Please, Milwaukee says, remembering the balloons that have burst, let's just wait a little while and see. Well, let's wait a while and see. Meanwhile, here is how the Braves got this far.
FORESIGHT AND LUCK
First of all, they had the foresight over the years to sign and develop a whole parcel of fine young ballplayers, beginning several centuries ago with Warren Spahn (who is now a fine old ballplayer) and including the incomparable Henry Aaron. They had the gumption to make deals with other clubs that brought them such worthies as Lew Burdette, Joe Adcock and a skinny redheaded second baseman named Albert Schoendienst.
And then they had luck, which, as Branch Rickey's oft-quoted maxim has it, is the residue of design. Injuries felled regulars like Bill Bruton and Adcock, and the Braves had to scrounge around for replacements. They found Outfielder Andy Pafko rusting in their dugout, Slugger Bob Hazle ripening on their Wichita farm and First Baseman Frank Torre still hiding in Adcock's shadow. Pafko's fiery spirit, Hazle's incredible hitting (a .586 average is clearly impossible, but that's what Hazle batted during the 10-game winning streak), and Torre's highly useful play showed the Braves that they had a bench, and a good one, though they had to find it the hard way.
The soundness of the bench demonstrated that Milwaukee was the best-balanced team in the league. Without too much effort, the Braves managed to stay with the milling pack in the National League race, occasionally holding the lead, occasionally falling back a little, but never doing anything terribly bad or dramatically good. Then, one day in early August, at a time when they stood in second place, just one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals, they decided to go on a 10-game winning streak at the precise time when all four of their close rivals for first place decided to go on losing binges.
It was staggering. On the morning of August 4, the Braves were a game behind St. Louis, a game and a half ahead of Brooklyn, 3� ahead of Cincinnati, only five ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia. Twelve days later the Braves were 8� games ahead of St. Louis and Brooklyn, 10 ahead of Cincinnati and 11� ahead of Philadelphia. In that time, as the Braves won 10 straight, the Cardinals lost 10 of 11 (including nine in a row), the Dodgers 8 of 12, the Reds 7 of 11, the Phillies 6 of 9. Never had rivals cooperated more splendidly. The Braves were far in front and going away.
With the Cardinals (see page 30), it was their hitting—up until now the mainspring of this year's amazing resurgence—that all of a sudden gave way and dragged the team out of contention. Everyone—except, of course, Stan Musial—went into the slump together, and there was simply no bench to back up the regulars. The result was, for the moment at least, disastrous.
For the Dodgers it was an equally bitter experience. This season, when they had perhaps their finest pitching staff of recent years, turned out to be the one when their magnificent collection of pennant-winning veterans finally succumbed to the ailments of old age.
The Milwaukee pitching meanwhile had been solid, the hitting had been simply wonderful and no one could overlook Henry Aaron, who was leading the National League in batting, home runs, runs batted in and runs scored. But, Milwaukee decided, the real reason for success lay in the fact that this season the Braves were commanding instead of just hoping, were mounting a sustained drive instead of fitful spurts that didn't last. And the prime contributor to this atmosphere of command and consistency was the skinny, redheaded second baseman, Albert Schoendienst, obtained from the Giants in a trade in mid-June. Outsiders may insist, as Leo Durocher does, that Henry Aaron is the most valuable Brave, or Warren Spahn, or Bob Buhl. Milwaukee says it's Schoendienst.
Milwaukee is in love with Schoendienst, most likely because Milwaukee has never had anything like him before, never had a second baseman who could make the plays he makes, never had a player as good who gave so much of himself to win.