This is the time of the clean slate and the fresh start, the soaring spirits and the joyful tidings: Hoffmeister's trick knee is like he never hurt it at all, Fink's sore arm is as good as two years ago when he won 20 games, McShane, the fat catcher, has been dieting all winter and looks like a million. Add it all up, pal, let just a couple of those rookies come through, give us half a break with the pitching, and doesn't it figure we're up there—maybe all the way?
This is the make-believe world of baseball's spring training, and this week in the camps of 16 major league clubs (four in Arizona, 12 in Florida) it was being created all over again. Regardless of how the clubs finished in 1955, there was nothing but high optimism everywhere—even in the camps of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Senators, last year's tailenders. Listening to the talk, a man might conclude that the second division had been abolished by an act of Congress. Nobody expected to finish there.
It happens every springtime, and nobody exposed to it can resist it. Like a farm boy watching the circus posters being plastered on the barn, baseball men begin to feel the excitement long before the big show starts. They feel it in handling a thousand details of arrangement, all the tremendous trifles that must be dealt with before the curtain rises.
Take the St. Louis Cardinals, first club to pitch camp with enough big leaguers on hand to make it more than a rookie school. One recent afternoon Frank Lane, the Cards' new general manager, stood staring out the window of his Busch Stadium office in St. Louis' at the last vestige of the winter's biggest snowstorm. An observer might decide, from the scowl on Lane's face, that he was hatching in his mind one of the spectacular trades for which he is celebrated. The observer would be in error. For in a moment Lane turned and, in the crisp, crackling delivery he reserves for his more positive declarations, he dictated the following telegram:
E. C. ROBISON, CHAIRMAN
ST. PETERSBURG BASEBALL COMMITTEE
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
AM VERY MUCH DISTURBED TO LEARN THAT CLUBHOUSE STILL WITHOUT HEAT. JUST WHAT CAN WE DO TO PROVIDE HEATING NECESSARY TO PREVENT HAVING LOT OF PLAYERS COMING UP WITH COLDS? CANNOT UNDERSTAND WHY HEATING CANNOT BE PROVIDED AS NECESSARY. AM ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT OPEN SPACE BETWEEN SCOREBOARD AND PALM TREES RIGHT CENTER FIELD FENCE WHICH SHOULD HAVE GREEN CANVAS AS BATTER'S BACKGROUND AS PREVIOUSLY DISCUSSED. APPRECIATE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, ROBBY. ARRIVING LATE SATURDAY NIGHT BUT 40 PLAYERS WILL BE IN EARLY SUNDAY MORNING. REGARDS.
FRANK C. LANE
The fever was beginning to mount elsewhere. That evening as he was about to sit down to dinner at his home in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Leo Ward, traveling secretary of the Cardinals, was called to the telephone to take a call from Texarkana, Texas. The following conversation ensued:
"Mr. Ward, this is Charlie Purtle?"