CINCINNATI REDS: The pennant is up to the doctors

The Reds have the stuff of a pennant winner: winning pitchers, strong hitters, reliable defense. But they also have the preseason miseries that struck them down last year
April 08, 1963

The face of Fred Hutchinson is probably the most interesting in all of baseball, but everyone knows it isn't a real face. No sir, not that face. Hutch's face was made from the baseball novels and dime pulps; it looks the way a baseball manager's face is supposed to look—craggy and mean and knowing. For most of this spring Hutch's face was happier than it had been in years. He was having a lot of real good days, and when he has good days he sometimes smiles two or three times. But on March 24 Hutchinson's smiles stopped and a lot of good days went out of the window. Bob Purkey (23-5), the Reds' best pitcher, injured his arm in an exhibition game. "I got sharp pains in my lower right shoulder and couldn't get any snap into my wrist," said Purkey. "I remember having this once before about eight years ago when I was with the Pirates, and they sent me out to New Orleans." The injury was in the back of the shoulder (in the posterior capsule), and Purkey's arm was, at least for a while, "dead." Twice a day Purkey took treatments {right) and twice after the injury he was scheduled to throw, but the arm felt so bad that he wouldn't even try it, and Hutchinson certainly wouldn't push him. The chances are that Purkey—originally scheduled to pitch Opening Day—will miss several turns right at the beginning of the season, and this means that he will have to get himself in shape all over again if he is to become strong enough to pitch regularly. The loss of Purkey for any length of time hurts the Reds because Purkey is not only an excellent starter but a superb finisher (18 complete games out of 37 starts in 1962). Last year when Third Baseman Gene Freese broke his ankle, Cincinnati staggered at the start of the season and never fully recovered, even though they lost the pennant by only 3½ games. If Purkey's arm stays "dead" for very long, the Reds—perhaps the National League's strongest team before his injury—may find themselves dead all over again.

HITTING
Only the Yankees and the Giants hit for more total bases last season than the Reds. A large part of Cincinnati's power came from the bats of Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Gordy Coleman. In his seven seasons in the majors, Robinson has averaged 34 HRs and 101 RBIs, and his .624 slugging average in 1962 was the best in the league. Although Pinson's batting average dipped from .343 in 1961 to .292 last year, he did knock in 100 runs for the first time. Coleman, who missed two weeks late in the season because of an injury, still managed to hit 28 homers and bat in 86 runs. This year more power should come from the bat of 22-year-old rookie Tommy Harper, who comes off two exceptionally strong seasons in the minors. Sharing left field or pinch-hitting, Wally Post and Jerry Lynch totaled 29 homers and 119 RBIs. Don Blasingame and Catcher Johnny Edwards don't hit the long ball very often, but the two of them did raise their batting averages significantly last year (Blasingame up 50 points to .281, Edwards 68 points to .254). Leo Cardenas, in his first full season as a regular, showed surprising power (10 HRs, 60 RBIs) for a 150-pounder and batted .294. With a sound Freese (26 HRs, 87 RBIs in 1961), plus the flashy Harper, the Reds'batting attack could well be the best in the business.

PITCHING
Manager Hutchinson will have to do some fancy juggling until he gets a healthy Bob Purkey back on the mound. With Purkey and Joey Jay, the Reds have the most dependable one-two pitching punch in baseball (44-21 last year). The No. 3 starter, southpaw Jim O'Toole, stumbled around at the beginning of last season and could not duplicate his 19-9 record of 1961. Still, he finished strong, winning eight of his last 10 games, and wound up with 16 victories. Young (22) fastballer Jim Maloney has the talent to improve on his 9-7 record last year and could be the Reds' fourth starter. Pushing him hard is 34-year-old Joe Nuxhall, who came back at the end of last season and won five games in a row. The bullpen, led by Jim Brosnan and Bill Henry (eight wins and 24 saves between them), has been strengthened by the addition of Jim Owens, the former problem child of the Phils.

FIELDING
The Reds will not blind you with fancy fielding but neither will they embarrass their pitchers too often. Blasingame at second and Cardenas at short have trouble making the double play. Otherwise, they are competent fielders. Coleman is not graceful at first, and neither is Freese at third. With Harper in left, the outfield shows real defensive class. Pinson ranks only behind Mays as a center fielder, while Robinson has good range in right.

PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)