He is an athlete.
He is 6 feet 2 inches tall and he weighs 195 pounds, yet he moves lightly and
quickly, with perfectly controlled grace. His hands are powerful, yet they are
beautifully formed, supple, sensitive, quick. His legs are heavy and muscular,
yet they look as though they had been carved by Michelangelo. His name is
Kenton Lloyd Boyer. He is an athlete.
Two months ago he
was a great athlete. Now the wise men of baseball wonder if he'll ever escape
In the spring of
this year he was the subject most talked about (and almost always with delight)
in the camp of the St. Louis Cardinals. As late as the 30th of June he led the
National League in home runs, in runs batted in and in runs produced, and he
was second in batting. He was the National League's third baseman in the
All-Star Game in July, and in it was outstanding; he made three hits and two of
the greatest fielding plays a third baseman has ever made.
Of him, in the
spring, taciturn Fred Hutchinson, manager of the Cardinals, said: "He's the
kind of player you dream about: terrific speed, brute strength, a great arm.
There's nothing he can't do. He's the best base runner on the team. I think he
has the greatest future of any young player in the league."
But in August the
slow-moving, slow-talking Hutchinson benched Boyer. The player you dream about
sat in the dugout through eight straight games, watching Bobby Morgan, a .240
hitter, play in his place. He had slowly but steadily slumped through July and
had all but stopped dead early in August. His average had declined to .306. He
had stopped hitting home runs (19 before July 1, only two after). In the last
10 games before Hutchinson decided at last to bench him, Boyer had batted a
futile .174 and had not had one extra-base hit.
Hutchinson hoped, would restore his power. But when Boyer finally did return to
the lineup, volatile Frank Lane, general manager of the Cardinals, screamed
down from the press box high behind home plate in Busch Stadium in St. Louis:
"Swing the bat, damn it! Swing the bat!" And then to the others in the
press box, and to the sky and to the world for that matter, Lane complained:
"He hasn't swung hard in two months."
Down on the field
Boyer demonstrated that Lane was, technically, exaggerating, for he did swing
hard, once or twice. Once he hit a long foul that didn't miss being a home run
by much, and he followed that with a sharp double to left. But more often he
swung weakly, off balance, seemingly fooled by the pitch. When he managed a
base hit, it was frequently one that he had sliced to right, rather than pulled
to left. Lane was exaggerating, but he was right. Now Hutchinson, his dream of
May an August nightmare, has recast his opinion of the spring. " Boyer has
everything he needs to be a great player except for one thing. He has to
develop more drive, more aggressiveness. He doesn't push enough."
Frank Lane said
substantially the same thing, in language that was perhaps a little more
colorful, a bit more earthy and specific.
A St. Louis
sportswriter who follows the Cardinals said, in a wistful tone, "I think
maybe the only thing wrong with Ken is that he was born with so much ability.
He never had to try hard. Somebody else, a fellow like Stanky or Billy Martin,
has to fight all the way. Stanky had to scramble and work like the devil to
learn how to do things Ken could do the first time he tried them. If he had
drive, if he was Enos Slaughter, say, he'd be the greatest ballplayer you ever
quiet and self-assured, did not seem as disturbed by his slump, which he seemed
to feel was a temporary thing.