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Their names are Rich Rollins and Bernie Allen, but in the locker room of the Minnesota Twins they are called Pie and Ty. True, Rollins is not yet a Pie Traynor at third base, nor does Allen hit as consistently as Ty Cobb did. Small matter. The Twins are off to a galloping start this season—galloping for the Twins, at least—largely because of their own Pie and Ty.
Rollins' name has been high on the list of top hitters all spring. Allen, hampered by an early-season case of the flu, started more slowly, but many of his hits have won ball games. In a recent three-game series against Detroit, Rollins hit a home run with two out in the ninth inning to win the first game: both Rollins and Allen hit home runs to win the second, and in the final game Allen hit a three-run homer to complete the sweep. The Minnesota Twins aren't meant to take three-game series from teams like Detroit, but Rollins and Allen seem to be too new to the majors to realize this.
Rollins and Allen are so new, in fact, that they aren't even supposed to be in the major leagues this season. The Twins had planned to let Billy Martin play second base. Third base was open to anybody—anybody except Rollins. In February, Calvin Griffith, owner of the Twins, gave reporters his view of coming events. "I hear Harmon Killebrew, John Goryl, George Banks and Bill Tuttle mentioned at third base," Griffith said. "Well, I've got a dark horse for you—Nestor Velazquez."
Both Pie and Ty might have been parceled out to Vancouver, a Minnesota farm club, had not Shortstop Zoilo Versalles come down with the mumps soon after the exhibition season began. Allen went in at shortstop and hit so well that he was shifted to second, his normal position. Rollins took Allen's place at short and he looked so good that when Versalles recovered, Rollins stayed in the lineup at third. Martin got an outright release and it was Nestor Velazquez who wound up discovering the charms of Vancouver in the springtime.
Red, red and red
Rich Rollins is 24, a short, solidly built young man with particularly stocky legs. ("He'll never make the majors," predicted a longtime TV broadcaster this spring. "His legs are too heavy.")Rollins has red hair, red eyebrows and, he says, a red temper, although he thinks he has it mastered. He wears glasses when he plays; they transform his appearance from Jack Armstrong into something surprisingly like the class grind.
As a boy in Cleveland, Rollins used to hawk popcorn in Municipal Stadium. When the game was over, he'd wait for a glimpse of Ken Keltner or Lou Boudreau. "I wasn't an autograph hound," he says. "I just liked to watch them."
After graduating from Kent University in 1960, Rollins signed up with the Twins (then the Washington Senators) for a modest bonus. His blackest moment came in that first season in the Carolina League. He was on first base when the hit-and-run sign was flashed. He took off for second, heard the crack of the bat and saw the shortstop move over to cover the bag. Rollins slid, then figured the shortstop had been faking and assumed the ball had gone through for a hit. He got up, dashed for third and slid in again. Only then did he find out that the batter had popped out to first.
Playing at Charlotte last June, Rollins got a call to join the Twins. "I flew into Chicago before a night game," he says. " Cookie Lavagetto was managing then and he asked me how I felt. I was really whipped, but I said I was fine."
Rollins started the game. "Boy, was I scared," he says. "I didn't know how to act. I remember thinking during infield practice, 'Gee, these guys don't miss.' I just wasn't ready for the majors."