For me the official National League season opened on January 10, in Chicago. I was still working at the Meyerhoff advertising agency, and called home to see if there were enough olives for the Martini hour. My wife said, "The contract came. Guess how much?"
We had been looking for the contract in the mail each day. We had talked about it for six months. I'd won twice as many games as I'd ever won before in one year in the majors, and I'd saved seven more games in relief. The only question in my mind was how much of a raise I'd get.
I cut out from the agency in time to get the first commuter train home. She greeted me with her fighting smile, and handed me the registered letter from Bing Devine, the Cardinal general manager. Devine had written: "Please find enclosed your St. Louis contract calling for salary of $16,000. If this is satisfactory, return to me as soon as possible."
Hanging my coat and hat in the closet, I took the Martini she held out to me and gulped down the olive that had risen in my craw.
"You aren't thinking of signing that, are you?" she asked.
"Good God, Anne, I'm no better off after a good year than I was the year I got out of the Army!" I said. "This doesn't mean a thing! A thousand-dollar raise! He'll spend that much on phone calls before the season starts! Maybe he's trying to test my sense of humor."
I had been tempted to ask for $25,000! I boiled over for one full page at my typewriter. "How insulting can you get?" I wrote. "Here I proved I could do a job for you, and you throw me a bone." Then, yanking these unmailable comments from the typewriter, I paused to regroup forces. I sat in my half-paid-for lounge chair in our heavily mortgaged home, with the Chicago winter running the fuel bill into five figures. Spring training would start February 20...sea gulls, palm trees, fishing boats lazing on the blue Gulf. I needed a plan.
"The first principle of contract negotiation," said Musial one day, "is don't remind 'em of what you did in the past; tell them what you're going to do in the future." I decided to duel with Devine by air-mail letters. His first move was obviously a feint. A $1,000 raise was ridiculous. My counteroffer would be equally unrealistic. "Perhaps you would reconsider," I wrote, "on the basis of assurance on my part to do as well as I did last year. If my record is as good as it looks, any improvement would obviously be worth twice your offer."
Three weeks went by, and not a word from St. Louis. "Let's pack up and go to Staunton," I suggested. "We'll visit with your father. Then, if Devine and I ever do get together, I'll have a running start to St. Pete."
I called Devine to let him know where I'd be. "I'll be in Staunton, Virginia," I told him. "You can reach me at Colonel S. S. Pitcher's home. He's a mathematics professor and loves to help figure out problems."
If Devine had me on the run, I'd let him chase me a little anyway.
He apologized most graciously for not getting in touch, engulfing me in a burst of warm wishes that we could really get together for a long talk. "There are three elements that affect a ball club's basic salary budget for players," he said, "the statistics of the player's performance the preceding year; the player's future—how long can he be expected to last; the ball club's position in the standings."
By those standards, who would get a raise? This argument, in expert hands, would obviously reduce all the Cardinals to beggary. "Bing," I interrupted, "we're not arguing about last year. Let's stick with next season, O.K.? Now, $20,000 is a symbol of success with me. When I first started playing pro ball I was making $125 a month. My goal became symbolized by that $20,000 per year. Without straining credulity too much, you might say I'm close to realizing that goal. I don't feel that I should compromise at this time."
"Life is a series of compromises," he opined. "I'd like to be making as much as I think I deserve, too."
The Shenandoah Valley glowed hospitably under a pre-spring zephyr. Soft showers stirred the apple-blossom buds. I savored some of the best freeloading in baseball. I was sipping some when the last offer came. "This is the best I can do," Devine said. "We've talked security, pennant, high cost of living, financial goals in life, prospective parenthood. Now let's get serious," he said, slowly and distinctly and finally.
"Give me five hundred more and I'll settle," I said.
"Why argue about $500?" he said.
FEBRUARY 19: The day we arrived in St. Petersburg, newspapers described the holdouts on the Cardinal club. Vinegar Bend Mizell's reaction was that of any shrewd, hard-nosed Alabama farmer who always got plenty of peanuts for his peanuts, and why shouldn't the subsidy remain the same? If the farmer has a bad year on the farm nowadays the Government still supports him in the style to which he has become accustomed. "It's a matter of principle!" cried Wilmer.
"We're still pretty far apart," said Devine.
"You can't win," said Larry Jackson, as Wilmer signed just one day before we opened.
FEBRUARY 20: From our rented beach house at Indian Rocks I drove to Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg. The first workout was scheduled for 10 o'clock. The clubhouse was filled by 9, and we sat around for an hour, anxious to go. August Busch Jr., the owner of the Cardinals, sat in the background, smoking a pipe. Solly Hemus, the new manager, was understandably nervous. Spring training has a convocation ceremony that follows strict patterns all over the baseball world. Manager speaks: "Wanna welcome all you new fellows; wanna impress on you that you each got a chance to make this ball club. We got a big job to do, and with a couple breaks I think we can win the pennant. These are my coaches; what they say you can consider it came from me."
Solly quickly, and wisely, turned the floor over to Howard Pollet, the pitching coach, a quiet, soft-spoken gentleman. He echoed Hemus' remarks about each pitcher having a chance to win a job. And he reminded the pitchers that they were not going to impress him by throwing hard during the first three days: "All you'll do is hurt your arms and make it harder on everybody. Just be patient and we'll give you a chance to show us what you can do."
Sitting in front of me and spitting tobacco juice into the sandbox was Marv Grissom. I nudged him and asked for a chew as Johnny Keane and Harry Walker, two other coaches, spoke a few words. They had both managed for years in the minor leagues, and since Solly had already used the traditional manager's speech they had nothing much to say. Solly brought it all to a close. He said, "Let's go get 'em!" We charged out of the clubhouse into the sun.
FEBRUARY 24: I was reading the stock-market quotations before the workout when Sal Maglie arrived. He walked down the aisle between the lockers, carrying his duffel bag and shaking hands right and left. The sight of Maglie sidling toward me was worth a fanfare. Sal isn't a pleasant-looking man—he looks like an ad for the Mafia, in fact—but he has a nature that transforms his face in the light of any friendships. If he feels that his troubles also trouble you, he will even listen to you tell them. "Hey, veteran right-hander," I called, "is everything all right?"
"Well, I tell you, driving down here from Clearwater," he said, loosening an impeccably tasteful tie, "that's where I'm staying, with a friend there, I felt my back going stiff on me. Feels like pleurisy, or something. I'm going to talk to Solly about running too much today. How's everything with you, Professor?"
"Sal," I said, "Grissom was right. He said that you and he got it made down here. Train on your own, and all that. Like, you reach 40, and you tell them how much you run. Is that right?"
"Well, Grissom's a lot older than me, you know," said Maglie, referring apparently to the number of hours separating their respective 41st birthdays. "What he says about training wouldn't apply to me too much. He still throws just as hard as he did when Ty Cobb was breaking into O.B. Whaddya say, Griss?"
"Any lies this guy tells I can double," he said, pumping Maglie's hand. The contrast between Grissom's huge, fast-balling meathook and Sal's slim-fingered curve-ball claw pinched my memory. Many suns had set on pitchers' duels that featured Maglie and Grissom. Finesse and Power. With so many young prospects cluttering up the place, these two old gentlemen would add some much-needed balance to the clubhouse picture. There's something to be said for a few less-hungry faces staring at you, avid to take your job away.
MARCH 1: "How can you expect me to run with a foot like that, Doc? Look at the length of those nails, and that little blister there. No, no, next to that soft corn. Could you fix me up in time for the workout, Doc? Ordinary man would be in the hospital."
Doc Bauman's eyes were getting pouchy. During the latest clubhouse convocation he said, "I'll be here from 7 in the morning, and I'll be here as late as you want me."
Augie Busch cheered this loyal devotion to the Cardinal cause. He praised the speechmaking of Hemus, Devine and Bauman. "Anheuser-Busch must get back up on top again!" he cried. "The Cardinals give us a great deal of pleasure when we win, and they cause plenty of cussing and crying when you lose."
Verbal Instruction was the first order of the day. Johnny Keane and Hemus ("What I say you can consider as coming from him," said Solly) and fifty players gathered at the mound. Keane raised his fungo bat (all coaches religiously carry fungo bats in the spring to ward off suggestions that they aren't working), cleared his throat and said, "Today we are going to teach you how to run bases."
Since we presumably knew how to get on base, How to Run Bases was the logical sequel.
"Fundamentals are important," said Keane. "Without fundamentals you can't get to first base in this game. We're going to go over things that you should know, because I...and Solly would have, too...learned more coaching runners than we—or rather I—ever learned running...."
Hemus interrupted to say that he had never been a coach, but that whatever Keane said you could consider came from him—Solly. "And be aggressive on those bases, whatever John has to say," he added. "Go ahead, John."
Keane pounded a point into the dirt in front of the mound with his fungo bat. "Don't keep your eyes on the ball, boys."
My ears pointed, twanged and came to attention. Don't keep your eyes on the ball! Why, for 12 years I'd been warned that bodily harm was imminent for the ballplayer who didn't keep his eye glued to the ball, be it thrown, batted or lying in the outfield grass.
The suddenly awakened players gathered more closely around the heretical coach. "What I mean is," said Keane, pleased with the attention he was finally receiving, "don't watch the ball after you hit. Just watch it till it hits the bat, then forget it. The bat will do the rest. Your job is to get out of the batter's box and down to first base as fast as you can. You might even get to second base if the ball actually is a base hit. And let me point out something right now, that it isn't the beautiful slide into second or your blazing speed going from first to second that turns a single into a double and gives you that extra base any time. No, sir! Believe me, I've seen it a thousand times. If you can just concentrate on running as soon as you hit the ball you can get all the extra jump you need in the first four steps you take away from the plate. By the time you get 12 feet up the line to first you should be going as fast as you can go, and don't stop till you have to. Round that bag.
"Now, we got you on first base and we tell you, 'One man out.' Please nod your head or something. We know that you know there is only one out, but we want to be sure. We want you to be friendly with us, and talk to us down at first. So when we say, 'One man out' it is our little way of getting to know you better.
"You're on first base now, and the next hitter hits a ball in the air between the outfielders. We don't want you to stand halfway down to second, admiring the scenery and waiting until the outfielder catches the ball. We want you down at second ready to tag that bag when he drops the ball or can't get to it. It would be smart, boys, to know what the outfielder's name is, and how well he throws the ball from the outfield, and even what he eats for breakfast, and how much he had to drink the night before, because if he can't get the good jump on the ball the next day you can take that extra base on him every time and that is what wins ball games, boys. This is your business, boys, and instead of studying the stock market you ought to be studying the fielding statistics of the outfielder who might not be able to throw you out if only you knew he had a bad arm."
Hemus broke in with, "And you don't have to wait till the outfielder catches the ball before you tag up. Cheat a little bit, especially at first and second when you're going to tag up after a fly ball. They'll never call it on you, so just before the ball hits the outfielder's glove, make your break and take off running.
"And another thing. When you're on first and the next guy hits a ground ball, there's only one thing you should have on your mind. Knock that shortstop or second baseman down. Don't let him make a double play. He's only 90 feet away and he has to catch the ball, tag second and worry about you hitting him, and he might not even make that play. When you slide into second keep that front foot up in the air. You don't have to cut him, mind you, but sometimes that's the way it goes. Your job is to break up the double play."
MARCH 5: Why can't pitchers hit? Because I've blushed in answering that question too many times in the past 10 years, I find myself taking it seriously. I can answer, as I often have, "We don't get the necessary practice" or, "Pitchers bear down harder on other pitchers" or, "Who says I can't?" but serious meditation has led me to the galling conclusion that the answer lies not within me at all. Nor within the subjective conscience of any nonhitting pitcher. If you don't hit, you can't hit, probably. Good God, it might really be true!
Shaken by this horrible possibility, I rushed out to right field, seeking the truth. At Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg there is a plot of ground 75 feet long, 15 feet wide, completely enclosed by a mesh of three-ply cord. At one end of this cage stands a pitching machine roughly the height of Whitey Ford, with flat tires, guts of iron and a motor in its rear. This is Iron Mike, and he throws baseballs in the general direction of the plate 60 feet away, much as a flesh-and-blood pitcher does.
The only human element in this training procedure is Paul Waner, an ex-wizard at hitting major league pitching, and the object of my search for an authoritative opinion on the question: Can Pitchers Hit or Not?
"Why not?" said Paul. "Let me see you swing a bat."
Waner looks like a bearded gnome, the figment of a wild Irish imagination. At his best playing weight, 140 pounds, he could have passed for an ex-jockey sidling up to tout a favorite horse. Yet Fred Fitzsimmons, the pitching coach when I was with the Cubs, said Waner hit the ball through the box harder than any other hitter that Fitz faced in the major leagues.
"Frankly, Paul," I said, as Waner racked up a dozen balls in the pitching machine, "if you can make a hitter out of me, you're worth more money—both you and Iron Mike."
"Let's see you hit a few first, then I'll see if I can help you." Waner waved me to the other end of the cage and plugged in his pitcher. For the next few minutes the only sounds to be heard were the hum of the electric motor, the swish of my bat and occasionally a few plops and plinks as the ball and bat connected haphazardly.
"You're lounging at the ball," said Paul.
Perhaps he meant lunging. But then I might just as well have been lying on a chaise longue, criticizing Iron Mike's control.
"The first thing you have to try to do," said Paul, "is belly-button. Then you've got to really block when you block. You're hitting the bottom half of the ball and you should be trying to hit the top half. You got to wait for the ball to get right up to the plate and you got to pop those wrists when you swing. You're not doing any of those things. That's why you're lounging at the ball."
Some of Iron Mike's pitches were going over my head as well as over the plate. "Now we'll take up breathing," Paul added, "as soon as I fix this thing."
Breathing I was relatively familiar with, so I decided to go along with the rest, and resumed my position at the plate while Paul worked on Iron Mike with a pair of pliers. "Now, wait for that ball to get right over the plate," he said. "Then belly-button. Get your stomach out in front as fast as you can, and that means you can't step first, then turn. It's all one movement. Snap your hips around and the bat will follow up naturally."
The crack of the wood sounded so good that I thought my hip must have popped out of place. The ball whistled past Iron Mike. It got no reaction from the machine. But it pleased Paul, who said, "That's what you call 'belly button.' "
"I guess I never could stomach those pitches before, Paul," I said happily.
My pun whistled by his ears, and he proceeded. The next pitch was at my head. Iron Mike hasn't much of a sense of humor either. "When you swing at the ball," Waner went on, "try hitting down on the ball, right through it, like. When you hit the top half of the ball, she'll rip through the infield like a scared rabbit. You won't be popping the ball up, or hitting those easy fly balls."
"I thought a hitter was supposed to keep the bat level when he swung, Paul."
"Well, that's what they say, because that's what it looks like, but it's just an optical illusion. What you do is roll your wrists so you can cut into the top of the ball, so you can't have the bat level, really. When you see the ball right there"—he pointed to a spot two feet in front of him, belt high, just ahead of his front hip—"you move. Slack that hip, snap that belly button around, cut down on the top of the ball, and watch her go."
I said the timing was the tough part, waiting for the ball till it got 'right there.'
"Take a deep breath just before the pitch starts coming," said Waner. "Then hold your breath till you start-to swing. That makes you relax and wait."
I had visions of myself turning blue in the face waiting for a slow curve. I couldn't quite get used to the idea that I should try to hit just part of the ball. It had always been hard enough to see all of the damn thing and to hit any part of it. We gathered the balls from all over the cage, and racked them up for another session. My hands were forming tiny blood blisters as I swung my Wally Moon model at Iron Mike's pitching. But all I could think about was the way the balls sounded when I hit them. A pitcher learns to tell by the sound whether or not a ball is well hit. On the mound you quickly put the three sensations of sight, feel and hearing together, and you know for sure that the ball is gone, man, gone. You watch your pitch go just where you didn't want to throw it, with not quite as much stuff on it as you wish, and...! What a vicious sound a line drive makes.
Why Can't Pitchers Hit?
Just call me tiger, Dad.
MARCH 9: Hemus called a meeting for the last workout before the start of the exhibition season. "We're going to use the same signs in these games as we will all year," he said, "so let's pay attention." He turned to Johnny Keane. "John?"
Keane jumped onto a bat trunk, waving his ever-present fungo stick for quiet. "These are the signs we're gonna give from third base," he said. "Solly will be on the bench." He waved his bat, relegating Hemus forever to the dugout. "You pitchers get together with the catchers later and work out your own signs. These are just for hitters, and we don't want anybody missing signs cause it just messes up everybody, including the guy who messes it up. Now, then, we're gonna have an indicator, signs for bunting, taking and hit-and-run. We're gonna have a take-off sign, and a sign for the squeeze play.
"The most important is the indicator. When I rub my hand over the cardinal on my shirt, that means a sign is on. You see me rub the bird, and you watch my right hand, my right hand only. Forget I got a left hand. With my right hand I'm gonna touch some part of my uniform or body. One touch—it might be my cap, or neck, or pants, or sleeve—one touch and you're taking. Two touches and you're bunting. Three touches, hit-and-run on that pitch cause the runner is going. Those are the three signs you gotta look for when you go up to hit.
"Now, when you're at the plate, look down at me at every pitch. Maybe I don't wanna give you a sign, but I may be pulling at my pants leg, or rubbing my ear, or tugging at my cap, anyway. They will be looking at me, too, trying to steal the signs, so I'll be trying to confuse them by doing the same things when I'm not giving a sign as I do when I am. Get me? Only when you see me hit that bird do you know something's on. And when I give you the indicator, count the number of touches that follow. Maybe I'll give you more than three signs! Maybe I'll give you four or five! I'm just doing that as a decoy, in case they start to pick something up, or we suspect they might. It only means something if I use one, two or three touches after the indicator."
Keane had the earnest manner of a second lieutenant outlining the intricacies of an espionage detail. All major league clubs use indicators, decoys and signs for everything except nose-blowing. Yet, 90% of the time the situation determines the strategy, and an experienced player knows who will bunt or when the batter is taking.
"The steal sign," Keane went on, "will be given to the runner only after the batter gets the take. We don't want you hitting when that runner is trying to steal. If we did, we'd give the hit-and-run. The steal sign is either hand gripping the opposite elbow. It's a figure 4, and that's for stealing!"
He grinned. Nobody seemed to get it. "Let's not be missing the steal sign. We're gonna run a lot this year cause we've got a running club. That right, Solly?"
Hemus nodded. "Whatever John says you can consider it came from me."
"Now, there's the squeeze," Keane went on. "We have just one squeeze play. Suicide! You gotta bunt the ball! So you gotta know the play's on, and we gotta know you know it. So, with a man on third base, I rub across the bird and touch my pants leg. One touch after the indicator! You're bunting! You answer me, telling me you got the sign by showing me the palm of your hand. Don't wave your hand at me. Pick up some dirt, look the other way and rub the back of your hand across your back pocket. Then I see your palm and I know you got the squeeze.
"Now I yell to the runner on third, 'Make the ball go through!' And that's the sign to him that he's going in on the next pitch. Get that, you runners? If the batter answers the sign by showing you the palm of his hand you still gotta wait for me to say, 'Make the ball go through!' "
Keane cupped his hands to his mouth as he described what he would do during a squeeze play. His fungo bat slipped to the floor. Its clatter echoed in the tense silence. The squeeze play commands breathless attention from ballplayers. Actually, major league clubs don't use it 20 times a year, and it works only half the time.
MARCH 25: Sal Maglie has gone down the drain. Some days I can remember clearly everything that happened. Some days in baseball are not easily forgotten. Some days I'm certain I'm not losing my memory at all, just some friends. Baseball friendships are mostly transient affairs; ballplayers come and go. You don't know from year to year whether you'll be congratulating a man for hitting a home run or knocking him down with a fast ball so he won't. In spring training you see them leaving every day.
This day is one I remember clearly. Pollet had decided to permit his pitchers to throw 75 pitches before he took them out. Maglie was the second pitcher of the day. The pitchers who weren't working in the game had to run for 30 minutes. By 12:30 one workout was over. The pitchers who weren't working staggered into the clubhouse and sat, sopping wet, in front of their lockers.
Maglie, sipping soup from a paper cup, sat on the rubbing table, agitating each player as he went by. "Atta way, boys, sweat it out," he said. "Best way to get in shape. Right, Doc?"
Doc Bauman laughed.
"How in hell you gonna get in shape then, Sal?" yelled Broglio, mopping his face with a towel.
"Kid, I've run more miles in this game than you've thrown strikes." Maglie tossed the soup cup away and picked up his glove.
"Hey, veteran right-hander, are you pitching today?" I asked. "If you are I'm not going swimming. I'm going to put my uniform back on and watch from the bench. Because you are such a wonderful example to us young pitchers."
"Maybe you ought to try learning something instead of poppin' off, young man," Maglie said. He walked out of the clubhouse as the loudspeaker started to blare out the lineups. As the second pitcher of the day, he had to sit in the bullpen until the sixth or seventh inning. I showered, put on a dry uniform, drank a cup of soup, took a pack of gum and a bag of chewing tobacco from the trunk, rolled up my sleeves to get a suntan on my biceps and joined Sal in the pen. Grissom was there. We decided to agitate Maglie, since this was the first time he'd be pitching in a game all spring. "Veteran right-hander, I was beginning to think you were down here just to pitch batting practice," I said.
"It takes a while," he said. "My back's been a little sore, and my arm's just getting to feel good now. I'm a little bit older than you, y'know, Broz."
"You're a little bit older than everybody, Maglie," said Grissom. "They're making me stay out here today just in case you get in trouble and I have to come bail you out. And I could be fishin', too."
"Could be worse, old man," said Sal. "You don't have to walk so far to get me as you did at the Polo Grounds. Who the hell you callin' old, anyway? That number on your back is damn near right. Forty-two. No, that's shy a year."
Pollet cut the comedy, asking, "Sal, how long you need? He's going two more innings."
We scored two runs in our half and led the Phillies by three in the seventh as Maglie stripped off his windbreaker and said to the catcher, "Let's go, son, gotta warm up my little dab. Shut up, Grissom."
I walked up to the dugout for a drink of water, and sat next to the fountain where I was almost in line with the mound and home plate.
Sal got a big hand when his name was announced as the pitcher. But he was hanging his curve. Two men were out when Ed Bouchee hit one over the center-field fence. After a walk and a single Maglie got them out, but he looked like he'd already pitched seven innings himself, and the tension of tightly strung nerves was showing.
"Can't get my rhythm," he said on the bench. "I'm wild high, can't get my breaking stuff where I want." Little balls of sweat popped and ran down the hollowed cheeks of his unshaven face.
When a pitcher starts doubting his own stuff he prays for an easy inning. He needs one. But there was no easy inning left for Sal. He was trying, mixing his stuff—a curve, then a wasted fast ball, a slider on the hands, or a slow curve for a strike, a brush back and a change of pace. But they were hitting the strikes as if they knew what was coming, and Philadelphia quickly loaded the bases.
Dave Philley was announced as a pinch hitter
"Come on, big man," I yelled.
As I say, some days I can remember clearly everything that happened. Some days in baseball are not easy to forget. But this particular day ended right there in my mind, with one pitch that stopped the clock. "Make that a good pitch there, now," I said to myself. But Sal didn't make it. Maybe he couldn't do it. Maybe he was too old. It was high, and Philley hit it over the right-field fence to knock Maglie out of the box, beat us a ball game and crush any hope that Sal might be helpful that season.
"I had him set up all right for my pitch," Sal said as we walked to the parking lot together. "I meant to get the slider in on his hands. You know what I mean? I just didn't get it in there, and...you gotta jam him. You know that."
He climbed into his big, spotless Cadillac. "I need more work," he said. "I have to be sharper than that. Think I'll ask Solly if I can pitch some batting practice tomorrow."
APRIL 3: Slowly swelling waves of the Gulf lapped softly at the sand on the morning of our last day inn Florida. I carried all but one of the deck chairs from the patio to the porch, stacking them next to the door and just a few feet away from my own luggage. The big house was empty. My kids were gone, my car was gone. Anne was on the road again. Wife! You should have married an Army man, like the Colonel planned. "But I didn't like the thought of all that moving from one place to another," she said.
I walked through the house, upstairs and down. The dresser drawers were empty, the closets were clean, the kitchen cabinets were bare. In the refrigerator I found two cans of beer and a half-empty jar of pimento.
Taking a can opener from my shaving kit, I walked out on the beach, picking up the last beach chair. Plunging the chair legs into the sand, I sat back, happy with the immediate moment, regretting the soon-to-be-reminiscent spring training, apprehensive about the future season. It had been a cold winter in the North. St. Louis was north. I could feel the cold already.
The St. Petersburg Times said: "Fair and warmer...." Already the morning sun was making my beer can sweat. I picked up a razor blade to cut out the sports page headline: BROSNAN, MIZELL, HAL SMITH BRIGHTEST FOR CARDS.
"We'll win more than we did down here," Hemus had said. "It rained a lot. But it wasn't the fault of the weather. Everybody is in pretty good shape, and we've had some pleasant surprises."
An uneasy feeling gnawed at the pride I felt from reading the headline. Everything had gone well this spring. Physically I had been loose and healthy. Mentally I had been content. My mistakes hadn't cost me—those sliders that hung; most of them had been popped up in the air. Could it be that I had been granted custody of the Golden Arm?
"This is the time of the year we can afford to experiment," Hemus had said, "and make mistakes. We're in a little slump now as far as runs are concerned. But we'll come out of it. And what better time than now!"
What better time, indeed, to drain the last suds from a can of beer and throw the can into the waves! Give that Budweiser a good start and it may go all the way. I watched the sun gleam on the surface of the water-tossed can, until a car horn beeped a summons. Then I gathered my luggage, locked the doors and headed North to open the season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Now 30, James Brosnan broke into the majors with the Cubs in 1954 (and into print in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, July 21, 1958), last year won nine and lost six with the Cards before he was traded to the Redlegs. This account of the Cardinals' 1959 spring training will form part of his forthcoming book, The Long Season, which will be published this summer by Harper & Brothers.