His name is not Robinson. He has not been favored with an exotic sobriquet like "Boog." No one would mistake him for the Vice President of the United States. For that matter, his neighborhood grocer might be better known outside the state of Maryland.
He is, plainly and simply, just that nice young man who has led the world champion Baltimore Orioles in hitting these past two seasons. He is just Merv Rettenmund.
Merv Rettenmund.... Now there is a name not to be reckoned with—polysyllabic, Germanic, Middle Western, a melting pot name from a time when melting in the pot was achieved with a low flame and a high boiling point.
But a Merv Rettenmund by any other name still would not be a household word. For call him what you will, he remains an anachronism, a spiritual relic, a throwback to one of those blue-eyed blond campus deities who shone so brightly in the green light of Scott Fitzgerald's envy.
He sighed eagerly. There at the head of the white platoon marched Allenby, the football captain, slim and defiant, as if aware that this year the hopes of the college rested on him, that his 160 pounds were expected to dodge to victory through the heavy blue and crimson lines.*
At a time when rebellion is fashionable, even at the old ball park, Merv Rettenmund is an organization man. He seldom grumbles, rarely gripes. He admires his teammates, obeys his manager, respects his owner. He is the compleat ballplayer: a hitter, a runner, a thrower. He will give you—oh Lord—nine innings of baseball.
Rettenmund is a team man on a team of stars—the Robinsons, the 20-game winners, Boog—but the fault of his obscurity lies not so much with the stars as with himself. He is doggedly uncontroversial, fiercely normal. Just when ballplayers, even the sheepishly conventional, have pretensions to libertinism, Merv Rettenmund can say something as appallingly reactionary as "I don't think I could have made it to the big leagues if I hadn't been married."
Ballplayers today prefer to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, business executives, restaurateurs, authors, revolutionaries, anything but ballplayers. So here is Merv Rettenmund answering a question about his interests outside baseball: "Outside baseball I have no interests. None whatsoever."
Does Merv Rettenmund whoop it up in those celebrated road trip bacchanals? "I think I'm human, but I'm a very poor drinker, and that's in my favor. Besides, I don't like to hang out with ballplayers too much. I see enough of them. I like to spend my time with my family."
"Merv," says teammate Boog Powell, "would never be very big in a Bouton book." And yet Rettenmund does have a reputation among his colleagues as something of a wag, even, for some, a black humorist.