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Colts Manhandle Reds, 6-3

Apr. 13, 1964 - Whatever happens to them the rest of the way, the Houston Colts lead the National League today. They lead because they manhandled the Reds today, 6-3 — because they roughed up starter Jim Maloney for six runs, four unearned, on seven hits, one a two-run homer by Cincinnatian Jim Wynn — because Ken Johnson, who is both the quality and quantity of the Houston pitching staff, had enough early cushion to make it with a ninth-inning assist from Hal Woodeshick — and, of course, because nobody else in the National League has played a game.

Only 28,110 turned out under threatening skies at Crosley Field, smallest Opening Day crowd since 1943. From an artistic standpoint, they showed good judgment. The Reds, picked by many of the experts to make a strong run for the pennant, were outplayed in all departments by the lowly Colts. Damaging errors by rookie Chico Ruiz and Maloney played a prominent part in putting the latter under a cooling but far from welcome seventh-inning shower.

The Colts received a near-perfect pitching job from Johnson, some timely hitting from Wynn and Nellie Fox, and some spectacular defensive play. But Monday was no ordinary afternoon for the Houston ballclub. “There was a little extra reason for this one,” said Johnson in the dressing room, his head bowed.

“You mean Jim?” a Houston sportswriter asked.

Still fixing his eyes on the floor, Johnson nodded hesitatingly, as if he were trying to fight back tears.

“Jim” was Jim Umbricht. For two years, Johnson and Umbricht were roommates when the Colts traveled. Last week, the Colts lost a pitcher and Johnson lost his buddy. Umbricht died of cancer.

“I thought about him right before the game,” Johnson said, raising his head. “All the fellows did.”



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