They call him "the Chicken" because he walks and runs as if he has a lead on-deck circle warm up bat stuck up his behind. But Fred Stanley, the New York Yankees' utility infielder, does not look like a chicken. Stop laughing; Fred Stanley is my favorite baseball player.
As much as any other Yankee, Fred Stanley (who, like Charlie Brown, is properly referred to by both his first and last name) characterizes the Bronx gang which is trampling the rest of the American League. The word echoing this year in the great House That Ruth Built is "depth." Fred Stanley is not Mr. Power, Mr. October, Mr. Average or Mr. Speed. He is Mr. Depth.
Bounding from the bench with his poultry-like gait, Fred Stanley has for years gobbled up short hops and popped clutch singles when Yankee regulars were too pooped to play. He specializes in the eighth and ninth innings and eagerly awaits the second game of every twin bill, hoping to see his manager look down the dugout and hear him bark, "Get out there Fred Stanley and help us win this damned thing."
The Chicken's. 250 batting average and sticky glove would have pushed him into the starting lineup of many lesser teams, but do you hear him complaining? He knows he has contributed to the foundation for a Yankee dynasty which should see us through at least the end of the century.
Fred Stanley has provided confidence for the entire organization, confidence not that he will launch balls into the left field bullpen, but that there is more to the Yankee than sparkle, music and ego. There is substance, and there is consistency, dedication and depth. There is Fred Stanley.
"Okay, okay," you might say, "let's not get carried away with this Fred Stanley kick." Of course, you are right. We must acknowledge the other contributors to the 1980 campaign.
First of all, the ugly fat guy in the bullpen is back. Sporting a new mustache, Rich Gossage is once again catapulting 95 mph golf balls toward home plate. The only worry is that the Goose might trip and fall as he lumbers eagerly to the mound. George Steinbrenner has already built Gossage his own padded shower room and is considering strapping the playful monster into a 400-ft. baby harness to preserve his health and impeccable record.
Not that the shipbuilder from Cleveland doesn't know how to use injuries as a weapon... How many of you fans fell for the old injured reserve trick this year? You know, letting Rupert Jones and Oscar Gamble sit out the first half of the year with "ailments" (ha) while All-Around-The-Town Bobby Brown, Jim LeFebvre and Dennis Werth caught everyone by surprise with their enthusiastic hustle and snappy bats. With the All-Star break behind us, George the S. has resurrected vets Jones and Gamble, who, fresh from Caribbean vacations, will add their well-known offensive talents to those of Jackson, Randolph, Nettles, Watson and Spencer.
Presiding over this surprisingly cheerful army is the always boring Dick Howser, who recognized only last week he had been promoted from third base coach to manager. Dick may leave his pitchers in a bit too long and free ze up with a microphone in his face, but he has established a serenity which lets Reggie & Co. concentrate on baseball instead of squabbling. Pleased with Howser's "I'll shut up if you will" approach, Jackson has been blessing bleacher fans all year with a steady stream of tape measure rockets.
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All in all, Fred Stanley has little to complain about. There is plenty of talent around to complement his own. In this barnyard the Chicken must surely have confidence that he will emerge by October as the champion among champions that he is. Sock it to 'em Fred (Stanley).