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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Outside, in the bright Arizona sunlight, the Giants were romping through a workout that would have warmed the foggy cockles of every San Francisco heart. " Willie Mays lashed two pitches over the left-field fence which, when last seen, were heading in the direction of downtown Phoenix. Orlando Cepeda smashed one to the far reaches of center field. Willie Kirkland hit a wicked line drive up against the wall in right, and Leon Wagner drove two balls so high and so far that they almost disappeared from sight. Then Felipe Alou swung and the ball went screaming back past the mound, a white blur which left everyone in spasms of glee except the batting practice pitcher, who picked himself up off the ground and shook his head and looked as if he would much rather be doing something else.
Around the infield Daryl Spencer and Andre Rodgers and Jim Davenport snapped up the grounders which Coach Salty Parker was hitting and flipped them like rifle shots over to Bill White at first. Behind the bat Bob Schmidt pounded his big mitt and kept the chatter alive.
It was the kind of day and the kind of play that made you want to get out there and try it yourself.
But there was neither joy nor sunlight in Bill Rigney's office beneath the stands. While the Giant manager looked grim—it is hard for him to look any other way with his broken jaw still wired shut, but you could see he was giving this an extra effort—and the assembled reporters sat in tense expectancy, Chub Feeney made the announcement. "Allan [Red] Worthington," said the Giant vice-president, "who has been holding out, yesterday injured his knee playing catch with his brother back home, and we do not know when he will be able to pitch again." It required a little effort, because Feeney is normally a cheerful man, but he managed to look quite grim, too.
Only a reporter from an out-of-town paper could find anything amusing in the announcement. "Maybe," he said, "you should sign his brother. He must have a hell of a fast ball." Feeney and Rigney and the San Franciscans did not think this was very funny.
Later it was learned that Worthington's knee, which one doctor said must be operated upon immediately, was not really so bad after all. And a second doctor told him that it was all right to report to camp. In Phoenix no one was sure that the two doctors had examined the same knee, but at least Worthington was on his way. Anyway, the incident tells us quite a bit about the Giants.
In the spring training camps of the Braves and Pirates and Reds and Dodgers the announcement that an Allan (Red) Worthington was temporarily hors de combat would hardly have been the occasion for universal gloom. Probably it would not even have been the occasion for a press conference. But the Braves and Pirates and Reds and Dodgers all have pitching. The Giants, as it became painfully apparent last season, do not.
They have terrific power and wonderful speed, a slick defense and a collection of the finest throwing arms in all baseball. Last year the Giants scored more runs than any other team in the National League and, because of this, managed to stay in or near first place until August. Now, with that phenomenal bunch of rookies one year better, and Jackie Brandt and Bill White back from military service from the start, they might logically be expected to do even better. Even the slight problems which existed around second base and at third seem to be repaired. Rigney feels that Rodgers, fresh from hitting 31 home runs and batting .354 to lead the Pacific Coast League, is ready to play big league shortstop, which will release Spencer for duty at second base. As for Davenport, the Giants know that he is a topflight third baseman, and they do not worry too much about his hitting. For one thing, they really believe that he will hit. If not, they are equally sure that there is enough power in the lineup to carry one man for his glove alone.
But the pitching is, in a word, pitiful, and for the Giants to lose an 11-game winner like Worthington is something like the Braves losing Warren Spahn. A week earlier Ramon Monzant had notified Feeney that he wasn't going to report at all. Monzant won eight games. This was something like losing Lew Burdette.
The pitching staff, at the moment, consists of Johnny Antonelli, one of the league's very best left-handers; a kid named Mike McCormick who can't help but be good; Jack Sanford; and Stu Miller. Sanford was National League rookie of the year with the Phillies in '57; last year he won but 10 games, and the Phils didn't seem too reluctant to let him go in exchange for Ruben Gomez and Valmy Thomas, the Giants' second-string catcher. As for Miller, who throws at only one speed—slow—he will be a starting pitcher once again simply because the Giants have no one else. Miller does an amazing job with his limited natural ability—he had a remarkable earned run average of 2.47 last year despite a 6-9 record—but he can pitch effectively only every fifth day. The Giants would prefer to use him in relief, but what can you do?