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NOBODY THINKS IT'S THE DODGERS

April 17, 1967
April 17, 1967

Table of Contents
April 17, 1967

Yesterday
Masters
  • It happened a year later than it might have, and only after spectacular displays by others had made the tournament unforgettable, but in the end persevering Gay Brewer won a Masters he richly deserved

The 76Ers
  • Gambling on defense and running relentlessly on offense, both tributes to the dominant play of Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia took a commanding lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Division pro playoffs

Grand National
Hope In Spring
Handball
  • By Tom C. Brody

    Jimmy Jacobs, perennial king of four-wall singles, picked the wrong time to abdicate. While he eased to a doubles win, two brilliant newcomers, battling as fiercely as only he had in the past, usurped his crown

Swimming
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

NOBODY THINKS IT'S THE DODGERS

Attention should center on Dodger chances of winning a third straight pennant, something not accomplished in the league since 1944 [page 78]. But with Koufax retired and Wills and Davis traded away, the Dodgers are not the same, and no one expects them to win. On the other hand, you have the Pirates, who have finished no better than third for six seasons and who backed out of the race last September when the Dodgers looked them in the eye in the stretch. The Pirates have Wills now, to give them heart, and they have bolstered their shaky pitching. They seem the logical choice. But the Giants, rich with stars and riddled with faults, have won more games the past five years than any club except Los Angeles. The Braves, who win 83 to 88 games every season, think this is the year to get out of that rut. The iffy Phils may challenge, and the surprisingly inept Reds could, too. So could the run-poor Cardinals, who at least know how to win, given the chance. A difficult race to pick: only the Cubs, Astros and Mets are out of it.

This is an article from the April 17, 1967 issue

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

OFFENSE
The Dodgers proved in the World Series to be inept at hitting fastball pitchers. They also have little talent for hitting left-handed pitchers. Only Jim Lefebvre held his own against lefties last year, hitting .270, just six points less than he did against right-handers. Six other front-line players—Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Lou Johnson, Wes Parker, John Roseboro and former Met Ron Hunt—hit a collective .293 versus right-handers (and had one homer for each 35 times at bat), but against left-handers they batted only .247 (and went 81.5 times at bat for each homer). Before Willie Davis sprained his ankle this spring Manager Walt Alston wanted to put him in the leadoff spot to utilize his exceptional speed, but Willie's inability to wait out pitches (he has averaged only 21 walks a season for seven years) made the idea a questionable one even then. The skimpy attack is built around Lefebvre (24 homers and 74 RBIs), Fairly (61 RBIs), Johnson (73 RBIs) and Roseboro (.276). It has been bolstered somewhat by the acquisition of Bob Bailey (.279) and Hunt (.288), a good hit-and-run man.

DEFENSE
With Sandy Koufax gone, the pitching staff—still a good one—cannot hope to match the 2.62 ERA that led the majors last year. But a full tour of spring training has helped Don Drysdale (13-16, 3.42 in 1966 after his long holdout). Lefthander Claude Osteen (17-14, 2.85 ERA) and Don Sutton (12-12, 2.99) are strong starters, too, and will be joined in the rotation by former Relievers Bob Miller and Joe Moeller. The well-manned bullpen features Phil Regan (14-1, 17 saves, 1.62 ERA), who starts the season with a 13-game winning streak, plus left-hander Ron Perranoski and big Bob Lee, picked up from the Angels. The defense is better at second, where Hunt replaces Lefebvre, who moves to third. Either Gene Michael, who has range and a strong arm, or Dick Schofield can play short better than Maury Wills. Parker is peerless at first, and Roseboro is one of the best catchers around.

OUTLOOK
The slightly stronger attack is nullified by much weaker pitching (any staff that loses a Koufax is much weaker). The Dodgers may make the first division. But a pennant? Not this time.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

OFFENSE
An opposing player laid down a perfect bunt to squeeze home a runner against the Giants in an exhibition game, and a wise guy from San Francisco said, "You'd never see one of our players do something like that." The Giants failed to win the pennant the last two years partly because they could not execute the little plays that win championships. Sure, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Jim Ray Hart and Tom Haller hit a total of 133 home runs last season. But the Giants bunted poorly; they stole fewer bases than any team in the league; they hit fewer sacrifice flies; and only the Mets had a lower team batting average. Yet Mays and McCovey and Hart and Haller again will hit plenty of home runs, and so will Outfielder Ollie Brown, whom they call "Downtown" because of his prodigious homers. Jesus Alou, who was injured most of last season, looks like a sharp hitter again; he was the subject of a spring-training psych job by Manager Herman Franks. Hal Lanier, who has regressed since his good rookie season in 1964, is switch hitting now. There are only two veterans on the bench, Jim Davenport and Norm Siebern.

DEFENSE
The Giants may have the top pitching staff in the league. Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry are the best one-two combination, and Bob Bolin, the third man, should have been 16-5 instead of 11-10 last year. The fourth starter will be Ray Sadecki, who was wild high all spring, or Mike McCormick, who no longer can throw hard, or Ron Herbel. The bullpen of Lindy McDaniel, Frank Linzy and Bill Henry is one of the league's finest. But the fielding defense is inadequate. Catcher Haller permits too many passed balls and stolen bases. Second Baseman Lanier, who seems to play in short right field all the time, and Shortstop Tito Fuentes are a weak double-play combination. Third Baseman Hart and First Baseman McCovey are no better than adequate at their positions. The outfield defense is good, but that's mostly because Mays is in center.

OUTLOOK
Despite their home run power and superior pitching, the Giants will be lucky to win with that atrocious infield and their perennial inability to make the little plays that bring pennants.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

OFFENSE
With Maury Wills added to a team that led the majors in batting in 1966, you get the impression that every day is going to be the Fourth of July for Manager Harry Walker. The Pirates make outs that are more exciting than other team's hits. Six players hit .299 or above, and Wills usually averages .290 or close to it. Maury bats second for Pittsburgh, right behind Matty Alou, who led the league with .342 and stole 23 bases. With Wills on base, threatening to steal, Roberto Clemente gets to see more fast balls, which should cut down on his strikeouts and lift his already impressive batting average (.317) and RBI total (119). Although Donn Clendenon has not received much publicity, he has averaged .300 and 97 RBIs the last two seasons. Willie Stargell hits the weak clubs better than he does the good ones, but you can't laugh off his .315 average, his 33 homers and his 102 RBIs. Manny Mota (.332) seldom strikes out, and Gene Alley hit a surprising .299 in '66. Bill Mazeroski's average was only .262, but he knocked home 82 runs and is a clutch hitter. Jesse Gonder is dangerous at bat, and Jim Pagliaroni was good enough to hit .295 three seasons ago.

DEFENSE
Mazeroski and Alley are the best double-play combination in baseball, but the catching is awkward and the outfield made 32 errors last year. The pitching is uncertain, unless Juan Pizarro and Dennis Ribant come through. Pizarro won 19 for the White Sox in 1964 but only six in 1965 and eight in 1966. Ribant was 11-9 with the Mets, but pitching for a contender is a totally different situation. Tommie Sisk (10-5) had an ERA of 4.14, Steve Blass was 11-7 and 3.87, Woody Fryman 12-9 and 3.81, Vernon Law 12-8 and 4.04—all unimpressive records. The key man is Bob Veale (16-12, 3.02), bothered recently by back trouble and unable to shake the reputation that if you stay close to him you will beat him. The bullpen—39-year-old ElRoy Face, Al McBean, Pete Mikkelsen and Billy O'Dell—is not overwhelming.

OUTLOOK
The Pirates are everybody's favorites for the pennant and with that hitting they should be. But with that pitching and, yes, fielding, the published odds of 8 to 5 are way out of line.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

OFFENSE
Everything seemed so rosy for the Phillies until Bill White (103 RBIs last year) tore the Achilles tendon in his right ankle while playing paddle ball in a St. Louis gymnasium in December. Then White reinjured the ankle in spring training and the words of a popular folk ballad began to haunt Philadelphia, "Where have all the young men gone?" Where indeed? Only two regulars are under 27 and one of these, 23-year-old John Briggs, has never played 100 games a season or driven in more than 23 runs. Of course, the other is Richie Allen, who recently turned 25 and who may drive in 23 runs on Opening Day. He missed a month of the 1966 season and still scored 112 runs, knocked in 110 and hit 40 homers. He had more total bases than either Henry Aaron or Willie Mays and batted .317. Of the older boys, John Callison now wears glasses (his RBIs dropped from 101 to 55), Cookie Rojas' average fell off and Dick Groat's .260 was reached the hard way—a .292 second half. Bill White will be sorely missed.

DEFENSE
Since White will probably not be ready before the middle of June at the earliest, the Phillie defense will of necessity be somewhat makeshift with reserve Tony Taylor playing first. Don Lock solves the centerfield problem that has badgered the Phils for years, and Clay Dalrymple is an asset behind the plate. Generally, the fielding is steady if uninspired. The starting four pitchers could be the best in the league. But Jim Bunning (19-14) and Larry Jackson (15-13 and five shutouts for the Phils) both reach 36 during the year. Dick Ellsworth (8-22 with the Cubs) is better than that record and with 20-game winner Chris Short should give Manager Gene Mauch strong left-handed pitching. Bob Buhl, 38, and 21-year-old Rick Wise will spot-start. The bullpen was bad last year but Gary Wagner and newcomers Dick Hall, Ruben Gomez and Pedro Ramos could make things all right. That is, if Hall and Wagner can recover fully from last year's arm troubles.

OUTLOOK
The loss of White could destroy Philadelphia's hopes for a superior season, but if the top four pitchers throw as expected the Phils will be a tough team, especially if the bullpen produces.

ATLANTA BRAVES

OFFENSE
If anything, the lineup is even stronger than a year ago, when the Braves led the majors in runs and homers (207). Back to torment the pitchers is Henry Aaron, who topped the National League in home runs (44) and the majors in RBIs (127), even though he had the lowest average (.279) of his 13-year career. Supporting him will be Felipe Alou, who hit 31 homers and was second in the majors with a .327 average; Joe Torre (.315, 36 HRs, 101 RBIs); and Rico Carty (.326). Ex-Yankee Clete Boyer (14 HRs) will find the fence in left center in Atlanta more to his liking than the distant one in Yankee Stadium. In addition, there are Mack Jones (23 HRs) and Denis Menke (15 HRs).

DEFENSE
Despite their run-scoring ability, the Braves had the worst combined record in the league in extra-inning and one-run games (27-38), something that better fielding and pitching should remedy. The defense (only sixth best last year) will be tighter now that Boyer is at third. Torre is one of the soundest catchers in the game, Aaron one of the best right fielders. Menke lacks range at shortstop but if there is a lead to protect, smooth-fielding rookie Orlando Martinez can be brought in. Manager Billy Hitchcock's pitching staff has a flock of strong if questionable arms. Everyone, though, seems recovered from last season's woes: Denny Lemaster (pinched nerve), Wade Blasingame (broken finger, sore arm), Ken Johnson (bad knee) and former Astro Bob Bruce (eye trouble). Lemaster (11-8) could become the finest lefthander in the league. Few pitchers throw harder than Tony Cloninger (14-11 but 24-11 in 1965), and now that he has overcome last year's flaws—throwing off balance, tipping his curve—he should be more effective. Dick Kelley (7-5) and Pat Jarvis (6-2) came up late last season and both did well. The bullpen, with Clay Carroll (8-7), Don Schwall (6-5) and Phil Niekro (4-3) getting help from newcomers Ramon Hernandez and Jay Ritchie, will be more useful in those close ball games.

OUTLOOK
All the Braves need is stronger pitching. Last year some of the pitchers felt they were not in shape for opening day. This time, after arduous spring conditioning, they feel ready.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

OFFENSE
Not since the end of the dead-ball era has a Cardinal team hit as poorly as the 1966 club, yet with two weeks of the season left St. Louis was tied for fourth. Ultimately finishing sixth, the Cards nonetheless drew 1,712,980 to the best of the new ball parks, Busch Memorial Stadium. This year St. Louis ranks in hitting behind only Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Roger Maris, picked up from the Yankees for Charlie Smith, adds a third left-handed threat to go with Lou Brock (.285 and a league-leading 74 stolen bases) and Tim McCarver (.274 and a league-leading 13 triples). Orlando Cepeda (.307 lifetime) strengthened his injured knee by walking over the sandy beaches of Puerto Rico, and he and Maris are getting ample RBI opportunities hitting behind Brock and Curt Flood. Mike Shannon (.288 and 16 home runs) gives the team another strong bat at third base.

DEFENSE
Manager Red Schoendienst is hoping that Shannon can handle things at third; he has been a significant part of most of the Cardinal good spells since 1963. The rest of the infield—Dal Maxvill at short, Julian Javier at second and Cepeda at first—is good defensively. Maris, Flood and Brock make up an excellent outfield. The St. Louis pitching staff was second in the league in '66 with a team ERA of 3.11. Bob Gibson missed five starts because of an elbow strain and still won 21. Al Jackson's 13-15 record does not indicate how well he pitched; his 2.51 ERA was sixth best in the league. Left-hander Larry Jaster was a "zero hero" against the Dodgers (he shut them out five straight times) but he was only 6-5 against the other clubs. Ray Washburn needs to go more than six innings. Young (22) Steve Carlton and Dick Hughes, a 29-year-old rookie, will also start. The bullpen is strong, with Hal Woodeshick (1.93 ERA in 59 appearances) and Joe Hoerner (1.54 in 57) as lefty stoppers, and Ron Willis as the right-handed short reliever. Nelson Briles is the long man.

OUTLOOK
A livelier offense, with both power and speed, plus strong pitching and good fielding should move the Cardinals nearer the top in the league and near to two million in attendance.

CINCINNATI REDS

OFFENSE
The Reds as a team hit only .247 for Don Heffner during his half season as manager; for his 33-year-old replacement, Dave Bristol, they hit .273. The Frank Robinson trade, rain at the start of the year, constant losing streaks prior to the All-Star break and a seventh-place finish caused attendance to drop to a worrisome 743,000, lowest since 1960. But the Reds can hit and the changes made this year have strengthened their offense even further. Deron Johnson moves back to third, where he knocked in 130 runs in 1965, and with either Lee May or Tony Perez at first gives the Reds power at the corners. Switcher Pete Rose, one of the game's genuine hustlers, has collected 414 hits over the past two years. Rookie of the Year Tommy Helms always hits the ball somewhere and Tommy Harper is capable of many things—hitting streaks of 17 and 24 games plus 101 lifetime steals in 121 tries. Despite a career average of .301, Vada Pinson is going to have to bat in more than 76 runs to make the attack produce. Skinny Leo Cardenas had 20 homers and tied for the team lead in RBIs with 81. Floyd Robinson's .237 with the White Sox was too bad to be true and a rejuvenated Robby joining Art Shamsky, Gordy Coleman and Chico Ruiz gives the team depth and fluidity.

DEFENSE
"In moving Rose from second to left and Helms from third to second in order to get Johnson to third," said Bristol this spring, "I'm going to get criticized but I know in my heart it will work." Shortstop Cardenas is about as good as anyone, but he is excitable. He and Helms are a good double-play combination, which is fortunate because the Red pitchers will need all the DPs they can get. Only Jim Maloney is reliable. Milt Pappas was 12-11 but did not complete a game after July 10, and Sammy Ellis slumped from 22-10 to 12-19. Billy McCool, who finished 45 games, comes out of the bullpen—but where does that leave the bullpen? Converted Outfielder Mel Queen or 18-year-old bonus boy Gary Nolan will be the fifth starter.

OUTLOOK
The Reds show more spirit under Bristol and their potent offense will make them a threat in any game, but inconsistent pitching is likely to keep the team in the second division once again.

HOUSTON ASTROS

OFFENSE
The attack revolves around the on-base ability of Joe Morgan, the long-ball hitting of Jim Wynn and the base stealing of Sonny Jackson. With Morgan and Wynn fully recovered from serious injuries suffered last season, the offense has been rejuvenated. Although out for more than a month last year, Morgan (.285) was second in the league in walks with 89. Wynn, a muscular 5'9" and 170 pounds, slugged 18 homers and drove in 62 runs in just 105 games. Because the Astrodome is one of the hardest parks in which to hit home runs, speed is vital to producing runs and speed is precisely what Jackson, who stole 49 bases and hit .292 as a rookie, provides. Occasional bursts of power will come from Rusty Staub, John Bateman, Chuck Harrison, rookie Aaron Pointer and former Brave Eddie Mathews.

DEFENSE
Now that the leak in the Astrodome ceiling has been fixed and the Astroturf has been zippered up, the next project is to patch up the defense. Houston, last in fielding and double plays, gave up 92 unearned runs last year. No regular catcher in either league made more errors than Bateman, while only one second baseman made more than Morgan. And no major league player at any position last year made more errors than Shortstop Jackson. But Wynn and Jim Landis are go-getters in the outfield, and Bob Aspromonte is a deft third baseman. Mike Cuellar (12-10), Larry Dierker (10-8) and Reliever Claude Raymond (seven wins, 13 saves) are standouts on a so-so pitching staff. Cuellar, mixing his fast ball with his baffling screwball, had the third best ERA (2.22) in the majors. Dierker has a live arm and needs only consistency to be a big winner. Dave Giusti (15-14) must find a way to overcome his annual midseason collapse. A reformed Bo Belinsky could parlay his sinking fast ball into wins if he can locate the plate. Help, if it is to come, must come from youngsters such as Chris Zachary, Dan Schneider, Caroll Sembera and fast-baller Don Wilson.

OUTLOOK
The youthfulness of his club, says Manager Grady Hatton, means there is hope for improvement. It also could mean that any of seven players might be called into service at any moment.

NEW YORK METS

OFFENSE
If forced to guess how much the Mets made last season, $1 million would not be far from wrong, and profits like that with a team like that (lowest batting average in the league, .239) indicate the financial soundness of the franchise. But any rise in the standings will depend on Tommy Davis' comeback as a run producer. Davis, still not fully recovered from his broken ankle, could surpass the recent Met high of 62 RBIs hitting on one leg; his three-year visiting average at Shea has been a resounding .420. Ken Boyer and Cleon Jones are respected hitters, while Chuck Hiller, Jerry Buchek and Ron Swoboda, the Mystery Man of Flushing Meadows (50 RBIs on a .222 batting average and only 342 at bats), have their good days. But Ed Kranepool, a career .247 hitter, has not developed, and Sandy Alomar and Bud Harrelson have not hit since their Little League days. Don Bosch (.283 at Columbus) and Greg Goosen (25 HRs at Jacksonville) have both youth and promise. Jerry Grote, at 24, should improve as a hitter (.237), and experienced Al Luplow can help off the bench.

DEFENSE
By past Met standards the fielding is not too bad, particularly if Bosch plays the center field he is said to be capable of. But Ron Hunt's departure from second base will hurt. Bob Shaw (11-10) is out to disprove the accepted baseball belief that he becomes disenchanted with a team his second year with it. Jack Fisher lost his first four starts in 1966 but was 11-10 thereafter, and Fisher is both a smart and grim worker. The third starter is Don Cardwell, who completed only one of 14 starts with the Pirates but who was a good 13-10 in 1965. Young (22) Tom Seaver may be Manager Wes Westrum's fourth starter; in Seaver's first year in baseball he led the International League in strikeouts. Other starters are veterans Chuck Estrada and Ralph Terry, who threw hard once again this spring, and rookie Bill Dennehy. Ron Taylor, Jack Hamilton and rookie Jerry Koosman will man the bullpen.

OUTLOOK
With an unsettled defense and still-questionable hitting, the Mets will probably have trouble holding onto ninth place. Still, a good year from Davis could make a big difference.

CHICAGO CUBS

OFFENSE
Scoring runs obviously is the only thing that does not concern Manager Leo Durocher as he tries to mastermind the Cubs out of last place. Ron Santo, the league's best third baseman, generally hits about 30 home runs and drives in 100 runs every year, and Billy Williams hit 29 home runs and had 91 runs batted in during 1966. Ernie Banks, who at 36 is still holding forth at first base, will hit more than 20 home runs if he plays all season. The rest of the Cubs' lineup is composed of young players who had relatively successful seasons last year. Glenn Beckert, a master of the hit-and-run, batted .287, while Don Kessinger, who became a switch hitter last May, closed with a .274 average. Both are good base runners. Catcher Randy Hundley had 19 home runs and 63 runs batted in. Outfielders Adolfo Phillips and Byron Browne each hit 16 home runs, but each struck out more than 125 times. Durocher says they will determine the Cubs' success—or failure—this year. The Cubs have a better bench than some contenders, with John Boccabella, Felix Mantilla, Lee Thomas and rookie Norm Gigon available as pinch hitters.

DEFENSE
The Cubs had the worst pitching staff in baseball last year, and little improvement is in sight. Ray Culp, who could not win in Philadelphia, Ferguson Jenkins, who throws hard for five innings, left-hander Ken Holtzman, who won 11 games as a rookie in 1966, rookie Dick Nye and veteran Curt Simmons constitute the big five. Durocher plans to go without an experienced reliever, hoping that Cal Koonce, Bob Hendley and Bill Hands will develop into stoppers. Fortunately, the Cubs are solid behind the plate with Hundley, a strong-armed (he led the majors in assists with 85), talented receiver. Beckert and Kessinger combine well around second base, though Kessinger does not have great range. Santo is superb at third base, and Banks is accomplished at first. The outfield is poor. Phillips and Browne are erratic, and Williams has a weak arm.

OUTLOOK
If the Chicago pitchers could get everyone to hit the ball to the crack infield, the Cubs would look great. But the pitchers won't. The Cubs will hit, but they'll finish near the bottom again.

TEN ILLUSTRATIONS