NATIONAL LEAGUE BASEBALL

Cincinnati or Chicago will be leading the league Monday night but 168 days later—well, figure it out for yourself
April 11, 1955

A few seconds past 2:30 p.m. this Monday afternoon in Crosley Field in Cincinnati a young man—named Fowler, perhaps, or Nuxhall, or maybe Valentine or Baczewski or Podbielan—dressed in cleated shoes, flannel knickers, a peaked cap and a shirt bearing a scarlet letter "C" over the left breast, will stand for a moment on a low, hard-packed mound of dirt in the middle of a green square of grass, take a deep breath and then, with a violent twisting of his body, throw a baseball.

In that moment the 80th season of play for the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs will begin. One hundred and sixty-eight days later, on Sunday, September 25, it will end. In between, things will happen.

For instance, Monday night after the first game, barring snow, cold weather or rain, either the Cincinnati Redlegs or the Chicago Cubs will be in first place in the National League—since the rest of the teams in the league do not start play until the next day and will therefore remain in a faceless six-way tie for second place overnight. This is a small thing, to be in first place Opening Day, but it will be welcome in Cincinnati or Chicago because the chances that the Redlegs or the Cubs will be in first place on September 25 are nowhere near as certain, though in Cincinnati they gaze upon Ted Kluszewski's muscles (top left) and dream.

They dream of Kluszewski's muscles in New York, too, but there the dream is not a pleasant one. Kluszewski's biceps, Frank Smith's pitching arm (second from top), Roy Campanella's once lame but now healed left hand (third from top) and Bobby Thomson's once broken but now mended right ankle (bottom) are significant parts of the league-wide armament trained on the champion New York Giants.

Kluszewski symbolizes the awesome hitting of the pitcher-shy Redlegs, who do not expect to win the pennant but who will win many games from those who do, including the Giants.

Relief Pitcher Smith is the hope of the St. Louis Cardinals, whose batting is strong but whose pitching leaked last year. If Smith can hold the late-inning leads the Cardinals lost last year, the way of the Giants will be harder still.

Catcher Campanella hit .312 for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 when they won the pennant. An operation last spring left his hand weak, his batting average weaker (.207) and the Dodgers a destitute second. If Campanella is strong again the Dodgers feel they will be ready for sweet, crushing revenge on the Giants. Outfielder Thomson was obtained last year by the Milwaukee Braves to drive in runs, say about 100. Instead he broke his ankle and drove in 15. If his ankle and his runs-batted-in are right again, the pitcher-rich Braves will be in an enviable position and the Giants will lose sleep.

PASSPORT TO OBLIVION

But despite all—bicep, arm, hand and ankle—the Giants are still the best team in the League and the most likely occupants of first place that Sunday evening in September. The Dodgers used to be the best team—were from 1949 until early last summer when they lost six straight games to the Giants and with them their crown and scepter.

The Dodgers won three pennants in that time and barely missed two others (they were second by two games in 1950, second by one in 1951). And last season, almost by habit, they finished second again, only five games behind.

Six remarkable baseball players made the Dodgers the best for so long: Campanella, Hodges, Robinson, Reese, Snider, Furillo. It is significant that over the years the Dodgers have been unable to find in their annual glitter of rookies one really outstanding player to share the Dodger burden. This year, with memories of the sad decline of Jackie Robinson last season, with realization that the average age of the six is rapidly approaching a tired, creaking 33, the feeling persists that the five-game gap by which the Dodgers lost last year was a signpost to oblivion, and that this year the Dodgers will come apart, perhaps not quite so thoroughly as the one-horse shay, but sufficiently so that they will run now with the pack rather than with the leaders.

The Cardinals, for all the relief Frank Smith will bring, will still have headaches, most grievous among them the scarcity of second-string starting pitchers, the craftsmen who win the rubber games in three-game series, the games that win pennants.

The Redlegs score runs, but their opponents score more, if last season's record counts. And this season they don't have Frank Smith. Optimism bubbles in Cincinnati, but there are four better teams in the league than the Redlegs.

The Phils are prematurely gray, living on an annuity named Roberts; the Pirates will stage ten-day previews of pennant-winning teams to come, but in the end will fall back in disorder to their proper place; the Cubs will labor in vain. Only the Braves pose a real threat to the Giants.

Check through the team-by-team appraisals on this and the following two pages. Look at the strong points and weak spots, the hopes and worries of the eight clubs. One fact is obvious: The Braves and the Giants are the best-balanced teams in the league.

Both have excellent pitching (the Braves are a bit more certain there), wise catching, good infields and fine outfields (the Giants have the edge there). Both are well managed. The Braves have Charley Grimm, a genial man who keeps his team on an even keel. The Giants have Leo Durocher, who in confusion and despair can break his own club's morale but who in confidence can fire it to heights undreamed of.

They are beautifully matched, these two teams, and they will be wonderful to watch this season, particularly when they come off hot streaks into games with each other.

But the Giants should win the pennant. The difference between the clubs is spelled W-i-l-l-i-e M-a-y-s.

NEW YORK GIANTS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Willie Mays, Alvin Dark and Johnny Antonelli, who provide a tremendously strong, tried nucleus for a championship club. The double-barreled relief pitching of Hoyt Wilhelm and Marvin Grissom. The remarkably large proportion of real all-round athletic ability: men who can run, throw, hit, field and think, and who seem to thrive on playing. Durocher's ability to make a winning club think it is invincible.

WEAK SPOTS:
Shaky second-line pitching between top starters and relief men. Lack of competent all-round outfield reserves (Rhodes is strictly a pinch hitter).

ROOKIE HOPES:
Promising group, but help for World Series team is expected only from Infielder Foster Castleman who spent last half of '54 with Giants, played only 13 games.

THE BIG IFS:
Sal Maglie and Monte Irvin. Maglie, 37, must approximate last year's fine record (14-6); Irvin must forget last year (.262), hit as he did in '51 (.312, 121 RBIs). If Maglie fails, rehabilitated Jim Hearn has to take up slack. If Irvin fails, Giants could be in serious trouble.

THE OUTLOOK:
Hard to fault Giants now; they are the team to beat.

BROOKLYN DODGERS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
For the most part, a seasoned team of hard-hitting, smooth-fielding old pros. Two really outstanding power hitters in Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. One of the great infielders of all time in Pee Wee Reese.

WEAK SPOTS:
Age is catching up with the whole team. Young replacements like Gilliam, Hoak, Zimmer, Amoros have yet to prove themselves as real major leaguers. Pitching staff long on quantity but notoriously undependable, lacking a reliable "stopper."

ROOKIE HOPES:
Karl Spooner, strike-out sensation at the tail end of last season, is being counted on to prove in '55 that '54 was no fluke.

THE BIG IFS:
So much depends on the ability of Campanella, Robinson and Newcombe to recover from dismal '54 performances. Campanella's injured hand, Robinson's tiring legs and Newcombe's inability to regain his once-powering fast ball delivered a fatal blow to Brooklyn's pennant hopes last year. Sound again, these three could bring the championship back to Flatbush.

THE OUTLOOK:
If the "ifs" turn out favorably, the Dodgers can walk away from the field. If not, they'll have a hard time repeating last year's second-place finish.

MILWAUKEE BRAVES

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
A top-notch pitching staff, headed by the great left-hander Warren Spahn, tall Gene Conley and hard-bitten Lew Burdette, plus relievers Dave Jolly and Ernie Johnson and several other "potentials." Young, heads-up Catcher Del Crandall is one of the best in the majors. Long-ball power on offense, supplied primarily by Joe Adcock, Eddie Mathews, Bobby Thomson.

WEAK SPOTS:
The lack of one really great player to spark the club. Overdependence on Crandall's leadership can be dangerous, particularly in light of weak catching reserves.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Most highly touted is George Crowe (.334 at Toledo), but he must beat out Adcock at first. Most likely to stick is Pitcher Humberto Robinson (23-8 at Jacksonville), who has impressed in spring training.

THE BIG IFS:
If Bob Buhl and Chet Nichols can shrug off mediocre '54 records and regain lost form, pitching staff will have great depth. Bobby Thomson's still-tender ankle is a big factor. Without his anticipated 100 runs-batted-in, Braves will have real struggle.

THE OUTLOOK:
The Braves are a good bet for the pennant, particularly if Thomson proves healthy and the pitchers do as expected.

PHILADELPHIA PHILS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Robin Roberts stands out like William Penn on top of Philadelphia's City Hall. Has won 115 games in last five years, personally kept Phillies in first division four of those five years. Granny Hamner, back at short after a term at second, adds professional class. Slugger Del Ennis (average 100 runs-batted-in per season last nine years), Outfielder Richie Ashburn.

WEAK SPOTS:
Severe scarcity of secondary pitching, unless touted rookies or shopworn veterans (Wehmeier, Dickson) come through. Lack of sure-shot double-play man at second base hurts, as does humdrum bench.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Not much, except for two good young pitchers up from Syracuse: Jim Owens (according to Roy Hamey, possessor of "best curve in baseball") and Jack Meyer (led International League in strike-outs).

THE BIG IFS:
Curt Simmons (14-15 last year) must overcome arm trouble and give Roberts real help if Phils are to remain in first division. Journeyman Infielder Bobby Morgan has to develop into a capable second baseman.

THE OUTLOOK:
Gloomier than last year, when they just did squeeze into fourth place. One Roberts does not a ball club make.

CINCINNATI REDLEGS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
The most powerful batting attack in the league, headed by last year's major league home-run champion (with 49) Ted Kluszewski. Batting order includes Kluszewski (141 runs-batted-in), ex-Cardinal Ray Jablonski (104 RBIs), Gus Bell (101 RBIs), Jim Greengrass (95 RBIs) and Wally Post (83 RBIs). A good double-play combination in fancy-fielding Shortstop Roy McMillan and scrappy, good-hitting (.307) Second Baseman Johnny Temple.

WEAK SPOTS:
Lack of a single top-flight pitcher who can win consistently. Catching is unsettled. Seedy fielding in some quarters.

ROOKIE HOPES:
None to speak of. Redlegs will stand with last year's squad, plus major leaguers Johnny Klippstein, Gerry Staley and Jablonski picked up during the winter.

THE BIG IFS:
Cincinnati has a half-dozen or so fair pitchers in Joe Nuxhall, Art Fowler, Bud Podbielan, Corky Valentine, Fred Baczewski, Staley and Klippstein. But none were big winners last year. Tebbetts needs two standout starters plus a reliever to take over for the departed Frank Smith.

THE OUTLOOK:
With good pitching, the sky's the limit. Without it, wait till next year.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
The ever-brilliant Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst; an excellent outfield; a fast, powerful batting order that led the league in batting and runs scored in '54.

WEAK SPOTS:
Pitching, first base, lack of an outstanding shortstop, rookies slated for two regular positions. Woeful second-line and relief pitching killed the Cards in '54.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Brilliant. Third Baseman Ken Boyer (.319 at Houston in '54) hailed as a new Pie Traynor. Outfielder Bill Virdon (a league-leading .333 at Rochester) expected to team with Moon and Repulski, freeing Musial to plug weak spot at first. Behind Virdon is yet another league-leader, Outfielder Harry Elliott (.350 at San Diego). Stanky also has several glittering rookie or quasi-rookie pitching prospects.

THE BIG IFS:
The heralded rookies and the pitching staff. Boyer and Virdon (or Elliott) must prove themselves, and Relief Pitcher Frank Smith, acquired from Cincinnati, will have to save late inning leads for Harvey Haddix, Brooks Lawrence, Gordon Jones et al.

THE OUTLOOK:
With better pitching than last year, Cardinals could certainly make first division, possibly threaten for the pennant.

CHICAGO CUBS

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Veteran Pitcher Bob Rush, slugging Outfielder Hank Sauer (41 homers, 103 RBI in '54), fine young double-play combination in Second Baseman Gene Baker, Shortstop Ernie Banks.

WEAK SPOTS:
Catching and the outfield. Aging Catchers Walker Cooper, Clyde McCullough are fading. Outfield is unsettled, needs speed afoot, good throwing arms to correct perennial Cub headache.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Best prospects are big (6 feet 3 inches, 225 pounds) Catcher Harry Chiti, just out of service, and Pitcher Sam Jones (15-8 with Indianapolis in '54). Pitchers Hyman Cohen and Bob Thorpe from lesser minors may make the team, with Outfielders Jim Bolger and Ted Tappe from Tulsa.

THE BIG IFS:
Ability of old Pitchers Paul Minner, Warren Hacker, Howie Pollet, Harry Perkowski to perform satisfactorily. First Baseman Dee Fondy, Third Baseman Randy Jackson will have to hit well to make up for poor fielding. Necessary outfield improvement will depend largely on performances of rookies.

THE OUTLOOK:
Far from bright. Too many weak spots. No better than seventh, possibly the cellar.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

THIS YEAR'S PROSPECTS:

STRONG POINTS:
Youth, Branch Rickey and several barrels of optimism labeled "The Future." Plus a fine outfielder in Frank Thomas (.298, 23 homers in '54), the veteran Sid Gordon (37 in August) and two most promising young players in Shortstop Dick Groat and Catcher Jack Shepard (.304 last season).

WEAK SPOTS:
Quite literally, hitting, pitching and fielding, in all of which the Pirates were dead last in '54. Much of the Pirates' weakness stems from plain inexperience: batters are fooled by the right pitch, runners take extra base at wrong time, pitchers lose poise with men on base.

ROOKIE HOPES:
Pirates are largely rookie and all hope. Brightest light is 20-year-old Gene Freese, .322-hitting second baseman last year with New Orleans. Others to keep an eye on: brother George Freese, 3b; Roberto Clemente, of; Dale Long, lb; speedballer Bill Bell, who pitched three no-hitters in 1952 for Class D Bristol team.

THE BIG IFS:
Hitting, pitching and fielding. But if team shakes down into a cohesive unit, it could stir up National League race.

THE OUTLOOK:
Another training season for Pirate hopefuls, with seventh place as their aim.

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PHOTOCAMPY'S LEFT HAND COULD CRUSH THE GIANTS PHOTOTHOMSON'S MENDED ANKLE LIFTS THE BRAVES PHOTOBIG KLU'S BICEPS PACE THE SLUGGING REDS PHOTOON FRANK SMITH'S FLIPPER RIDE THE CARDS PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: HORACE STONEHAM PHOTOMANAGER: LEO DUROCHER PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: WALTER F. O'MALLEY PHOTOMANAGER: WALTER ALSTON PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: LOUIS R. PERINI PHOTOMANAGER: CHARLEY GRIMM PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: ROY HAMEY PHOTOMANAGER: MAYO SMITH PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: GABE PAUL PHOTOMANAGER: BIRDIE TEBBETTS PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: AUGUST A. BUSCH JR. PHOTOMANAGER: EDDIE STANKY PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: PHILIP K. WRIGLEY PHOTOMANAGER: STAN HACK PHOTOFRONT OFFICE: BRANCH RICKEY PHOTOMANAGER: FRED HANEY

NEW YORK GIANTS

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

1ST

97

57

-

1953

5TH

70

84

35

1952

2ND

92

62

1951

1ST

98

59

-

1950

3RD

86

68

5

INDIVDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Mays .345

Antonelli 21-7

1953

Mueller .333

Gomez 13-11

1952

Dark .301

Maglie 18-8

1951

Irvin .312

Maglie 23-6

1950

Stanky .300

Maglie 18-4

BROOKLYN DODGERS

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

2ND

92

62

5

1953

1ST

105

49

-

1952

1ST

96

57

-

1951

2ND

97

60

1

1950

2ND

89

65

2

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Snider .341

Erskine 18-15

1953

Furillo .344

Erskine 20-6

1952

Robinson .308

Erskine 14-6

1951

Robinson .338

Roe 22-3

1950

Robinson .328

Roe 19-11
Newcombe 19-11

MILWAUKEE BRAVES

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

3RD

89

65

8

1953

2ND

92

62

13

1952

7TH

64

89

32

1951

4TH

76

78

20½

1950

4TH

83

71

8

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Adcock .308

Spahn 21-12

1953

Mathews .302

Spahn 23-7

1952

Gordon .289

Spahn 14-19

1951

Gordon .287

Spahn 22-14

1950

Elliott .305

Sain 20-13

PHILADELPHIA PHILS

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

4TH

75

79

22

1953

3RD

83

71

22

1952

4TH

87

67

1951

5TH

73

81

23½

1950

1ST

91

63

-

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Ashburn .313

Roberts 23-15

1953

Ashburn .330

Roberts 23-16

1952

Ennis .289

Roberts 28-7

1951

Ashburn .344

Roberts 21-15

1950

Ennis .311

Roberts 20-11

CINCINNATI REDLEGS

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

5TH

74

80

23

1953

6TH

68

86

37

1952

6TH

69

85

27½

1951

6TH

68

86

28½

1950

6TH

66

87

24½

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Kluszewski .326

Nuxhall 12-5

1953

Kluszewski .316

Baczewski 11-4

1952

Kluszewski .320

Raffensbergei 17-13

1951

Wyrostek .311

Blackwell 16-15

1950

Kluszewski .307

Blackwell 17-15

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

6TH

72

82

25

1953

3RD

83

71

22

1952

3RD

88

66

1951

3RD

81

73

15½

1950

5TH

78

75

12½

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Musial .330

Haddix 18-13

1953

Schoendienst .342

Haddix 20-9

1952

Musial .336

Staley 17-14

1951

Musial .355

Staley 19-13

1950

Musial .346

Pollet 14-13

CHICAGO CUBS

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

7TH

64

90

33

1953

7TH

65

89

40

1952

5TH

77

77

19½

1951

8TH

62

92

34½

1950

7TH

64

89

26½

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Sauer .288

Rush 13-15

1953

Fondy .309

Minner 12-15

1952

Baurnholtz .325

Hacker 15-9

1951

Baumholtz .284

Rush 11-12

1950

Pafko .304

Rush 13-20

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

PAST PERFORMANCE:

TEAM STANDING

YEAR

FINISHED

WON

LOST

GAMES BEHIND

1954

8TH

53

101

44

1953

8TH

50

104

55

1952

8TH

42

112

54½

1951

7TH

64

90

32½

1950

8TH

57

96

33½

INDIVIDUAL STARS

YEAR

LEADING BATTER

LEADING PITCHER

1954

Thomas .298

Littlefield 10-11

1953

O'Connell .294

Dickson 10-19

1952

Groat .284

Dickson 14-21

1951

Kiner .309

Dickson 20-16

1950

Westlake .285

Chambers 12-15

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)