It was 11:50 a.m. Thursday, April 4, the last day of spring training in Clearwater, Fla. for the Philadelphia Phillies and the day they would cut their major-league roster to the Opening Day limit of 25 players. Out behind second base a pair of 20-year-old rookies up from the Carolina League were discussing their mutual predicament.
"Hear anything yet?" Don Money, a shortstop, asked Larry Hisle, a center-fielder.
"No, did you?" said Hisle.
Money (pronounced $$$) shook his head, frowned and started to walk back toward shortstop. Oh, well. He had told his parents, who live in Vineland, N.J., only an hour's drive from Connie Mack Stadium, that he probably would not see them until late September, and a year at San Diego, where he probably would be shipped, certainly would not hurt him. Hisle (pronounced Hy-sul) kept thinking, "When are they going to tell us? When are they going to tell us? When is it going to happen?"
Right about then it happened. Gene Mauch, the Phillies' manager, stepped out of the dugout and signaled to Money and Hisle to join him. The rookies listened attentively as Mauch beat around the bush with small talk. Then suddenly Mauch came to the point. "How would both of you like to go to Los Angeles with us?" he asked. The rookies only smiled. "I was going to let Don do all the talking," said Hisle.
"I wasn't gonna say no, so I didn't say anything at all," said Money. "I really don't like to talk anyway."
And that is how Money, wearing No. 5, and Hisle, wearing No. 24, happened to be in Los Angeles last Wednesday night playing in the Phillies' opening game against the Dodgers. Had they gone to San Diego instead, the Phillies might still be playing the game. Chris Short pitched a four-hit shutout and won 2-0 as Money drove in both runs—with a double that scored Hisle from first base and a fielder's choice—while Hisle had two singles, one in his first time at bat in the major leagues.
After the game the rest of the Phillies fell all over the rookies congratulating them. One old hand opened a Diet Pepsi for Money and another splattered mustard on a hot dog for Hisle. Noticing the commotion, Mauch strode from his office. "Hey, rooks," he said, pointing a finger, "these guys won't even know you the first time you go 0 for 4."
Maybe so, but the Phillies haven't been this excited since the Whiz Kids won the pennant in 1950. At present Money is the starting shortstop, although Mauch prefers not to call him that because he believes it will place too much pressure on him. Hisle, like Money a right-handed batter, alternates in center field with Tony Gonzalez, who only hit .339 last season, and already he is considered the best outfielder on the club.
Money (the Phillies naturally call him Green Stuff or Small Change) and Hisle are almost totally opposite personalities. Money is strictly a small-town kid who thinks trimming a Christmas tree is a big night and a John Wayne re-re-re-run is an opening on Broadway. He concentrated solely on baseball in high school, never thought much about college and signed a blank contract—no bonus at all—with the only team ( Pittsburgh) that ever evidenced any interest in his baseball ability.