He spent most of the season on the bench, then played in the Florida Instructional League last winter. "I wasn't 'not so good,' " he says. "I was plain awful." And so, when he joined the Twins in spring training. Rollins was rated low. "I knew it," he admits. "I was completely relaxed. And I think that spending part of last year in the majors broke the ice. In spring training Jim Lemon gave me a few hitting tips, and here I am."
Bernie Allen signed with the Twins for a $50,000 bonus after he, was graduated from Purdue, where for three years he was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Allen has a merry, innocent-looking face that makes him appear even younger than 23. He is lean, almost frail, and it seems incredible that he could have survived the assaults of 250-pound linemen.
"I didn't like football," Allen says. "But Purdue offered me a scholarship and it was a way to get a college education. I'm one of six kids. To tell the truth I didn't think I'd make the team.
Allen was sent to Charlotte last summer, did well and played winter ball. Then he took his wife Sharon to spring training.
"A lot of guys razzed me, of course," he says with a laugh. "They called me bowlegged—I am a bit bowlegged—and kidded me about running slowly. But I was used to that. The opposing linemen used to do the same thing. It never bothers me."
Pie and Ty have made a happy fellow out of Sam Mele, the man with the often unhappy job of managing the Twins. Mele, a gray-haired, grim-faced man of 39, speaks of his two young infielders in tones of a man who has just struck oil. "They're smart boys," he says. "They think all the time." Mele is being careful not to let anything upset them physically or mentally. When Allen got the flu on a road trip, Mele waited in Allen's room until the doctor arrived. Several times he has given the boys the hit sign on the 3-0 pitch, an honor usually reserved for the Mantles and Musials of baseball. "You should have seen their eyes pop," Mele says.
It might be pointed out that, as good as Rollins and Allen look, they do have their limitations. Neither has great speed or a very strong throwing arm. Allen appears to be short on range at second base, while Rollins at third has a weakness on slow-hit balls to his left. But Rollins can make the diving stop toward the line, and Allen is sure-handed and quick on the double play.
Rollins, who bats right-handed, and Allen, who bats left, both have fair power and the ability to hit to the opposite field. Allen can hit a baseball startlingly far for someone with his frail build. "It was when I saw Bernie start pulling the ball that I knew he was ready," says Sam Mele. "If you can't pull the ball, the defense gangs up on you."
Perhaps the boys' greatest asset, however, is their confidence. When Allen was asked recently if he was worried that the pitchers, once they had all seen him, might detect some batting weakness, he replied: "Sure, the pitchers will learn something about me, but remember, I'll learn something about them, too."