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Tidrow and Wilcox were also spring bloomers. Tidrow started last year in Reno, then was promoted to Wichita, where he had a so-so 8-6 year. Now, at 25, he has come of age. He is also one of those rare pitchers who becomes more effective when he is fatigued. "I throw a sinker," he says, "and for some reason the more tired I get the more the ball seems to sink."
The secret of Wilcox' success is not exhaustion but anger. He has been pitching "mad" all season because his former manager, Sparky Anderson, spoke slightingly of his "velocity" when he traded him to the Indians. If there is anything a pitcher is sensitive about it is his velocity. So the madder Wilcox gets, the harder he throws. He has now established quite a ferocity-velocity ratio.
In Perry, for whom they traded Sam McDowell, the Indians have a canny veteran who already has won seven games. Perry is also arousing the sleuthing instincts of American League umpires, for it has long been suspected that he puts more on the baseball than his fingers—hair oil, perhaps, or Vaseline. Perry accepts periodic investigations with equanimity. "Every four days," he says, "I expect to be visited out there."
The happiest newcomer of all may be young Bell, who is the son of Gus Bell, the fine outfielder for Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the '50s and early '60s. Bell had been an infielder all his baseball life until this spring, when Aspromonte moved him to right field to make certain he had a place in the lineup. Aspromonte believes he has superstar potential. At least he looks like one.
"Every now and then you see somebody who just looks like a ballplayer," says Aspromonte. "Mantle was one. This kid is another. Tall, blond, well built. He just puts a shine in your eyes. Put that kid on the screen and the girls would go wild."
Bell, who was the American Association's Rookie of the Year in 1971, has not lost his rookie enthusiasm. When he hit a grand-slam home run off Baltimore's Eddie Watt last month, he gleefully applauded himself as he rounded the bases. "I thought I did a helluva job," he said later.
Alex Johnson does not applaud himself when he hits a homer, nor will he suffer the congratulations of his teammates on such occasions, but he is giving the Indians something to shout about. He leads the team in home runs and runs batted in, and he is chasing fly balls and running the bases, facets of the game he chose not to recognize a year ago in California. The hostile brooder of that time has become, relatively speaking, the soul of affability. Not that Johnson glad-hands his teammates or snaps towels in the shower; he simply keeps his distance. "They leave him alone here," says Catcher Jerry Moses, who went to Cleveland with Johnson from the Angels. "That's what he wants." Johnson is not likely to be suspended this season for failing to give his best. He is, in fact, one good reason why the Indians are riding a tide of goodwill in a town that would not have cared much if they had been washed into Lake Erie a year ago.
The fans have not exactly been breaking down the barricades to see the new Indians—so far attendance has exceeded 10,000 only four times in 14 home dates—but Cleveland has had unusually bad weather this spring and it will take time for the people to accustom themselves to a winner. Mileti, ever the aphorist, recognizes that much remains to be done.
"Between every dream and every reality," he says, "there are 2,000 nuts and bolts."
And please hold the mustard on that elephant.