This week, beginning on page 48, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents its 16th pre-season report on major league baseball. As always we lean heavily on the knowledge and experience of our writers. Bill Leggett, Roy Blount and Peter Carry, all of whom helped cover the pennant races last year and all of whom will do so again this season. They spent more than six weeks of February and March watching players work out at places like Yuma, Ariz. and Fort Myers, Fla. in order to gather information and make the judgments reflected in their scouting reports.
For the seventh time Leggett projects what he saw at the training camps into an overall view of what the 1970 season should be like, concentrating on the game's personalities and likely trends. His predictions have proved to be gratifyingly accurate guideposts to the seasons ahead. Last year, for example, he suggested that the hitting might improve significantly in both leagues, and told why, and as the season advanced batting averages did in fact improve to a remarkable extent.
Baseball writers do not spend all their time writing baseball, of course, and while Leggett was taking an occasional break to hit a few golf balls and Carry improved his tennis game during off-hours in the Florida sun, Blount was using what spare time he could find in Arizona attempting to beat Henry Aaron to 3,000 hits. "Every morning I'd go to this batting machine near Scottsdale and hit about $3 worth of balls," says Blount, a onetime Little League All-Star third baseman for the DeKalb (Ga.) Motor Company Tigers. "I hit until I got blood blisters on my hands, and I thought I was getting pretty good. Then I'd go over to the Giant camp, watch Willie McCovey murder the pitches from their machine and cry."
In addition to these three, our baseball team this year boasts one outstanding rookie—if such an experienced and proven journalist may be so described—in the person of Al Wright, a top-ranking SI writer who did his first baseball story for us when the magazine was a mere seven months old. Since that early profile of Casey Stengel at spring training, Wright has been concerned for the most part with football, golf, auto racing and tennis. For the past two years he has served as our senior-editor-in-residence in Los Angeles, from which vantage post he was assigned to keep an eye on the whole booming panorama of sport in California. Now once again an Easterner, California-born Wright will devote the major portion of his energies to baseball, for the rest of this season at least. His first project, the profile of Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver, begins on page 74.
Unlike Wright, Jerry Kirshenbaum is a true rookie as far as SI baseball is concerned. His story about the House of David, beginning on page 104, is the first baseball piece he has done for us, but nobody on our staff was more qualified to write it. The headquarters of the House of David is located in Kirshenbaum's home town of Benton Harbor, Mich., and as a boy he often visited the sect's huge amusement park and ate its ice cream cones.
"They made sugar cones that were so good people sometimes threw away the ice cream and just ate the cones," says Jerry.
Those youthful joys whetted a curiosity about the House of David that Kirshenbaum has retained ever since. "I've wanted to write something about them for a long time," he says. "I've often thought I'd do a book on them sometime, and when I worked for TIME I once wrote a few hundred words on the House of David under the heading of 'Cults.' This is the first chance I've really had to do anything extensive about them."
We're glad we were able to give Jerry that chance, and we believe his youthful preoccupations, like the expertise of our baseball men, have already got the big league season of 1970 off to a good start.