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Specifically, the Yankees have surprisingly competent pitching, not so good perhaps as Cleveland's historic staff, but better, the knowing say, than Chicago's and probably better than Boston's. The magic here, again, is depth.
Specifically, the Yankees have a museum collection of superb fielding infielders: Gil McDougald, Andy Carey, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto and Billy Hunter. Specifically, the Yankees have, after Mantle and Berra and the infielders, an in-the-game-and-out squad of fine power hitters who are neither regulars nor substitutes: Elston Howard, Hank Bauer, Irv Noren, Bob Cerv, Norm Siebern, Joe Collins, Bill Skowron. They, more than anything else, are the hallmark of Casey Stengel's Yankees, the backbone of his platoon system.
Stengel has revolutionized baseball 'since he took over as manager of the Yankees in 1949 by using the players on his bench not as replacements in an emergency but as extra troops to be held in reserve in each game until the proper time comes to commit them. Most of the other clubs in major league baseball have begun to recognize the ^advantages of this system, but many of them still can't seem to get shed of the old idea that if you have two good third basemen (or whatever) you keep one and trade the other for a pitcher. Stengel hangs on to both. If he gets a third he may put him into a trade for 'the pitcher, but, on the other hand, he may hang on to all three.
The result is that Stengel right now has 13 topflight major league infielders and outfielders to juggle in and out around Mantle and Berra. Each feels he is good enough to be a rightful regular, and when he finds himself in the lineup he plays his skillful, daring, opportunistic heart out to prove his real worth to Stengel. Casey observes the man's abilities and how he utilizes them, makes a few mental notes and 'several thousand oral ones. Then, when he wants a player who can hit a ground ball to the right side with one out and a man on third base, he knows whether to use, say, Noren or Collins against a pitcher who tends to keep the ball low, say, or high.
Last week's pennant-cinching games were sharp evidence of this. Martin, Collins and Noren were among those on the bench in Saturday's game against Cleveland. In the eighth inning, after Bob Lemon had relieved Herb Score, the Yankees received an unexpected break when Al Rosen errored on what should have been a third-out grounder. Stengel, when he finds his foot in the door, wastes no time in exploiting his advantage. He threw in Collins and Noren to bat for Bauer and Carey. Both worked bases on balls on the 3 and 2 count, to force across the run that gave the Yankees the lead. The Indians tied the score in the ninth, but Martin, who went into the game as a fielding replacement for Carey, won it in the 10th. The next day, in the first game of the double-header with Chicago, Carey and Bauer were back in the lineup, and Carey drove in the winning runs. In the second game Bauer was on the bench again, but in the 10th inning, called on to pinch-hit, he delivered the game-winning hit.
"Depth!" American Leaguers insist whenever they discuss the Yankees. "Depth. Bench strength. Reserves."
Whatever it's called, the magic in it has wrapped up for Casey Stengel his seventh pennant in eight seasons, even though the victory-greedy old fellow will have to wait till September to take formal possession.