Spring is a time for rookies, and this spring there were more rookies in the training camps of Florida, Arizona and California than ever before. And for a simple reason: there were more training camps than ever before. Added teams mean added jobs, a "rookies' market."
To make the supply equal the demand, all shapes and sizes of rookies showed up this spring. There were rookies with long names like Risenhoover and Monteagudo, and rookies with short names like Pate and Cook. There were tall rookies—Tom Parsons is 6 feet 7—and short rookies—Sandy Valdespino is 5 feet 8. There was Gary Sanossian, 17, born just a few weeks before D day, and Diomedes Olivo, God bless him, who is 42. (Olivo, a longtime hero in his native Dominican Republic, has pitched well for Pittsburgh this spring and has a good chance of making the team.) There was even a rookie named John Kennedy; naturally, he is on the Washington roster.
There also were some rookies who may play decisive roles in this year's pennant races. Ray Washburn (left) of the St. Louis Cardinals, for example. Washburn is a husky 23-year-old right-handed pitcher, a bright, clean-cut-looking boy who graduated from Whitworth College in Spokane in 1960. Soon after graduation he was spotted by a Cardinal scout while pitching in a college tournament in Iowa. The scout asked Washburn to try out in front of the Cardinals and Washburn agreed.
The Cardinals were scheduled to play a night game in Pittsburgh when Washburn arrived. He pitched batting practice that evening and gave the St. Louis batters fits. "Who's that guy?" Bob Nieman asked. Somebody told him. "Well, sign him up and pitch him tonight," Nieman said.
April 2, 1962
The Cardinals did sign Washburn, and to a $40,000 bonus, but they assigned him to Rochester. Last year with Charleston his record was 16-9 with a 2.34 ERA. Late in the season he was brought up to the Cardinals, where he won one and lost a 2-1 game on a vociferously disputed balk. This spring Washburn has looked strong, and Manager Johnny Keane discusses him as if he were already an established 20-game winner. If Washburn comes through as planned it will make the Cardinal pitching staff, already strong, the best in the National League.
Larry Burright is another rookie who could affect the National League pennant race. Burright is a 24-year-old second baseman with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He ranges widely, especially to his right, is fast on the double-play pivot, has a strong arm and is a singles hitter.
Perhaps Burright's prime asset is his eagerness. "He's the first one to the breakfast table, the first on the field and the last one off," says Coach Pete Reiser. "He's alert and intelligent." He also was leading the team in hitting through most of spring training.
If Burright can play second base, he will give the Dodgers—along with Shortstop Maury Wills—a stable double-play combination on a team that cries out for stability. Without him the Dodger infield, with no accomplished first or third basemen, will be completely unsettled, perhaps too much so to win the pennant.
Ted Savage will not be involved in any pennant race this year because he will play right field for the Philadelphia Phillies. Savage, who is 25, graduated from Lincoln University in Missouri with a bachelor of science degree and for the past few winters he has taught school. Savage is also a basketball player of such quality that he was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks. "I think I had a good chance to make the team," he says, "but I pulled a leg muscle during the tryouts. I still hope to play professional basketball someday."
He is a free swinger, what his manager at Buffalo described as a "rattlesnake hitter." A rattlesnake hitter, as Kerby Farrell explains it, is someone who will look just awful on the same pitch twice in a row. The pitcher shrugs his shoulders, throws the same pitch a third time and the rattlesnake hitter hits it out of the park. Savage won the International League batting title last year with a .325 average. Near the end of the season Farrell suggested that Savage might pick up a few hits by bunting. Savage declined. "I want to win this thing my way," he told Farrell. The Phillies can use a man with pride.
In the American League two rookies—Tom Tresh and Phil Linz—each hope to become the Yankee shortstop, at least until Tony Kubek returns from service. Tresh is the son of Mike Tresh, a former catcher with the White Sox. "I just can't remember the time when I didn't have a baseball in my hands," Tom Tresh says. "My folks have movies taken when I was 2 years old which show me throwing a ball around our apartment in Chicago."
Tresh is now 23, 6 feet 1 and solidly built. Last year he hit .315 at Richmond, for which he was named Rookie of the Year in the International League.
Phil Linz is 22 and is built along the same lines as Tresh. He wears steel-rimmed glasses when playing ball and recently he decided to wear them off the field, too. In spite of trouble with his eyes, Linz hit .349 with Amarillo to lead the Texas League last year.
So far this spring Tresh and Linz have shared the shortstop job without noticeably affecting the efficiency of the Yankee machine. There are those who believe the Yankees could win the pennant without a shortstop.
The Baltimore Orioles, a team that hopes to be a contender, have come up with a baby giant named John Wesley Powell, nicknamed "Boog." Powell is only 20 but he stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 235 pounds. A left-hand-hitting left fielder, he batted .321 with Rochester last year and showed plenty of power. His only problem seems to be an inability to catch fly balls, but minor details like that have never kept a long-ball hitter out of the major leagues. Powell will make it, and so, probably, will Mike Hershberger, Joe Horlen, Bob Rodgers, Dick Radatz, Ty Cline, Ken Hubbs, Lou Brock, Cliff Cook and Bob Veale, all of them good prospects, all of them looking a little better than they really are because of the seller's market in the rookie business. Any one of them could be outstanding. But baseball is an unpredictable game, and it's just possible that the Rookie of the Year will be old Diomedes Olivo. That would be nice.