It has been shining most brightly at Dunedin this fall on a broadbacked Californian from Laguna Beach named Danny Meyer. Youth he has. He is 21 but looks 18 and has a comely brunette wife who would be a knockout at a sock hop. Best of all, he is a promising left-handed hitter.
"You don't pay that much attention to batting averages here," Meyer said. "I keep my own batting average and figure it out every day. I'm hitting .340 now but I have tailed off a little bit in the last week or so."
Among those not so nonchalant about averages is Campbell, who knows that Meyer is one of the few batsmen in recent years to hit .400 anywhere. He did it in last year's Instructional League, and came close with a .396 for Bristol in the Appalachian League in 1972.
Fielding is another matter. "My problem," Meyer says, "is finding a position. I was signed two years ago as a second baseman but I have also played third, first and in the outfield. Next year I hope to be advanced to Detroit's Triple A team at Evansville. I have to be honest and say that this season, when I played with Lakeland in the Class A Florida State League, I had some fielding problems."
This year Meyer also had to face up to a shift, a rare experience for a young hitter. It shows unusual respect by the opposition for his bat—and may be a hint that Meyer could vault past Evansville all the way to Tiger Stadium. "I struggled and struggled against it," he said, "and kept hitting the ball right where they were playing me. But near the end of the year I started to get the ball to the opposite field. Then the hits began to come."
He paused and in all seriousness added, "I have a feeling that the Tigers are about ready for a youth movement. I very much want to be a part of it."
So, surely, does Ralph Houk, although he has been peddling the standard line that the Tiger veterans are still capable of winning. Like everyone else, he knows that Baltimore recaptured the division championship by infusing youth into an aging team, and winning means beating Baltimore.
When he quit in New York, Houk said he had gone as far as he could with the Yankee players. What he did not, and will not, say is that the new octopus ownership had perhaps stuck one tentacle too many into his handling of the team. A story persists, for example, that General Partner George Steinbrenner sent a memo to him one day saying that players X, Y and Z had hair of unseemly length and would forthwith have it cut—designating the players by the numbers on their uniforms in his apparent ignorance of their names.
As Houk takes over in Detroit his first problem will be finding players with enough hair to cut.