Odds-on favorite to win the National League pennant before the first ball was pitched last April, the Milwaukee Braves have run a curiously powerful race—like a horse who is pounds better than his rivals but doesn't bother showing his superiority until he reaches the far turn. Lightly weighted San Francisco sprinted fast from the barrier and kept head to head with Milwaukee all the way around through July—much, much farther than anyone really expected. Then the Braves moved, beating the Giants four straight in Milwaukee early in August, opening the race up for the first time. The Giants hung on hopefully but, last week in San Francisco, the Braves, playing now with all the fine strength of a beautifully balanced ball club, walloped the Giants again, four times in five games, to reach their high point of the season. Pittsburgh's Pirates moved past the Giants and made their own challenging run at Milwaukee, but the Braves were far down the stretch and approaching the wire, looking back over their shoulders, looking so good that the New York World-Telegram's Dan Daniel, a baseball writer for nearly 50 years and an unabashed admirer of the New York Yankees, wrote that if the World Series were to begin now, "the Braves would be 2-1 over the Bombers."
Despite slumps and injuries, Milwaukee's batting power has been consistently strong and timely. Wes Covington, hampered by injuries, nonetheless hit 23 homers and drove in 67 runs to help win one game after another. And Henry Aaron contributed an eye-popping hitting streak that lifted his batting average from .266 as July began to .340 as August ended.
BIG PITCHING, LOW PRESSURE
The odds against one rookie pitcher coming through are long; for three to make it simultaneously is an impossible parlay. But Joe Jay, Carlton Willey and Juan Pizarro, entrusted in midseason with plugging the holes that were suddenly appearing in the Braves' pitching, have become, with Spahn and Burdette, the big men on this big staff. Perhaps the characteristically relaxed attitude of the club has helped. Never volatile, the Braves have often been criticized for their hyperrelaxed attitude. To this, the unexcited Milwaukeeans can say: "We win, don't we?"
Swinger Ed Mathews has plenty of homers, walks and runs, despite low average.
Swatter Del Crandall, low in batting order, hurts rivals with his long home runs.
Flailer Henry Aaron is most feared hitter in league. Racing along at near .400 pace since June, he is a serious challenger for the National League batting title.
Watcher Red Schoendienst chokes high on the bat, flicks hits to left and right.
Belter Joe Adcock, no scientist, swings hard, misses plenty, but hits the long ones.
Young pitchers Joe Jay (on trunk) and Carlton Willey (standing) listen intently to Pitching Coach Whitlow Wyatt as he demonstrates a grip.