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Where Mays, returned to the Giants last March after two years in the Army, has been the sensation, Johnny Antonelli, a tall, serious young left-handed pitcher, has been the quiet hero. The Giants acquired Antonelli from the Milwaukee Braves in a winter trade for Outfielder Bobby Thomson?and got in him a pitcher of promise but no proved merit.
At 17 Antonelli had been given a bonus of $65,000 to sign with the Braves but until this year his best effort was a 12-and-12 season in 1953. Frank Shellenback, a fatherly man who serves as pitching coach for the Giants, took Antonelli in hand, shortened his pitching stride, improved his control and helped make him a 20-game winner.
Antonelli is a good bet to start the first game of the World Series. Sal Maglie, a nerveless veteran right-hander, is the best choice to start the second. Last year Maglie seemed through, undone by a back ailment. Last winter he went to a chiropractor and showed up in the spring with a rubber lift, an eighth of an inch thick, which he placed in the heel of one shoe.
"My pelvis is tilted," Maglie explained. "The lift evens up my legs." There was some scoffing which ended when Maglie pitched strongly all spring, then went on to regain most of his old effectiveness.
Behind the tutored Antonelli and the tilted Maglie is Ruben Gomez, a perfectly healthy Puerto Rican right-hander, who was earlier rated the Giants' best pitcher but has dropped back to No. 3 because of Antonelli's development and Maglie's recovery. Hoyt Wilhelm, a knuckle-baller, is the only other Giant pitcher who looks like a Series factor. He shares the relief pitching with Grissom. Beyond these five pitchers there is little mound strength.
Defensively the infield is steady. Whitey Lockman at first, Captain Al Dark at shortstop, and Hank Thompson at third are all competent fielders. Davey Williams at second is outstanding. Lockman, Dark and Thompson are tough hitters; Williams has been in a season-long batting slump.
For years Wes Westrum, the top catcher, has been in a batting slump?now regarded as permanent?but his fine receiving and excellent handling of pitchers makes him a good choice to do most of the work in the Series.
Don Mueller, the rightfielder, hits well over .300 and fields adequately without fuss. Monte Irvin, the leftfielder who hit .458 in the 1951 World Series, has suffered through a bad season at bat. Jim (Dusty) Rhodes, a weak-fielding free-swinger, probably will share left with Irvin.
THE ASSET CLEVELAND HASN'T GOT
It may not mean much, but the Giants won 13 of their 21 spring games with Cleveland. What means more is that the two clubs have been making spring tours for years and know each other as well as any World Series rivals ever have.