THE BIG IFS:
So much depends on the ability of Campanella, Robinson and Newcombe to recover from dismal '54 performances. Campanella's injured hand, Robinson's tiring legs and Newcombe's inability to regain his once-powering fast ball delivered a fatal blow to Brooklyn's pennant hopes last year. Sound again, these three could bring the championship back to Flatbush.
If the "ifs" turn out favorably, the Dodgers can walk away from the field. If not, they'll have a hard time repeating last year's second-place finish.
THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:
A top-notch pitching staff, headed by the great left-hander Warren Spahn, tall Gene Conley and hard-bitten Lew Burdette, plus relievers Dave Jolly and Ernie Johnson and several other "potentials." Young, heads-up Catcher Del Crandall is one of the best in the majors. Long-ball power on offense, supplied primarily by Joe Adcock, Eddie Mathews, Bobby Thomson.
The lack of one really great player to spark the club. Overdependence on Crandall's leadership can be dangerous, particularly in light of weak catching reserves.
Most highly touted is George Crowe (.334 at Toledo), but he must beat out Adcock at first. Most likely to stick is Pitcher Humberto Robinson (23-8 at Jacksonville), who has impressed in spring training.
THE BIG IFS:
If Bob Buhl and Chet Nichols can shrug off mediocre '54 records and regain lost form, pitching staff will have great depth. Bobby Thomson's still-tender ankle is a big factor. Without his anticipated 100 runs-batted-in, Braves will have real struggle.
The Braves are a good bet for the pennant, particularly if Thomson proves healthy and the pitchers do as expected.