LA OR SF
This has been anoff year for many Yankees, but the crisp, cool scent of money so often alters aplayer's performance that men like Roger Maris, Bill Skowron, Elston Howard,John Blanchard and even aging Yogi Berra must be rated on their fiercepotential. To boot, there is Bobby Richardson, who goes wild eachpostseason.
Even Clete Boyer,who once was considered the pause that refreshes as far as rival pitchers wereconcerned, has turned mean, hitting .275 this year. The Dodgers can't match theYankees in power, but they can run them silly. Some Dodgers can hit homeruns—Frank Howard, Tommy and Willie Davis and Ron Fairly. But basically, thisteam is built around the Swift Set: Maury Wills, the Davises, Jim Gilliam andJohn Roseboro. When they get on, they can rattle a pitcher out of hisshoes.
A Yankee-GiantSeries would pit thump against thump. Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alouand Willie McCovey can mix it up with the best of them. Jim Davenport, HarveyKuenn and Chuck Hiller get on base.
In eight WorldSeries, Whitey Ford has won nine games and compiled an ERA of 1.98. How theYankees fare in this World Series depends to an enormous extent on hisincreasingly unpredictable left arm. Behind Ford the Yankee staff is shaky.Twenty-two-game winner Ralph Terry has a history of yielding big hits at badtimes and Bill Stafford has not blossomed. Yankee relief has been a headachefor Manager Ralph Houk all season.
The Dodgers havea stronger pitching staff. There is Don Drysdale, winner of 25 games this year.Johnny Podres has had a so-so season, but he is a "money pitcher." TheDodgers may also start Stan Williams and the biggest mystery of all: theinjured Sandy Koufax. When he is right, he is baseball's best pitcher. TheDodger bullpen is strong, led by Ed Roebuck, Ron Perranoski and LarrySherry.
The Giants havethe most balanced pitching of all. Jack Sanford, Juan Marichal and Billy O'Dellare the big three, with Billy Pierce, Don Larsen (remember?) and Stu Miller toback them up.
The Yankeedefense is the strongest in baseball. There are few better catchers thanHoward, and his strong arm could brake the Swift Set more than a little.Richardson makes all the plays at second. Kubek, after shaking off his Armycobwebs, is back at shortstop, which he plays in a high style all his own.Boyer, with the fastest reflexes in the East (or West), is at third. Theoutfield of Tresh, Mantle and Maris has speed and strong arms.
The Dodgersjuggled lineups nervously late in the season. When Tommy Davis is in leftfield, Gilliam at third and Larry Burright at second, all is calm, all isbright. When Davis is moved to third and Gilliam to second to make room forWally Moon or Duke Snider in the outfield, the infield moans with pain. Therest of the Dodgers are tolerable afield, with only one exception: FrankHoward.
The Giant infieldof Cepeda, Hiller, Pagan and Davenport passes the major league test, but onlyDavenport is eye-popping. Mays is in center, which automatically makes theoutfield superb.
The outcome of aNY-LA Series could hang on two pitchers: Ford and Koufax. The first two gameswould be in Los Angeles, which can be searingly hot in early October. Fordtires quickly in heat. He would do better starting game 3 in Yankee Stadium,but the Yankees can't wait that long. Ford will be counted on to work threegames if necessary. Koufax looked anything but fit the first times out afterhis long layoff, and may not even be ready for a Series. But if he suddenlyrounded into form, or even 75% of his form, the Dodger pitching staff mighttake control.
Much, too, willdepend on another player who turns up frequently on sick call: Mickey Mantle.In terms of sheer determination, this has been his finest season, but his legshave been looking unsteady of late. With a little rest, however. Mantle coulddo much to neutralize the Dodgers' advantage in the pitching department.
All other thingsbeing equal, a NY-LA Series would turn on the matter of whether the Yankees cancontrol the Swift Set. The Yankees have faced no team all season with theDodgers' speed, but neither have the Dodgers faced a catcher with the all-roundskill of Elston Howard. A battery of Ford and Howard should have no troublewith the swifties, but the right-handers Terry and Stafford lack Ford's move tofirst and his poise. The Dodgers have been running better pitchers to theshowers all season long.
If the Giantsproduce a miracle finish (an old Giant habit), they would probably startright-handers Sanford and Marichal in Candlestick Park, lefties O'Dell andPierce in the Stadium. Ford would be happier in the cool breezes of SanFrancisco, but the tough right-handed Giant hitters could give him fits. AYankee-Giant Series might well turn into a wild, free-swinging affair.
The Dodgers, takethem all for all, are a slightly better team than the Yankees, but the Yankeeshave one big advantage: plenty of World Series experience. If Koufax were well,the Dodgers would win. Without him, the Yankees are the best bet by ashade.
Let a team's twobest pitchers fall off their accustomed pace, put the hex on the two besthitters, pack the All-Star shortstop off to the Army, and what have you got? Asecond-division team? No, you've got the New York Yankees, who next week willbe at the same old stand: the World Series, their 13th in 16 years. Whathappened? As significant as anything, Thomas Michael Tresh happened.
Like a 6-footBand-Aid, Shortstop Tom Tresh was asked to patch together the wounded Yankeeinfield from April to August. Despite the tension of playing for the New Yorkterrors, he stuck. Next thing you knew, he was playing left field. With 89RBIs, Tresh ranks second on his team, and his No. 3 spot in the batting orderis the one held this time a year ago by the storied Roger Maris. Named to theAll-Star team, Tom Tresh nevertheless is no more than a rookie. (And, ofcourse, he is a runaway choice to be elected the American League's Rookie ofthe Year.) Tresh has never set eyes on a World Series game, but he is, if formmeans anything, as unlikely to choke as Yogi Berra.
"The Yankeeswere in a terrible bind; things were really crucial last spring," says afront-office man. "Tony Kubek is as good a shortstop as any man playing theposition, and where was he? Off at Fort Lewis in Washington with the Wisconsin32nd. The chances of our trading for a competent replacement were nil, so RalphHouk sponsored a contest." There were two contestants: Tresh, a four-yearresident of the Yankee farm system, and Phil Linz, a solid-hitting shortstopwith Amarillo. Linz performed well, but Tresh beat him out. Says the loser,cheerfully: "My friend Tom has the stronger arm—and he has the precedent.Twice before, in Richmond and in Binghamton, he won the shortstop job over me.But my luck's improving. At least this time they let me stay around to watchhim play."
Though Tresh wasable to take the measure of co-rookie Linz, he is not yet an even match for therangy, resourceful Kubek. "If it's a matter of fractions of inches, Kubekwins," says a Yankee—and Tresh agrees. "All I hoped was that by thetime Tony came back from the Army, the Yankees would be in first place,"Tresh says. "Then I could satisfy myself that I'd done the fill-in jobexpected of me."
When Kubekreturned in August, the Yankees were first, and Tresh's fielding as well as hisbat were not inconsiderable factors. So far Tresh has hit better than theveteran Kubek did last year, and his batting with men on base has been so surethat Roger Maris, who won the RBI title last year, is the only Yankeeoutproducing him.
To a lot ofordinary men, the return of a Kubek might cause a slight indisposition ofspirit. But Tom Tresh, like many ballplayers, professes to be unencumbered bythe niggling frets of insecurity, and in fact claims that he calmly awaited thehero's arrival. Says Tresh, "I was under more strain with him away."After 10 days of conditioning in left field, Kubek quietly changed places withex-Shortstop Tresh. "I know it would make a better story," says Tresh,"if I had cursed the luck and carried on, but I felt no hostility towardTony getting his job back. I never cared what position I played in the majorsas long as I played." He was also glad to contemplate the future sketchedin for him by Houk. As Tresh wrote to his parents at the time: "My days asa shortstop may very well be over.... Ralph told me if I didn't want to makethe change [to left field] I didn't have to. He told me he thought I had thepotential to be another Kaline.... He also told me that he had to startthinking of someone to replace Mantle in center field and that he was going togroom me for that eventually."
Although Treshhad not played in the outfield since the seventh grade, his father, Mike Tresh,began teaching him to be an all-round player long before it occurred to theYankees. The grandson of a Pennsylvania coal miner from the Ukraine, Tom wasborn in 1938, the same year Mike commenced his own 12-year major league careeras a catcher with the White Sox. "A couple of years after that," saysMike, "Tom could connect with one of those miniature souvenir bats and arubber ball. He had an early eye." The infant Tom also had an early hustle.Trying to beat out a looper over the coffee table, he once slid through awindow in the living room's French doors, bears the scar on his face to thisday. "Even so," says Mike Tresh, "the Yankees made Tom a Yankee. Helearned things in four months that it took me four years to learn. Not manysecond-generation ballplayers outshine their dads in the majors, but, oh my.When Tom hit his second home run he tied my lifetime record. I don't bother tocompare us anymore."
One way Mikehelped his son outshine him was to teach him switch hitting, encouraging theboy to practice the unnatural art until it became routine. "The thing mydad kept me from learning," says Tom, "was bad habits."
Mike alsoinsisted that Tom get started in college before becoming a professionalballplayer. Since Plant Policeman Mike Tresh did not go to college, Tom got thedrift He and his father steered off the scouts with the suggestion to callagain in three years, and Tom enrolled that spring at Central MichiganUniversity with a grant-in-aid baseball scholarship and a lukewarm aim, √† laCasey Stengel, to become a dentist. But in Tom's freshman year the whole Treshfamily succumbed to the lure of a $30,000 offer from the Yankees. "I wassupposed to talk to Boston the next day," says Tresh, "but I told themnever mind; I had what I wanted. I was on my own at 19, I had enough money so Icould finish college and I had a job with New York." Says Dr. WilliamTheunissen, a Ph.D. who coached Tresh in college: "I always thought he'dhave been smarter to wait another year, that he'd get more money with anotherseason of college ball behind him. But now when he gets his share of the WorldSeries loot this year, he can come back up here, buy a piece of the school andfire me."
Put to work inthe Yankees' St. Petersburg Class D seed bed in 1958, Tresh moved variously toNew Orleans, Greensboro, Amarillo, Binghamton, last year to Class AAA Richmond."Going up and down as you sometimes do in the minor leagues," saysTresh, "can get you to wondering. But through it all, my dad never pamperedme, took my side or let me feel sorry for myself. He told me the Yankees knewwhat they were doing, it was always tough in the minors and I had better getused to it. To get up, and stay up, he said, I had to bear down." Bearingdown also meant getting back to school in the fall as soon as possible. Treshhas switched from dentistry to a major in physical education, and though he issometimes a few weeks late reporting for classes, the administration overlooksit.
Thus, at 24,Thomas Tresh is sitting pretty. He has doting parents, a wife and athree-week-old daughter. His new job in the outfield ought to add five years tohis playing days ("They'll have to carry me out") and, as one of theNew York demigods, he'll carry off a boodle of money in the next few years.Altogether there is only one thing bothering him: his Central Michigantextbooks were shipped to him just the other day. His assignment is to getcracking.