"I don't see how a left-hander could do that." Bill Monbouquette, Boston's most successful right-handed pitcher of recent years, said a few weeks ago. "You have to keep every pitch down, and against the right-handers you can only use the outside part of the plate. Man, those balls are really jumping out of here tonight."
It was 90 minutes to game time, and Monbouquette was worrying about the wall already, watching teammates—even the pitchers—pop flies into the screen in batting practice. Before the fourth inning of the game was over the Minnesota Twins' Bob Allison had poled a ball over the screen, nonhitter Jerry Kindall had popped one into it and Monbo was gone, beaten.
The wall almost dismayed Dave Morehead, the bright rookie right-hander, into defeat two days later. He carried a three-hit shutout into the ninth and had enough left to strike out the Twins' Harmon Killebrew, but then he walked Jimmie Hall and began to think. The batter was Allison.
"Think about the wall?" Morehead said. "You don't think about anything else. I still had my stuff and I wasn't tired, but I got careful with Allison and walked him." That made him more careful with Frank Kostro, who also walked to fill the bases. Morehead was saved by Dick Radatz, who knows only one way to pitch: fast balls for strikes.
When Sal Maglie was the Red Sox' pitching coach he tried to get across one message. A different ball park, he said, doesn't make you a different pitcher. You have to pitch your way and make the batter hit your pitch: if you do anything else you are doing the batter a favor by giving him less than your best. But Sal's words fell on deaf ears: it is incalculable how many sore arms have resulted from pitchers' unnatural attempts to avoid the Fenway stroke.
Or how many hitters the wall has led astray. Billy Herman, who became the manager this year, would like to play the kind of baseball Yawkey would like to play.
"I like to hit and run and I like to steal a base," Herman said. Then why doesn't he? "Well," he said, "we do a little on the road. But I can't steal that much, because we don't have that kind of speed, and we can't hit and run because we don't have the hitters who can meet the ball. Bressoud thinks he can, but he misses the ball too much."
It behooves batters like Ed Bressoud and Felix Mantilla, who brought career averages of .239 and .245 with them from the National League, to study small-arms devices like hitting a ground ball behind the runner. Maybe they did once, but they've forgotten by now because both discovered new horizons in Boston as practitioners of the Fenway stroke. They hit home runs, or what pass for home runs in Fenway. They do not make the double play, because Bressoud is just an adequate shortstop and Mantilla an inadequate second baseman. But Herman cannot resist the temptation to write their names into the lineup in place of fielders who can't hit like Rico Petrocelli and Chuck Schilling, particularly when the Red Sox are at home.
"You've got to play that wall here," Herman explains, "because you know the other teams will."
With his glove the 21-year-old Petrocelli is reminiscent of another kid shortstop the Red Sox might have taken a look at in the fall of 1939. He was on their Louisville farm, the Red Sox weren't going to catch the Yankees anyway and their shortstop, Joe Cronin, was getting old. But Cronin was the manager and Yawkey had sent $250,000 and a player to Washington for him. So they took $40,000 and four faceless players for the kid. His name was Harold Reese.