For the first time since World War II both major league pennant races could be determined by military obligations. Before the season ends, 40 top baseball players will have been drafted or will have spent some time training with the armed forces.
The list of players who have been or expect to be called up for two weeks is significant: Pete Richert of the Orioles, Jim Lonborg and Bill Rohr of the Red Sox, Larry Dierker and Joe Morgan of the Astros, Ed Brinkman and Bob Saverine of the Senators, Rod Carew of the Twins, Jim Lefebvre and Don Sutton of the Dodgers and the Cubs' double-play combination of Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger.
A two-week service stint can be almost as serious for a ballplayer and a ball club as a six-month period. Take, for instance, Tony Conigliaro, who recently returned from two weeks at Camp Drum. When he left Boston he was batting .304. On his return, his timing was off and he managed only three singles in his first 29 at bats. It was his worst slump, and it crimped Boston's first-division hopes.
The Tigers, instead of wringing their hands when Pitcher Mickey Lolich left for his two weeks' training with the Air National Guard last week, sent a catcher along with him and told Lolich to work out for an hour every night. But even this imaginative precaution didn't really solve the immediate problem. With Lolich in service, the normal rotation of the already weak Tiger pitching staff will be badly upset.
Although the Cubs have continued to play well despite the loss of 21-year-old Ken Holtzman—drafted for six months this spring just when he was being heralded as the next Sandy Koufax—their chances of finishing in the first division for the first time since 1946 have to be much less. Holtzman had a 5-0 record at the time of his induction and a 2.33 ERA. Cincinnati, San Francisco and Pittsburgh do not figure to be affected by service obligations, but the contending Cardinals have three players—Tim McCarver, Alex Johnson and Bobby Tolan—who have missed games and will miss several more in meeting Army commitments.
The effects of the draft extend beyond the current season, of course. Clubs now find that high school players are reluctant to sign because they prefer to go to college and gain a draft deferment. Some sign, but only to play bail in the summer recess. Leagues such as the Northern and New York-Penn leagues have cut their schedules to two months because the teams have short rosters.
All of which recalls those other days: gas rationing, swing shifts, Rosie the Riveter and—perish the prospect—the St. Louis Browns.
In the Portuguese colony of Macao, Communist Chinese have been rioting for weeks, plastering up posters everywhere with angry slogans. Last weekend a demonstrator, showing uncommon humor, attached a poster bearing one of the most familiar political phrases—DOWN WITH THE RUNNING DOGS—to the gates of the local dog track.