On the day they won the National League pennant, the following things happened to the Cincinnati Reds: Frank Robinson dropped a fly ball. Jerry Lynch let one fall at his feet. Eddie Kasko picked up a ground ball, started to throw and fell down. Gordy Coleman tripped over a sliding base runner. And Gene Freese, instead of scooping up a ground ball and tagging third base for a force out, decided to let the ball roll foul. It didn't. Fielding, clearly, did not win the pennant for Cincinnati.
Nor was it hitting, although certainly Cincinnati's hitting was better than its fielding. But the team's batting average was still third in the league, and three other teams hit more home runs. What won the pennant for the Reds was pitching, the best in the league; and if the Reds beat the Yankees in the World Series, it will be pitching that will do it.
The most successful of the Cincinnati pitchers this season has been Joey Jay, a huge, bushy-browed, dark-haired, green-eyed right-hander who wears sports jackets and conservative ties, cashmere sweaters, Argyle socks and cordovan loafers, and who does crossword puzzles on the bus to the ballpark. At 26, he considers himself a veteran. "Jim Turner has helped some of the young pitchers on the staff," he says—excluding Joey Jay. Jay also bristles at the suggestion that either Turner, the Cincinnati pitching coach, or Fred Hutchinson, the manager, has performed some bit of magic to convert him (he was a Milwaukee Brave disappointment) into one of the two biggest winners in the National League.
"I'm pitching the same way I did when I was with the Braves," he says. "No one taught me any new pitches or anything like that. The difference is that I'm getting a chance to pitch with the Reds. It's hard to work much when you have guys like Spahn, Burdette and Buhl around. Last year I started 11 games and won six of them. This year I started 34 games and won 21. That's the only difference."
October 8, 1961
The Braves' management might explain it another way. "Lazy," "temperamental" and "self-satisfied" were the words they once used for Joey Jay. The Braves signed Jay to a $50,000 bonus in 1953. He was only 18 and needed experience badly, but under the bonus rule at the time, he had to spend two years with the Braves.
Jay quickly won himself a reputation as an eater and sleeper of championship caliber. He seldom was seen awake without a candy bar or a soft drink, often with both. He would eat in the bullpen during ball games. At one point he weighed 245 pounds, which even at his height—6 feet 4 inches—made him look fat. (A Milwaukee paper once ran a headline saying: POUNDAGE NO PROBLEM, SAYS PONDEROUS JOEY JAY.)
On his first road trip with the Braves he overslept one day and arrived at the park only 20 minutes before gametime. Some of the older players, who resented bonus players anyway, didn't let Jay forget it. Another time Jay fell asleep on the bus coming back from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. When the bus arrived at the ho el, all the players tiptoed off and the bus drove away still carrying Jay, fast asleep.
When Jay was finally eligible for the minors, he had a rough time. "He was a problem then," recalls his friend and former manager, Ben Geraghty. "He hadn't grown up. He had an awful temper. I remember once he threw a handful of sand into the stands after a bad call and I thought the fans were going to scalp him. He had just been married, his control was wild and he had been sitting on a major league bench too long."
Two incidents in Jay's minor league career helped mature him. One night when he was pitching for Wichita he got what he thought was a bad call from the umpire. Jay threw his glove in the air, stalked off the field, took a shower, got dressed and left. Lynn Stone, the business manager, fined Jay $250.
"Jay couldn't believe we would do a thing like that and make it stick," says Stone. "He had been pampered all the time he was in baseball. I told him he was going to have to grow up."
The other incident occurred in Indianapolis when Jay, disgusted with himself, started lobbing the ball up to the plate. "The other team beat the pants off us," Geraghty recalls. "I had a team meeting the next day and told Joey that if he didn't have the guts to act like a man, he could clear out. We won 12 straight after > that and Jay didn't lose another game that season."
Back to the Braves
That season was 1957 and Jay finished with a 17-10 record at Wichita, good enough for him to be recalled by the Braves. During the next three years Jay had some brilliant moments and some dismal ones. He won five games during an 18-day stretch in July of 1958, and it looked as if he had earned a place on the starting rotation alongside Warren Spahn and Lou Burdette. But in late August, Jay broke a finger and was out the rest of the season, missing a chance to pitch in the World Series.
The next season Jay started sluggishly and by mid-July his record was 3-6. Manager Fred Haney blew up. "He just won't do anything in pregame drills. He's fat and he's too lazy to get in shape," Haney said.
"I can't believe Fred really said that," Jay said recently. "Sometimes things have a way of getting mixed up."
Last year Jay's record was 9-8. "I was a spot starter," he says. "Spahn wouldn't pitch against the Dodgers, so I'd take his turn. Buhl didn't go against the Reds, so I'd fill in. I only pitched 133 innings and that's not enough."
During the winter the Braves traded Jay and Juan Pizarro, another young pitcher in much the same predicament as Jay, for Shortstop Roy McMillan. (The Reds then sent Pizarro to the White Sox for Gene Freese.) Fred Hutchinson announced that Jay would be a regular member of the starting rotation and worked him hard in spring training. He was shaky during the exhibition season and suffered a merciless pounding by the Braves, his old teammates. Worse yet, Roy McMillan, the man for whom he was traded, hit two home runs.
"It didn't worry me," Jay says now. "I'm always a slow starter. It takes me a while to work into shape."
Jay also started the season slowly, though it was hardly his fault. In his first three games, the Reds got him no runs. But then, starting with a one-hit shutout against the Phillies, Jay won 13 of his next 14 games, as the Reds moved from last place (April 30) to first place by six games (July 15). Jay continued to win during the summer and, as if fate had arranged it, he faced the Braves in September with 19 wins. The Reds got him only one run, but Jay allowed none, beating the Braves for his 20th victory—a moment he regards with relish.
The pitcher Manager Fred Hutchinson selected to start the Series is a 24-year-old left-hander named Jim O'Toole, son of a Chicago policeman. Over the last half of the season, O'Toole was Cincinnati's best pitcher, finishing with a 19-9 record after being 6-7 in early July.
O'Toole is a confident, breezy young man. When he was a boy, his father tried to change him into a right-hander. He refused. The nuns at school tried next. He still refused. That stubborn streak remains. "No one could tell him how to pitch," says a teammate. "He was going to learn it all himself and by golly if he didn't."
O'Toole signed with the Reds in 1958 for a $50,000 bonus and spent the season in Nashville. He won 20 games, was voted Minor League Player of the Year and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. "I didn't have any speaking lines," he says. "I just smiled. Whitey Ford was on the same show."
O'Toole was a diligent worker. He wrote THINK on the back of his glove, kept tape-recorded notes on how to pitch to batters and jotted down the preachings of Birdie Tebbetts, then the Cincinnati manager. The Reds brought him up in 1959, and he finished with a 5-8 record. Last year he was 12-12.
In one game last year he gave up three bunt singles to Bill White of the Cardinals. The third time it happened, Fred Hutchinson arrived at the mound as though by catapult. "I'm sorry, Babe," O'Toole said brashly. "I gave him my best shot."
"Well, Babe," growled Hutch, "your best shot isn't good enough."
"He's still an immature kid," says one of the Cincinnati sportswriters. "He's likely to call you anything. But it's that same spirit that's going to make him a great pitcher."
Bob Purkey, 32, won 16 games this year. He threw a knuckle ball often enough and well enough to cause the Cincinnati management to buy an exceptionally large catcher's glove like the one Baltimore uses when Hoyt Wilhelm is at work. Purkey does not throw hard. "Watch him warm up and you wouldn't give 5¢ for him," Birdie Tebbetts once said. "But he gets them out."
Several years ago Purkey was watching the Yankees and Braves in the World Series. Eddie Mathews got up with the bases loaded and the Yankees brought in a new pitcher. "How would you like to be coming in to pitch in a position like that?" his wife asked him.
"Just give me a chance," Purkey said to her. He has that chance now.
Jim Brosnan, 32, spent five years in the majors as a pitcher of little distinction, then wrote a book (SI, March 7, 1960)—a witty and acid diary of a baseball season—and suddenly found himself one of the most controversial players in the game. His pitching, as if responding to this stimulus, improved sharply. This year, winning 10 games and saving 16 more, Brosnan has become one of the best relief pitchers in baseball.
Who's interviewing who?
Brosnan presents a curious problem to sportswriters. Cincinnati reporters say they are definitely conscious of the fact that when they interview him, they themselves are being interviewed too. They are, therefore, extremely careful in their choice of words, for what they say is quite likely to show up in the new book Brosnan is writing about Cincinnati's pennant-winning year.
Bill Henry, 33, is a long, lean Texan who has been in and out of the majors since 1952. He doesn't talk much, so of course his nickname is Gabby. Henry is a left-handed relief pitcher who this year won two games and saved 16. He is likely to be used often in the Series against the Yankee left-handed sluggers, Maris, Berra and Blanchard.
Recently Henry was showing his teammates a new shotgun he had bought.
"What do you hunt with that?" he was asked.
"Ducks," he said.
"Where do you hunt?"
"Did you buy that gun here in Chicago?"
But then there is no rule in baseball that pitchers have to talk.