In the last half of the 1955 season the Phillies played neck and neck with the Dodgers, hoisting themselves from a humiliating seventh to a respectable fourth place. Perhaps the team's early miseries can be blamed on the troubles of a freshman manager—quiet, easygoing Mayo Smith—adjusting himself to his men. But adjust he did, and this year he has virtually the same team that played as well as the Dodgers for those final three months, in fact, much the same team that won the pennant and the Whiz Kid label in 1950. Now they are older and slower, but Robin Roberts is still the best pitcher in the league, Del Ennis a great cleanup hitter, Richie Ashburn a brilliant leadoff man and Granny Hamner a poised shortstop. Not enough for the pennant, to be sure, but the Phils should win at least half their games and finish somewhere in the first division.
1 RICHIE ASHBURN, CENTER FIELD: Last year's NL batting champion (.338), the Nebraska towhead is the ideal leadoff man—very fast to first and around the bases. He slaps the ball to any field with his left-handed wrist motion. In the field he covers almost as much ground as Mays.
2 GRANNY HAMNER, SHORTSTOP: Starting his ninth year as a regular, his performances are as erratic as his Celtic temperament, but when he is right he is a fine fielder and dangerous extra-base hitter, tops at the hit-and-run. After a recent operation on his ailing shoulder, which handicapped him last year, Hamner is again smiling and healthy—a happy sign for the Phils.
14 DEL ENNIS, LEFT FIELD: Rookie of the Year in 1946, he has consistently been the Phillies' power hitter, with more than 100 RBIs for last four years. A switch to glasses last year didn't bother him.
36 ROBIN ROBERTS, PITCHER: Indisputably the best pitcher in the league, the big, personable Michigan State grad has won more than 20 games for last six years and is still as strong as ever. Strictly a control pitcher, he throws lots of home run balls (41 last year) but has brilliant changeup and curve. Good hitter too.
With big, lumbering Stan Lopata, one of the team's first-line catchers, trying the switch to first, Andy Seminick, whom the Phils retrieved from the Redlegs last spring, will be behind the plate as long as his aging bones allow—a move to get more power. If Jim Greengrass, who came in the Seminick deal, regains his health, and if power-hitting Third Baseman Willie Jones recovers from his beaning in a practice game, the team could be rough on enemy pitchers.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
7 TED KAZANSKI, SECOND BASE: A celebrated rookie in 1953, he temporarily pushed Hamner from short to second but needed more seasoning. Now up for the second time after hitting .307 at Syracuse, he will try second himself.
35 JOE LONNETT, CATCHER: Good receiver, weak at the plate, he will probably help spell Seminick, freeing Lopata for first.
39 JIM OWENS, PITCHER: Coming from Syracuse with a 15-11 record, he is the big hope for an added starting pitcher, something sorely lacking if Curt Simmons does not return to form.
The best the Phillies could find for new pinch-hitters, a desperate need right now, were Veterans Wally Westlake and Frank Baumholtz, both of whom are well past their prime.
BOARD OF STRATEGY
24 MAYO SMITH, MANAGER: The taciturn type who sees all, says little, he performed minor miracle last year in pulling together a squabbling, dissident team. No showboat, he usually coaches third—quietly.
Coaches are BENNY BENGOUGH (11), Yankee catcher in the great Ruthian era; WALLY MOSES (32) one of Connie Mack's finest outfielders in the '30s; WHIT WYATT (31), who helped pitch Dodgers to their 1941 pennant.
24 MAYO SMITH