A year ago Bill Rigney was the fidgety, snappish manager of the San Francisco Giants, afraid of the lengthening shadows, touchy at the mere mention of his personal albatross, Candlestick Park. Now, in the soft, friendly air of Palm Springs, Bill Rigney, new manager of the new Los Angeles Angels, was a new man. Relaxed and smiling, he walked up to rookie Shortstop Jim Fregosi and draped both arms across his shoulders.
"Go on down to the batting cage, son," Rigney said warmly, "and just bust a few. Anytime that cage is open, you go down there and bust some. O.K.?" Fregosi, not used to such high-level attention, nodded uncomfortably and started toward the cage.
Rigney turned and trotted back to home plate, a broad smile on his face. He grabbed a fungo bat and began hitting grounders to the infielders. Minutes later he was behind the batting cage, leaning on the crosspiece in the time-honored stance of all managers. He stared intently at the procession of batters, yelling an occasional bit of encouragement. When Ken Hamlin bounced an imaginary hit between lazing infielders, Rigney straightened up. "Atta way, Kenny. Beautiful, just beautiful."
A sportswriter shook his head. "I don't know how Rigney does it," he said. "Every day he gets questions like 'How do you think the Angels will finish?'—and he never even gets annoyed. Shows you the difference between that Giant job and this one."
The Angels' camp is indeed different. "This isn't like going into camp with an established team," said veteran Del Rice. "No jobs are sewed up here, and everybody knows it." How many games did he figure on catching? "Just as damn many as I can," replied Rice, hustling into the batting cage. "All one fif—all one sixty-two."
Did Bill Rigney himself see any difference between this camp and those he ran with the Giants? "Well, we've got 20 or 30 guys who've never played together before. That gives the manager more to do, more people to concentrate on. He can't take anyone for granted. And when nobody knows for sure who's going to play, that adds a lot of incentive out there on the field."
In the neat, chummy stands there were straw hats of every shape and size. There were walking shorts and tanned legs, Truman shirts and tanned arms, sunglasses and tanned cheeks. There were canes and crutches, too, and white, wrinkled noses supporting steel-rimmed spectacles.
The crowd was responsive. When Ted Kluszewski booted a grounder in practice the first-base fans hooted; when he missed a low, wide throw they booed. Then Klu ducked his head, stabbed with his mitt and came up with a short-hopping throw from the third baseman. The crowd laughed and Klu grinned and shuffled his spikes with embarrassed pleasure. "You don't see lively crowds like this too often in training," he said later. "Of course, they haven't seen baseball for a while."
Or maybe never—when a foul ball was hit into the stands a young man caught it and started to sit down. There was a smattering of protest, and suddenly everyone was shouting, "Throw it back!" "Throw it back?" repeated an astonished press-box inhabitant. His neighbors nodded sadly, and one said, "Yes, it happens all the time here." Sure enough, the more the young man hesitated the more the shouts continued. Finally, with a sheepish grin, he yielded to this new society and tossed the ball back onto the field.