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Thread: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    I found this article from 1967, and really enjoyed it, it's the type of piece that displays a lot of great Reds side stories in one writing, it's a rich transitional period for the team and shows some icons prior to becoming icons and dredges up some names and baseball adages that still echo today.

    http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.c...9862/index.htm

    On Opening Day in Cincinnati this year schools and offices were closed as usual, and a long line formed early near the shoeshine stand inside the old ball park. Just about everyone from Piqua, Chillicothe, Lexington and Paducah seemed to be wearing an American Legion cap and marching across the outfield grass, and a group of fans, the Rosie Reds, presented a bouquet of flowers to the manager's wife. It was all fine and traditional, but when the crowd settled back in its seats it wanted something more. It wanted something that would help erase the memories of 1966, when the Reds, favored by many to win the pennant, finished a dismal seventh.

    Seldom have the wishes of fans been fulfilled so quickly and emphatically. In the first inning Vada Pinson leaned on a fast ball and drove it into the right-field bleachers. One out later, Deron Johnson did the same thing, and the Reds were off and moving toward their best start in 55 seasons. As of last Sunday, they had won 21 games, more than any other ball club in the majors, and they were holding on to first place in the National League.

    They did it with skill, with muscle and with luck. Good teams always seem to pick up extra victories in almost impossible ways, and so far this season the Reds are a perfect example. The two best outfielders on the team bump together under a routine fly, the ball drops and two runs score—but it makes no difference, because a Cincinnati pitcher who has not had a hit in 18 at bats lines a single to tie the game. A man carrying a batting average of .000 walks to the plate and triples home two runs. An 18-year-old boy suddenly becomes one of the better pitchers in the league. The conversion of a reserve outfielder to a pitcher works so well that people just look at him and say, "Wow!"

    When this season began everyone agreed that the Reds lacked pitching. But suddenly the Cincinnati pitchers, who depend more on sheer strength than they do on finesse, began to look good. The Reds are, man for man, the biggest team in the league—even taking into consideration whippets like Tommy Harper, Leo Cardenas and Vada Pinson—and the pitchers are an important part of that bulk. When opposing hitters look out at Jim Maloney (6'2", 214 pounds), Milt Pappas (6'3", 210), Billy McCool (6'2", 208), Ted Abernathy (6'4", 210), Mel Queen (6'1", 197) or Gary Nolan (6'3", 190), they do not care for what they see, because big pitchers usually mean fast balls and fast balls mean strikeouts. Naturally, the Reds lead the league in strikeouts, even though Maloney, the ace of the staff, is, as usual, not as sharp now in the early spring as he will be later on. Abernathy and Queen have given the staff balance and have filled a desperate need by coming in from the bullpen time after time to nail down winning games.

    Cincinnati's hitters are just as intimidating as the pitchers. Harper and Pin-son and Cardenas sting the ball, but Deron Johnson, Lee May, Tony Perez, Don Pavletich and Johnny Edwards, who average 6'2" and 208, can crush it. Pete Rose does a little of both; he has the speed and hustle of the whippets and the strength and impact that the big men have. The awesome size and speed and rattling hitting power jolt and shake Cincinnati's opponents into making mistakes.

    There is another factor in the Reds' success, and perhaps it is the most important of all. Rose explains: "We're a 25-man team now. Look. Tonight Vada Pinson can't play because he pulled a muscle in his hip. Tommy Harper moves over to center field, and Floyd Robinson plays right. Keep your eye on Rob-by. He has worked like hell to get ready to help. On days off he'd go out to the ball park and work out and run to keep himself in shape, just so that when the time came and he was needed he wouldn't let anyone down." Robinson had not had a hit yet this season, but that night he broke open the game in the first inning with a triple, got another hit later, scored two runs and stole a base. "When we went to spring training last year," says Vada Pinson, "we didn't have Frank Robinson. He had meant so much to this team that nobody could begin to measure it." Robinson, of course, had been traded to the Baltimore Orioles in a deal that quickly became part of the game's folklore. Pinson says, "We began 1966 with a big question mark. Who was going to replace Frank? And then other question marks kept piling up on that one. We had a bad attitude the first half of the season, the worst I can remember, and this is my 10th year with the Reds. There was too much experimenting, too much fussing, too much dissension. Guys seemed to be playing for themselves instead of doing the little things that help win games."

    At the All-Star break the Reds were in eighth place, and Manager Don Heffner, despite a two-year contract, was fired and replaced by Dave Bristol, a 33-year-old coach who had handled most of the Cincinnati players during a nine-year tour as a manager in the minor leagues. The Reds, who had played so poorly under Heffner, turned around under Bristol and won 31 of their next 49 games.

    In his third game after taking over, Bristol made a managerial move that has vastly affected this year's quick start. Hopelessly beaten in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, he walked down along the dugout in the eighth inning and told Mel Queen, a 24-year-old reserve outfielder, to go to the bullpen and warm up. Queen, who had a powerful throwing arm for an outfielder, thought the manager wanted him to serve as a bullpen catcher for another relief pitcher. "No," Bristol said. "You're going to pitch the ninth inning." Queen, who had thrown batting practice from time to time, was shocked, but when he came in to pitch he struck out two of the three men he faced and got the third one on a little ground ball. He made six more appearances during the season, and though some were bad, Bristol was convinced that Queen could be made into a major league pitcher. He was sent to the Florida Instructional League, where Pitching Coach Mel Harder went to work on him. When the Instructional League season was completed, Queen was sent to the Aragua club in the Venezuelan Winter League and was spectacular, winning seven games, losing only two and compiling an infinitesimal earned run average of 0.76.

    During the fall Bristol also watched 18-year-old Gary Nolan, a $60,000 bonus boy, as he worked in Florida, and he began to wonder silently if Nolan could make it to the majors after only two months in the minors. In spring training Nolan pitched well in intrasquad games, and Bristol continued to dream. In exhibition games Nolan did even better, and the Reds decided to let him try to make the jump to the majors. He jumped. In his first 47 innings Nolan struck out 48 batters, won three games, failed to win another when he lost a shutout in the ninth inning and had an ERA of 2.11.

    When writers asked Bristol this spring who would play first base for Cincinnati he answered, "The great Battle of South Florida continues between Tony Perez and Lee May. Equal! Both about equal! May is 6'3" and weighs 205, and when he played for me at San Diego he hit 34 homers and drove in 103 runs. Perez is 6'2" and 204, and when he played for me at San Diego he hit 34 homers and drove in 107. The great Battle of South Florida will continue. Whoever shows he is best will win the job." But when spring training ended, both May and Perez had been to bat an almost identical number of times and each had hit .333. So the battle goes on, and both play.

    The biggest decision that Bristol had to make, of course, was moving Pete Rose to the outfield. Rose was the National League's All-Star second baseman in 1965, and for two years running had collected more than 200 hits. But Bristol wanted Rose to move to the outfield so that he could bring Deron Johnson back in to the infield. Two seasons ago, as a third baseman, Johnson had led the major leagues in runs batted in, but when Heffner moved him to left field last year his hitting fell off terribly. "I didn't like left field," Johnson said. "It bothered me all around. You make a mistake in the outfield and you look awful. I'm more comfortable at third." When Bristol asked Rose if he would mind going to left, Pete said, "I'll give it a heck of a try." Now he is in love with the outfield. "I want to play out there the rest of my life," he said last week. "I want to make the All-Star team as an outfielder. Those other guys—Flood, Mays, Clemente, Aaron—they better stay on their toes. I'm more mature now. In two years my neck size went from 15 to 16�. I'm stronger. My homers have increased. I had a total of 10 my first two seasons. But then I got 11, and then 16 and—maybe it won't be this year—I'm hoping to be one of those players who can hit 25 a year."

    Two weeks ago it seemed as though the Reds" quick start had come to an abrupt stop. After winning 10 of 12 games they went against the Cards in Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, got four hits in two games and were shut out twice. The second shutout took only an hour and 40 minutes to play, and since the game had started at noon to encourage businessmen to come to the ball park the Cincinnati team had more than two hours to kill before their charter flight would carry them on to Atlanta. Instead of letting his players sit around, Bristol sent them back on the field for extra batting practice. "It was a lot better than hanging around the clubhouse," says Rose. "We hit and hit, and I said, 'I'd hate to be the Atlanta Braves.' " The Reds flew to Atlanta, smashed three home runs, four doubles and 11 other hits and smothered the Braves 14-7.

    The next day, however, Cincinnati was stung by two injuries that only a 25-man club could overcome. Johnson, who was leading the league in homers at the time, tore a hamstring muscle when he put his foot into a hole left from a soccer game that had been played a few days earlier. He was forced to the bench, but Perez moved over from first to fill in at third, and played very well, too. Then Tommy Helms, last year's Rookie of the Year, got his spikes caught sliding back into second base and broke his big toe, but there was Chico Ruiz ready to fill in. Ruiz says, "I play many positions. So many positions that I sometimes cannot buy milk for my children because all the money goes for buying gloves."

    There will be money for milk and gloves both if Chico and the rest of the Reds keep up their early pace. Their fast start is particularly encouraging because they have played a majority of their games on the road. As the Reds move into June, they will get a chance to use their strength at home in Crosley Field, and maybe then the 25-man team will finally and totally erase the bitter memories of a year ago.

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    Member chicoruiz's Avatar
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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Quotes like that are the reason I picked my screen name..
    "In baseball, you don't know nothin'"...Yogi Berra

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Great stuff. Thanks for posting that woy. I was just looking at Chico Ruiz's profile on Baseball Reference and saw where he died at the age of 33. What happened to him?
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine View Post
    Great stuff. Thanks for posting that woy. I was just looking at Chico Ruiz's profile on Baseball Reference and saw where he died at the age of 33. What happened to him?
    Ruiz died in an automobile accident in San Diego
    "Boys, I'm one of those umpires that misses 'em every once in a while so if it's close, you'd better hit it." Cal Hubbard

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Thanks George.
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Quote Originally Posted by chicoruiz View Post
    Quotes like that are the reason I picked my screen name..


    "Bench me or trade me!"

    Great article, WOY. Thanks!
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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Thanks for posting the article WOY; it brought back memories, as I first subscribed to SI in 1967 and I can recall reading the article then. I believe that the Reds were able to stay in first place early in the 1967 season because they had a great record in one run games. Unfortunately, a much better Cardinals team later blew by the Reds and everyone else.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Great article.

    Thanks for posting that

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    I did not know Deron Johnson was leading the leauge in homers....tough break....beacuse if he does not get hurt...maybe he does not get traded or has a better value in a trade.

    Tearing a hamstring on some hole in the baseball field.....that was brutal.

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    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Cloninger View Post
    I did not know Deron Johnson was leading the leauge in homers....tough break....beacuse if he does not get hurt...maybe he does not get traded or has a better value in a trade.

    Tearing a hamstring on some hole in the baseball field.....that was brutal.
    Very true, but Johnson's injury opened the way for Tony Perez to move to third and Lee May to first, setting the Reds up at the corners for the next five years.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    One year prior:

    Last Friday night at Crosley Field a young outfielder by the name of Art Shamsky, who had been spending the evening in quiet meditation on the Cincinnati bench, was suddenly put into a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the top of the eighth inning. The score at the time of Shamsky's entrance was Pittsburgh 7, Cincinnati 6. In the bottom of the inning Shamsky came to bat and homered over the center-field fence with one man on. Score: Reds 8, Pirates 7. By the time they came to bat in the 10th the Reds were again a run behind. So Shamsky homered again. Score 9-9. Pittsburgh promptly scored twice more in the 11th and, ho-hum, with two out and a runner on base Shamsky homered to tie the game once more. Eventually the Reds lost 14-11 in the 13th inning of what the 25,477 fans who saw it as well as the players who participated in it called "the wildest game of modern time." But consider for the moment the after-game reactions of Art Shamsky.

    Three consecutive times under tremendous pressure he had produced the ultimate. He should have been an extremely happy 24-year-old. Instead, when the game ended he sat in front of his locker, staring at his dirty spikes. Barely turning his head, he answered all the questions politely. No, he had never hit three home runs in a game anywhere that he could recall. Yes, the writers could say that he felt it had been his finest game ever. When Shamsky was asked to go on a postgame radio show called Star of the Game, however, he refused both the honor and the $25 that accompanied it. "I'm sorry, but I really don't feel up to it," he said. "I'm in a hurry to get home." When told of Sham-sky's actions, the 33-year-old genius responsible for that moment of inspiration back in the eighth inning nodded in approval. "That's quite an attitude," said Dave Bristol. "When you lose there are no stars."

    It is conceivable that you may have heard of Art Shamsky, but unless you have recently watched baseball in Hornell or Geneva, N.Y., Visalia, Calif., Palatka, Fla., Topeka, Kans., Macon, Ga. or San Diego, the chances are you have never heard of Dave Bristol. After nine years of managing in such whistle-stops on the way to the big leagues, today Bristol is the youngest man to take over a major league team since Lou Boudreau was appointed playing manager of the Cleveland Indians at the age of 24 back in 1941. And since becoming manager of the Reds after the All-Star break, Bristol has turned them into the hottest team in baseball. Virtually moribund from opening day until Bristol's appointment, Cincinnati had suddenly won 22 of 33 games.

    Early last week the largest crowd in eight seasons (32,552) showed up inside Crosley Field to watch a team that during the early part of the season under Don Heffner had drawn fewer than 10,000 people in 20 of its first 35 home dates. Bristol's name was all over Cincinnati as the man who had rallied the Reds, and whatever he was doing, it was working like a magic potion.

    "Slumping" Deron Johnson wasn't slumping anymore. Sammy Ellis was beginning to recover from a horrendous start. Tommy Harper's promise was being fulfilled, and the bunt, hit-and-run and steal were clicking once again. There was also a native wit to Bristol that Ohioans liked. His theory on coaching third base was, "It's just like a Marine Corps induction center. If you run enough of 'em through they can't all be rejected." He said that he chewed tobacco because he had been told that a young manager would look silly chewing bubble gum, although he recalled some trouble he had because of chewing tobacco back in the minor leagues. "I got into a good argument in San Diego and the tobacco went down the wrong tube. I not only lost the argument but went right down to my knees."

    Aside from his youth, the oddest thing about Bristol's sudden emergence as a major league manager is the fact that he never rose higher than Class B as a player. Prior to being hired this year as a coach for the Reds. Bristol had seen only 25 major league games—and most of those were at the end of last season when he scouted the Minnesota Twins for Cincinnati in case the Reds got into the 1965 World Series. Originally signed to a $15,000 bonus by the Reds in 1950, Bristol played infield for five more or less mediocre minor league years. "I guess I realized." he says, "that I wasn't going to make it to the major leagues as a player because I had troubles throwing, hitting and fielding. But I wanted to stay in the game and turned my thoughts to managing. One night early in 1957 when I was playing in Wausau, Wis. in the Northern League, the manager, Walter Novick, called me in and said, 'I'm going to release you—to become a manager."

    "It was a Saturday night and the Reds were going to start a new team in Hornell and play on Tuesday. We had 12 players for the first game, and three of them were pitchers. I was playing manager, and so scared I couldn't even field a ball at second base. But the three pitchers each went nine innings, and we won our first three games. The fourth day when some guy walked into the park and said he was a pitcher. I signed him up."

    That first season Bristol's team finished seventh, and the next season it was moved to Geneva, where it finished second and later won the playoffs. Bristol's own performance also seemed to improve as he managed and his explanation for two consecutive .300 years is, "I didn't want to be on the short end." From 1960 to 1965 he kept moving up as a manager, and success followed success. His teams were never lower than third, and they won pennants for him in the Florida State League, the Three-I League and the Pacific Coast League.

    Along the line Bristol handled 16 of the current Reds, and for five years he managed Tommy Helms, the fine young infielder who is among the National League's top hitters (.308) and probably its Rookie of the Year as well. Bristol began to get the idea that his days as a playing manager were through when in three straight seasons his competitors for second base were Tommy Harper, Pete Rose and Helms. "I didn't know anything about signs and things and the techniques of the game when I first went to Dave," says Helms. "He teaches ballplayers how to give themselves up to help the team. There are no favorites. I read that his daughter has my picture hanging in her room, and that's quite a thing. But lake a look at those nice clothes he wears. He bought most of those with the fines he put on me. But what he does so well is to make every man a part of the team. He'll fight for you, too. Fistfight. I've seen him in many fights, but I never saw him win one."

    Bristol, who comes from Andrews, N.C., is not an "I" manager, and one of the hardest things for him to do is explain how the Reds got off to such a bad start. Cincinnati did not hit at all early in the season, and some people felt that they were standing around feeling sorry for themselves because Frank Robinson was no longer with the team. None of the players want to openly criticize Don Heffner, the deposed manager, since they feel that their own poor play had quite a bit to do with his demise. But many of them also feel that Heffner was not running a 25-man team.

    "What Bristol has done," says Gordy Coleman, "is to restore the self-pride and self-respect of all 25 men. They come to the park knowing that they are going to be used in some way to help win. For a professional athlete it is not enough to stand up when someone else hits a homer and to pat him on the back and shake his hand and then sit down and be through for the day. You have to get a chance to contribute, or you begin to lose your own self-respect."

    Ever since the Reds won their last pennant back in 1961 under Fred Hutchinson they have been either the springtime favorites or cofavorites to win. After the 1965 season, when Cincinnati scored 117 more runs than any other team in the league yet finished in fourth place with a pitching staff that only the Mets could covet, Owner Bill DeWitt fired Manager Dick Sisler. Sisler was a popular person in Cincinnati. When the announcement was made of his firing early in October, 500 people were polled in downtown Cincinnati concerning the wisdom of the move. Only 75 agreed with DeWitt. Three weeks later DeWitt chose as Sisler's successor the 54-year-old Don Heffner, a friend of DeWitt's since 1938 and also a man who had been criticized several times in the press for the conservative way he coached third base for the Mets. Heffner was given a two-year contract, and when he was asked at his opening press conference if he had any ideas about trades, he said, "That's DeWitt's field."

    The results of the way DeWitt played his field are already a part of the game's folklore. In December he traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Pitchers Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Outfielder Dick Simpson, thereby creating a running gag among ballplayers: "You know how little boys say their prayers in Baltimore? They get down on their knees every night and say, 'God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy and God bless Bill DeWitt.' " Among the fans in Cincinnati there are variations.

    Right from the start of this season things went wrong for the Reds. Three times in a row their traditional Opening Day game was rained out, and when they finally did get started they lost 13 of their first 17. Late in June Cincinnati won 10 of 11, but this was followed by disaster. Just prior to the All-Star Game the club went on an 11-game losing streak and toppled to eighth place, 16 games behind San Francisco. Don Heffner went home for the All-Star break and never returned.

    The man who returned in his stead is still very young—far too young, some would say, to be Manager of the Year. But he's already got a lock on the last two weeks of July and the first two in August.

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    I never understood why Abernathy was traded for Bill Plummer? Was the need for a backup catcher that big......I mean Abernathy would have made that really bad Reds bullpen....a possible reason why 1969 would have been a division winning year. Of course.....Sparky never get's hired beacuse of it.

    Just a what if type of scenario.

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Rose: I'm more mature now. In two years my neck size went from 15 to 16�. I'm stronger. My homers have increased. I had a total of 10 my first two seasons. But then I got 11, and then 16 and—maybe it won't be this year—I'm hoping to be one of those players who can hit 25 a year."
    Makes me wonder how many ABs before he stopped wishing he could hit 25 HRs?
    Never overlook the obvious

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Quote Originally Posted by gm View Post
    Makes me wonder how many ABs before he stopped wishing he could hit 25 HRs?
    Pete's high was 16, hit in 66 and 69.

    I think the larger gaps and faster turf of Riverfront made Rose more of a doubles hitter, in the Crosley era he had 2.9 doubles to every HR, in the Riverfront era he had 4.5 doubles for every HR.

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    Re: Dipping into the Vault - SI 1967

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Pete's high was 16, hit in 66 and 69.

    I think the larger gaps and faster turf of Riverfront made Rose more of a doubles hitter, in the Crosley era he had 2.9 doubles to every HR, in the Riverfront era he had 4.5 doubles for every HR.
    Making the all-star game as a banjo-hitting OF probably stroked Pete's ego, as well

    Deron Johnson didn't want to play LF at Crosley? Imagine that
    Never overlook the obvious


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