In Milwaukee last week one of the liveliest—and most significant—items in retail commerce was an ashtray bearing the image of a sickly-looking Brave (see opposite page) who was clutching his stomach with one hand and holding aloft with the other a sign proclaiming FEAR NOT. And underneath ran the dubious reassurance: THE BRAVES ARE IN. Milwaukeeans, caught up in mass civic jitters—and in recollection of last season when the Braves collapsed in the baseball homestretch—started a run on the ashtray supply in Cord's gift shops, laughing hollowly as they paid the clerk $1.50 apiece for such reassurance as the gadget brought.
Milwaukeeans, in fact, were talking like Frenchmen hearing that the Germans were on the outskirts of Sedan. And why not? When the week began the Milwaukee Braves were 5� games in front in the National League. By Thursday they had lost five of their last seven games, and their lead over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals had dwindled to 4�. The populace and press sought and found comfort in the fact that the Braves had been able to split a two-game series with the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, BRAVES DON'T CHOKE UP AGAINST PIRATES ran one wonderfully negative headline. YANKEE SCOUTS SURE BRAVES TO WIN FLAG said another.
Such was the mood when Brooklyn, the team that makes Milwaukee tremble, pulled in for three games. The Dodgers were openly contemptuous. "They'll quit," said Junior Gilliam. "They gotta wind up shooting themselves," said Don Zimmer with a morbid laugh. "Did you see the papers this morning?" asked Pee Wee Reese. "They're asking everybody to tell them they won't blow it."
Well, the Braves won the first game from the Dodgers 2-1 with the help of a couple of almost unbelievably good breaks, and Milwaukee breathed again. Joy reigned in the Brave clubhouse. Catcher Del Crandall, toweling himself after the shower, summed it up smilingly: "They can say whatever they like. There are not many more to worry about."
Nonetheless, the feeling of apprehension stayed with the fans. On the night of Friday the 13th, 40,937 of them turned out, saw the Braves play feckless baseball and lose. Next day, playing the same way, the Braves lost again. And on Sunday—while the St. Louis Cardinals were clobbering the Pirates in a doubleheader to the delirious delight of all St. Louis—Milwaukee (yes) lost again, this time to the Phillies, and in the 10th inning at that. "We're not getting the pitching," said Manager Fred Haney, "or the hitting."
By the start of this week the Braves' lead was down to 2� games. The situation had left the gift shop. It was outside the graveyard now, and the brave whistling was becoming too nervously shrill.
—ROBERT H. BOYLE
FALTER AT THE START
A young thoroughbred named Round Table came out of the West last Saturday to run against a glistening field of his seniors in the invitational $100,000 United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City. In his saddlebags he carried $430,450, accumulated mostly in California, along with a sturdy claim to the title of Horse of the Year.
As the gate opened he stumbled, much to the shock of Jockey Willie Shoemaker. But in an instant Round Table recovered himself, and Shoemaker rolled him into the first turn of the mile-and-three-sixteenths race in fourth position. Then for a desperately exciting mile it was the newcomer Round Table and the experienced 7-year-old Find battling it out head and head over the mushy-damp turf until it seemed that both must surely crack. On they came around the last turn, but now with them came the defending champion Career Boy and the lightly weighted Tudor Era.
With an eighth of a mile to go, it was clear that Find had met his master and that Career Boy was not going to make it. But Tudor Era (carrying 112 pounds against Round Table's 118) was in high gear and going all out. A sixteenth of a mile from home he was dead even with Round Table. A sixteenth of a mile later Round Table poked his bay nose over the wire inches ahead in as courageous a race as anyone would want to see.