A pennant depends on two old men...
Strong points: Depth in pitching, two big runmakers. St. Louis has more than its share of quality pitchers (led league with 3.74 ERA last year) in strong right-handers Larry Jackson (14-11, 3.75 ERA), Bob Gibson (13-12, 3.24 ERA), Ernie Broglio (a 21-game winner in 1960) and left-hander Ray Sadecki, a 14-game winner at 20 last year. Old Whiz Kid Curt Simmons (32) was effective in spots, will be a once-a-week pitcher for Manager Johnny Keane. And highly touted rookie Ray Washburn (23), a poised sinker bailer, is ready to take a regular turn. Lindy McDaniel, despite an off year in '61, is still one of the most capable relievers in baseball. Ken Boyer (.329) and Bill White (.286) hit 44 home runs and knocked in 185 runs between them, supplied almost all of the Cardinals' power last season.
Weak spots: Spotty catching, power and defense. The Cardinals desperately hope that Big Gene Oliver, who hit 40 home runs last year (36 at Portland, tops in the minors; 4 at St. Louis), is ready this year. He won't help the defense but he would add muscle to the Cardinals' low-power attack (tied for fewest HRs in the league). If Oliver doesn't make it, Cards will have to fall back on oldtimer Carl Sawatski (34) or young Tim McCarver (20) behind the plate. Boyer at third and Julian Javier (.279) at second are excellent fielders, and White has worked hard to make himself a good first baseman. But shortstop has been a glaring hole for the past few seasons. Cards will have to go with either erratic Julio Gotay (10 errors in 10 games last year), inexperienced Gerry Buchek (19 years old) or Utility Man Alex Grammas (.212 BA). Curt Flood is an exceptional center fielder. He'll have to be to cover up for the lack of range of Left Fielder Stan Musial (after all, he is 41) and Right Fielder Minnie Minoso (39), who has a tendency to outhustle too many fly balls.
The big ifs: Stan Musial stopped hitting .300 three seasons ago but he is still a big man in the Cardinals' attack (70 RBIs last year). The Man was in superb condition this spring. ("He has the body of a man 10 years younger," says Player Personnel Assistant Eddie Stanky.) At 41, however, a bat can get mighty heavy in August. Ernie Broglio hurt his shoulder last year and won only nine games. The Cardinals will have the deepest staff in the National League if he returns to his 1960 form.
Rookies and new faces: The most important addition is Minoso, who knocked in 82 runs for the White Sox last year. Buchek and Washburn are the best-looking rookies. Bob Duliba and Ed Bauta, both right-handers and both 27, could take some of the pressure off McDaniel in the bullpen.
OUTLOOK: The Cardinals feel they have as good a chance as anyone to win the pennant. A lot depends on the tired old legs of Musial and Minoso. If they hold up, the Cardinals could surprise the experts.
...But Minnie keeps the Cardinals loose
"Hey, you, catch!" Minnie Minoso hollered while playing pepper before a game. He missed the ball on purpose, and threw the bat gently. His teammates skipped and laughed. When a player talked to a writer, Minoso rolled a ball to the player to distract him. When the pitchers warmed up, Minoso grabbed a glove and moved alongside of them. "This is my slip pitch," he said. He kicked high and threw a ball that skipped into the dirt, "See? It slip." In the outfield Minoso made several one-handed catches.
"I also could catch, pitch, play first base if the boss tell me to," he said. "I love to play anyplace."
Minoso brings a .304 lifetime batting average to the Cardinals. It could help their chances. He also brings a lot of laughs. That could help, too.
"Something was wrong from the very start of last season," Lindy McDaniel was saying. In 1960 McDaniel was the best relief pitcher in the National League (12-4, 2.09 ERA, 22 saves), but last year he had trouble (10-6, 4.88 ERA, 5 saves). "I was striding too far when I threw," McDaniel said. "That changed my delivery so that my fork ball—my best pitch—wasn't dipping. In 1960 I must have struck out 60 men with it and I can't remember giving up more than two hits. But last year they hit it pretty good."
It was only in the fading weeks of last season that McDaniel corrected his stride and began pitching as he did the year before. When the season ended he hurried home to Hollis, Oklahoma, where he threw every day for three weeks with his brother Von as the catcher. "I didn't want to lose it," he said. "I wanted to be sure I'd remember this spring how I was doing it. I must be striding just right now because my fork ball is dipping again. It's a good feeling."
Only a superior fielder would be assigned to cover the area separating Stan Musial and Minnie Minoso, the Cards' elderly outfielders. The job belongs to Curt Flood, who can handle it with ease. Flood hit .322 last season, and at 24 is counted on to improve. He sat on a stool in the Cards' clubhouse and reflected on his career.
"You never figure you have it made," the soft-spoken youngster said, "I'm happy I had the year I did in 1961. That means I have to work twice as hard this year. When you figure you are a regular it helps your confidence. There's nothing like the security of a job. This is the first time I've ever felt important to the team. Like I really belonged. It's a good way to be."
Flood changed his shoes slowly and put on a clean sweatshirt. "Excuse me, please," he said gently. "I gotta go. While I'm in here talking to you, some guy's outside stealing my job. I know it can happen because I took somebody else's job. That's how the game goes."