Most of the excitement of pennant chasing in 1956 has been supplied by the tense National League race. At the halfway point the Milwaukee Braves unscrambled the standings momentarily to gain the biggest lead of the season for any one team (two games). But the league lead has already changed hands 16 times among five different teams. Until the end of June the first four clubs were never more than three games apart.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, surprise team of the league, found out how fast you can move around in this tight situation. It took them only 11 days to go from fifth to first place and a breathtaking three days to go back to fifth. The St. Louis Cardinals were never more than three games away from the lead until three weeks ago, but at the halfway point they seemed to be dropping out of the race.
Milwaukee has been the most consistent contender. Except for a brief two-week slump that dropped them sharply to fifth place (they needed just two days to move back to first) they have been either first or second all season long. The Redlegs, handling first place like a sloppy catcher, have had the lead four times but have quickly dropped it each time. And always lurking dangerously in the background were the erratic Brooklyn Dodgers.
The National League race has been thrown wide open this season by Brooklyn's inability to maintain last year's sizzling pace. A year ago the Dodgers had won 59 games and lost but 27. They were 11� games ahead, and the pennant race was long since settled. At the same time, the Chicago Cubs had played far over their head and all other potential opposition was effectively stifled. This year the World Champions have won 16 fewer games and lost nine more and are five games away from the lead. With the Cubs playing at a more normal level, every other Dodger challenger, except the Giants, has picked up on last year's pace.