YAKIMA, Wash. — Harlond Clift, regarded as the miracle man of baseball in these parts, may manage his Yakima Stars from the bench in the early part of the Western International league baseball season, but whether he rides the bench or flaps a glove he'll have the local fans solidly behind him.
Clift took over in midseason last year and revived the faded Stars, finishing fifth in the league race. This year he has strengthened the club immensely but, with the typical reticence of a manager, says only that he hopes to better last year's finish.
The manager, whose clouting power would benefit the club, underwent an appendicitis operation this spring and probably won't be seen at his old accustomed third base spot, at least for some time If he plays, Clift is likely to be in the outfield.
The pitching appears much steadier than at this time last year and the catching is tops. The infield is improved defensively but will miss the batting punch of last year's first baseman, Bill Garbe. The outfield has not shown great hitting power in training, but the recent addition of Joe Skeber, a free agent from Long Beach, Calif., may help.
John Brysch, Keith Simon, Frank Nowels, Robert "Buzz" Knudson and Max Strait are the pitching starters, with Russell Olsen, purchased from the St. Louis Browns, an outstanding prospect. Walt McHugh is to join the team under option from Hollywood as soon as he completes his pharmacy course at the University of Idaho Southern Branch in Pocatello.
Strait is a chunky boy from Cowiche who won 13 and lost 9 last season, his first in organized ball. Clift figures Brysch, who was signed as a free agent, will be a real help. Knudson is the southpaw of the staff at present, with portsider Rowe Wallerstein promised the club by Hollywood. There are a number of rookies in camp, with Ted Henkel regarded as an outstanding prospect.
Filling Garbe's shoes at first is Bud Beringhele, who broke in with Valdosta of the class D Georgia-Florida league. Art Lilly, classy keystoner, will be back at second, where he hit .302 in 1945. Les Barnes, 20-year-old shortstop here from Hollywood, is regarded by Clift as a real prospect if he can improve his hitting. Sam Stassi, out of College of Pacific and the Arizona-New Mexico league, will handle the hot corner until Clift reclaims it.
Gene Thompson and Bob Moore are back in the outfield, with a Yakima boy, Bill Elliot, trying to crowd in for a regular assignment. On hand, too, is Spence Harris, who was manager, coach, road secretary and spare outfielder for part of last year. Spence can hit but his legs lack the old time zing.
Luther "Buddy" Phillips may be the brightest spot on the star horizon. Clift regards the young catcher as a standout who can hit as well as handle the big pad. Also backstopping is noisy Eddy Gibb, a favorite of the fans, who finished strong at bat last year to compile a .300 hitting average.
The Stars were scheduled to launch the season Friday night in the home park against Bremerton's powerful Bluejackets.
- Friday, April 18, 1947