Q. In 1956, after stumbling around in the second division for 11 years, the Cincinnati Redlegs came storming up right into the middle of one of the wildest pennant races the National League has ever seen. They finished only two games out of first place, equaled the major league home run record and gained a million fans across the country with their power and an exciting brand of baseball. It appeared that the Reds were on the way. Yet only a year later the team barely managed to hang in the first division, finished a dismal 15 games behind the Milwaukee Braves and seemed to be going no place very fast. Now the club must be at some sort of crossroads. Is Cincinnati really one of the have teams of the National League as it indicated in 1956 or is it a have-not which put on one brief show of fireworks and then subsided into mediocrity?
GABE PAUL: Make no mistake about this. If being a have team means having the ballplayers who can stay in contention for a pennant and having the organization to keep the good ballplayers coming in, we are a have team. I think we are going to be in contention for a long time. We have good replacements and competition for positions. The difference between a good ball club and a bad club is generally only three players. We have about 400 in our minor league system, and we know that some of them are very good.
Q. That sounds fine—for the future. But what about this year?
BIRDIE TEBBETTS: We're going to be tougher. A lot tougher.
TEBBETTS: The way to judge a ball club is this: Can it balance itself off? If one or two men have a bad year, can you still go? If you can, then you have a ball club that's alive. Now we have three first basemen, the best catching staff in baseball, the best double-play combination in baseball and an outstanding infield. In the outfield we have the best young ballplayer in baseball in Frank Robinson. Given time, he will be the best hitter in baseball. Gus Bell in center is like Tommy Henrich. Always steady, always doing a good job. And our bench is far above average. Grammas would be a regular on a lot of ball clubs and the pinch hitting is outstanding. Burgess is the best pinch hitter in baseball. It's a versatile bench.
Q. But didn't you have most of those fellows last year? Bailey and Burgess and Crowe. McMillan and Temple and Hoak. Robinson and Bell and the bench. Plus Kluszewski and Post then, too. How can you say you will be stronger?
TEBBETTS: There is one thing I would like to get straight. I have never said we didn't have a good ball club last year. In fact, I think we were an improved ball club over the year before. Post didn't have a good season, Bailey slumped at the plate, and we lost Klu all year. Yet with five or six weeks to go, we were still a pennant contender.
Q. Wasn't there a lot of criticism that the organization was power-crazy, that you had too much power and nothing else?
TEBBETTS: We took our best shot at the pennant in '56 with a ball club built around power. We found we couldn't do it. Power alone can let you down. The one thing you want is balance. We realized that last year, and I think we had pretty good balance. I think you will find that in 1957 we ran more than any club in the league except possibly Pittsburgh. I don't mean stolen bases alone, but running. Of course, speed alone can let you down, too. A combination of the two, speed and power, is what you want.