Just last Saturday the Pirates beat Kansas City on four 380- to 440-foot home runs interspersed with shot after shot after shot. The Pirates did not just dump balls into the outfield or hit a lot of scraggly little grounders. They hit in bold strokes. Rip, rip, rip.
What won't be the same about the Pirates is the defense. As good a hitter as Clemente was, he was a better fielder. "Sometime this year," says pitching ace Steve Blass, "somebody is going to go from first to third against us on a single to right. And I'm going to be shocked. It's never happened before, in all the time I've been in the big leagues, because Clemente has always been there. I'll find myself backing up first base on the play, because Clemente knew the lead runner wasn't going to try anything against him, so he'd try to pick off the hitter taking too big a turn."
"Somebody would hit the ball against us," recalls Sanguillen, "and we all say, 'It's gone.' We don't even know Clemente is running. And then he go 'poom' against the fence and catch the ball. I don't know how he do it."
Nobody else knows how, either, but it falls to Sanguillen, one of baseball's best catchers but an untried outfielder, to take over in right if he can, and if he can be suitably replaced behind the plate. Sanguillen is one of the few catchers the game has known who has not only the hands, arm and bat but also the speed and heart to take on such a challenge. And to date Sanguillen has played only 30 or 40 games in the outfield, most of them in winter league ball.
In his second game in right field this spring Sanguillen fell down before coming to terms with a single and did some unnecessary scrambling while chasing down a double. Last year in St. Louis, in one of his two outfield appearances, he ran straight at a line drive to his right instead of cutting back to get it on the hop, then lost it in the lights. He fell and three runs scored.
"But I would have caught it in the air if it hadn't been for the lights," Sanguillen says, and maybe—shades of Ron Swoboda in the 1969 World Series—he will be a man to make the unconventional great play. After all, he can hit a ball off his ear or off his toe on a line to any point in the park, and he has organized a flurry of long arms and legs into a consistently distinguished catching performance.
Still, it will be some time before Sanguillen settles in. "You don't know if you going to make the play," he says. "You not sure you going to throw the ball the right place. It is like looking for a new family. Home plate was my family."
The removal of Sanguillen from the catcher-infield family raises doubts about its stability. Young May seems capable but still has to prove himself as a regular catcher. And an infield of Hebner, 32-year-old Gene Alley, Cash and Stargell is not the most agile in baseball. One thing that hurt the Pirates in last year's playoffs was that too many ground balls got through that infield.
Stargell, an excellent leftfielder, is a so-so first baseman; Robertson is vice versa. But Stargell will be at first and Robertson—or Clines, Davalillo, Stennett or rookie Rich Zisk—will be in left, because Stargell cannot subject his bad knees to any more outfield pounding.
So this may be the first Pirate team in at least 19 years without any dash afield. It is Stargell's belief, however, that "we'll miss the man more than the ballplayer. There are a lot of men going around saying they're great, but there aren't many good men left."