When the Chicago Cubs return to Wrigley Field this week from their first long road trip of the season, the Bleacher Bums, those rambunctious rooters, will be cut off and cooped in. Beer hawking in the bleachers already has been replaced with over-the-counter sales behind the stands by bartenders who have been threatened with unemployment if they serve minors. And beginning Thursday bleacher spectators will be caged behind screens that should prevent debris and delinquents from littering the outfield.
What all this fencing-off will do for the Cubs and, particularly, for their manager, Leo Durocher, remains to be seen. Before the hot club suddenly went into a chilling tailspin in Atlanta, losing three straight games, it was operating in an atmosphere of restraint. The brassy Cubs of a year ago seemed tamed. Third Baseman Ron Santo no longer clicked his heels at the final out of each win, although he knew his team had improved enough to warrant a little celebration. A tape of the Cub fight song that had played interminably on a portable recorder in hotel lobbies, dressing rooms and buses last season was not heard despite another fast start that had already included an 11-game winning streak. By Sunday night the National Leaguers still had a 2�-game Eastern Division lead, the position they held from April 8 to September 10 a year ago. Durocher even hinted he might change some of his strategy of 1969, although in Atlanta he began to sound more than a bit like his old blistery self.
"Last year it was like a kid with a new toy. This season everyone is calm," said Santo after the first of the losses to the Braves. "We've already had a longer winning streak than we had all last season and nobody's said anything about it or a pennant."
Santo walked to the locker-room door to congratulate rookie Jim Colborn, who had pitched 4? innings of strong relief while Atlanta was beating Chicago 9-2. "Nice going, Jim. You opened some eyes out there tonight," said the man who last year publicly berated rookie Outfielder Don Young for crucial misplays in a loss to the Mets.
"I was surprised to find when I joined the team at the end of the exhibition season that they have so much confidence and are so calm after what happened to them," said J. C. Martin, the catcher who was traded from the Mets last month. "They avoided talking about last year with me. When I came into the clubhouse the first day, I was carrying my gear in a Mets bag and they told me to get rid of that right away. Later when I got my world champions' ring, a few of them stopped over and said 'That's nice,' but that's about all. They learned a great deal from last year, when they always seemed to be looking ahead to some series a couple of weeks off and not worrying about the importance of the game that day. You could see it clearly when you played them."
The strongest reason for the Cubs' quiet new confidence is the addition of Johnny Callison, who is the first solid rightfielder the team has had in almost 10 years. Callison came to Chicago in the trade that sent Pitcher Dick Selma, the uncalmest Cub—-who faded sharply late last season—to Philadelphia. Callison is a fine outfielder and a pressure hitter who can understand his new teammates' feelings. He played on the 1964 Phillie team that lost a 6�-game lead in seven days late in September. Callison drove in 104 runs and hit 31 home runs that year, but when the Phillies in subsequent years fell back in the standings his performances dropped off. The chance for a pennant in Chicago seems to have revived him. After the first month he was second in runs batted in and home runs for the Cubs and was batting .310.
The arrival of Callison solved only one of Durocher's problems. He still must platoon Jim Hickman and Jimmie Hall, who combined for a .231 average last year, in center field and he has no proven fourth starting pitcher, although Colborn and another rookie, Joe Decker, have been impressive. More importantly, if the Cubs are to win the Eastern Division, Durocher must find a way to rest his six other regulars, all of whom have been on the All-Star team in at least one of the past two seasons.
"When we played the Cubs late last season we could see they were worn out," said Martin. "They weren't as sharp and as aggressive as they could have been." Only Billy Williams among the top six hitters batted more strongly in September than in August. Don Kessinger, Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert averaged between 58 and 122 points lower.
"I was naturally more tired last year," said Santo. He has missed only 10 games in his 10 major league seasons and, like his teammates, underplays any off-the-field factors in the Cubs' collapse. "It was a mental tiredness, not a physical one, and it was caused by the constant pressure of the pennant race."
Ferguson Jenkins, the Cubs' top starter, who has worked more innings during the past three seasons than any other big-league pitcher, added, "It's right there in black and white if you look at the numbers. We haven't been a good team in September the past few years. We had some guys on the bench last year who could have helped but we didn't use them until it was too late. Those last three weeks were a nightmare. We weren't getting any runs, the fielding fell down and our pitching wasn't as good on some days either."