!A year ago this week they were saying that here was one of the great Yankee teams of all time. Without the power of the old Ruth-Gehrig-Dickey clubs, the 1958 New Yorkers appeared to have everything else: superb pitching in matchless depth; sharp, timely hilling; searing speed on the bases, and a defense that was as tight as a drum. By the end of the first five weeks of play they had won 23 games and lost only five; already they led the second-place Indians by 8� games, and day by day, with an effortless, deadly precision, the Yankees were pulling further away. Soon it became a rout, one of the most lopsided runaways baseball has ever seen.
Today the Yankees are stumbling along in the second division, playing less than .500 ball, and only an even more horrendous start by the Detroit Tigers has prevented them from dipping into the cellar. Not for almost 20 years has a Yankee team begun the season so slowly and almost never has one looked so bad. The pitching has been erratic, the old Yankee power flashes only in brief, unproductive bursts and the fabled defense is coming apart at the seams.
For the rest of the American League, with the possible exception of poor old Detroit, it has been a wonderful spring. Ball parks in Cleveland and Chicago, in Kansas City and Baltimore, even in Washington, have begun to rock with the enthusiasm of fans who have finally found something to cheer about in the way their own teams are playing ball. Once these same people turned out only in the feeble hope that the Yankees might lose. Today they crowd into the stands with a bubbling, infectious conviction that the Yankees will lose. And lose the Yankees have—again and again and again.
Naturally, the big question which everyone asks is why do the Yankees lose? What is wrong? And, in an attempt to find out, people have also been asking smaller, specific questions. Here are the answers.
ARE THEY TOO WELL FED?
There is an old theory in baseball, dredged up at the drop of a World Series share, that wealth and success breed only complacency. The truth is that ballplayers, even good ones, don't make that much money. The Yankees are normal, greedy human beings like anyone else, and the more they get the more they want. This applies to dollars as well as to pennants.
In addition, behind every high-salaried Yankee there is a young, low-salaried Yankee just itching to take his place. The regulars know this and they remind each other of it constantly. The story of what happened to Wally Pipp is a classic in the Yankee clubhouse: he took a day off because of a headache and came back to find Lou Gehrig standing in his place. By the time Gehrig left, Wally Pipp had a long, gray beard.
And, finally, neither Casey Stengel nor George Weiss will put up for an instant with complacency. The Yankees have traded away ballplayers before who didn't seem to really care about winning, and if necessary they will do so again. This is not, however, a problem which causes the front office much concern. The Yankee players have a great deal of pride, and they are perhaps the worst losers in baseball. They just like to win.
HOW ABOUT THE LAME AND HALT?
The Yankee sick list this spring has read like a Who's Who at Bellevue
. Out with flu for varying lengths of time have been Mickey Mantle, Ryne Duren, Andy Carey, Tom Sturdivant, John Blanchard, Marv Throne-berry, Jim Coates and Cletis Boyer. Elston Howard, Gil McDougald and Hank Bauer missed a few games with minor injuries, Mantle was out for more than a week with a broken finger, and Bill Skowron, who was playing with a corset wrapped around his aching back to begin with, pulled a leg muscle which really put him on the shelf.