Only 32, Tal Smith is officially no more than the Director of Personnel for the Houston Astros, but he has many of the duties of a general manager. Almost unknown, Smith has been with the Houston club since its beginnings, and he helped select players for the club in the expansion draft of 1961. He was shunted aside when Paul Richards took over, but Owner Roy Hofheinz kept Smith around as his personal adviser and liaison man with the Astrodome architects. When Richards and Hofheinz had a disagreement and Richards left the Houston organization, Smith filled the vacuum. It's a big vacuum.
Ever since Leo Durocher arrived in Chicago he has been pointing to the future, and dutiful General Manager John Holland has gone and dug up the young bones. The Cubbies are abuilding, and the average age of the team has dropped sharply since Leo's arrival. Owner Phil Wrigley now seems content to let Holland and Durocher do the job which he, Wrigley, kept gumming up in the past. But as long as Leo is manager, Holland will find himself reflecting Leo's views in the front office.
Currently, Calvin Griffith of the Minnesota Twins is generally regarded as the toughest man in baseball to trade with. Other general managers maintain that Calvin places far too high a price on his players. After the team and Calvin and his family ( Griffith is surrounded by relatives in the Twins' front office) moved from low-attendance Washington to high-attendance Minnesota in 1961, there was at last enough money in the club treasury to maneuver with. Calvin quickly maneuvered to a pennant in 1965, but the blame for Minnesota's failure to repeat as champions can be traced to Griffith's reluctance to trade for sound defensive infielders. He will have to deal over the winter, but he probably will remain as stubborn and unyielding as ever.
The most spectacular trade in years—in which the Baltimore Orioles got Frank Robinson from Cincinnati—was actually set up by Lee MacPhail just before he left the team to accept baseball's mandate to help new Commissioner William Eckert learn about baseball. But the decision to go ahead with it was made by MacPhail's successor, 38-year-old Harry Dalton, who as farm director had made the Orioles' minor league chain one of the best in the game (four of their six teams are currently in the first division). Then Dalton traded for Relief Pitcher Eddie Fisher to further bolster an already strong relief staff. But the pitching has been sagging and so have the Orioles, and if they lose the World Series because of the pitching, what does Dalton do next?
The biggest mistake that Gabe Paul of the Cleveland Indians made was going along one year too long with his old friend, Manager Birdie Tebbetts. Birdie has definite theories on pitchers, and he stuck with them even when the staff became a shambles of grumbling and confusion. Gabe paid the price of loyalty, though he was doing it on a short bankroll. He also had to try to build up attendance in a town that seems disenchanted with baseball, and Gabe had a lot of his own money invested in the Indians. Birdie agreed to retire, and Paul was able to sell his interest to Vernon Stouffer, a man who will keep the team in Cleveland and also keep Gabe on as general manager. Paul will always be remembered as the man who brought Rocky Colavito back to the Indians, just as Frank Lane is remembered there as the man who traded him away. The Colavito trade was costly because Paul had to give up Tommy John, John Romano and Tommie Agee for him, but it was a brave trade; because of it, attendance rose nearly 300,000 and saved the franchise for Cleveland until Paul could come up with a buyer who could afford to keep the team there.
Who messed up the Boston Red Sox the most? It seems to be a tie between Tom Yawkey, for his role as The Overindulgent Owner, and former Manager and General Manager Mike Higgins, for his role as The Bad Trademaker. Now rookie General Manager Haywood Sullivan, 35, is shaking up the club, and attendance is up in Boston. Even though the Sox have spent most of the season in last place, the team shows fair promise, and three of its five farm clubs are in the first division.
As for the New York Yankees, who is the general manager? Dan Topping Jr.? Let's skip this and get on to more serious matters.
Ed Short of the Chicago White Sox is a man of butterscotch shirts and magenta slacks who sits each day in the press box at Comiskey Park reading the out-of-town papers for stray bits of baseball information. He rose from White Sox statistician to general manager and has worked for Chuck Comiskey, Frank Lane, Hank Greenberg, Bill Veeck and Arthur Allyn. Some say that he also worked for Al Lopez when Lopez was the team's field manager and guiding genius. After Lopez retired, he and Short tried to convince Owner Arthur Allyn to hire Mayo Smith as manager, but Allyn balked, and Eddie Stanky was the compromise selection. This year Short did not get the second baseman he needed in April until June, when he traded Eddie Fisher for Baltimore's Jerry Adair. Short tends to overrate the Sox pitching staff, which, while good, isn't good enough to carry a basically punchless team. Even though he wanted to stop playing it because the fans didn't seem to respond to it, Short still stands respectfully for The Star-Spangled Banner.
Fred Haney of California has done an outstanding job of building the expansion-club Angels into a contender. A former manager should be entitled to the second guess, but Haney does not interfere with his manager, Bill Rigney. Instead, he spends his time developing young players and picking up established ones at bargain prices. His blue eyes are constantly poring over baseball's waiver lists in search of an old player who can be rehabilitated. This year, retreads Jack Sanford (37) and Lou Burdette (39) have a combined record of 20-6 for the Angels, and Rick Reichardt (23) was the best young player in the league before he underwent surgery.
Charlie Finley had three general managers in his first five years at Kansas City, if you are willing to include Insurance Man Pat Friday. Now he has Ed Lopat, and have you noticed how quiet Finley has been this year? Amazing. No donkey-riding, no moving the team to Louisville, no bus-burnings. Could it be that Lopat has convinced Charlie that winning is the thing? Lopat got three hustling young defensive outfielders for the A's this year in Jim Gosger, Danny Cater and Joe Nossek—just the kind that help a young pitching staff. The A's are currently the youngest team in the American League, and five—count 'em, five—of their six farm clubs are in the first division. Even his worst enemy will admit that when it comes to signing young players the toughest man to beat is Charlie O. In any case, to Eddie Lopat, who rendered unto the American League almost a full year of Finleyan silence, give anything he wishes.