Anyone who wants to see the new Washington Monument need only go to D.C. Stadium and glance toward left field. There will be Frank Howard—all 6 feet 7 inches and one-eighth of a ton of him. Last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers he was a monument to frustration. This year he is a monument to hope, for the weak-hitting Senators (19th in the majors in hitting in 1964) are moving toward power and Howard is the prime mover. Few, if any, men can hit the ball as hard and as far. Yet this very strength, and his frustrating inability to utilize it consistently, has caused Howard much unhappiness. When he was at Ohio State one of his line drives struck a student manager on the head. "They told me," Howard recalls, "that if he had been hit a quarter of an inch lower he would have died instantly." Howard says that he would have quit baseball if the boy had died. A year ago he felt like quitting again—this time for personal reasons. He changed his mind, played, hit only .226 (with 24 home runs) and was traded by the Dodgers.
Howard is a troubled man, tormented by unhappy thoughts and black moods. If anyone can help him it should be Manager Gil Hodges, who is both soft-spoken and iron-fisted. This spring, in a new uniform, Howard wore a becoming attitude of optimism. "I'm probably in the best physical shape I've been in since I left college," he said. "And I'm just now getting my feet on the ground as far as my personal life is concerned." In the world of Frank Howard everything is king-size—his problems, his potential and, the Senators trust, his home runs. Playing in circular D.C. Stadium should help him, because there is almost no wind to hold back his long drives and keep them from going over the fence. Other new Senators who will add power are ex-Indians Bob (Fat) Chance (.279, 14 HRs. 75 RBIs in 120 games as a rookie) and Woodie Held (18 HRs). Ken McMullen from the Dodgers is a big, strong hitter, too. A couple of rookies who might lend a hand are Catcher Joe McCabe, a spray hitter, and Outfielder Brant Alyea, who will be recalled quickly if he hits in the minors. The best of the holdovers are Don Lock (28 HRs but a .248 average) and Jim King (.241, 18 HRs). Other old boys, whose achievements in the past were emphatically better than their records last season, are Willie Kirkland (.206), Joe Cunningham (.231), Don Zimmer (.246), Roy Sievers (.183) and Chuck Cottier (.168).
Washington pitchers may need fallout shelters instead of showers, because they figure to be bombed. Traded away in the Howard deal was Washington's one distinguished thrower, Claude Osteen (15-13). Acquired in return were Phil Ortega and left-hander Pete Richert, both talented enough to be big winners someday. Between them, however, they won only nine games for Los Angeles last year. Bennie Daniels, Buster Narum, Dave Stenhouse and left-hander Frank Kreutzer are spotty (an average of six wins each in 1964). But for the first time in his 11-year career Relief Pitcher Ron Kline had a winning record, an impressive one (10-7, 2.33 ERA in 61 games). Others in the relief brigade are Steve Ridzik (5-5, 2.89 ERA) and Jim Hannan. All Hannan needs is blisters. He says, "Last year I had a sloppy grip and my thumb was coming up on top of the ball. My slider didn't do anything. It just hung. I was one and six when I found out what I was doing wrong. Then I started gripping the ball right, and I won three of my last four games. When I grip the ball right I get blisters on my fingers. Of course, after a while, the blisters turn to calluses."
There will be a lot of junk hits against this defense—dinky grounders that fritter their way through the infield and dumpy flies that drop untouched by hum n hand or glove. These will be scored as hits, but there will also be a few errors—quite a few. Last year the Senators gave up 98 unearned runs, the most given up in the league. Washington especially needs caulking at the corners of the infield. Unless McMullen gets over his case of fumble fingers, the third-base job will go to the veteran Held. At first base the 220-pound Chance doesn't move about too much.
As for the outfield, Howard is strong enough to squeeze the stitches off any ball he gets his hands on, but he doesn't get his hands on many balls until after the first hop. And though strong, those hands are not too nimble. "When there are jobs to be done at home," Frank says, "my wife tells me please not to touch them." It is questionable, too whether Howard's once-strong arm is well again.
What strength the Senators do have in the field is, happily, down the middle. Shortstop Ed Brinkman and Center Fielder Lock are deluxe glovemen. Lock, the possessor of an exceptional arm, tied for the American League lead in outfielders' assists with 19. Catcher Mike Brumley and Second Baseman Blasingame do creditable jobs.
Last year the Senators moved up from 10th to ninth. This year there will be more runs than last, and if the good relief pitching makes up for Osteen's departure the Senators will hold their gain and think hopefully about moving up another notch.