George Weiss may be the smartest general manager in baseball; certainly he is the most successful. And whatever he hands Casey Stengel to work with, the Yankee manager molds into a pennant. Whether Casey is a genius, too, or merely gets good mileage out of great material, isn't too important just as long as he wins pennants. Unlike Stengel, who never played in American League, his three coaches are all former Yankee stars: Bill Dickey (first), Frank Crosetti (third), Jim Turner (pitching).
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S YANKEES
Yankees have four: pitching, catching, infield and outfield. Of these, pitching is least impressive, but Stengel will get along with Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Johnny Kucks, Tom Sturdivant, Art Ditmar, Bob Turley, Bobby Shantz, Bob Grim, Tommy Byrne and perhaps a youngster or two like Ralph Terry or Al Cicotte or Jim De Palo. Yogi Berra is best catcher in baseball, which he has to be to keep Elston Howard on the bench. Bill Skowron at first base hit .308 and 23 home runs, yet platoons with left-handed Joe Collins; both were pressed to beat out Marv Throneberry, who ripped 42 home runs at Denver. No one makes the double play better than Billy Martin, yet he has to hustle to fight off slick-fielding Bobby Richardson, a 21-year-old with a .328 average in Triple-A. Versatile Gil McDougald hit .311 and in his first season at shortstop played the position as if he had been born there. Yet McDougald can't ease up either; there is a hungry young man named Tony Kubek around (.331 at Denver) who has been leading entire squad at plate this spring. If Andy Carey, despite his defensive excellence at third, fails to regain his batting eye, one of Stengel's fast shuffles could replace him with Martin or Richardson or one of the shining young rookies or even Skowron. And, while on the subject of the infield, one shouldn't forget Jerry Coleman, once a Yankee regular and still capable of playing 154 games for most teams in the league. Mickey Mantle, baseball's No. 1 citizen, is in center field, and little more can be said about Mantle. Hank Bauer is in right. Team is set, at least two deep, at every position except left field.
Only one is position mentioned above, and although this is the one spot where the Yankees are not set, they are five deep there. Stengel can make his selection from list which includes Enos Slaughter, Howard, Norm Siebern and Rookies Kubek, (a very versatile young man) and Woody Held. Casey's probable solution will be to start with Kubek and try them all; considering the cast, most managers would like to have that left-field problem.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
In February Yankees sent a crowd of people who couldn't make the team to Kansas City, where they were needed, and in exchange received two pitchers who might help very much indeed: Ditmar and Shantz. Ditmar lost 22 games last year, but this was for Athletics and he also won 12; with Yankees figures could easily be reversed. Shantz, Most Valuable Player award winner with his 24-7 record in '52, has not been able since to win more than five games a season because of bad arm, but this spring he's been throwing hard and without pain. Anyway, Shantz is frankly a gamble, and Yankees are not famous for bad luck. Rookies include most of fine 1956 Denver team plus scattering from Richmond and Birmingham; those Casey can't use he can always recall in a day when—and if—they are needed.
THE BIG IFS
There are only two: Mantle and Berra. If something should happen to these unexpendables, Yankees might run into trouble. Mantle's legs, although always aching, have caused him to miss only 19 regular-season games in last three years, and nothing really ever happens to Berra. There has also been some question about Larsen's ability to continue pitching no-hitters, but this is academic; not Larsen nor Turley nor McDermott nor Byrne nor Grim looked too hot at times last year but someone named Kucks or Sturdivant always turns up. This year the someone could be Rookie Ralph Terry.
The Yankees can run, field, hit, throw. They have depth and good pitching and a wise old manager who refuses to subvert his blessings. Instead of waiting for the rest of the league to catch up, they have improved too, probably more than Indians, White Sox or Red Sox and at least as much as Tigers, who must make up 15 games to get close. "You should clinch the pennant by Mother's Day," it was suggested to Stengel. Casey shook his head. It was evident he had a much later date in mind—something around the Fourth of July.
The "Home of Champions" is located at E. 161 St. and River Ave. in The Bronx, 25 minutes from midtown Manhattan by subway (Sixth Ave. "D" or IRT Woodlawn Rd.-Jerome Ave., 15�). A cab is more comfortable (via FDR Drive) but costs about $3.50 with tip. Because of expressways, stadium can be reached by car from New Haven (2 hrs.), Trenton (1� hrs.) and Valley Stream (45 min.). Parking facilities are adequate ($1 and up) but fantastic traffic snarls are likely to develop near the stadium both before and after big-crowd games.
Stadium is triple-decked, seats 67,000. Ramps to upper deck are wearing, often impassable. Best seats, of course, are boxes near dugouts (such as Toots Shor's on third-base side, where Joe DiMaggio sits) but good reserved seats can be found on third deck over infield ($2.10). Avoid seats toward rear of lower and second decks, since overhang obscures all balls hit skyward. Aisle seats are undesirable as latecomers and early leavers block view. Warning: some seats numbered in sequence (4-5-6) are actually in different rows.