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Norman Dalton Cash is a cattle rancher who runs Herefords on his father-in-law's spread near Eldorado, Texas. His brand, in cattleman's language, will very likely be called the Circle Double-C; in any other language, it's a baseball. That, of course, is the most appropriate brand young (26) Mr. Cash could have chosen. He bought his first calves with $7,000 in World Series money earned as a member of the 1959 Chicago White Sox. As the best hitter in the American League—at the moment—and first baseman for the league-leading Detroit Tigers, he'll probably add a good-sized herd to his holding this year.
The other afternoon he sat in the Detroit dugout, squinting out at the batting cage, where Minnie Minoso of the White Sox was taking his flamboyant cuts at the ball. Hanging from an upper deck in Tiger Stadium, a banner moved gently in the breeze; on it was lettered "Mr. Crash!" This is a nickname Cash has fallen heir to this year with very good reasons. As of last weekend he led the American League in hitting (at .373), was second in runs batted in (with 68), and third in home runs (24). He is also one of only three batters who have ever hit a baseball completely out of Tiger Stadium.
"Sure is a long way from Justice-burg where I was raised," he said, wonderingly. "You got to be lucky to get here. You figure I was raised 15 miles outside a town had only 80 people, two service stations, one general store and a post office. And the post office was in the general store. My daddy was a dry-land cotton farmer. I could have been chopping cotton all my life."
He did chop cotton for a long time—which may account for his extraordinary wrists; he flicks his bat around as easily as most men would swing a switch.
"My family didn't even know what shape a baseball was," he said. "They do now. But I got started playing soft-ball. I never saw a hard-ball game until I was a sophomore at San Angelo Junior College. First it was hard for me to hit. I couldn't wait long enough, after hitting Softball pitchers."
Cash went from San Angelo Junior College to Sul Ross State College in west Texas. He went on a football scholarship; in his junior year he was drafted by the Chicago Bears (their 13th pick) as a future possibility.
"I gained around 1,500 yards that year," he said. "But I figured I was too little to play pro ball. I only weighed about 175. Anyway, a White Sox scout signed me to a major league contract after my junior year. He was a real nice guy named Mel Preibisch."
The path from Justiceburg to Detroit led through Waterloo in the Three-Eye League, Fort Bliss for a year in service, Indianapolis, Chicago and Cleveland. During his baseball journeys, Cash got the reputation of being a good hitter against right-handed pitching and a mediocre outfielder. AI Lopez, the White Sox manager, suggested that he buy a first-base mitt in 1958, and Cash invested $22, wisely. ("He didn't have the arm for the outfield," says Lopez. "And he was left-handed, too, so I figured he'd be better off at first base.")
When Cash finally reached Detroit last year (in a straight trade with Cleveland for an infielder named Steve Demeter, who promptly subsided into the minor leagues), he played first base with considerable zeal but little skill. He was used only against right-handed batters, but still hit 18 home runs, 16 doubles and batted in 63 runs.