In the hot, pressure-packed days of a pennant race, attention has a way of focusing upon the old pro, for he has proved that he can deliver in August as well as in April. But every old pro was once a rookie himself and now, in the blossoming world of big league baseball, it is spring, and spring is a time for rookies. Here, selected from the 16 training camps, are the rookies of 1958 who could very well become old pros one day themselves. February phenoms have a way of fading fast, but these appear to be ready, and this is what sets them apart. Spectacular or steady, publicized or almost unknown, they have the talent and ability needed by some big league club, and theirs are the new faces baseball fans will be seeing on television screens and in big league parks this year. The best ones will still be attracting attention when the pressure is on in August.
Determined tiger Bob Shaw was star of Cuban Winter League, reminds Manager Jack Tighe of Bob Lemon. A well-educated (St. Lawrence U.), poised 24-year-old from The Bronx, he has rare control, a good slider, curve and fast ball.
Smallest senator, in fact the littlest big leaguer, is ebullient (but intensely religious) Albie Pearson, who has won everyone with his charm and won the regular center field job with his ability. Only 5 feet 5 inches tall and 144 pounds, this 22-year-old from California can hit the ball amazingly hard, can run and has a really great arm.
Hard luck kid for two years while trying to crack Yankee lineup, tall, graceful Norm Siebern now looks like Casey's long-lost left fielder. A left-hand hitter with fair power, he tore the American Association apart with Denver in '57, hit .349 and 24 home runs with 118 runs batted in. Quiet, single and 24 years old, he comes from Missouri.
Best young pitcher in the well-stocked Milwaukee farm system last year was slender Carleton Willey, who won 21 games, struck out 174 for Wichita with steaming fast ball. An impressive performer this spring, he could win a job even on the deep, talented Braves staff.
Most sensational rookie has been 19-year-old Redleg Outfielder Vada Pinson. Appears small (5 feet 11, 170 pounds) but hits with left-handed power and can go to first in same time as Mickey Mantle (3.3 seconds). Hit .367, stole 53 bases in Class C, has just about convinced Manager Birdie Tebbetts he doesn't need more experience after all.
Tobacco-chewing Georgian Phil Clark looks like the relief pitcher Cards so badly need. A calm, hard competitor, he has sharp control and a good sinker ball. Big (6 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds) and strong, he was in 63 games last year for Houston's Dixie Series champions, won 16 and lost only six with brilliant earned run average of 1.83.
Handsome Haywood Sullivan, once a football star at Florida, is about to become a big league catcher at Boston. Now 27 and with three years of high minor league experience, he has learned how to catch, which is what the Red Sox wanted. They were always pretty sure he could hit. Intelligent and confident, he is 6 feet 4, weighs 210 pounds.
Heir apparent to the Oriole shortstop job, now held by weak-hitting Willie Miranda, is Ronnie Hansen, a tall, rangy 19-year-old with only one season of pro experience but the fluid grace and strong arm of a Marty Marion, whom he closely resembles. Not yet a good hitter, he is a determined worker, should show rapid improvement.
Insurance for the aging Los Angeles outfield is 22-year-old Don Demeter, a big, fast Oklahoman who can field like the dickens and hit with power. He missed out on spring training because of military service, but Dodger brass know what he can do and count on him as eventual replacement for either limping Duke Snider or Carl Furillo.