Here is a new baseball feature. Each week HIGHLIGHT will bring you to the middle of the diamond for a quick, probing look at the week's most significant baseball news, whether it be a sudden return to form by a team hitherto hampered by slumping stars, a trend toward stolen bases or the emergence of an important new pitcher.
Last week, for instance, the pennant races suddenly took clear shape. The New York Yankees stretched their lead at one point to 6� games, and you could feel despair settle over the rest of the American League. How could anyone possibly catch the awesome Yankees?
And yet New York was playing at almost precisely the same rate they were last year at this time, and later on they slumped quite badly for a spell. The Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles had improved considerably over last year, and the rest of these lesser lights of the league (those who finished fourth through eighth in 1955) were playing at about the same gait. Only the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians had sloughed off, but that, all by itself, was the reason for the Yankees' big lead. The key was the White Sox: they lost their first five games to the Yankees, but beat the Indians six of the first seven, including that big Memorial Day double-header.
In the National League, where the race is an exciting scramble, the teams finally began to assume personality, like a child that has been home from the lying-in hospital for a couple of months and has finally learned how to smile. Hitherto, the personalities of the parents (last year's teams) were ascribed to 1956's infants. Now, though, we know that the Pittsburgh Pirates are more than just precocious children with a knowledge of big words. They are high school kids, with all the enthusiasm and muscles of high school. Very likely they will quiet down but they bear watching, for high school kids are almost men. The Milwaukee Braves are mature, capable and poised. The Cincinnati Redlegs are big and muscle-bound, without much direction. The St. Louis Cardinals are slightly schizophrenic: half reputation and real ability (they produced the season's first triple play last week) and half memories and shaky pitching.
As for the World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers, they are old and tired and just a little desperate.