On the day they won the National League pennant, the following things happened to the Cincinnati Reds: Frank Robinson dropped a fly ball. Jerry Lynch let one fall at his feet. Eddie Kasko picked up a ground ball, started to throw and fell down. Gordy Coleman tripped over a sliding base runner. And Gene Freese, instead of scooping up a ground ball and tagging third base for a force out, decided to let the ball roll foul. It didn't. Fielding, clearly, did not win the pennant for Cincinnati.
Nor was it hitting, although certainly Cincinnati's hitting was better than its fielding. But the team's batting average was still third in the league, and three other teams hit more home runs. What won the pennant for the Reds was pitching, the best in the league; and if the Reds beat the Yankees in the World Series, it will be pitching that will do it.
The most successful of the Cincinnati pitchers this season has been Joey Jay, a huge, bushy-browed, dark-haired, green-eyed right-hander who wears sports jackets and conservative ties, cashmere sweaters, Argyle socks and cordovan loafers, and who does crossword puzzles on the bus to the ballpark. At 26, he considers himself a veteran. "Jim Turner has helped some of the young pitchers on the staff," he says—excluding Joey Jay. Jay also bristles at the suggestion that either Turner, the Cincinnati pitching coach, or Fred Hutchinson, the manager, has performed some bit of magic to convert him (he was a Milwaukee Brave disappointment) into one of the two biggest winners in the National League.
"I'm pitching the same way I did when I was with the Braves," he says. "No one taught me any new pitches or anything like that. The difference is that I'm getting a chance to pitch with the Reds. It's hard to work much when you have guys like Spahn, Burdette and Buhl around. Last year I started 11 games and won six of them. This year I started 34 games and won 21. That's the only difference."
The Braves' management might explain it another way. "Lazy," "temperamental" and "self-satisfied" were the words they once used for Joey Jay. The Braves signed Jay to a $50,000 bonus in 1953. He was only 18 and needed experience badly, but under the bonus rule at the time, he had to spend two years with the Braves.
Jay quickly won himself a reputation as an eater and sleeper of championship caliber. He seldom was seen awake without a candy bar or a soft drink, often with both. He would eat in the bullpen during ball games. At one point he weighed 245 pounds, which even at his height—6 feet 4 inches—made him look fat. (A Milwaukee paper once ran a headline saying: POUNDAGE NO PROBLEM, SAYS PONDEROUS JOEY JAY.)
On his first road trip with the Braves he overslept one day and arrived at the park only 20 minutes before gametime. Some of the older players, who resented bonus players anyway, didn't let Jay forget it. Another time Jay fell asleep on the bus coming back from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. When the bus arrived at the ho el, all the players tiptoed off and the bus drove away still carrying Jay, fast asleep.
When Jay was finally eligible for the minors, he had a rough time. "He was a problem then," recalls his friend and former manager, Ben Geraghty. "He hadn't grown up. He had an awful temper. I remember once he threw a handful of sand into the stands after a bad call and I thought the fans were going to scalp him. He had just been married, his control was wild and he had been sitting on a major league bench too long."
Two incidents in Jay's minor league career helped mature him. One night when he was pitching for Wichita he got what he thought was a bad call from the umpire. Jay threw his glove in the air, stalked off the field, took a shower, got dressed and left. Lynn Stone, the business manager, fined Jay $250.
"Jay couldn't believe we would do a thing like that and make it stick," says Stone. "He had been pampered all the time he was in baseball. I told him he was going to have to grow up."