"He never sent me a card or a letter or even visited me when I was in the hospital after getting hit by that pitch in 1967," said Outfielder Tony Conigliaro. The next year Conigliaro attempted a comeback but shortly before the start of the season he returned home, complaining that he could not see out of his left eye. "When I got home," he said, "one newspaper headline read WILLIAMS DOUBTS TONY'S TALE. I didn't know he was an eye doctor, too."
Williams, always acerb, used the press to get messages to his players. For instance, speaking to a group of writers one day, he said, "Talking to George Scott is like talking to a cement wall." Scott read this the next day and seethed. Yastrzemski did, too. "When George's friends read that remark," he said, "they must've thought he was a real stupid player. If Williams had done that to me I would have punched him in the mouth—or got whipped trying to."
During Williams' tenure his teams always played exciting baseball. Now some of the players say that the Red Sox had the talent all along, that they won the 1967 pennant because they wanted to win it for themselves, but it is an indisputable fact that the same talent lay dormant until Williams forced it to the surface. That did not save his job.
And so Eddie Kasko, like Williams only an average major league player at best, was hired as the new manager. Quiet and studious, Kasko looks more like the village librarian than a major league manager. His approach to problems is more tactful than Williams'. For instance, when Kasko spoke to Jim Lonborg not long ago about the length of the pitcher's hair he did not say, "Cut it off." Instead he discussed Lonborg's career with him, mentioned that 1970 would be the most important year of his baseball life and that he should not leave himself open for discussion about subjects other than his pitching. Lonborg promptly had a hair or two cut off.
"Kasko," Yastrzemski says, "is a square guy. I remember him from 1966, when he was one of our utility infielders. He didn't go around buttering up any of the stars. He was strictly baseball. He never tried to make any extra money playing cards—or anything like that. He was all business."
Yastrzemski has been all business this spring, too. Each day after the regular workout he goes to the batting cage and takes 200 swings with a heavy, leaded bat. "I think that swinging the leaded bat is right," he said, "but maybe I'm wearing myself out. I won't really know until August. If I'm weak, then it was wrong."
After a half-hour session in the batting cage one day Yaz stopped to assess his career. "I think people have expected too much from me," he said. "I can't hit like Ted Williams, but the people in Boston are used to that magic .335 or .340 every year—and they want me to give it to them just like Williams always did. I can't, but I stop more runners from scoring than Williams ever did."
Yastrzemski has matured in the last year or so. "He still is impatient at times," says Reggie Smith, the Red Sox centerfielder, "but we've learned how to handle him. Some people think he comes across as, you know, 'What can you do for Carl Yastrzemski?' He'll be sitting at his locker and he'll say, 'Let me have that towel.' Well, the damn towel is right there at his feet. So you tell him, 'Get it yourself.' And he'll reach down and get it. Yeah, he's different now than he used to be."
Smith went out to play in an intrasquad game. Someone hit a routine fly to right center field. He and Tony Conigliaro converged under the ball.
"I've got it," Smith yelled.