Hall of Fame Shortstop Joe Cronin runs Millionaire Owner Tom Yawkey's club, takes criticism of impatient Boston fans quietly and without complaint. Manager Mike Higgins, a big, quiet Texan who once played a mighty fine third base for Red Sox, also shrugs off critical barbs, handles his sometimes irritating team with an almost saintly patience. Dave Ferriss is one of best pitching coaches in game. Veteran Del Baker coaches first, Jack Burns third. Paul Schreiber is batting practice pitcher.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S RED SOX
Most valuable player on Red Sox is Ted Williams, though-some critics (see page 101) insist that the slow, weak-fielding, individualistic Williams is a drawback to Sox chances of success. Williams is still a magnificent hitter, and his presence in batting order for even half a season is definite plus factor for Red Sox. Jimmy Piersall and Jackie Jensen, regulars, and Substitutes Gene Stephens, Faye Throneberry and possibly Rookie Marty Keough round out one of best outfields in baseball. Piersall's marvelous fielding is something to see: he is The Pitcher's Friend. The three outfield subs are indicative of Boston's remarkable depth in reserves. Red Sox catching, which had been deteriorating along with Sammy White's batting average, was strengthened last year by the maturing Pete Daley and will be strengthened further this season by presence of Haywood Sullivan, 6-foot 4-inch rookie. Tom Brewer (19-9) and Frank Sullivan (14-7) are two topflight starting pitchers, and Ike Delock (13-7) is a tower of strength in relief. All things considered, however, a big, hard-working Pennsylvania Dutchman named Dick Gernert, who hit .291 as part-time player last year, could turn out to be big man for the Sox this season, whether he plays at first base, at third base or as an alternate for Williams in left field.
Pitching is limited. There is no real left-handed strength; starters behind Brewer and Sullivan are either erratic or inexperienced; and Delock is almost alone in bullpen. Real danger spot (and possible reason for shaky pitching) is the infield, which has been nagging pain in Boston's back since decline of Johnny Pesky and Vern Stephens and retirement of superb Bobby Doerr. Sox have had different men at shortstop for seven consecutive opening days ( Stephens, 1950; Boudreau, 1951; Piersall, 1952; Boiling, 1953; Lepcio, 1954; Joost, 1955; Buddin, 1956), and it is all but certain there'll be eighth ( Billy Klaus or the 22-year-old bonus baby, Billy Consolo) this year now that Don Buddin is in service. Klaus, who sparked 1955 team in their thrilling midseason drive up through the standings, was shifted to third base last year. Despite mess at short, infield is weakest at second, most often in recent years the property of versatile Billy Goodman, a skilled if not powerful hitter but inadequate fielder for so vital a position.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Haywood Sullivan, the big catcher, was one of best-looking rookies in Florida. Brooklyn-born Ken Aspromonte came along fast in training to give Klaus and Consolo a battle for the open shortstop post, lost out by narrow margin, could be recalled if he is needed. Peppery, hustling Gene Mauch, 31-year-old "rookie," first appeared in majors in 1944 and has had chances with five different National League clubs. Despite brilliant minor league performances, Mauch has never quite made it, but hopes for solving Boston's gnawing second-base problem rest largely on his shoulders.
THE BIG IFS
Shortstop and second base, the secondary pitching, and Ted Williams' general state of health are all question marks. If Mauch can give Boston skilled performance at second, and Billy Klaus or Billy Consolo can do same at short, all they'll have to do is hit just a little better than their weight to give Sox big lift, for tight fielding around the middle of the infield could cause considerable improvement in performances of second-line pitchers. As for Williams, a repeat of last year's performance would be most satisfactory.
Because Red Sox, led by Williams and Jensen, always score enough runs, anticipated improvement in their defense (and consequent decline in opponents' runs) should turn Boston into solid contender this year. This is best-balanced team in league after Yankees, with good bench and crew of potentially great young players who have been itching for a chance to get into the ball game. Let one sparkplug—like, say, Gene Mauch—set them off and they may suddenly explode into genius and become the team New England prays for.
Oddly shaped but most attractive, this is great park in which to view game. It is hard to find really bad seat in the rambling one-level stands. Sun blisters bleachers in center and right fields, but in "wet-cold" Boston this can often be comforting. To discover why Ted Williams spits at the fans, sit in section along the left-field line and listen to the more pungent comments. Special "skyline" boxes wing out from either side of rooftop press box.
Ushers are plentiful, courteous and helpful, and may not accept tips. The 18 refreshment stands are easily accessible from most seats for a quick snack. Frankfurters and beer are staples, plus "tonic" ( New England talk for soda pop). Some local fans complain about special out-of-town or out-of-state parties who, proper Bostonians say, tend to overenjoy themselves to the discomfort of others.