The following report on baseball's first week of spring training assembles the on-the-spot journal entries and personal impressions of Sports Illustrated's baseball staff at the various training camps. Robert Creamer, Roy Terrell and Walter Bingham report from Florida, Les Woodcock from Arizona.
For most major league baseball teams, the early days of spring training belong to the rookies, while their elders frolic in gradual preparation for the long, strenuous season. Some, like the Redlegs and White Sox and Pirates, call all their players together at once, but others, like the Yankees and Phils and Cards and Braves, bring the youngsters down early. The managers and coaches and scouts work them hard, look them over and then work them some more.
Alvin Dark drops in at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg to look around, then goes off to find a house for his family. The Cardinal rookies keep on working. Harvey Kuenn drives up in a light green Cadillac to Tigertown in Lakeland, kids around with old friends among the writers and drives off to the beach. The Tiger rookies keep on working. Mickey Mantle dons a uniform for a TV show at Miller Huggins Field in St. Petersburg, then goes off to play golf. The Yankee rookies keep on working. Lew Burdette, remembering a good season, goes to Bradenton to argue contract with the Milwaukee front office, then drives the 10 miles to his home in Sarasota. The Braves rookies keep on working. Don Larsen drops in to see George Weiss about more money, and when he leaves nobody knows where he goes. But the Yankee rookies just keep on working.
Standing just outside the gate and watching the Yankees at their chores, a fan shouted excitedly, "There's Mickey Mantle."
Young Jay Ward, wearing the famous No. 7 on his back and looking not completely unlike Mantle, blushed slightly as he heard the voice. "Of all the numbers, I get 7."
Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankee rookie school was bubbling. All over Miller Huggins Field young men in gray uniforms sweated under the blazing Florida sun in an effort to win a word of praise and, perhaps, someday, a job on the most successful club in baseball, the New York Yankees.
On the pitcher's mound, a youth began his wind-up under the microscopic inspection of Coach Jim Turner. As he released the ball, Turner, never taking his eyes off him, yelled, "Curve ball!" And then, "What was it?"
"A curve," said the rookie sheepishly. Four more times the pitcher threw, and each time Turner correctly called the pitch.
"You see," said Turner, throwing a fatherly arm around the boy's shoulder, "you're telegraphing every pitch. The way you're doing it now, even the fans in left field will know what you're about to throw. Now what you want to do is...."