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Original Issue

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

The Giants arrive at the Pacific brimming with hope. A new era demands a new team, and with smart looking rookies augmenting the wonderful reality of Willie Mays, the Giants believe they might have that new team. The question marks are many, however, and time, as they say, will tell
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THE MANAGER

Bill Rigney (18) is a tall, thin, gray-haired man who wears glasses and a harried look. During his eight years as a major-league infielder he was a hustling, scrambling player who never quit fighting for a hit, a run, an out. As a great minor league manager he was able to imbue his players with these qualities, but he has not yet had similar success in the majors. Intensely nervous, he seems older than his 38 years. He fidgets during a game, walks back and forth, often erupts into arguments with umpires. He likes power hitters, who hit the ball with what he calls "crash." His coaches are the talkative Salty Parker (2), the talkative Herman Franks (3), the quiet Wes Westrum (9).

ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S GIANTS

STRONG POINTS: The one unquestioned source of strength on this team stands out like Mount Everest on a Kansas prairie. The Giants' strong point is Willie Mays, who plays center field as no one else—not even the storied Speaker and the great DiMaggio—has ever been able to. Willie also hits, with power and much more consistency than he's usually given credit for, and he runs bases like a trail of lighted gunpowder. He is very likely the finest player in the game today, and he is certainly the reason why the Giants have finished as high as sixth these past two seasons, rather than as low as eighth. Beyond Willie the Giants have Daryl Spencer, a pretty good, though erratic, shortstop (second best in double plays last season, but tied for most errors and second last in fielding percentage). The pitching staff has some strength (Johnny Antonelli, Ruben Gomez, Curt Barclay, Marv Grissom) but it is far from substantial. An added element of strength this year could be depth, for the club has over the past few seasons acquired a number of players of good part-time quality: veterans like Hank Sauer, Ray Jablonski, Jim Finigan and Bob Speake, for example, and others just past the rookie stage, like Andre Rodgers and Ed Bressoud. And new rookies and other veterans help pad this benchly veneer.

WEAK SPOTS: Specifically, the Giants are weak at first base, second base, third base, left field, right field, in catching depth and in the middle reaches of the pitching staff. Generally, the Giants are weak in fielding, in hitting and in pitching. Statistics, which divert if they don't inform, show that the Giants, a sixth-place club last year, were sixth in club batting, sixth in club pitching and seventh in club fielding. As the old baseball maxim has it, they were sixth on merit. One of the Giant problems is a lack of the well-rounded player. Two of their best hitters in 1957, Jablonski and Sauer, are limited fielders. Competent fielders, like Lockman and Spencer don't hit well. This fault is aggravated by a curious shortsightedness in front-office policy. The Giants, for reasons probably founded in McGravian antiquity, love to pick a "starting team," selling off the extras or relegating them to the minors or "utility" status. If the starting team then fails, the Giants fail. But since only one or two of their players are clearly above the level of mediocrity, it would seem far wiser to keep a whole warehouse of part-time players on hand and try to get good performances out of them in spurts.

ROOKIES AND NEW FACES: The Giants picked up Jim Finigan in a late-winter trade with the Tigers, and while this quiet, blond infielder will never be a star, he could prove a most useful man to have around. Most prominent among the rookies is Orlando Cepeda, a large, graceful Puerto Rican first baseman, who at 20 seems to have a brilliant future in store. Willie Kirkland, a left-handed-hitting youngster, has been given a clear shot at the right-field job, and if he emulates his minor league record he'll be the power hitter the Giants need to help Mays. Bob Schmidt, a tall catcher, and Jim Davenport, a medium-sized third baseman, are other good-looking youngsters. Pitcher Paul Giel, back from two years of Army service, is, in a way, another new face.

THE BIG IFS: To an incautious degree the Giants are counting on rookies. They want Cepeda to become the regular first baseman and a good one. They want Kirkland to establish himself as a solid power hitter. They'd like Schmidt to assume the first-string catching role, and it would be nice if Davenport could do the same at third. Of the veterans, Antonelli (12-18 last year) must regain his fast ball and 20-victory status, and 40-year-old Marv Grissom, a superb relief pitcher for the past five years, must not falter.

THE VOICES

Russ Hodges (46, folksy) broke into radio work when a broken ankle sidelined him from football play at the University of Kentucky. He lost his athletic scholarship but got a chance to spot and do color on the Kentucky games over the air. Hodges forgot about becoming a lawyer (although he eventually did get a law degree) and stayed with sports announcing. He did his first major league baseball for the Reds in 1940 and has since covered the Cubs, White Sox, Senators, Yankees and, since 1949, the Giants, LON SIMMONS (34, boyish) was an all-round athlete in southern California schools. He spent four years in the service and then signed with the Phillies but a sore arm hindered his career and after subsequent trials with the Braves and Dodgers he gave up baseball play. Simmons worked his way up the ranks in sports announcing until he hit San Francisco last year. He is a solid, authoritative announcer with an excellent low-pitched voice that should blend well with Hodges' folksy manner.

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WILLIE MAYS

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DARYL SPENCER

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HANK SAUER

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WHITEY LOCKMAN

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VALMY THOMAS

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WILLIE KIRKLAND

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DANNY O'CONNELL

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RAY JABLONSKI

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RUSS HODGES

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JOHN ANTONELLI

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RUBEN GOMEZ

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CURT BARCLAY

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MARV GRISSOM

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ILLUSTRATION

THE OUTLOOK: Looking at things logically and placing bets practically, this measures up as a sure-shot second-division club. They have more depth than they're used to, but that's evened out by the fact that the other 40-year-old, Hank Sauer, who hit 2 helpful home runs last year, can not reasonably be expected to do that again this season. But if the rookie parlay comes through, an outlandish long shot but a possibility, the Giants could be the most exciting team in the league this year. If the rookie fail, let San Francisco watch Willie Mays, excitement enough in himself.