The sweet scent of confidence lingers overnight in a winner's clubhouse. Saturday's sunshine reflected in Red Manager Dick Sisler's smile as he sat at his desk, riffling a stack of fan mail. I asked him how his team compared with the '61 champions for whom he was a coach.
"We're much stronger this year. Better hitting, better power, better defense, more speed. Now, if only O'Toole...."
Sisler's voice trailed off and his smile followed, leaving the phrase "if only O'Toole" hanging in the air.
Jim O'Toole is a stocky Irishman who has been the Reds' most consistent pitcher since 1961. He won 19 games to insure the '61 pennant, but so far in '65 he has won just once. The Red management claims it cannot figure O'Toole out. His failure has been the shock of the season to them, but O'Toole does not share their despair. He and Catcher John Edwards feel they know what's wrong and how to correct the O'Toole problem. The slider had always been O'Toole's trouble pitch, only this year the slider has gotten him into trouble, not out of it.
"I've been getting it down and in to right-handers, and not up tight on their hands," says O'Toole. "My rhythm's been off. I'm pushing the ball too much, taking something off the ball, and the slider breaks too big and too flat. Just a couple of details, and I think I've got 'em straightened out. But I won't really know till I pitch."
Characteristically, O'Toole gives the back of his hand to the first half of the season. Without a trace of a smile he declares: "I'm the key to the pennant. When's he gonna turn me on?"
"How can I pitch him?" Sisler asked. "People think I'm nuts for using him. He's had plenty of chances—14 starts, and what has he done? Nothing. Can I take another chance on him?"
Managing in the National League is a gambler's game at best, with the edge going to the man with the best hunch. Fred Hutchinson led the Reds home free in '61 with a club he described as "a bunch of guys who were fighting for their jobs every day, hardly aware they were winning." Hutch was somewhat less than a brilliant strategist, but for the one season he surprised even himself with the moves he made, juggling shortstops, catchers and left fielders more by instinct than statistical persuasion.
Last year Gene Mauch, manager of the Phillies, led the league in second sight, an exercise in intuition best described as second guessing before the fact. Mauch called it logical preplanning, but some of his moves looked like hunches when he made them and sounded like hunches when he replayed them.
Dick Sisler is conservative by nature and prefers not to take chances if he can help it. Last season, as a year-end substitute for Hutchinson, Sisler played a tightly controlled game, relying on speed and pitching to win close contests. This year's Reds have hit so well that Sisler has abandoned precise strategy and plays for the big inning.