Writing about baseball nowadays (page 24) is like fishing a trout stream on the opening day of the season. You're there on the bank, rod in hand, lure in the water, and there are fish (or stories) waiting in the river to be caught. The trouble is, on the bank next to you (or in the press box and locker room) are throngs of fellow fishermen casting in the same waters for the same fish. It takes a pretty good angler to come home with a decent catch, and it takes a pretty good reporter to bring back a baseball story that is fresh and different and valid.
We have such a fisherman on our staff, though you probably wouldn't notice him on a trout stream until you saw that his creel was full. His name is William Leggett, and he is a quiet, slender young man—he's 32, but he doesn't look it—whose manner is courtly and unobtrusive. Without noise, without trumpet and drum, he goes into the crowded waters of major league baseball and consistently comes up with the fresh idea, the new angle, the trend that is about to be. Last spring, for instance, he spotted the importance of Rookie Third Baseman Richie Allen to the Philadelphia Phillies, and before the season began he wrote that Allen's presence might well mean the pennant for the Phils—which it very nearly did. Last winter he sensed a great new surge of interest in the New York Mets because of the Mets' move into Shea Stadium. He was the first to report that the first-place Yankees, like it or not, were in a battle with the last-place Mets for attention in New York, and he predicted that the Mets would outdraw the Yanks (which they did by 430,000 people this past season).
Leggett's propensity for sensing future developments probably has its roots in his early and abiding love for horse racing, a sport that lives on anticipation of what may be, particularly in the feature race tomorrow. Bill was born and brought up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he acquired a liberal education in the study of the running horse. Frank Sullivan, the noted humorist and an old friend of Leggett's family, says, "Bill swam into my consciousness when we met in a Saratoga tavern we both favored, and I found this rosy-cheeked stripling to be a walking encyclopedia of information about every known form of sport, especially the turf. I, too, was born and reared in Saratoga, but I never absorbed the racing lore Bill Leggett has stored in his cranium."
Bill came to work at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1956 and has written for us on horse racing, basketball and hockey, as well as baseball. Good on spotting trends, he sometimes has trouble with winners. Frank Sullivan says, "He has on occasion seduced me into betting on horses he said would win, and I have lost my $2, but I do not hold this against him." In our annual office pool on the pennant races Leggett this year displayed both sides of his prognosticating personality. He sensed the decline of the Dodgers and the rise of the Phils and picked Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cincinnati and San Francisco to finish one-two-three-four in the National League—which was pretty close to perfection. But the American League cost him. A longtime Washington Senators fan (the old Senators, that is, the ones who moved to Minnesota), he made the Twins a lock. They finished sixth, Mr. Sullivan.