The Orioles are the American League team most thoroughly infested with accomplished youth, but the California Angels run them a good second, even though the Angels are running no higher than a good fourth in the league standings. Rick Reichardt, the most impressive member of the Angel youth movement, is a big, powerful, graceful kid, who is a splendid outfielder as well as a high-average, long-ball hitter. Hampered by an injured hand through most of June, Reichardt nonetheless maintained his position among the top sluggers in the league and was a runner-up selection to the All-Star team. If other young Angels—cherubim like Dean Chance, 25, Jim Fregosi and Fred Newman, 24, Paul Schaal, 23, Marcelino Lopez, Jim McGlothlin, Jos� Cardenal and Jackie Warner, 22, and Ed Kirkpatrick, 21—either develop, like Reichardt, into established stars, or return, as Chance and Fregosi must, to star ranking they have already achieved, then the Angels of the future will be a team to watch.
Certainly the Angels have a brighter future than, to be specific, the Cleveland Indians. The only truly outstanding player under 25 that the Indians possess at the moment is the 23-year-old left-hander, Sam McDowell. The Indians' dependence on McDowell was graphically demonstrated by their stumble and slide from the league leadership after Sudden Sam's arm went bad in midspring. With McDowell the Indians are an impressive team. Without him they are—in the context of the youthful American League—an aging and declining collection of ballplayers.
Not so the Detroit Tigers, who are hard on Baltimore's heels. Detroit doesn't have the flaming youth of Baltimore or California, but it does have the likes of big, beefy Bill Freehan, in his fourth full major league season at 24 and the starting catcher on this year's All-Star team. And Outfielder Willie Horton, 23, who is built like Roy Campanella and hits—sometimes—the way Roy did. Horton, 209 pounds on a 5-foot 10�-inch frame, has immense power (29 homers last year and 104 runs batted in, despite missing almost 20 games), though his ability to demoralize opposition pitchers runs in fits and starts.
And then there is the youthful trio of Tiger pitchers: Mickey Lolich, the old man at 25, Joe Sparma, 24, and Denny McLain, at 22 the most successful pitcher in the league. McLain is a kid who wears glasses on a lough Irish face, has Lou Boudreau for a father-in-law and says and does cheerfully kooky things. He still drinks a dozen bottles of Pepsi-Cola a day, and he still comforts himself after a rare losing game by sitting down at his Hammond organ (he is a professional musician and music teacher) and playing for his own enjoyment until 6 in the morning. As of last Sunday he had won more games than anyone else in the majors except Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers and Juan Marichal of the Giants. If he wins 20 this year—which he seems a cinch to do, barring injury or disaster—he will be the youngest 20-game winner the American League has had since Bob Feller did the trick a quarter of a century ago.
McLain, who has no inhibitions about discussing himself and his achievements on and off the diamond, is an appealing combination of breezy egotism and cold self-analysis. After he won his 10th game he said blithely, "Only 20 more to go for 30." Yet, when asked about his impressive won-lost record (12-3 early in July), he said in a matter-of-fact way, "I've won quite a few games, but I'm not really as sharp as I should be. Look at the homers I've given up. Twenty, and it's not even midseason. And, boy, were they hit! There wasn't a cheap one among them.
"But when I lose I don't do things like other people do. Like when Mickey Lolich loses, he breaks all the light bulbs he sees. Drives the electricians crazy. Me, I go home and sit down at the Hammond and think about the mistakes I made. I play until the sun comes up. I don't think it's strange that a pitcher should be able to play the organ. I love to play it. During the winter I played at a cocktail lounge in Detroit, and when I have time I give lessons.
"I like people. I like people to know about me. Some players object to publicity about their private lives. I don't care. In the beginning of 1965 Joe Falls, who's the sports editor of the Free Press here in Detroit, heard that I drank a lot of Pepsi-Cola, and he came and asked me about it. I told him the truth, that sometimes I knocked off as many as 16 bottles a day. Joe wrote about it, and the Pepsi-Cola people read the story, and they sent a truckload over to the house. Now I work for them, and the trucks keep coming, and I still love it, even though I can get all I want.
"I guess maybe all the notoriety affects your personal life in some ways. They had my wife on television, and she was terrific. Everyone called in and said how much they liked her, and I was happy for her. Then, of course, I had to bring her back down to earth after she didn't wash the dishes for three days.
"I enjoy kidding around, and I usually don't mind what people write about me. Though I didn't like it when Falls wrote that I was an imp. Come to think about it, I guess I am an imp. Except that before I pitch I'm the meanest man in the world. If anyone comes near me I'll take his head off.
"Did you hear about the great pitching battle in Detroit this year? Dennis McLain against Sam McDowell, and the papers played it up big. This was supposed to be the game that would determine who was the best pitcher in the league. Sam McDowell is the only man in baseball that I am truly afraid of, because he can throw so fast that he could put a hole in my head. Well, this was a meeting to decide which of us was really the best. Sam lasted an inning and two-thirds, and I went two and two-thirds. And that was the great battle. Except that when I batted against him he struck me out on three pitches, and when he batted against me I got him on three, so it was a draw."