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Last year Alston insisted he wasn't worried about his hitting. "We'll get enough runs," he said at that time. "I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about my pitching." A year ago Johnny Podres had just been drafted, Billy Loes had a sore arm and so did Karl Spooner, and Don Bessent had been operated on for an abdominal obstruction. "That's four pretty good pitchers we didn't have," Alston said the other day. "But it turned out the pitching came through better than we ever expected. Newcombe won 27, and we got Sal Maglie. Roger Craig was very good the first part, and Erskine was good. The bullpen was strong: Labine was very valuable in relief, and so was Bessent when he came back. Drysdale did pretty good. The pitching won for us. But the hitting didn't get us enough runs, except the last 10 days of the season. That was the only time all year we had a sustained attack. It carried through the first two games of the Series, and then it stopped cold."
He made a wry face, remembering that the Dodgers scored a total of six runs in the last five games of the Series after scoring 19 in the first two.
"This year now we're not worried about our pitching. I don't know if Newcombe and Maglie will win 40 games between them again, but you have to expect them to do pretty well, and we have Podres back. We have Erskine and Craig, and they're reliable pitchers. We have a very good bullpen, with Labine and Bessent. And Ed Roebuck. Young fellows like Sandy Koufax and Spooner and Fred Kipp can help us. They're all lefties, like Podres. Did you know we didn't throw a left-handed pitch against the Yankees in the Series last year? We can use lefties. Koufax and Spooner have been throwing hard. Koufax has very good stuff; all he ever needed was control, and now he seems to have it. Everyone knows how hard Spooner can throw when he's right [ Spooner struck out 27 men in pitching two consecutive shutouts when he made his maj'or league debut in 1954, and then pitched well in the latter part of 1955 before hurting his arm]. Now and then he looks all right again. Kipp looked awfully good in Japan on that trip we took after the Series. And I'm very high on young Drysdale; he could be one of our big pitchers. You can't be sure, of course, but it could turn out we might have a hell of a pitching staff. We better have, because I'm worried about that hitting."
The pendulum has swung, then, over the years. Where once the Dodgers were accepted as a team of power hitters and great fielders who made up for a mediocre pitching staff, now the once-great team is carried by its pitchers.
Baseball men have an almost reverent respect for good pitchers, and the Dodgers' chief rivals for the pennant—the Milwaukee Braves and the Cincinnati Redlegs—always praise Brooklyn's pitching staff. But pitching is a delicate thing. The odds that say there's a chance that Kipp and Spooner and Koufax and Drysdale will blossom into full-fledged major leaguers are no better than those that say Newcombe's arm will stay sore or that Maglie's age will trip him up or that Podres and Erskine and Craig will fail.
The Dodgers are a fragile team in their twilight years, and if they manage to hang on to win the pennant one more time it will be a signal tribute to their lingering greatness and to the skill of their unpraised manager in utilizing his Zimmers and Kipps and L�tigos. And it may well be their last hurrah.
Be sure to see them play this year if you can, because the fabulous Bums of Brooklyn won't be the same much longer. For one thing, they may be moving cross-country to Los Angeles. For another, Jackie's gone and the rest of the old gang can't be too far behind.