The Milwaukee Braves, for example, are a superior ball club, not great but very good, the best in the league. They have a certain amount of frightening power scattered throughout the lineup and some of the best pitching in baseball. Without being spectacular about it they manage to make most of the plays in the field. But the Braves are not very inspiring. They won the pennant the last two years simply because they were far better than anyone else; in 1956, when they were better, too, but not to such a marked degree, they lost.
This year they have missed Red Schoendienst at second base and at the plate, but the illness of Schoendienst has meant far more than just the loss of a glove and a bat. Without him, the Braves do not rise to the occasion. There are exceptions, of course: the two great pitchers, Spahn and Burdette, maybe Mathews and Del Crandall, perhaps a few more. But victory does not exhilarate them nor defeat drop them into the depths of despair; they are a little bit happier if they win, a little less cheerful if they lose. They are old pros, doing a job. Sometimes this can be a good thing, sometimes not.
The Dodgers are as different from the Braves as night from day. Their physical talents are far less. They have a pitching staff of vast potential and occasional brilliance which quite frequently falls on its face. They don't have too much power. Seldom do they cause an opposing pitcher to quiver on the mound and almost never do they run another team off the field; even their victories are scrambling affairs in which hustle and a refusal to quit seem far more important than base hits.
ALL THAT MONEY
Perhaps it is the great bundle of cash which awaits them if they can bring the World Series to their Coliseum and its 95,000 seats that spurs the Dodgers. Or it could be the old winning habit ingrained in the famed Dodger teams of the past, a habit which still lives in veterans like Hodges and Gilliam and Snider and Furillo. Or perhaps it is the marked aggressiveness of some of the new players, particularly Wally Moon, who has given the Dodgers their greatest lift with his clutch hitting and fierce will to win. Whatever it is, the Dodgers have it, a spirit which has made them better than they are.
The Giants are somewhere in between. They have more power than the Braves against mediocre pitching, not quite so much against pitching that is very sharp. They have terrific speed and, with Mays in the outfield and Davenport and Bressoud in the infield, good defense. The Giants have very fine starting pitchers, but they are short on relief.
All the Giants lack is experience and the steadiness it brings; they still make mistakes; they get rattled; sometimes they seem to lack confidence in their own skills. But to make up for this, the Giants have a blend of bubbling enthusiasm which keeps them battling to win and a compelling sense of destiny. Together, these factors are as impressive as the dogged determination of the Dodgers and the stolid skill of the Braves.
These three teams, so different in ability, so widely separated in style, have combined to make 1959 one of the most memorable years in National League history. It's almost a shame that two of them have to lose.