One of the keen pleasures afforded by baseball is the detection of future superstars, a pastime that goes hand in hand with the continuing delight to be found in present giants. How splendid it must be to have seen Ruth in his prime and the young Gehrig busting in. How fascinating now to witness a Bobby Bonds in the same outfield with the sainted Willie Mays. On these pages, then, is a galaxy of greats painted in pop-art style by Illustrator Don Moss with photographs of budding beauties as counterpoint. We open with Carl Yastrzemski, lord of the flies in Fenway Park's left field, who, like Mays, has a classy kid in his own backyard in powerful Reggie Smith. All Boston aches to see Yaz come off his woeful .254 season of 1971. Meanwhile, Smith helped himself to glory by clouting 30 home runs last year.
Amos Otis is the one the Mets let get away—to become a two-time All-Star at Kansas City with a big bat and a flock of stolen bases. Catching on as St. Louis catcher, Ted Simmons switch-hit .304 and enabled Joe Torre to move to third base. Bobby Murcer's .331 and 25 homers have given Yankee fans a severe case of the New Mickey Mantles.
The old Clemente is good enough for Pittsburgh. Particular hero of the World Series, outfielder extraordinary, Roberto is .318 lifetime and this year is heading for hit No. 3,000. And into his 20th season swings Detroit's Al Kaline, first $100,000 player in Tiger history and a fielder so fine he played 133 games of errorless ball last year at age 36.
Robinson & Robinson, Baltimore's version of death and taxes, has dwindled in Crabtown to Robinson, Brooks. But that is plenty. The best-fielding third baseman since the late Pie Traynor, he hits, too. He also makes a lofty target for Detroit's oncoming young glove man, Aurelio Rodriguez, probably the second best third baseman around.
Frank's a Dodger now, so they have retired his No. 20 in Baltimore. Nobody is likely to retire his take-charge spirit. "Frank will win five or six games by himself in the late innings," says a former teammate. Robinson once managed Oakland's Reggie Jackson in winter ball and knows his bruising bat, which rapped out 32 home runs for the divisional champs.
Let us now worship Willie Mays; remember the catch he made off Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series? Or the way his cap would remain behind as he took the extra base? After 21 years and 646 home runs he doesn't play every game, but wouldn't it be nice to see him in the Series one more time, San Francisco? His Giant protégé, Bobby Bonds, has speed, power and a strong arm.
Big Frank Howard and all the Senators became Rangers this year, and soon people should be pointing out beyond the fences of Arlington Stadium—or somewhere—to show where Hondo hit one. Spring found him a holdout, as usual. So Frank strikes out a lot. So does the Pirates' Bob Robertson, but when he connects it sails—even when he is supposed to bunt, as in the 1971 Series.