Like a 6-foot
Band-Aid, Shortstop Tom Tresh was asked to patch together the wounded Yankee
infield from April to August. Despite the tension of playing for the New York
terrors, he stuck. Next thing you knew, he was playing left field. With 89
RBIs, Tresh ranks second on his team, and his No. 3 spot in the batting order
is the one held this time a year ago by the storied Roger Maris. Named to the
All-Star team, Tom Tresh nevertheless is no more than a rookie. (And, of
course, he is a runaway choice to be elected the American League's Rookie of
the Year.) Tresh has never set eyes on a World Series game, but he is, if form
means anything, as unlikely to choke as Yogi Berra.
were in a terrible bind; things were really crucial last spring," says a
front-office man. " Tony Kubek is as good a shortstop as any man playing the
position, and where was he? Off at Fort Lewis in Washington with the Wisconsin
32nd. The chances of our trading for a competent replacement were nil, so Ralph
Houk sponsored a contest." There were two contestants: Tresh, a four-year
resident of the Yankee farm system, and Phil Linz, a solid-hitting shortstop
with Amarillo. Linz performed well, but Tresh beat him out. Says the loser,
cheerfully: "My friend Tom has the stronger arm—and he has the precedent.
Twice before, in Richmond and in Binghamton, he won the shortstop job over me.
But my luck's improving. At least this time they let me stay around to watch
Though Tresh was
able to take the measure of co-rookie Linz, he is not yet an even match for the
rangy, resourceful Kubek. "If it's a matter of fractions of inches, Kubek
wins," says a Yankee—and Tresh agrees. "All I hoped was that by the
time Tony came back from the Army, the Yankees would be in first place,"
Tresh says. "Then I could satisfy myself that I'd done the fill-in job
expected of me."
returned in August, the Yankees were first, and Tresh's fielding as well as his
bat were not inconsiderable factors. So far Tresh has hit better than the
veteran Kubek did last year, and his batting with men on base has been so sure
that Roger Maris, who won the RBI title last year, is the only Yankee
To a lot of
ordinary men, the return of a Kubek might cause a slight indisposition of
spirit. But Tom Tresh, like many ballplayers, professes to be unencumbered by
the niggling frets of insecurity, and in fact claims that he calmly awaited the
hero's arrival. Says Tresh, "I was under more strain with him away."
After 10 days of conditioning in left field, Kubek quietly changed places with
ex-Shortstop Tresh. "I know it would make a better story," says Tresh,
"if I had cursed the luck and carried on, but I felt no hostility toward
Tony getting his job back. I never cared what position I played in the majors
as long as I played." He was also glad to contemplate the future sketched
in for him by Houk. As Tresh wrote to his parents at the time: "My days as
a shortstop may very well be over.... Ralph told me if I didn't want to make
the change [to left field] I didn't have to. He told me he thought I had the
potential to be another Kaline.... He also told me that he had to start
thinking of someone to replace Mantle in center field and that he was going to
groom me for that eventually."
had not played in the outfield since the seventh grade, his father, Mike Tresh,
began teaching him to be an all-round player long before it occurred to the
Yankees. The grandson of a Pennsylvania coal miner from the Ukraine, Tom was
born in 1938, the same year Mike commenced his own 12-year major league career
as a catcher with the White Sox. "A couple of years after that," says
Mike, "Tom could connect with one of those miniature souvenir bats and a
rubber ball. He had an early eye." The infant Tom also had an early hustle.
Trying to beat out a looper over the coffee table, he once slid through a
window in the living room's French doors, bears the scar on his face to this
day. "Even so," says Mike Tresh, "the Yankees made Tom a Yankee. He
learned things in four months that it took me four years to learn. Not many
second-generation ballplayers outshine their dads in the majors, but, oh my.
When Tom hit his second home run he tied my lifetime record. I don't bother to
compare us anymore."
One way Mike
helped his son outshine him was to teach him switch hitting, encouraging the
boy to practice the unnatural art until it became routine. "The thing my
dad kept me from learning," says Tom, "was bad habits."
insisted that Tom get started in college before becoming a professional
ballplayer. Since Plant Policeman Mike Tresh did not go to college, Tom got the
drift He and his father steered off the scouts with the suggestion to call
again in three years, and Tom enrolled that spring at Central Michigan
University with a grant-in-aid baseball scholarship and a lukewarm aim, � la
Casey Stengel, to become a dentist. But in Tom's freshman year the whole Tresh
family succumbed to the lure of a $30,000 offer from the Yankees. "I was
supposed to talk to Boston the next day," says Tresh, "but I told them
never mind; I had what I wanted. I was on my own at 19, I had enough money so I
could finish college and I had a job with New York." Says Dr. William
Theunissen, a Ph.D. who coached Tresh in college: "I always thought he'd
have been smarter to wait another year, that he'd get more money with another
season of college ball behind him. But now when he gets his share of the World
Series loot this year, he can come back up here, buy a piece of the school and
Put to work in
the Yankees' St. Petersburg Class D seed bed in 1958, Tresh moved variously to
New Orleans, Greensboro, Amarillo, Binghamton, last year to Class AAA Richmond.
"Going up and down as you sometimes do in the minor leagues," says
Tresh, "can get you to wondering. But through it all, my dad never pampered
me, took my side or let me feel sorry for myself. He told me the Yankees knew
what they were doing, it was always tough in the minors and I had better get
used to it. To get up, and stay up, he said, I had to bear down." Bearing
down also meant getting back to school in the fall as soon as possible. Tresh
has switched from dentistry to a major in physical education, and though he is
sometimes a few weeks late reporting for classes, the administration overlooks
Thus, at 24,
Thomas Tresh is sitting pretty. He has doting parents, a wife and a
three-week-old daughter. His new job in the outfield ought to add five years to
his playing days ("They'll have to carry me out") and, as one of the
New York demigods, he'll carry off a boodle of money in the next few years.
Altogether there is only one thing bothering him: his Central Michigan
textbooks were shipped to him just the other day. His assignment is to get