The odds will undoubtedly favor the Yankees and, by extension, Mantle. This reflects a widespread and rather unjustified lack of confidence in Milwaukee, as well as a time-honored faith in the Yankees. This distrust derives from the Braves' failure to win pennants in previous seasons, most notably 1955 (early-season collapse) and 1956 (late-season collapse), and from the Braves' spectacular streak of ineptitude during September's first two weeks.
Milwaukee lost eight of 11 games in that September soft spot, and of course it came at precisely the time when the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, a gifted and colorful but definitely erratic club, were putting on a flamboyant late-season winning rush. The Braves had in August opened up a commanding lead by staging a winning streak during a simultaneous slump by St. Louis and the three other pennant-contending teams, and now it seemed a dramatically perfect time for an antipodean movement. The Braves lost, the Cardinals won, and the Milwaukee lead of 8� games diminished to 2� games. Two and a half games never looked smaller. In Milwaukee, frustrated citizens, wholly identified with their failure-ridden Braves, wandered away from the ball park and morosely eyed the murky waters of the dark Milwaukee River.
NO DARK RIVER
But without too much fanfare the Braves came out of their slump, won, won again, and then again. Suddenly they were on a winning streak. The Cardinals, meanwhile, lost a game, and a day or so later another. The 2�-game lead opened up to five. Things were back to normal in Milwaukee. The river wasn't murky after all; just oily. The losing spell, said postoperative diagnoses (a medical term for second guess), was just a matter of the team not hitting for a few days. It seemed that true and simple now that the Braves were back in high gear, the pitching good most of the way, and the hitting sharp and timely every day.
What with the Yankees idling along, casually conserving their lead—which most of the time was actually not much better than the Braves' lead in the National League—and losing nearly as often as they won, it really seemed that the odds makers should take some note of momentum, that inclination toward continuing in the same path. Milwaukee's path was victory, and it was aimed right at the Series.
Certainly it is true that anyone who might possibly be having trouble getting a bet down on the Yankees to beat the Braves can solve his problem easily by mentioning it anywhere in the Midwest. Even in St. Louis, where for a wild week or two hope flamed with the Cardinals, the rooting will be almost solidly pro- Milwaukee and anti-New York.
As this issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED went to press, St. Louis still held a small mortgage on a miracle. The miracle (a Cardinal pennant) required six St. Louis victories and at least five Milwaukee defeats in the last six games of the season. Foreclosure was extremely unlikely.
But even in defeat the Cardinals rated, and indeed had received on more than one occasion last week a standing ovation from baseball fans who had been led to believe that the National League pennant race was over and done with several weeks ago. No team fought more desperately to win; the word "desperately" is overworked, perhaps, but no other adverb describes the way the Cardinals scrambled from behind in game after game to stay in the race. No man in baseball has more right to feel self-satisfied than Frank Lane, the Cardinals' general manager, whose ruthless trading angered St. Louis and shook the morale of the ball club. Yet his judgments and decisions, which included the hiring of Fred Hutchinson—a respected manager with a great quality of leadership—were primarily responsible for the Cardinals rising from seventh to fourth to pennant contention in two seasons.
St. Louis and Milwaukee made the most of the National League season. Now it will be Milwaukee by itself trying to make the most of its chance against the Yankees.