"I was so discouraged because we didn't finish in the first division last year that I didn't care if I won the batting title or not," says Carl Yastrzemski. Yastrzemski won his title, but the Red Sox, who were in the first division as late as September 2, wound up the season in seventh place.
Life with the Red Sox was uneasy this spring as relations between Manager Johnny Pesky and several of his players became frigid. Batting Champion Yastrzemski was reportedly angry about a public dressing down Pesky had given him last year. When Pesky put First Baseman Dick Stuart in a B-squad exhibition game, Stuart loafed, obviously. Pesky called him selfish. Yastrzemski and Stuart form the major part of the Red Sox offense, so it is important to the team that Pesky somehow soothe their feelings. Perhaps it is too late. Yastrzemski hit .321 last year and had 95 walks, tops in the league, but he is the only solid left-handed hitter the Red Sox have. Catcher Russ Nixon batted .268, Outfielder Gary Geiger .263, but Nixon is a part-time player and Geiger is still recuperating from a serious ulcer operation. The rest of the Red Sox hitters are right-handed. A key man in the offense is Chuck Schilling (.234), who will add greatly to his value as lead-off man when he learns to hit to right field. At 34, Frank Malzone is slowing down and he probably will not be able to match last season's record (.291, 15 HRs, 71 RBIs). What Dick Stuart lacked in batting average (.261) he made up in runs batted in (he led the league with 118) and home runs (42). Eddie Bressoud was first among the league's shortstops with 20 homers and third with 60 RBIs. Three question marks are Lou Clinton (his average tumbled 62 points to .232), Roman Mejias (down 59 points to .227) and Bob Tillman, who is big enough (6 feet 4, 205 pounds) to hit a resin bag out of Fenway Park but who had just eight home runs and a .225 average. Ready to step in if Clinton or Mejias continues to slump is Tony Conigliaro, 19, who had an astronomical .730 slugging percentage and a .363 batting average in his first try at pro ball.
Little things mean a lot to Dick Radatz, who is 6 feet 5, wears size 14D shoes and weighs an eighth of a ton. Take the beds in Kansas City, for example. "Now I tell Dowd [Traveling Secretary Tom Dowd] to be sure to get me a bed in Kansas City without an end board so my feet can hang out," Radatz says. Trainer Jack Fadden cured a big backache last spring by putting a little arch support in Dick's spikes. From then on it was American League batters who had aching backs from their inability to get hits against Relief Pitcher Radatz. For one month, starting on May 12, Radatz did not give up so much as a run, allowing a meager 11 hits and seven walks over a stretch of 33 innings in 14 games. By late July his record was 12-1. In his first 74 innings he had struck out 100 men. Then he began giving up hits, runs and ball games. Radatz lost five of his final eight decisions and his strikeouts fell off to 62 in his last 59 innings, a mere nothing for a man whose strikeout record is even better than Sandy Koufax'. Something was obviously wrong. "In the last three or four weeks of the season it was an effort for me to walk from the bullpen to the mound," Radatz says. "I was probably a little tired, for one thing. Ever since I started playing professional ball I have always reached a low point in the latter part of July and August. I think the big reason why I had trouble, though, was that on top of being tired I had tonsillitis. For years doctors had diagnosed it as a sinus condition. As soon as the season ended I had my tonsils out and now I am a relieved man." A little advice from Ted Williams also proved helpful. "He told me that no matter who the pitcher was, if all the pitches were thrown from the same position he could figure them out pretty quickly," Radatz says. "I used to throw strictly sidearm, but now I throw about 20% three-quarter and 10% overhand. I like to start out a left-handed batter with two quick sidearm pitches from here, and then come boom right down over the top and catch him off guard." Backing up Radatz and giving Boston the best and busiest two-man relief crew in baseball is Jack Lamabe. He pitched more innings (151) than Radatz (132), gave up fewer walks (46 to 51) and complemented his 7-4 record in 65 games with a 3.16 ERA. Radatz had a 1.98 ERA in 66 appearances. Still, the staff had a 3.97 ERA, next to the worst in the league. Pitching, nevertheless, could turn out to be a strong point. Barring further arm trouble, Gene Conley should be closer to his 1962 form (15-14) than last year's (3-4). And Earl Wilson, if he gets over being discouraged by close losses and if he regains his slider, has the ability to reverse last season's 11-16 record. Bill Monbouquette (20-10, 3.81) may deliberately be a little wilder. Last year, when he allowed only 1.4 walks a game, he gave up more hits (including 31 HRs) than any other pitcher in the league. At age 20, Dave Morehead already has more speed and stuff than Monbouquette. If he can curb his wildness, he will improve on last year (10-13), when he was the winningest teen-ager in the big leagues. Jerry Stephenson, also 20, and Bill Spanswick, a long-sought-for lefthander who was 14-8 and 3.16 with Seattle, have the equipment to make the staff, either this season or next.
A clubhouse boy claimed this spring that he was bitten by Stuart's first baseman's mitt. Stuart, however, needs more than teeth in his glove to improve his fielding. "At third base, Malzone is actually the tallest man on the squad, but they can't straighten out his bowed legs," says one Boston writer. Bowed legs or not, Malzone does stand tall. So do Schilling at second and Bressoud at short. Yastrzemski does an excellent job in left field but might be more valuable in center. Having Mejias and Clinton side by side in center and right is a defensive catastrophe but, if Tony Conigliaro makes the team, the outfield will be stronger. The weakest link, though, is the catchers, who last year threw out only 21 of 82 base stealers.
Powder-keg relations between Manager Pesky and some of his stars, plus questionable Boston pitching, will keep the team scrambling to come in seventh again.