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Detroit TIGERS

April 11, 1960
April 11, 1960

Table of Contents
April 11, 1960

Toothpick
Cards
1960 Olympic Basketball Team U.S.
Bally Ache
Scouting Reports
  • Two full major league teams could be fielded from the Los Angeles roster, and there'd still be fine players on the bench. Yet this club will have to be lucky to win the pennant again

  • Red Schoendienst was out last year but even so the Braves were heavily favored to win the pennant. They failed. Now Red is back, there's a fiery new manager and Milwaukee is favored

  • The San Francisco Giants are hungry. Last year they were just about to eat the cake when it was stolen away. Now they are smarter and tougher, as the National League will soon discover

  • Friend, Mazeroski and Skinner are back inform, and the Pirates are dangerous once more. But without real power, they must play near-perfect baseball to rise above fourth this year

  • Slipping steadily since their third-place finish in 1956, the Reds have frantically plugged first one deficiency and then another. Now, at last, they seem to have a sound, solid team

  • Tied for seventh in 1957, tied for fifth in 1958, tied for fifth again last year, the Cubs have been improving. It would seem that this year...but no. The higher you go the tougher it gets

  • The Cardinals have gained in power and the pitching should be improved. But in 154 games an awful lot of baseballs are destined to find their way safely through that leaky defense

  • The Phillies have junked an old, losing club to give their youngsters a chance. This will be no miracle of 1950, but at least the Phils will lose in a younger, more interesting way

  • The Sox won in a weakened league and no one knows it better than Bill Veeck. He has strengthened the attack and made them the team to beat for the first time since 1920

  • A group of pawns on Frank Lane's chessboard came surprisingly close to capturing last year's pennant. Now, having exchanged a few key men, Lane feels he has a winner

  • The old Yankees are dead, and their replacements are not in the same class. This is a sound team but it is far from being a great one and it will need lots of luck to rise above third place

  • Tactical troubles—at shortstop and first base—still plague the Tigers. But the main problem is strategic: how to stir contented also-rans and give the faithful something really to shout about

  • The Red Sox finished in the second division last season for the first time since 1952. Now Jensen is gone and Williams is going, going. It may be a while before the Sox climb back up

  • After several halfway seasons, the Orioles are now fully committed to their youth program. Youngsters have taken over as the old names fade. It will all pay off...someday

  • There's a new optimism in Kansas City. The outfield is solid, the infield and pitching are better, and Hank Bauer has pepped up the whole ball club. Fifth place could be the result

  • A few years ago Washington was a one-man ball club and a last-place team. Things are brighter now. The Senators are still a cellar team but now they have some players people have heard of

Track
Tennis
Motor Sports
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

Detroit TIGERS

Tactical troubles—at shortstop and first base—still plague the Tigers. But the main problem is strategic: how to stir contented also-rans and give the faithful something really to shout about

For years now complacency has made the Tiger a fat cat. No one knows just why, for Detroit hasn't won a pennant since 1945 and hasn't been a serious contender for 10 years. The Tigers are somewhat like the college boy with his gentleman's C: they are always respectable. They finish fourth or fifth, generally play good baseball and titillate fans around the league by knocking off the Yankees with surprising regularity. They win their share, but little more. Why?

This is an article from the April 11, 1960 issue Original Layout

•NOT MUCH DRIVE

The talent is certainly there. In Harvey Kuenn and Al Kaline (top left) they have two of the best baseball players in either league. Their four starting pitchers—Paul Foytack (below left), Jim Bunning, Frank Lary and Don Mossi—are strong and reliable. The infield is steady if not sensational.

The Tigers' chief problem seems to be a lack of competitive drive. There has been little pressure on them to win. Detroit is a model baseball town (the Tigers topped one million in home attendance last season for the 14th time in 15 years), and the fans keep the club solidly in the black. They may be disillusioned at times—as last spring, when Detroit lost 15 of its first 17 games—but let the team win two games in a row and the auto assembly lines are humming with Tiger talk, the turnstiles with Tiger fans. The front office has, unwittingly perhaps, encouraged this rose-colored view by praising and rewarding good individual performances too liberally. New President Bill DeWitt met with anguished bleats this winter when he insisted on tying individual salaries to group results.

•PLETHORA OF STARS

As in the past, Detroit had more than its share of individual standouts last year. Kuenn won his first American League batting championship with a .353 mark. Kaline finished second with .327, and hit 27 home runs for the third time in his career. Charlie Maxwell, the third outfielder, batted only .251 (22 points below his lifetime average) but led the team in homers (31) and runs batted in (95). Third Baseman Eddie Yost got on base 292 of his 675 times at the plate, the most effective on-base record in the league. Frank Lary, Jim Bunning and Don Mossi won 17 games apiece, making Detroit the only team in either league to have three pitchers with over 15 victories each.

Yet the Tigers were just one of the pack in team performance. They were fourth in club batting, fifth in club fielding, seventh in club pitching. And they ranked first in no single aspect of club batting, fielding or pitching.

•PLUG THE HOLES

This year's Tigers have tried to remedy two nagging deficiencies: shortstop and first base. Detroit hasn't had a first-rate shortstop since Dick Bartell, a star with the 1940 pennant winners. The last first baseman of note was Rudy York, a member of the 1945 world champions. Manager Jimmy Dykes's winter acquisitions—Chico Fernandez and Steve Bilko—will hardly produce pennants in the style of Bartell and York, but they may be improvements. Rocky Bridges, last year's regular shortstop, is a born hustler who, as Dykes says, "will give you a pretty good job wherever you put him." Rocky last year gave one of his better efforts at the plate, hitting .268 before injuries sent him to the bench (his stand-in, Coot Veal, barely topped .200). But Bridges has never been a full-season ballplayer or a better-than-adequate shortstop; after 10 years around the majors he still fights ground balls and now is a step slower in getting to them. Fernandez has the opposite problem. A gifted athlete, he has an easygoing nature that drifts readily into laziness. After two promising years with the Phillies he suddenly and for no apparent reason fell apart last spring: in some 40 games he batted a paltry .211 and was lackadaisical in the field. Phillie Manager Eddie Sawyer, who some say harbored a grudge, banished Chico to the bench and employed him only rarely as a pinch runner and pinch hitter.

Can Fernandez help the Tigers? A half-serious joke around the Lakeland camp this spring ran: "The Tigers will be O.K. if Fernandez hits Bilko's weight." Big Steve weighed in at 249, so not much is demanded of Chico.

This may be Bilko's last chance to crack the major leagues. He has had more than his share of chances, dating back to 1949, when he reached the Cardinals after five years in the minors. Just a fair fielder and an average base runner, he keeps bobbing up in the majors for only one reason: the awesome power that has made a shambles of lesser leagues (148 HRs, 428 RBIs in three seasons on the Pacific Coast). The lure of the long ball is irresistible, and Bilko will get a thorough trial. An added incentive for Big Steve is that he needs one more year in the majors to qualify for the pension plan. Ready to step in if he fails is Gail Harris, who fell from 20 home runs and .273 in 1958 to nine home runs and .221 in 1959. In spring training Harris discovered that he had eye trouble (nearsighted in one eye, farsighted in the other) but abandoned glasses after a brief trial.

The addition of a run-producing first baseman would beef up the feeble lower half of Detroit's batting. The team as a whole led both leagues in number of men left on base.

Second base is in the workmanlike hands of Frank Bolling. Last year's fill-in, Ted Lepcio, went to the Phillies in the deal for Fernandez. Now ex-Brave Casey Wise, a slick glove man, is in line for the utility job. Yost, one of baseball's iron men in his Washington days, is still good for 140 games at third base, but to give him an occasional rest, Dykes may keep stocky Steve Demeter, although Demeter would rather be traded in order to have a chance at a regular job.

Three Big Ten alumni fought veterans Johnny Groth and Neil Chrisley for the reserve outfield positions. Em Lindbeck, former Illinois quarterback, hit .284 at Atlanta last year and is a fine fielder. George Thomas, who attended Minnesota, looked good but may not be ready to hit major league pitching. Best bet to stick is Steve Boros, from the University of Michigan, a powerful 185-pounder who hit .305 and drove in 85 runs for Birmingham.

•A REAL BIG FOUR
Lary, Bunning, Mossi and Foytack started all but 20 of Detroit's games last year and may have to do it again. No surefire fifth starter has been discovered. Ray Semproch, a National League sensation in 1958, was obtained for that purpose but may wind up in the bullpen. And much as the starters need help, the bullpen needs it more. Ray Narleski, billed as the strong right arm of the relievers, won only four of 16 games and compiled a horrible ERA of 5.80. Pete Burnside and Dave Sisler, a couple of ex-Ivy Leaguers, and journeyman Tom Morgan will do fair work, but that's about all. Rookie Bob Bruce may be able to help; he is now in his eighth year in the Tiger system and won't have many more shots at the parent club. He had a so-so year at Charleston in 1959 but led the Puerto Rican winter league with a sparkling 2.05 ERA.

View this article in the original magazine

TWO PHOTOSPHOTOBunningPHOTOHarrisPHOTOLaryPHOTOMaxwellPHOTOMossiPHOTOYost

BASIC ROSTER

NO.

NAME

POSITION

1959 RECORD

1

EDDIE YOST

3B

.278

2

FRANK BOLLING

2B

.266

3

JOHNNY GROTH

OF

.235

4

CHARLIE MAXWELL

LF

.251

5

GAIL HARRIS

1B

.200

6

AL KALINE

CF

.327

7

HARVEY KUENN

RF

.353

8

ROCKY BRIDGES

SS

.268

9

CHICO FERNANDEZ

SS

.211

10

RED WILSON

C

.263

11

LOU BERBERET

C

.216

29

STEVE BILKO

1B

Minors

36

STEVE BOROS

OF

Minors

14

JIM BUNNING

P

17-13

15

DON MOSSI

P

17-9

16

RAY SEMPROCH

P

3-10

17

FRANK LARY

P

17-10

18

TOM MORGAN

P

1-4

20

RAY NARLESKI

P

4 12

21

PAUL FOYTACK

P

14-14

1959 TEAM PERFORMANCE

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

4

76

78

18

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

BATTING

PITCHING

KUENN

.353

MOSSI

17-9

KALINE

.327

LARY

17-10

YOST

.278

BUNNING

17-13

HOME RUNS

RUNS BATTED IN

MAXWELL

31

MAXWELL

95

KALINE

27

KALINE

94

YOST

21

KUENN

71