Four months from now Warren Giles, the president of the National League, will go to his hall closet, take out his brown-and-white saddle shoes, his mahogany walking stick, his handy gallon-size decanter of Sea & Ski suntan lotion and head south from Cincinnati toward spring training. Along the way Warren will leave a trail of headlines like GILES FORECASTS 10 TEAM TIE IN SENIOR CIRCUIT Or GILES FORESEES NEW STADIUMS IN PITTSBURGH, PHILADELPHIA, CINCINNATI AND CHICAGO Or LOOP PREXY EXPECTS NL GATE TO SOAR TO 16 MILLION IN '67. In many places, however, people are going to stop Mr. Giles and ask an embarrassing question. "Warren, bay-bee," they will ask, "what happened to the Dodgers in the Series—was they pushed or did they jump?"
If Warren stays in the role of league president, he will answer, "Wait till next year," but if he wants to be candid he will admit that the National League's champions were plainly and simply overmatched. By winning the way they did, the Baltimore Orioles gave the American League its biggest lift in years and showed many people for the first time some of the young stars the American League has been developing over the last two seasons. While negative statistics were being spouted left and right in the 63rd World Series, two very positive ones were being overlooked: the Orioles used only 13 men, and their average age was only 25.8, compared to 28.4 for the players the Dodgers used.
Arguing the merits of one league against another is, of course, one of the great conversation pieces of American sport, yet until the Orioles brushed the Dodgers aside with what looked like the back of a hand, American League fans have had little material to argue with. Because the National League had won six of the past nine World Series as well as nine of the past 12 All-Star games (one was a tie), American League fans, and particularly non-Yankee American League fans, have had to take a great deal of abuse from National Leaguers.
But this year 31 rookies won regular jobs on American League teams, compared to 20 in the National, and young players are, more and more, beginning to dominate. Until the current wave of youth started arriving in 1963 there is no doubt that the American League was inferior. But Minnesota gave the National League champions a hard fight last year in the Series, and this time around Baltimore had only once to use its strongest weapon, the bullpen, to rub the Dodgers out.
Still, with all respect to the vigor of youth, a very large measure of Baltimore's success must be credited to two older players—Frank and Brooks Robinson—and one old (in terms of service) front-office man, Jim Russo. Russo is a black-haired, 44-year-old scout who wears horn-rimmed glasses and neatly cut clothes, and he is the last St. Louis Brown still employed in the Baltimore office.
Since 1961 Russo had been after the Orioles to make a trade with Cincinnati for Frank Robinson, even though Robinson, for most of that time, was regarded as an "untouchable." His persistent interest eventually bore fruit. On the evening of December 1, 1965 in the lobby of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Jimmy McLaughlin, the farm director of the Cincinnati Reds, approached Russo, handed him a slip of paper and said, " Frank Robinson for that." Russo looked at the paper. On it were three names: Pappas, Baldschun and Blefary. Milt Pappas was Baltimore's best starting pitcher, and Jack Baldschun was a veteran reliever just obtained by the Orioles from the Philadelphia Phils. Curt Blefary, a young outfielder, was the American League's Rookie of the Year. Russo looked at Blefary's name and sighed. "I don't think it is possible that we will give up Blefary," he said, but he took the message to the club. The Oriole front office talked about the deal all night, but they would not trade Blefary, even if it meant passing up Frank Robinson. Russo so reported to McLaughlin.
The next day the Orioles traded First Baseman Norm Siebern to the California Angels for Dick Simpson, an untested 22-year-old outfielder with great speed and potential. On Saturday, December 4, the day the major league meetings ended, Russo got on an airplane bound for his home in St. Louis and sat next to Herk Robinson, McLaughlin's assistant at Cincinnati. "I just felt like relaxing with a couple of drinks," says Russo. "We got to talking, and Herk asked if we would be interested in trading Pappas, Baldschun and Simpson for Frank Robinson. I told Herk to call Bill DeWitt from the airport in St. Louis to see if he would make the trade, and if he would to call Lee MacPhail." On December 9 the deal was completed, and the Orioles got Frank Robinson in one of the greatest testimonies ever to drinking while flying.
During the first week of September this season, Russo went on the road to scout the Dodgers for the Series. Although Los Angeles was in third place at the time, Harry Dalton, Lee MacPhail's successor, assumed that the Dodgers' pitching eventually would win them the National League pennant. As soon as Russo caught up with the Dodgers they began to win; he saw them take 12 of 14 games and shut out Houston four times in a row. But in one of the games the Dodgers won, Russo noted that Gaylord Perry of the Giants had given them trouble by using fast balls and a hard slider (plus an occasional spitter). Russo also saw that Larry Dierker, a hard-throwing young pitcher for the Astros, gave the Dodgers trouble with fast balls, even though he was beaten. Russo was later joined by Scouts Al Kubski and Harry Craft, and on September 16, after 14 hours of writing on a legal pad, the Orioles had their scouting report on the Dodgers. When typed up, the report came to 16 pages single spaced; it carried some very interesting things about the Dodgers, plus some editorial comments.
Russo's summations were that Maury Wills was an excellent bunter but that Willie Davis was not; that left-handers hurt the Dodgers because the switch hitters had to bat right-handed and thus a step was taken from them; that lefthanders took Ron Fairly out of the lineup and thus hurt the Dodgers both offensively and defensively. He maintained that Koufax "is their bread and butter. Has been a great pitcher but would now call him a real-good pitcher. His fast ball is good, the type that rises, but the National League hitters have been helping him much too often by swinging at the rising fast ball above the strike zone. Try to lay off this pitch." Two of Russo's editorial comments were, "Let's not panic against this club," and, in conclusion, "We can beat this club."
On the day before the Series began, Manager Hank Bauer held one of his infrequent clubhouse meetings. He told his players that they were a good team and "to hell with the odds, because guys that made odds don't play baseball." Bauer also told them that he had seen them all year long, respected them and admired them for the way they bounced back and overcame injuries. Even if they were to lose, Bauer said, "lose fighting," but he didn't think they would lose. Hank then turned the meeting over to Russo and for two hours the Orioles went over the scouting report point by point, and every now and then Frank Robinson would offer an added suggestion or two about the Dodgers.