SI Vault
Jack Mann
August 08, 1966
As the baseball season enters its last two months, the National League lines up for one of its typically wild pennant scrambles, out of which will come a winner—but not necessarily the best team
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 08, 1966

Situation Normal In The Good Old N.l.

As the baseball season enters its last two months, the National League lines up for one of its typically wild pennant scrambles, out of which will come a winner—but not necessarily the best team

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

Cardinal Manager Red Schoendienst wasn't grinning from ear to ear at the All-Star break, but then he wasn't bleeding from ear to ear, either. His team was four games under .500 and 12� games out of first place, but he still had a job and last spring he wouldn't have bet on that. Three weeks later the Cards were six games over .500, and Schoendienst was saying that his team did have a shot at the pennant.

Down, boy: you're 5� games behind. But it's that kind of league. In the name of economy, St. Louis General Manager Bob Howsam last winter traded high-salaried Bill White for some people who couldn't do the Cardinals any good. This spring, in the name of reason, he traded Ray Sadecki to the Giants, who were desperate for a left-handed pitcher, and got Orlando Cepeda. Cepeda's resurgence (.339) has made it possible to play light-hitting Dal Maxvill at short, and the Cardinals' defense is now calked.

Thus the Cards, with Curt Flood in center and Tim McCarver behind the plate, are as sound as any team up the middle-except for the pitcher's mound. Bob Gibson's arm troubles him, and Ray Washburn's reconstructed shoulder is suspect. St. Louis, like Pittsburgh, must lean heavily on untested pitchers such as Joe Hoerner, who was so insignificant a member of the cast during the spring that his principal assignment was to hit fungoes against the facade of the new stadium club to see if the glass would break. Obviously then, the Cardinals have no more chance than they did in 1964 when nobody believed in them but Johnny Keane.

The Phillies' age movement might have succeeded if among all the balding gentry they imported—Dick Groat, Bob Buhl, Larry Jackson, for three—they had found a right-handed relief pitcher who could get somebody out. But the Phils' bullpen consists of a slightly built rookie southpaw, Darold Knowles, who has to throw hard to throw hard, and who is likely to tire as his number of appearances approaches the record level.

The disaffection toward Manager Gene Mauch of Right Fielder John Callison—reportedly fined $1,000 after he announced that he'd rather not play for Mauch—was followed by the editorial disaffection of the Philadelphia Bulletin: "The benching of Callison, a fans' idol, raises new questions about Mauch's ability to handle his men evenly and fairly."

If Mauch's dissatisfaction with an RBI man who isn't batting in runs raises the question whether a team can win a pennant if the manager and players are feuding, the answer is—of course. It has happened before and will happen again if the Pirates win the pennant this year. What John Gunther wrote, prophetically, of Thomas E. Dewey in 1947 can be said of Pirate Manager Harry Walker: "A blunt fact about him must be faced: it is that many people do not like him."

Some of the people who do not like Walker are playing for him. "It took a while to learn his way," says Jim Pagliaroni, the team's player representative and a sort of younger statesman. "We've gotten through to him. We understand him now." But do you like him? "I said we understand him."

But if Walker's moves keep winning games, there may have to be a reappraisal. Johnny Keane doesn't smile easily, but he might laugh if the Pirates win the pennant. He has played Walker's role. Some people may be amazed if the Pirates win, but Bill White won't be one of them. He has felt the boat rock before.

"We had some pretty good ones in St. Louis in '64," White said with a shrug. "But we won the pennant." They were not the best team in the league, but Keane didn't tell them.

1 2