The Western Clubs in the National League moved into the East this week, and for the first time in a decade it was no clich� to speak of "invasion." For at this early stage the balance of power in the league has swung to the West.
There is a very real cyclical movement between East and West. Consider: from 1901 to 1910 the West won eight of 10 pennants, while the East took 12 of the next 14. The West then ran off with 18 of the next 22, but since 1947, eastern teams have won the pennant nine straight times and dominated the first division.
Now, however, three western clubs scramble with Brooklyn for first place. Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati swagger eastward with the confidence of success. Will they go home swaggering or limping?
Of the western teams, the Cincinnati Redlegs are especially appealing. For one thing, they have not been out of the second division since 1944, while every other major league club has had at least one first-division finish since then.
Secondly, they have an imposing array of big, hairy-backed hitters who are delighting crowds with a record number of home runs (43 in their first 21 games).
Finally they have as manager, the round-faced Mr. George Robert Tebbetts. Birdie, who majored in philosophy at college, is a thinker and a talker, and last week he was thinking and talking about the pennant race.
"This league better stop Milwaukee," he warned. "They're apt to do just what Brooklyn did last year: get so far ahead no one will catch them. They're a good solid team. Still, anyone who wins this pennant has got to beat Brooklyn. Don't forget that. The Cardinals are playing great ball. They're a lot like us. They score a lot of runs, but they give a lot away. We have a little more power than they have; they have a little more speed."
He paused for effect.
"There's going to be a real race in this league this year. Nobody's easy. You used to get mad when the Pirates beat you. Now you can't get mad. The Pirates with their pitching might come in anytime and knock the block right off you.
"Our team," he said, "is improved. Right now I have the only catcher in the big leagues with a lifetime batting average over .300, and where is he—on the bench!" (Fat little Smokey Burgess has been kept out by young Ed Bailey's fine playing.)