SI Vault
October 06, 1969
Baseball is always looking for omens. A hitter who has gone zip for 27 knows he is going to come out of his slump today because last night his sister from Elizabeth, N.J. called and told him not to worry. The last time she did that he went on a 14-game rip. The pitcher, whose control has been so bad, puts on a teammate's sweat shirt with big holes in it, both front and back, and suddenly his "deuce" catches the black for strikes and the change-up has all the enemy hitters off stride.
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October 06, 1969

Pitching—and An Omen—favors The Mets

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The main differences between the Braves and the Giants, however, are their fielding and their pitching. Atlanta's infield is much stronger defensively with Orlando Cepeda at first, Felix Millan at second, Gil Garrido at short and Clete Boyer at third. On the other hand, San Francisco's pitching is considerably more reliable. The Giants got 51 complete games from Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, while Atlanta's total of 38 complete games was built basically on the 21 pitched by Phil Niekro. Late in the season Ron Reed came on strong for Atlanta Manager Luman Harris, but the Braves' bullpen, picked up by the addition of Hoyt Wilhelm from the California Angels late in the season, sagged badly. And for the Braves, Wilhelm—the one fresh man—is ineligible for the playoffs and the Series.

Rico Carty, he of the one-hand catch (sometimes) and the good bat (most times), has hit well for the Braves (.345), even though he barely reached 300 at bats. And Atlanta got two marvelous breaks when 20-year-old Bob Didier proved himself a splendid catcher, and Tony Gonzalez, acquired in a trade, provided key hits. Didier had played only 133 games in the minors—the rule of thumb for a catcher is 400 minor league games before moving up to the majors—with a batting average of .219. His average with the Braves was .258.

San Francisco's major plus was the arrival of young (23) Bobby Bonds, who became only the fourth player in history to hit more than 30 homers and steal more than 30 bases in the same season. Bonds broke in with the Giants in spectacular fashion last season by belting a grand-slam homer against the Los Angeles Dodgers for his first major league hit, but he also broke the alltime major league record for strikeouts in a season by easily surpassing Dave Nicholson's former record of 175.

Against the Mets this year the Braves and Giants each won only four of 12. Those games were played at points in the season when New York was not as good as it was at the end of the year, by which time it was very good. Atlanta has been on a winning streak almost as hot as the Mets'; the Giants have struggled. No matter which team faced the New Yorkers, it assuredly would have its hands full with those young, strong-armed enthusiasts.

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