Hearts may break at the news, especially in St. Louis and Baltimore, but the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees are going to win the National and American League pennants. That's official. Or, at any rate, a majority of major league players think so. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED polled the two leagues: players were asked to select the team, other than their own, of course, which they thought most likely to win in their league. (The same system is used in selecting the All-Star teams.) The results are shown in the accompanying box.
It is not surprising that the players selected the Pirates and Yankees as winners. Both teams were in first place when the poll was taken, the Pirates by as much as four to five games, the Yankees by one or two. It was surprising how many votes the Yankees got, half again as many as the Pirates, despite the modesty of their lead.
It was also interesting that the players showed an almost total indifference to the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals. The Orioles have hung on grimly near the top, one, two or three games back, yet they received only six of the 193 American League votes cast.
The Cardinals have been even more surprising than the Orioles. During the last seven weeks they have been winning steadily and have risen to second place. Nevertheless, only one man, Cal McLish of Cincinnati, picked the Cards to win.
The players who chose the Yankees to win the American League pennant did so for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them.
Ned Garver, Kansas City: "The old man over there in New York has been playing McDougald and Berra sparingly. They're not worn out, and they should be at their best when they are needed most."
Jimmy Piersall, Cleveland: "Thanks to Kansas City, the Yankees have too much power. If we don't win I want to see them win. I couldn't stand to watch another World Series like the last one."
Early Wynn of Chicago made the most caustic comment. "They always seem to come up with the guy they need," he said. "They'll get him from Richmond or someplace."
The Chicago White Sox got their strongest support from the Yankees, who, of course, were not allowed to vote for themselves. " Roy Sievers has made them a tougher team," said Elston Howard. Bobby Richardson liked the White Sox pitching and defense through the middle, the same ingredients that made the White Sox successful last year.
The six men who liked Baltimore all agreed that its pitching was the best in the league. Dick Williams of Kansas City had an added reason for picking Baltimore. "They have the best manager," he said, "the best I ever played under."