Red catcher Johnny Edwards calls them the “flame throwers”. “And brother,” chimes in Jimmie Coker, “when they’re pitching, those hitters really see some white heat.” The two Red catchers were referring to Jim Maloney, Billy McCool, Gary Nolan and Mel Queen. Maloney and McCool need no introductions, but Nolan and Queen might. They’re newcomers to the Reds pitching staff.
Nolan, only 18, was pitching for his high school team in Oroville, Calif. this time last year. Today, he’s already being mentioned as a candidate for the National League’s Rookie of the Year award. “He can have my vote right now,” exclaimed the Dodgers’ Jim Lefebvre. This was after the teenage pitching whiz won his second game in as many starts with a 2-1 triumph at Dodger Stadium. “If he were on our club, I’d be out of job,” said the Dodgers’ Don Sutton. The 22-year-old righthander was exaggerating of course. Still, his remark added up to quite a compliment for young Nolan.
Queen is the converted outfielder who switched to the mound in mid-season of 1966 after Dave Bristol took over as manager of the Reds. “His success this season doesn’t surprise me,” said Bristol. “Too many men who know a lot about baseball were high on him. Fellows like Cal Ermer and Nap Reyes.” Ermer and Reyes managed in Venezuela last winter. Queen, pitching for the Aragus club, was the loop’s No. 1 hurler, compiling a 7-2 record, an ERA under 1.00 and averaging more than a strikeout an inning. The hard-throwing Queen held the Giants to two hits in his first start this season. It also was his first triumph in the majors.