Frank Lane talks more, trades more than any general manager in baseball, is often criticized but apparently has first-division habit. Is still seeking first pennant, however, as is Manager Fred Hutchinson, who came to Cardinals last year after career spent in American League as pitcher and manager for Detroit. A driver on the field, he is mild at other times. Coaches are former Cardinal Stars Terry Moore and Walker Cooper, former Cub Manager Stan Hack and Bill Posedel, once with Dodgers, Braves.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S CARDINALS
Exclusive of pitching and center field, starting lineup in many ways is most impressive in league. Stan Musial at first base has had great spring, could be on way to seventh batting championship. Don Blasingame doesn't hit hard but in rookie year reached base 228 times as leadoff man, proved he could handle job at second. Alvin Dark is slower at short but still possesses uncanny knack for playing hitters, retains great competitive instincts capable of firing up entire infield and is still dangerous with bat. Third Baseman Ken Boyer is so big and strong and fast that 1956 record of .306, 26 home runs and 98 runs batted in was almost disappointing. Wally Moon in left is good outfielder, daring base runner and one of best hitters in league; Del Ennis in right supplies power Cards so badly need; Hal Smith, a .282 batsman in rookie year, is one of brightest young catchers around.
Team lacks proved center fielder who can hit and, in event of Dark's inability to play full season on aging and aching legs, only weak-hitting Rookies Eddie Kasko and Dick Schofield are around to fill in. There is also no real reserve strength outside of half a dozen sluggers with great minor league records who in most cases have failed to demonstrate in previous trials that they can hit major league pitching. But most significant of all is doubt which hangs over pitching staff; unless it really is much better, Cards have gone about as far as they can go. However, there is hope. Big, powerful Herm Wehmeier, righthander whose 12-11 record last year was career best, appears to have found himself and could win 20; Toothpick Sam Jones, whose old pitching pattern featured a strikeout followed by a walk, has changed jerky delivery under eye of Coach Posedel, now shows great increase in control without losing anything off famous curve; Vinegar Bend Mizell is simply too good to be really as bad as he has looked this spring. Other than that, there are the three knuckle bailers who could make opponents' lives miserable: old but steady Murry Dickson, Hoyt Wilhelm, the ex-Giant, and Jim Davis, the ex-Cub. Others who might help are Willard Schmidt, Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and best of the rookies, swift young Tom Cheney and little Bob Mabe.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Team has almost as many new faces as other kind. Important ones could be Jones, Davis, Wilhelm, Cheney and Mabe among pitchers; Joe Cunningham, a first baseman who looked good with the Cards in '54; Hobie Landrith, who will help Hal Smith with the catching; Long Tom Alston at first and Milt Smith at third. There is another Smith named Bobby Gene who could solve problem in center field. This Smith jumped from Class C, where he hit .370, to Double-A, where he hit .299, to St. Louis, where Hutchinson kept him on B Team for a month and then turned him loose. He looks good. If not, Chuck Harmon, who always hits well in minors, has looked better this spring than in earlier big league tests and could handle job. If not, last year's good-field, no-hit regular, Bobby Del Greco, is on hand.
THE BIG IFS
Biggest question mark, of course, is pitching: can Mizell regain his great speed; is Jones's wildness really cured; is Wehmeier ready to become a big winner? Also: can Moon hit in September, will Boyer continue to improve and what about center field? But if Dark's legs hold out, infield will be tight, attack will be sound and Cards can afford to carry weak stick in center field. Which still leaves the pitching.
After 1955 season, Cards were called "best seventh-place team in baseball history." Last year they moved up three notches to fourth, and now that the big weakness, pitching, is ostensibly strengthened, another rise would seem in order; very sharp hitting and good team speed could put them right up among leaders. But the defense, which can be brilliant, sometimes goes to sleep; the power, although adequate with Musial, Boyer and Ennis, is still just a little short. Which means Frank Lane might be wise not to quit trading just yet.
Red and green Busch Stadium, only park in majors to serve draught beer, prides itself on advertising-free fences (except for massive and fascinating Budweiser sign under scoreboard), a large number of really superior rest rooms noted for cleanliness, and top-quality refreshments, which are available at numerous counters or from vendors and which include an excellent relish in help-yourself quantities for grilled hot dogs and hamburgers.
Of 30,305 seats, 21,950 are reserved, 2,041 are lower deck box seats, and only the 2,400 bleacher seats are consistently in sun; to some, equipped with sun-tan lotion, this is part of the charm. Best seats are loge-box area ($3) on second deck, which lures carriage trade; worst are extreme left-and right-field areas of grandstand, both levels, which are usually left empty. Ushers are reminded courtesy is a virtue but sometimes forget; tips are nonregulation but help, particularly steady customers, who are frequently rewarded with soft cushions.
Park easily accessible from downtown by regular or special bus in 25 minutes; most traffic, however, comes from suburbs, which may require drive of as much as an hour. Free-lance parking lots (including bootleg backyard areas) can handle up to 5,000 cars, usually charge about 75¢. Special police help clear park in 30 minutes even on capacity days. An item to notice: park has longest player dugouts in either league.
Ticket information: JEfferson 5-7400
Bobby Del Greco
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
Runs batted in