Shrewd, genial Gabe Paul is the soundest front office man in the league, if not in all baseball. One of his best moves was hiring as manager talented, talkative Birdie Tebbetts, who combines natural genius for good public relations with tough, analytical baseball mind. James J. Dykes, the humorist, is Birdie's third-base coach and assistant professor of philosophy. Likable Frank McCormick handles first base chores, and quiet, hard-working Tom Ferrick does wonders with the weak Cincinnati pitching staff.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S REDLEGS
Birdie Tebbetts likes to protest that Redleg hitting isn't as powerful as it looks, but try to get one of his sluggers away from him in a trade and his red face turns pale. This is a club built presently on two things: big bats and sure gloves. Four Redlegs—Ted Kluszewski, Wally Post, Gus Bell and Ed Bailey—hit more home runs last season than the entire St. Louis Cardinal squad, even though Cards led league in team batting average. And this muscular quartet doesn't even include the great rookie Frank Robinson, whose 38 homers were high for Cincinnati. Perhaps this explains why club scored nearly 100 runs more than Cardinals in 1956 and led league in that important item. Redlegs are not flat-footed muscle-bound sluggers (though some cynics look doubtfully upon massive Ted Kluszewski). Post and Bell are very good fielding outfielders and Robinson seems to be developing into an extraordinary one. Bailey is an excellent catcher. Klu is immobile at first, but usually sure-handed when he gets near a ball. Nonslugging members—Shortstop Roy McMillan, Second Baseman Johnny Temple and either Don Hoak or Alex Grammas at third—are masters of their trade, which is primarily fielding of baseballs. Scrawny, bespectacled McMillan is by far the greatest fielding shortstop in game today, and this is said with full knowledge of the skills of such as Luis Aparicio, Gil McDougald, Pee Wee Reese and Willie Miranda.
With characteristic forensic maneuverability, Tebbetts praises his poor pitching while finding fault with his great hitting. This may be part of a massive scheme to hypnotize his in-and-outers into believing that any one of them could throw a baseball through a concrete wall. It may work at that, because Redleg pitchers turned in some surprising figures for such a mediocre group. Best of them (Joe Nuxhall) was lowly 17th in earned run averages among starting pitchers, and staff as a group allowed three runs or more per game more often than any other pitching staff in league. But they seldom let a game fall completely apart; despite their bandbox home park, Crosley Field, Birdie's pitchers gave up fewer home runs than any staff except Milwaukee's gilt-edged crew. A great deal of credit for this goes to tremendously effective relief pitching of Hershell Freeman (14-5, even though he didn't start a game). Hersh allowed home runs at the rate of one every 55 innings (for comparison, Robin Roberts allowed one every six innings). Keeping enemy's score to a moderate, if not modest, total gave the cocky Cincinnati sluggers an incentive to unleash their huge bats and catch up. Nevertheless, neither Nuxhall nor Johnny Klippstein nor Art Fowler nor even 19-game-winner Brooks Lawrence has proved to be a real stopper on the pitching staff, which is a most serious weakness in a team with pennant ambitions.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Don Hoak, an abject failure with Cubs last year, has been a joy in spring training and may beat out Grammas for third base. Another ex-Cub, Warren Hacker, has been working on a sidearm delivery that Tebbetts hopes will revive Warren as starting pitcher. There is good rookie crop, but Redlegs aren't rushing them.
THE BIG IFS
Since slugging is still the key to Cincinnati success, major worry is Ted Kluszewski's ailing hip—because Big Klu remains the big man on this team. Last season, having a "bad" year, he was their best in batting percentage and runs batted in. Unless a brilliant starting pitcher rises out of nowhere, the Redlegs simply must have a healthy Kluszewski.
Paul and Tebbetts were more surprised than the fans when the Redlegs finished a scant two games behind pennant-winning Dodgers last year. They were elated, naturally, but now this year—with more and more enthusiasts jumping on Cincinnati bandwagon—they are growing apprehensive. Club is still building for future: pitching must be developed, bright minor leaguers carefully nurtured, soft spots in lineup and bench strengthened. Gabe and Birdie will not be elated by repeat of last year's record, but they'll be plenty satisfied.
Cincinnati wants a new ball park, but until one comes along will have to put up with Crosley Field, smallest in majors. Partly because of size, however, there are really no bad seats; only sun area is in Sun Deck bleachers (called Moon Deck for night games). Ticket prices are below average ($2.50 box, $2 reserved seat) and ushers are efficient and polite, expect only moderate tip. Refreshment stands are adequate, prices reasonable, food good.
There are problems, however. Rest rooms, although clean, are frequently overcrowded on big days. The streets leading to the park are narrow and crowded with parked cars. There just aren't adequate parking facilities for any sort of crowd. For out-of-towners, however, park is within easy walking distance of Union Terminal. (The Redlegs get more out-of-town spectators than any other major league club.) The best and easiest way to go to a game is by special buses called Baseball Arrows. They run from specified places downtown and cost 70¢ round trip.
Improvements this year include an extensive repainting of park, better lights and colossal new scoreboard. New board will be 55 feet high and 65 feet wide and is designed so that it will be visible from any seat in park. A feature will be the flashing of a player's batting average as of that morning each time he goes to bat.
Ticket information: MAin 1-1248
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
runs batted in