It was 11:50 a.m. Thursday, April 4, the last day of spring training in Clearwater, Fla. for the Philadelphia Phillies and the day they would cut their major-league roster to the Opening Day limit of 25 players. Out behind second base a pair of 20-year-old rookies up from the Carolina League were discussing their mutual predicament.
"Hear anything yet?" Don Money, a shortstop, asked Larry Hisle, a center-fielder.
"No, did you?" said Hisle.
Money (pronounced $$$) shook his head, frowned and started to walk back toward shortstop. Oh, well. He had told his parents, who live in Vineland, N.J., only an hour's drive from Connie Mack Stadium, that he probably would not see them until late September, and a year at San Diego, where he probably would be shipped, certainly would not hurt him. Hisle (pronounced Hy-sul) kept thinking, "When are they going to tell us? When are they going to tell us? When is it going to happen?"
Right about then it happened. Gene Mauch, the Phillies' manager, stepped out of the dugout and signaled to Money and Hisle to join him. The rookies listened attentively as Mauch beat around the bush with small talk. Then suddenly Mauch came to the point. "How would both of you like to go to Los Angeles with us?" he asked. The rookies only smiled. "I was going to let Don do all the talking," said Hisle.
"I wasn't gonna say no, so I didn't say anything at all," said Money. "I really don't like to talk anyway."
And that is how Money, wearing No. 5, and Hisle, wearing No. 24, happened to be in Los Angeles last Wednesday night playing in the Phillies' opening game against the Dodgers. Had they gone to San Diego instead, the Phillies might still be playing the game. Chris Short pitched a four-hit shutout and won 2-0 as Money drove in both runs—with a double that scored Hisle from first base and a fielder's choice—while Hisle had two singles, one in his first time at bat in the major leagues.
After the game the rest of the Phillies fell all over the rookies congratulating them. One old hand opened a Diet Pepsi for Money and another splattered mustard on a hot dog for Hisle. Noticing the commotion, Mauch strode from his office. "Hey, rooks," he said, pointing a finger, "these guys won't even know you the first time you go 0 for 4."
Maybe so, but the Phillies haven't been this excited since the Whiz Kids won the pennant in 1950. At present Money is the starting shortstop, although Mauch prefers not to call him that because he believes it will place too much pressure on him. Hisle, like Money a right-handed batter, alternates in center field with Tony Gonzalez, who only hit .339 last season, and already he is considered the best outfielder on the club.
Money (the Phillies naturally call him Green Stuff or Small Change) and Hisle are almost totally opposite personalities. Money is strictly a small-town kid who thinks trimming a Christmas tree is a big night and a John Wayne re-re-re-run is an opening on Broadway. He concentrated solely on baseball in high school, never thought much about college and signed a blank contract—no bonus at all—with the only team (Pittsburgh) that ever evidenced any interest in his baseball ability.
Hisle, who as a young boy was adopted by relatives in Portsmouth, Ohio, was a high-school All-America basketball player and a member of the academic National Honor Society. He spent one weekend touring the University of Michigan campus with Lew Alcindor and Cazzie Russell and he also had correspondence with UCLA. He had agreed to accept a basketball scholarship at Ohio State before he signed a contract with the Phillies, who gave him a reported $40,000 bonus after selecting him in the second round of the June 1965 free-agent draft. He attends Ohio State in the off season, and he has a year and a quarter toward his degree in education.
Unlike Hisle, who has been places, Money has found the world of major-league baseball to be a rather strange environment. "Don's the greenest kid I've ever seen come up to the majors," said Catcher Clay Dalrymple, who roomed with Money last week on the Phillies' first road trip of the year. "It's just his background. He didn't know how to use the phone in the hotel room. He didn't know he could send out his laundry and get it back the same day, either. And I must've spent 30 minutes in front of the mirror teaching him how to tie a Windsor knot. He's a great kid, though."
Money, who is in the Marine Reserves (Hisle is 4F because of a congenital back condition), is just beginning to learn the big-league clothing game. "I hate to put on a shirt and tie and jacket," he said. Turtlenecks, which are the vogue in baseball this year, eventually may relieve Money of his haberdashery problem.
"I used to think you wore a turtle-neck only when you worked in the cold," he said.
The real education of a rookie, however, comes on the baseball field. It was fine that Money hit .310 at Raleigh and was the Carolina League's Most Valuable Player last year, and it was fine that Hisle hit .302 and was caught stealing base only once in 32 attempts at Portsmouth, Va. But the major leagues are quite different, as Hisle learned in the very first inning on opening night in Los Angeles. Wes Parker hit a routine single just to the left of center. But when Hisle was a bit tardy picking up the ball, Parker raced to second and was given a double after Hisle's throw was 10 feet over the second baseman's head. "My goodness," he said. "I never thought he'd try for second. I won't think that way anymore."
It always is interesting, too, to study how pitchers probe young rookie hitters for a weakness. The Dodgers' Claude Osteen tried practically every pitch on both rookies. Money and Hisle will learn how the Dodgers intend to pitch them the next time the clubs meet.
In Houston, where the Phillies played three games against the Astros last weekend, it was obvious that the opposing pitchers already had composed a book on Money—especially so on the second night, when Money went 0 for 3. They threw him only one fastball, which he fouled into the left-field stands. The rest were curves and changeups and slip pitches designed to put Money off his stride. They did, at least that night. "I'll be all right," he said. Hisle, meanwhile, got two hits against the Astros, a single and a double, but he had not played the previous night and they had no real idea what to throw to him.
Now the Astros have compiled a book on both rookies. "Money," said Harry Walker, the best batting instructor in baseball who now works with the Astros' young hitters, "right now is strictly a fastball pull hitter who has trouble with any breaking ball. Hisle doesn't like anything in his kitchen and will hit any ball out and away with good power to right field.
"Personally, I think they're both going to be good hitters. Money is awfully strong, awfully quick with the bat. Hisle may not be as strong as Money, but he moves into the ball and works his arms and wrists and hands very well. I like both of them."
Thank you, Harry. So do the Phillies.