Doug DeCinces, Garry Maddox, Ron Fairly, Carl Yastrzemski, Richie Zisk and Charlie Hayes had to learn a skill that cannot be taught. Theirs was an honor few other ballplayers have had, an honor so heavy that it can crush a career.

All of them replaced legends. DeCinces replaced Brooks Robinson, Maddox followed Willie Mays, Yastrzemski was the heir to Ted Williams, Fairly succeeded Carl Furillo and Gil Hodges, Zisk followed Roberto Clemente, and Hayes is trying to work free of the shadow of Mike Schmidt.

"Everyone thought I was going to be the next Ted Williams -- and that almost destroyed me," said Yastrzemski, a Hall-of-Famer.

DeCinces says there might be no tougher assignment in sport than replacing a future Hall-of-Famer.

"You can't ever let it overcome you," he said. "I know. It almost ate me up and spit me out, but I came back fighting."

Hayes says that the pressure of expectations gnawed at him last season, but he is getting through the transition period.

"It bothered me last year," he said. "I got caught up in it a little bit."

Hayes is hitting .290 -- 33 points higher than he hit last year. And his fielding has improved dramatically.

"Now I'm just being myself," he said. "If I'm not hitting, I just go out and play good 'D' and make something else work. I'm staying on an even keel."

Those who survived the inevitable comparisons to their predecessors say there are a few rules that must be observed to avoid being lost in a legend's shoes. The rules were easy to make but are hard to follow: Don't try to imitate the guy you succeed. Find your own identity as soon as possible. Think of your assignment as an honor, and don't dwell on the burden.

Or follow the example of Ron Fairly.

"I was too excited to feel the pressure," he said.

Filling Brooks's Big Shoes

Fans in Baltimore made it very easy for DeCinces to remember who Brooks Robinson was.

"I used to get hate mail," said DeCinces, who played in the majors until 1987 before devoting his full time to his California construction company. "People would write things like, 'You're a young punk. You can't wear his shoes. Why don't you just quit?'

"People looked at me as a California kid taking over Brooks's job -- and they didn't like it," said DeCinces, who gradually took over for Robinson at third base. "You have to remember, Brooks could have run for mayor and governor in the same year -- and won. That's how popular he was."

From 1976 through 1981, DeCinces hit .254 and averaged 17 homers per year with Baltimore. Not surprisingly, in the next five years, his production improved. He hit .271 and averaged 23 homers -- for the California Angels.

"Even when my name was announced, there'd be some booing," said DeCinces.

He probably was perceived as the "bad guy" because he divided time with Robinson in '76, then took third base away from the future Hall-of-Famer in '77, Robinson's final season.

Playing in Baltimore "was not easy," DeCinces said. "And the peer pressure from my teammates was even tougher than the fans' {treatment}. Here I was, one of the few young guys on the team, and I was taking over for their leader. They were a little apprehensive."

Pause.

"I had to prove myself all the time. And whatever city I went into, there were the constant questions about me replacing Brooks. There were stories comparing the two of us. I felt like strangling some of the writers."

Hayes has not been under such scrutiny, perhaps because he is playing for a relatively young team of which people didn't have high expectations -- and perhaps because Schmidt, wasn't totally accepted by the fans until late in his career.

"When I went back to Baltimore {with the Angels}, I felt like the artist who died and then his paintings became famous," DeCinces said. "After I was gone, I became appreciated. I look back and I kind of chuckle that they're still struggling at third base in Baltimore."

Maddox Replaces Mays

As a youngster playing organized baseball, Garry Maddox always wore No. 24. Just like his idol, Willie Mays.

And in 1972, Maddox, a rookie, found himself on the same Giants team as Mays.

"I was in awe of him -- and afraid to approach him," Maddox admitted.

On May 11, 1972, Mays, playing his next-to-last season, was traded to the Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams. Mays was replaced in center field by Maddox.

Surprisingly, Maddox said he didn't feel any pressure replacing one of the best players in history.

"I didn't feel the pressure, probably because I had a different perspective than most players," he said.

A year in Vietnam can do that to a person.

Maddox was the Giants' No. 2 draft pick in 1968. He graduated from high school that June, then played for the Giants' rookie-league team in Salt Lake City that summer.

"I was naive," he said. "I received less money than our No. 10 guy -- and that bothered me."

He led the league in strikeouts. And errors. He quit. He joined the Army for a three-year stint. He served two years -- one in Vietnam. Because his father had suffered two heart attacks, Maddox was given a hardship discharge so he could help provide for his family.

That turned him back toward baseball. Back toward becoming Willie Mays's successor in San Francisco.

"When I came back, I was more in tune with myself and didn't feel the pressure the way some might," he said.

A little more than one year later, Maddox was the Giants' center fielder.

"I didn't look at it like I was replacing a legend," he said. "For me, it was just a chance to play in the big leagues. I had success in the majors, and I thought I would be able to play as good as anyone who ever played the position."

Pause.

"I thought," he said, chuckling, "I was going to be a lot better than it turned out."

Actually, Maddox had a distinguished 15-year career (1972 through 1986) with the Giants and the Phillies. He compiled a .285 career average and, like Mays, was regarded as the best-fielding center fielder of his era.

He played a little more than three years for the Giants before being traded to the Phillies for popular outfielder-first baseman Willie Montanez in 1975.

"I can still remember what Larry Bowa said when the trade was made," said Maddox, now a broadcaster for Prism and owner of a Philadelphia-based company that supplies promotional materials to ballparks and casinos. "It was in Frank Dolson's column -- and I still have it in my scrapbook. Bowa said, 'Is that all we got?' "

Ron Fairly also doesn't have any bad memories about replacing a legendary player. Actually, Fairly replaced two Dodgers legends -- Furillo in right field and Hodges at first base.

In 1959, Fairly saw lots of action in right. Furillo, who was approaching the end of his solid 15-year career, batted only 93 times that season.

"I didn't feel any pressure at all," said Fairly, who had a fine 21-year career -- he hit .266 with 215 homers -- and is a Giants broadcaster. "I was just so excited to put on the same uniform as those guys, being with guys like Duke Snider and Carl Erskine and Clem Labine."

In 1962, Fairly moved to first base to replace Hodges, who had been picked in the National League expansion draft by the Mets.

"I wasn't intimidated," said Fairly, who finished his career in 1978, playing for the Angels, "because they were so good at making you feel a part of the team. They wanted me to do well.

"You could see the numbers on the field," he said, referring to the quality pitching and hitting statistics his teammates put together, "but the thing that was impressive was the way those guys treated young players -- and took pride in being Dodgers."

Like Fairly, Richie Zisk replaced a legend. But the circumstances were tragic.

Zisk became the Pittsburgh Pirates' right fielder in 1973, after the death of Roberto Clemente. Clemente, on a mercy mission to Nicaragua, died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972.

"I was struggling to get to the big leagues -- no matter what position I was playing or no matter who I replaced," said Zisk, now a minor league coordinator and hitting instructor for the Chicago Cubs.

Zisk played right field for two seasons in Pittsburgh -- hitting .324 and .313 -- then moved to left in 1975 to make room for Dave Parker.

"I was so wrapped up in my own world," he said. "I had tunnel vision. It was like, 'Let's worry about Richie and what he can do.'

"If I had concerned myself with the whole picture and tried to accomplish what {Clemente} did, I probably would have failed," Zisk said. "I had limited physical skills compared to him -- he was an amazing athlete -- and it would have been idiotic for me to try to compete."

Zisk also played for the White Sox, the Rangers and the Mariners and finished his 13-year career with a .287 average and 207 homers.

'Un-Williamslike' Numbers

Yastrzemski put together even better numbers -- a .285 average, 452 homers and 1,844 RBI -- after replacing Ted Williams.

But Yastrzemski, who became the Boston Red Sox' left fielder in 1961 and spent 23 years with the team, wasn't exactly revered in his first six seasons.

After a big buildup, Yastrzemski hit .293 and averaged 16 homers -- highly respectable but un-Williamslike -- in his first six seasons. Like DeCinces in the '70s, he heard his share of boos.

"I guess people felt he wasn't living up to his potential, even though, for a normal guy, he was doing pretty good," a Red Sox official said. "But the '67 season turned the corner for him."

That season, Yaz won the American League triple crown -- and the fans' affection. A love affair was under way.

But Yastrzemski's first few seasons, particularly his rookie year, hadn't been easy.

"I was 21 at the time, and I would have liked to come in very quietly and get my feet on the ground," said Yastrzemski, now a marketing director for a meat company. "But for the first three months I wasn't myself. My first game I had a hit and threw a guy out, but after the game I was unhappy because I didn't hit a home run.

"That's how it was for the first three months. I was trying to be a home run hitter. I was trying to be Ted Williams, not Carl Yastrzemski. In the second half of the year, I came out of it a little."

Replacing a legend also had its benefits, Yastrzemski said.

"On the positive side, after the first three months, it made me so tough mentally," he said. "After that, there was no batting situation that ever bothered me. Whether it was a World Series or a game was on the line, I never felt pressure. It hardened me."

Passing on Advice

DeCinces, who hit .259 and slammed 237 homers in his career, has some advice for Mike Schmidt's successor: "Accept the responsibility and consider it an honor. If he does that, it'll make him mentally tougher, as it did me.

"Tell {Hayes} to strive to have his own career," DeCinces said. "When I look back, I get the most satisfaction out of being able to replace Brooks successfully -- and still have my own career. Think of all the 'heir apparents' that didn't make it because of all the outside pressure."