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The curious fact is that a great deal, if not all, of this starry-eyed dreaming appears to be justified by the facts. Almost certainly the National League must have a rousing race, one of the most exciting in years and maybe the best ever. Barring outrageous form reversals, at least five teams should be in contention and any one of them could win. It is difficult to remember another year when either major league had the admirable balance this one seems to possess.
New York's defending champions have many qualities devoutly to be desired, including "chutzpah," which a Jewish lexicographer defines thus: "When my brother-in-law wore my hat, coat, shoes and ties, I thought he was just nervy. But when he sat down to dinner and smiled at me with my own teeth—then I knew he had chutzpah." As Rud Rennie wrote from the Phoenix, Ariz. training camp, Leo Durocher exhibited this quality long before there was any apparent justification for it; the players acquired it by winning the 1954 pennant and sweeping the World Series in four games.
There aren't enough pitchers around named John Antonelli or Ruben Gomez. Sal Maglie is growing old, Larry Jansen is attempting a comeback after one season as nonpitching coach. In order for the Giants to repeat, there must be many days when somebody named Hearn or Don Liddle or Windy McCall or Paul Giel can keep them in a ball game until the late innings when Hoyt Wilhelm or Marv Grissom can take over.
There is nothing wrong with the Dodgers that good work by Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson couldn't remedy. Where a succession of double-headers will send other managers screaming to their psychiatrists, Walter Alston will welcome the opportunity to work pitchers like Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Billy Loes, John Podres, Russ Meyer and perhaps Karl Spooner or Clem Labine.
Nevertheless, it has been several years since the truant officer came looking for Campanella, Robinson or Pee Wee Reese. Robinson has said that if he can't play better ball this year than he did last, he'll quit before the season ends. If he and one or two others wear out, Alston won't have to quit.
FOR WANT OF AN ANKLE
The Braves feel, with considerable justice, that they lost the 1954 pennant when Thomson broke an ankle in spring training. They had fine pitching and a lot of it all summer, but in the first half of the season they lost often for want of one run. Thomson, in a normal year, would bat in a hundred runs.
An invalid last summer, he delivered 15 runs. Milwaukee can reasonably expect better things from him and improvement on the part of many young men—Gene Conley, Bob Buhl and Chet Nichols among the pitchers; Hank Aaron and Jim Pendleton in the outfield; Danny O'Connell and Johnny Logan on the infield; Del Crandall, who had a spring injury that hampered him behind the plate for half of last season.
The Braves finished third last year, beaten eight games. With only the improvement that may fairly be expected, without benefit of miracles, they could easily be first in 1955.