SI Vault
Walter Bingham
October 02, 1961
In a single series, Cincinnati pitching—three good starters and two good relievers—may cancel the Yankee edge in fielding and hitting. It makes the choice tougher than the odds-setters believe
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October 02, 1961

An Analysis Of The Teams

In a single series, Cincinnati pitching—three good starters and two good relievers—may cancel the Yankee edge in fielding and hitting. It makes the choice tougher than the odds-setters believe

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A pitcher can get ulcers just reading the Yankee lineup. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit more home runs this season than such teams as the Cardinals, Red Sox and Athletics. Maris and Mantle are capable of settling the Series themselves, but if they need help, it is available. There are Elston Howard, who became an intelligent hitter this season; Moose Skowron, a hot-and-cold free-swinger; and Yogi Berra, still the money man. In Cincinnati's Crosley Field, with the center-field wall only 387 feet away, these hitters may keep the little boys outside the park very happy. Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Cletis Boyer are comparative breathers, but only comparative. It was singles-hitter Richardson who nearly wrecked the Pirates in last year's Series.

The Reds have some power too, though just a shadow of the Yankees'. Frank Robinson is the heart of the Cincinnati attack, the most valuable player in the league. But Robinson has been in a month-long slump, which began when he injured his left knee. The knee is all right now, but the slump lingers. Vada Pinson would be the best center-fielder in the league if Willie Mays were not. His speed helps him beat out topped rollers, his strong wrists supply him with surprising power. Hitting left-handed, he could be dangerous in Yankee Stadium, with its short right field. The same is true for Gordy Coleman. Wally Post and Gene Freese, two righties, are strong hitters in Crosley Field. Eddie Kasko does not hit home runs (only two this year), but with an important run waiting on second, he is a tough customer.

The Yankee bench is strong even without Bob Cerv. John Blanchard, in limited use, hit 20 home runs this season, four of them in successive at bats. Hector Lopez also hit well enough to play first string on most other teams. The Reds have the most successful pinch hitter (over .400) in baseball in Jerry Lynch, a lefty. Gus Bell, for many years a Cincinnati favorite, stands behind Lynch. Behind Bell there is very little.



The Yankees are good fielders—a surprising plus for a team with such power. Howard is a fine catcher with a throwing arm strong enough to keep a fast man like Pinson honest. Blanchard, when catching or playing the outfield, is not brilliant, but he is not embarrassing. The infield of Skowron, Richardson, Kubek and Boyer is as good as any in baseball, with Boyer at third making up for whatever Skowron at first gives away. Kubek and Richardson make the double play smoothly and often. In Berra, for so many years the Yankees' catcher, Manager Ralph Houk has found a very competent left fielder. He has his comic moments, stumbling occasionally, and his arm has limited range, but he also has the knack of coming up with the big play. Mantle and Maris play the outfield almost as well as they hit, although Mantle's arm, perhaps sore, has not been strong lately. One problem the Yankee outfield will encounter in Crosley Field: the ground in the deep outfield slopes up to meet the wall in left and center, and this requires some getting used to.

Defensively, the Reds range between adequate and poor. Darrell Johnson, for two years in the Yankee bullpen, will share the catching with John Edwards and Jerry Zimmerman, depending on which Yankee is pitching. Of the three, Johnson is the most experienced. Coleman puts up a brave battle at first base, as does Dick Gernert, who plays against left-handers. Don Blasingame and Eddie Kasko are ordinary at second base and short. Elio Chacon and Leo Cardenas are better, flashier, but younger, and Hutchinson may go with experience. Freese has improved at third, but his scatter arm still keeps the customers behind first base alert. Post, Pinson and Robinson form a fair outfield. If Lynch starts instead of Post, the defense is weakened. Robinson will play right field in Crosley, but will switch to left in Yankee Stadium. There, left is always a difficult place to play in October, when the area around home plate is lost in the haze of the late-afternoon sun.



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