After bouncing himself with the diminishing return of a baseball from a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose property he is, down into the bus leagues, Dick Stuart seems to have undergone a metamorphosis. Now a first baseman with the third-place Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League, Stuart is batting .351, has hit 15 home runs and struck out 35 times in 38 games, but, significantly, he has also hit 32 singles, has 45 RBIs and is fielding with both aplomb and interest.
"I used to sulk," said Stuart the other day. "If I wasn't hitting, I'd sulk real bad. I'd be so mad I wouldn't even want to go back to the outfield. When I'd get there, I'd be cussing myself out so hard that when somebody hit the ball out near me, I wasn't ready for it. But I like it better and I work harder at first base. It keeps you in the game. You've got something to do instead of just standing around in the field."
A tranquilized Stuart has even saved a game against Phoenix by ranging into the hole between first and second, spearing what looked like a base hit, throwing to the shortstop covering second and sprinting to first to take the relay to complete the double play. And once against Vancouver he lunged headlong after a sizzler he could well have ignored without an official scorer in the land thinking the less of him. What's more, he came up out of the dust with the ball in hand. The crowd roared, something Stuart thought occurred only when you hit a home run. Says his manager, Larry Shepard: "I say without any hesitancy that Stuart is a better-fielding first baseman right now than several regulars in the major leagues." Says Stuart: "I never used to believe fielding was part of the game."
At bat, too, Stuart, who used to be a sucker for a two-strike pitch, going to his knees in an attempt to lose it, has been punching the ball over second and an over-shifted infield, when the occasion demands, for a cooperative single. Or at least he tries. At Sacramento last week he had two strikes and two balls on him and he seemed to be trying to punch the pitch into shallow center field. His natural power, alas, propelled the ball 420 feet and it was caught after a mighty run. "I will say this," Shepard says, "he is a different boy after the second strike."
But there are remnants of the old I'm-for-me Stuart. He still has a tendency to neglect running out ground balls and he still relishes hitting those home runs, which, after all, is what brings the fans out.
"The guy who breaks Babe Ruth's home run record will make a million bucks," Stuart mused the other day. "Maybe he'll make that much on endorsements alone. You know how old Ruth was when he got his 60? Thirty-three. Just hitting his stride. I'm working on it. I've got time."
Stuart has; he is 25. "He just about made it to the majors once on brass alone," a close friend has said. But just about isn't good enough for Richard Lee Stuart and that's the chief reason why it is tempting to conclude that he will be back.
704 vs. Shoemakers
In Endicott, N.Y. an electronic brain spluttered and fumed through three hours of checkers. Then it sighed and gave up. A panel of eight retired shoemakers had beaten it half a dozen times and played it twice to a draw.
The computer, an IBM 704 of the type used to interpret satellite information, made its moves by calling on a memory bank of 30,000 checker problems it had ingested before the match. For each human move a technician fed it a punched card. After considerable blinking, clicking and head scratching, 704 offered its idea of a counter. To IBM researchers intently studying 704's reactions, it did not matter that it won or lost. It was how it played the game.