Steadiness is the game of players like Bill Freehan (see cover). Only occasionally are they the stars, but without them the stars could not shine. Their hits sustain rallies. They throw to the right cutoff man, are flawless on the rundown play. Almost no injury is serious enough to bench them, almost no move too insignificant if it will win games. To watch them closely is to learn what baseball is all about.
Putting together a winning record for the Mets is not easy. Tom Seaver has, with 16 wins in each of his two big-league seasons. He works fast and often (more than 500 innings already) and, maybe best of all, can field like a shortstop.
Claude Osteen had his first losing season for the Dodgers last year, but he pitched a lot of good innings for them, as he has been doing since 1965, averaging 15 wins a year as an indispensable minor pillar of an illustrious staff.
There are few jobs being done very well on the Washington Senators, but third base is an exception. For Ted Williams' information, Ken McMullen plays 150 games a year (a few of them at other spots) and hits 15 to 20 homers.
There were those who thought, with all due deference to superstars Gibson, Flood and Brock, that the most valuable Cardinal last year was Mike Shannon, who hit conspicuously well in the clutch and was as inspired at third base.
Almost as hidden as Shannon in a lineup of stars has been the Cincinnati second baseman and all-round infielder of three years, Tommy Helms. Spraying hits to all fields in the style of teammate Pete Rose, Helms averaged .288.
Mike Andrews, shown tumbling Luis Tiant here, has spent both his full seasons in the majors as Boston's regular second baseman. He helped win the '67 flag, hit .308 in the Series and retained his aplomb last year at bat and afield.
Since 1960, when he became the Cubs' third baseman, Ron Santo, fielding a hot one down the line, has lead the league regularly in such nitty-gritty departments as putouts and assists. He is also one of baseball's very best run producers.
A solid hitter, one of the top AL centerfielders (no errors in '68), a man who also put in 15 games at first base for the Tigers last year, Mickey Stanley will best be remembered for what he did in the World Series—at short.
Yes, there still is a dandy little shortstop named Luis Aparicio. In 1968, his 13th year in that position, he played 155 games for the White Sox, led all shortstops in assists and chances accepted and outhit most with .264.
When the Twins' Cesar Tovar played an inning at each of the nine positions in a game last year, he was showing off. But in the line of duty he played short, third, second and the outfield and, as leadoff batter, stole 35 bases
Giants' cleanup man and first baseman who succeeded Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey won the NL home-run title and placed third in the MVP voting in 1968. Several of his less-heralded years with the club were about as good.
Tony Horton is 24 years old and already well established in life—as Cleveland's first baseman. He's a better-than-average hitter (.284 in '67), a steady enough fielder and, in short, somebody Alvin Dark needn't worry much about.
Luis Tiant became a star last year with 21 wins, nine shutouts and a league-leading ERA of hardly anything. But he has been winning 10 to 12, losing fewer and getting three times as many whiffs as walks for Cleveland since '64.
For five years the White Sox were unable to replace Nellie Fox at second. In '67 seven different candidates failed. Then last year Sandy Alomar (right, on base) arrived and even looked a little like Fox as he nailed down the position.
There have been no problems at second base in Pittsburgh for 13 years. There has been only Bill Mazeroski, hitting consistently, chewing steadily, fielding expertly, playing daily despite injuries and enduring like nobody else.