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RED MENACE FROM STAID CINCY
William Leggett
April 20, 1970
Opening Day is always a swinging affair in the quiet old city on the Ohio, but usually that's about it. This season an exceptional crop of talented rookies may keep the excitement bubbling all year long
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April 20, 1970

Red Menace From Staid Cincy

Opening Day is always a swinging affair in the quiet old city on the Ohio, but usually that's about it. This season an exceptional crop of talented rookies may keep the excitement bubbling all year long

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Rose broke in in 1963. "I was known," he says, "as a guy who ran out walks and hit triples. The first time I went to bat Earl Francis of the Pirates threw four straight balls, and it was a good thing for me that he did. I ran like the devil to first base. My first hit in the majors was a triple, but after going 3 for 23 I was benched. I was too excited, just plain too excited."

Lefthander Claude Osteen, a 20-game winner for the Dodgers in 1969, says, "I never did realize for sure which was my rookie year. I came up to the Reds three different times and only got to start three times. In 1961 I pitched one-third of an inning. It's hard for a kid to sit on the bench because the pitchers and coaches will tell you things like, 'To win in this game, son, all you have to do is throw strikes.' That's pretty hard to do when you don't get a chance to pitch. When you are young and wild not many catchers really want to work with you. They want the ball right where they want it, and when you can't give it to them they have had enough of you. I suppose my rookie year was really 1962 when I was with Washington. I learned how to pitch in one game because of a catcher named Hobie Landrith. We were playing the Yankees, and before the game he sat with me and discussed what we would be trying to do. Concentration is a huge part of pitching; if you don't concentrate on every pitch you will make a mistake that is like throwing a lit match on kerosene. As each Yankee hitter came up, Landrith would stand at the plate and look at the hitter, forcing me to do the same thing."

Maury Wills of the Dodgers says, "My rookie year was tough. After being in the minors for 8½ years I thought I knew how to play the game, but I didn't know the pressures of playing mental baseball on a contending team. There weren't too many people to console me, either. I caught hell more often than I had anyone patting me on the back. I was alternating with Don Zimmer, and that hurt my pride. Even though I was in the major leagues, sitting on the bench part of the time wasn't good enough for me. I went to Walt Alston, the most fantastic man in baseball, and asked him to ship me back to Spokane, where I would play every day. Now that was real smart, wasn't it? Alston said some nice things to me and told me not to worry. If he had given me my way during my rookie year I probably never would have made it to the big leagues again."

Bernie Carbo slept barely at all before his first game, and after each game ended he sat quietly by himself, not interfering in anyone's conversations or seeking praise. But the other players on the team came over to him and shook his hand. He talked more about the team than himself. "I know this team can pitch," he said after the fourth victory. "I know we might even have great pitching despite what everyone has said. And we'll hit."

Simpson seemed baffled by his own control in his two-hitter. "I woke up and ate breakfast at 7 in the morning," he said, as though that might explain it. "I just can't seem to eat when I pitch. I guess I was nervous. Kept going to the bathroom before the game. I never pitched a game before in my life that I can remember not walking anybody."

Nerves or not, the rookies are making the National League West aware of the Red menace. Cincinnati's big bats have been sabotaged by bad pitching the past few years, but look out this time, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco. This time the menace seems real.

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