there is room for 5,500 cars. Beat the usual last-minute Baltimore rush by arriving at least 15 minutes early. It takes about 20 minutes to get out of area by car.
Favorite spot to sit is upper deck with its added five-mile view of Baltimore, if you don't mind long climb and long-range view of diamond. Dress warmly for early-spring and late-season games though, because it gets cool up there. For sun, sit on east side of stadium. If you want comfort, the only seats with backs are in lower deck from home plate to both foul lines. Watch out for thick, round poles blocking your view above 25th row in lower stands.
Ticket information: CHesapeake 3-9800
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
runs batted in