The 1962 pennant winners, third in 1963, have made changes they think will put them back on the road to victory.
The Giants have three hitters who can make a pitcher's teeth rattle. Willie Mays batted .314, hit 38 homers, drove in 103 runs. Willie McCovey had a .280 batting average, 102 RBIs and tied for the home run title with 44. Orlando Cepeda hit .316 with 34 homers and 97 RBIs. These three helped the Giants lead the league in homers with 197, 58 more than runner-up Milwaukee. For added destruction, the Giants have two home run hitting catchers, Tom Haller (14 in 1963) and veteran Del Crandall (170 lifetime). Yes, the Giants have power. What they lacked last season were singles. Just plain old singles to start rallies and keep rallies alive. Harvey Kuenn (.290), who needs 88 hits to reach the 2,000 mark, was a dangerous hitter last year. But slumps by three of the team's most consistent singles hitters—Chuck Hiller (down 53 points from 1962 to .223), Jim Davenport (off 45 points to .252) and Jose Pagan (a loss of 25 points to .234)—hurt badly. A productive farm system may remedy this. Ready to step into the lineup are rookies Jim Hart and Jesus Alou. Hart had a four-year minor league batting average of .339, and he hit with power. The only question is whether his hitting will be hampered by the jarring effects of his brief stay with the Giants last year, when he suffered a broken shoulder blade and later a concussion from being hit by pitched balls. Alou, who is more of a crisp line-drive hitter, had a .338 average for five minor league seasons. All three members of El Paso's hard-hitting outfield—Dick Dietz (.354, 35 HRs, 101 RBIs), Arlo Engel (.320, 41 HRs, 126 RBIs) and Jose Cardenal (.312, 36 HRs, 95 RBIs)—will be on call. Cardenal is a bolt of lightning on the bases, and speed is a commodity the Giants are short on. Their base-stealing percentage was next to the worst in the majors.
"Anytime you have good pitching you can play ball," says Manager Alvin Dark, "and now that we have Shaw and Hendley, we're going to be tough. [Pitchers Bob Shaw and Bob Hendley and Catcher Crandall came to the Giants in a trade with the Braves for Outfielder Felipe Alou and Catcher Ed Bailey last fall.] Shaw is a great competitor. Last year one of our players hit a line drive off his shoulder. The ball bounced over to Mathews at third and he threw to first. The Milwaukee trainer comes running out, but Shaw waves him off and goes right back to pitching without even taking a warmup. He likes to pitch." Shaw also likes to talk about pitching. "When I went to the White Sox I learned to pitch," he begins. "They taught me the fundamentals: how to break my hands, how to get my elbow up, not to arch my back. There was so much I had never even heard of. Most pitchers resist this type of teaching. They've done well their own way and have no reason to feel they should change. I was willing to listen. I guess it's because I'm different. It's amazing how few people know what pitching is all about. Fantastic. I don't want to sound like a wise guy or a know-it-all. I haven't won 20 games. I'm no Koufax. I have limited ability, but by using the proper mechanics, Bob Shaw gets the most out of what he has. I was third in ERA in 1959. Two years ago I was second to Koufax." For one fleeting day, though, Bob Shaw was better than Sandy Koufax. That was in October of 1959 when Shaw won the fifth game of the World Series for the White Sox by outdueling Koufax 1-0. "I've been traded a few times and some people think this is detrimental, but it has allowed me to try out different pitching theories," Shaw points out. "I'm one of the few guys who has pitched on the same teams with both Warren Spahn and Early Wynn. From Wynn I learned to break the ball down, never parallel to the bat. I used to hang around Spahn and Wynn all I could and ask questions, questions, questions." Shaw was primarily a relief pitcher last year. Hidden behind his 7-11 record is a 2.66 ERA. "Shaw can relieve and start," says Dark. "With him around, you can do a lot of things with your staff." Now Left-hander Billy O'Dell (14-10, 3.16) will be able to take that extra rest he seems to need between starts. Hendley (9-9, 3.94), a stylish curve-ball specialist, is another left-hander and should give the staff better balance. Right-handed starters are Juan Marichal, Jack Sanford and Bob Bolin. Marichal (25-8, 2.41), who used to be a pretty mean banana picker in the Dominican Republic, is now simply the finest right-hander in either league. With his weight down to 181—the lowest of his career—Sanford (16-13, 3.52) may regain his form of 1962, when he won 24 games. When not busy reading horror comic books, Jim Duffalo (4-2, 2.88) and Don Larsen (7-7, 3.05) will pitch in relief. Joining them in the bullpen will be Ken MacKenzie, Gaylord Perry and Frank Linzy. Shoddy pitching (the team was eighth in ERA) nullified San Francisco's pennant drive in 1963, but the current staff is considerably stronger.
The Giants must cut down on their errors (7th in the NL) and increase their double plays (9th). Unfortunately for the Giants, the bushy infield grass at Candlestick Park slows down grounders but does not stop them. If Davenport, who has shifted from third to second (replacing Hiller) and Shortstop Pagan can click on the double play and if Hart can handle third base, the Giants will not give up 95 unearned runs as they did a year ago. Only time and statistics will tell if Cepeda, whose 21 errors were by far the most of any first baseman in the NL, benefited from an accelerated spring campaign to improve his fielding. Dark can rest easy with Mays in center field, but Left Fielder McCovey, whose 14 errors led all outfielders in the majors, will give him nightmares. Jesus Alou, who will be in right field, has good speed, a howitzer of an arm and a record of having led the Pacific Coast League in errors with 14 last season. Crandall is the best mechanical catcher anywhere and Tom Haller is not far behind.
The Giants, as usual, have plenty of power and their pitching appears sounder than last year. If they tighten their defense—especially around second base—the odds are good that they can regain that lost pennant.