"How in the world," said Birdie, "can I send him down where he belongs as long as he plays like that? He does a lot of things wrong, but he outruns his mistakes."
So Pinson stuck with the Reds for a couple of weeks after the season began, hitting a bases-loaded home run in his second big league game and doing well in the field. But eventually his inexperience began to show. His average dropped off badly, and the Reds, with a clear conscience, sent him down. At Seattle he hit .343 and stole 37 bases.
That Pinson's tremendous performance this season seems to have escaped detection by the headline writers is due to several factors. First, since he does not qualify technically as a rookie, the reams of copy annually expended in covering those first-year marvels have passed him by. Second, with a Henry Aaron in the league, one does not take much notice of a mere .330 hitter. And, finally, despite the hitting of Pinson and Robinson and Johnny Temple and Gus Bell, the good hit-no pitch Reds have hardly been hot on the trail of a pennant.
Still, it has been an experience to watch him. He was named to the All-Star team, although picked second behind Willie Mays, and his consistency has been remarkable. Only a short slump in midseason, when it was evident that Pinson was getting tired, has slowed him down.
"He needed that break at All-Star time," says Wally Moses. "He was pooped. It's been hot, and all he does is run. He's on base all the time, and he works like a dog in center field. Those fellows on each side of him don't cover too much ground."
Is Pinson tired of running?
"Well, not tired exactly," he says. "I'd just rather hit."
Appreciative as Pinson is of his gifts, he prefers to conserve them. At McClymonds High in Oakland, California—which also produced Frank Robinson—he played only baseball, passing up basketball and football and track.
"The coaches wanted me to go out for football," he says, "but I never could see any sense in carrying all that heavy stuff around on your back. I tried basketball awhile, but all you do there is run up and down the floor. And track, well, that interferes with baseball. And besides, I guess nobody really knew I could run very fast."
Pinson was a pitcher and occasional first baseman in the spring and played a trumpet the rest of the year around. He has since given up pitching and playing first base, and the trumpet is back home on a shelf.