You name it, and the Yankees have it—in more abundance than anyone else in the American League. Consider pitching. Maybe the top three of some teams are as good as Ford, Turley and Larsen. But who can follow with the likes of Duke Maas, Art Ditmar, Tom Sturdivant and Bobby Shantz—and still have a Ryne Duren lounging in the bullpen? (The Yankees led the league in ERA with a low 3.22.) Is there a better pitcher than Whitey Ford, the stylish left-hander? (Of all pitchers in the majors, he has the best won-and-lost record, 105-40, and the lowest ERA, 2.59.) Bob Turley, one of the early-to-bed Yankees, became the winningest pitcher in the league when he learned to mix a good curve with his fast ball. That splendid athlete, Don Larsen, has yet to realize his full pitching talents over an entire season because of various injuries. The others are dependable starters who can be called upon to relieve. And if all else fails, there's always Ryne Duren, who throws the hardest ball in baseball for an inning or two. With all this pitching, the Yankees really don't need too much hitting, but they have a barrelful of that, too. In spite of a late-season slump the team led the league in batting average, hits, runs, home runs, total bases and runs batted in. When Yogi Berra slowed down, Elston Howard stepped up and hit .314. But don't forget that Berra, in a bad year for him, still hit 22 homers and drove in-90 runs. He won't be sitting on the bench very often. Mickey Mantle disappointed a lot of folks by not batting .400 or breaking Babe Ruth's home-run record. But he's capable of doing it sometime, if he ever puts his mind to it. Tough Hank Bauer at 36 is still one of the roughest hitters in baseball with the winning run on base, and young Norm Siebern, despite his World Series setbacks, is a .300-hitting left fielder. Bill Skowron, Gil McDougald and Tony Kubek had poor years, but the Yankee attack didn't hurt too much. Also, where are there two better part-time third basemen than Andy Carey and Jerry Lumpe? That isn't all; the Yankees have speed, both afield and on the bases, and a tight defense that forces the other team to make the mistakes. Their depth and versatility are unmatched. Casey Stengel can take Berra, Howard, McDougald, Kubek, Lumpe and Bobby Richardson, the dandy utility infielder, and mix them around to suit his fancy.
This may sound facetious, but there just aren't any. Oh, sure, Casey says he'd like another pitcher, but every manager says that automatically. And he claims he could use another outfielder. Don't feel sorry for Casey.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
The Yankee team is the toughest to crack in baseball, yet every year one or more rookies are eased onto the squad. It's going to be a little tougher this year, though. Fritz Brickell, the sparkplug infielder with the sure hands, may stay around for a while, at least until Tony Kubek gets back into shape after his Army tour, and he could stay longer if he hits. Deron Johnson, who is built like Mantle and hits like him (at least in the spring) but doesn't run or throw like him, is probably another year or two away. The only rookies with a good chance of staying all season are a tall, 26-year-old catcher named John Blanchard, whose options are used up, and Jim Bronstad, a pitcher. Blanchard, a power hitter, will have to wait his turn in the Yankee Stadium bullpen until Berra or Howard wears out. Bronstad, a lanky righthander, is from Texas. He spent last season with Richmond under the watchful eye of Eddie Lopat and compiled a 13-13 record.
THE BIG IFS
Probably the worst thing that could happen to this well-balanced team would be for the players to misjudge the time to relax. It's hard for the Yankees to play at a maximum all the time in a league that offers weak competition. Last year the Yanks coasted through the last half of the season and still won by 10 games. Stengel's toughest job as manager is keeping his team keyed up long enough to clinch the pennant early. Presumably, complacency could become a habit. Ford, Larsen and Sturdivant might have arm trouble again, and Johnny Kucks, a good pitcher a few years back, might be all through. Skowron is accident prone and rarely plays a full schedule, and injuries to a Mantle or a McDougald would hurt, but not critically. Even Ryne Duren might lose his control, or his glasses. There is more than enough depth here, though, to withstand almost anything.
Coach Frankie Crosetti will cash his 18th World Series check and Manager Casey Stengel will handle his 10th pennant winner in his 11 years with the Yankees. Yankee-haters and those obsessed with the club's invincibility are not yet about to witness the crumbling of the dynasty. No matter how pessimistic Casey may sound at times during the season, don't be fooled. He knows he has too much hitting, pitching, speed, defense and depth to be seriously challenged this year.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]