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If Brooklyn can be beaten, the Braves are the club with the best chance to do it. They have solid starting pitchers in Warren Spahn (17-14), Bob Buhl (13-11) and Lew Burdette (13-8) and may find support from youthful Chet Nichols and Ray Crone. If Gene Conley, brilliant early last year, can recover from ailing shoulder, Braves could have the best pitching in the league. Ernie Johnson is a good relief man, and he should get reliable help from Dave Jolly and Red Murff, the 34-year-old rookie. Henry Aaron and Ed Mathews provide an electric one-two punch in the batting order, and Del Crandall, Joe Adcock and Bobby Thomson add plenty of long-ball power. Johnny Logan, .297 batter, is livewire at short. Center fielder Bill Bruton is fine leadoff man. Big weakness, possibly fatal one, is at second where Dan O'Connell has trouble making vital double play.
1 DEL CRANDALL, CATCHER: At 26, starting third season as captain of the Braves. Intelligent, hard-working catcher who can lead men and hit baseballs a long, long way. Low-average hitter, but pops the big home run.
21 WARREN SPAHN, PITCHER: Top winning pitcher in majors over past 10 years. Thirty-five, but even so, and despite bad knee, turned in 17 wins last year, high for club.
41 ED MATHEWS, THIRD BASE: Slouching, indolent-looking player, but one of most impressive power hitters in baseball. Has hit 47, 40 and 41 homers past three years, averaged 113 RBIs. Is improving fielder at third.
44 HANK AARON, RIGHT FIELDER: Just 22, youthful of face and slender of build, but an exciting and highly regarded hitter with extremely powerful wrist-snap swing.
Shortstop Johnny Logan is very important to club: a top-grade fielder and a good, strong hitter (13 homers, 83 RBIs). More than that, he's the spark of infield. Big Joe Adcock is not as good a hitter as headlines indicate but he frightens pitchers and is very nice to have on your side. Bobby Thomson, whose broken leg two springs ago hobbled him through two campaigns, was running freely in Florida, changed his stance back to old, loose, square position he used when he first came up. Bobby, like Adcock, isn't quite as good as his reputation, but he's still a pretty fine hitter and helps load Brave lineup with power. Reserves are greatly improved this year, with Veteran Del Rice to spell Crandall behind plate, Jim Pendleton, back from the minors and one of hardest workers in camp, Veteran Andy Pafko and Rookies Felix Mantilla and Wes Covington. Braves' minor league setup is loaded with young players on way up who could help in emergency.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
19 JOHN (RED) MURFF, PITCHER: Minor league player of year, won 27 games for Dallas last season. Started pro career at advanced age of 28. Has sinking fast ball, is counted on for relief. One of most likeable men on team and hard worker.