Five Varsity regulars who led the Crimson to a first-place tie in final Eastern Intercollegiate League baseball standings last year walked the diploma trail in June, and Coach Floyd Stahl is now faced with a gigantic diamond rebuilding job in his second year at Harvard.
Gone are such luminaries as Artie Johns, Lupe Lupien, Dick Grondahl, Slim Curtiss, and Bob Gannett--not to mention Rud Hoye and Joe Soltz, dependable outer gardeners. In addition, an appendectomy has forced right fielder Bill Tully to drop out of school this year. All told, Stahl is left with Captain Tom Healey and Bob Fulton as his only experienced battery, shortstop Fred Keyes, and left fielder Gene Lovett.
Most of the replacements will have to be found from a bumper crop of Freshmen, a few Varsity squad holdovers, and a handful of Jayvees. Inexperience will probably be the Crimson's striking characteristic, especially in the early stages of the campaign, but the brand of ball played on Soldiers Field will again be entertaining. Hustling and heads-up play is what Floyd Stahl insists upon.
Stahl is probably better fortified in the battery positions than anywhere else, with Tom Healey and Charley Brackett heading the pitching staff, and Bob Fulton as number one backstop. Captain Healey, veteran fireball artist, should be ready for a bigger and better year then ever, and the supporting mound cast looks promising. Most of Charley Brackett's work last year consisted of relief chores, but the lanky Junior is slated to step into a regular assignment this spring.
Another Junior, Jack Schwede, is up from a year with the Jayvees, and there will be three good Sophomore pitchers waiting their turn. Heading the list is Lou Clay, ranking Freshman hurler last spring, while Lefty Sullivan and Burgy Ayres are two other highly rated second-year men. Les Pitchford may also come in for some twirling duty, but his stick work is liable to earn him a starting out-field post.
Senior Bob Fulton improved by leaps and bounds last year and is certain to develop into a polished receiver during the coming baseball campaign. Bob Regan, Charley Spreyer, and Bill Parsons are the other catching prospects.
Infield material is less abundant, and wide-open scraps are certainties for at least two positions. Colorful Sophomore Ed Buckley has a strong inside track for the first base job, held down by Lupe Lupien for three years. The sole veteran of Varsity infield play, Fred Keyes, appears to have the shortstop job sewed up.
At second base a genuine battle royal seems to be in the offing, with Sam Merrill, Bud Finegan, and Jimmy Lynch as the contenders. Artie Johns' graduation leaves a big hole to plug at the keystone sack, and one of these boys will have to fill the bill. Over at third, Sophomore Gil Whittemore and former Jayvee Cliff Helman will be struggling to fill the gap left by Dick Grondahl's departure. Another infield hopeful is Tom Shrewsbury.
Gene Lovett is the only returning out-fielder with Varsity experience, but Mike Rice, the fleet Yardling leader of a year ago, and Les Pitchford seem headed for stardom in Crimson pastures. Lee Hartstone and Bill Wood will add the veteran flavor to Coach Stahl's out-field operatives.
Six games have been scheduled for the spring trip, and an innovation comes this year with the Crimson opening its League campaign against Columbia in New York on the return northward. The contest is scheduled a week earlier than customary League curtain-raisers for Harvard nines, but it will save the expense of an extra trip, and the Stahlmen should not be at any comparative disadvantage against the Lions.