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THREE CLUBS, AND ONLY A FEW DAYS TO GO

Sept. 17, 1956
Sept. 17, 1956

Table of Contents
Sept. 17, 1956

Three Clubs
The Wonderful World Of Sport
Events & Discoveries
Big Game In America
Big Game

THREE CLUBS, AND ONLY A FEW DAYS TO GO

Thousands of dollars await every Dodger, or Brave or Redleg, who helps his club into the World Series. So the heat is on

CRASH-Red Meets Brave

This is an article from the Sept. 17, 1956 issue Original Layout

The National League race became almost unbearably tense in its closing days. Last week, to catch the heady Joy of victory or the bitterness of every defeat which professional phlegm can never quite conceal, Sports Illustrated sent a writer with each of the three clubs now straining so desperately: Baseball Editor Robert Creamer with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Reporters Les Woodcock and Jack Olsen with the Cincinnati Redlegs and Milwaukee Braves. Their dispatches from dugout and clubhouse are on opposite and succeeding pages

MONDAY

Braves began drifting into their clubhouse three hours before the big Labor Day double-header with Cincinnati. The radio blared. Earl Hersh and Bob Trowbridge played cards on a trunk in the middle of the floor. When someone mentioned the Dodgers, fiery Johnny Logan spoke up: "They keep calling 'em the old pros. Well, we're the young pros."

The hill to the stadium was black with fans. Ten minutes before gametime the largest crowd (47,604) ever to pay its way into Milwaukee's County Stadium had assembled. More than 12,000 cars were parked outside.

Hank Aaron was the hero of the first game. After hitting two home runs he doubled in the ninth, and Joe Adcock brought him home with the winning run. The crowd went mad, and the whole Milwaukee team rushed out to engulf Hank as he crossed the plate.

The exhilaration quickly died when the Reds went into a fast 2-0 lead in the second game, which they won. But Coach Bob Keely echoed the general sentiment: "The split didn't hurt us any."

Cincinnati fans erupted onto Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee's main thoroughfare, at 9:30 that morning. They had spent most of the night singing and dancing in the train, and now they were wearing red derbies, brandishing cowbells and tooting whistles.

Around the batting cage Ed Bailey talked about the strain of a pennant stretch run: "You're tired but you can't afford to be with all that money at stake." He walked away singing, "Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley." All through that first game, Birdie Tebbetts sat on a towel on the rim of the dugout and carefully watched for Lew Burdette to throw any spitballs. When Adcock broke up the game, Birdie bowed his head. "It was real quiet in the dressing room," Gus Bell reported later.

There wasn't too much elation after winning the second game, mostly just the weariness of a long day of ball. Three-quarters of the Red infield (Temple, McMillan and Grammas) hurried out to catch a movie.

The Dodgers were exhausted before the double-header with the Pirates. Pee Wee Reese was drawn and haggard. For the first time in memory, he showed his 37 years. The Dodgers beat Pittsburgh in the first game, but then they listlessly lost the second 3-2, with Bob Friend squashing them in relief. Friend had commented earlier, "You can overpower a tired man. You can fool him because he's not aggressive at the plate." For the first time in over two years, the Dodgers failed to hit a homer in a double-header at bandbox Ebbets Field. Day off tomorrow. The weary Reese said, "I'm going to sleep all day."

View this article in the original magazine

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TUESDAY

Milwaukee Manager Fred Haney ate a light meal in the afternoon before the third game with Cincinnati. In the dressing room the gin rummy players got going on their trunks—among them Bobby Buhl and Toby Atwell, who have the longest continuing game on the team. Danny O'Connell rested under the heat pads and confided, "Gee, I had a bad dream we are going to lose tonight." Hank Aaron's laugh could be heard above the chatter. "That Henry's laughing again. He's leading the National League," Johnny Logan gibed.

But Milwaukee fans had few opportunities to cheer that night. Tension filled the stands when the Braves tied the game in the eighth, but the crescendo of noise died as Milwaukee's rally did the same. After the loss, the dressing room was closed to visitors for 15 minutes.

The Redlegs are forbidden by Manager Tebbetts to play cards in the dressing room. Before the game they talked, got rubdowns, read comic books. It turned out to be a good night. They got fine pitching from Jeffcoat and Freeman, and the almost inevitable home run from Frank Robinson beat Milwaukee in the 10th. Once again there was spectacular fielding from Johnny Temple and Roy McMillan. "Those guys are always making plays like that," Gus Bell said enthusiastically. "You don't realize it by just reading about it. You have to see them every day to appreciate them."

The Redlegs' dressing room was decorated with wide grins. "You never feel very tired when you win one like this," Tebbetts said, naked in front of his locker, broad face beaming, a big glass of beer in his hand, talking to everyone within earshot. Wally Post muttered, "Now they seem to be getting tighter, every game, I mean. There isn't much more time left."

Dodgers. It was a lovely day. Reese got his good night's sleep, but in the afternoon he took hi: daughter Barbara over to the doctor's for a routine checkup. Carl Furillo went fishing off Sheepshead Bay; Roy Campanella piled his ample family into his 40-foot boat Princess and chugged across Long Island Sound and back. Randy Jackson, Don Bessent and Dale Mitch ell played golf on Staten Island. Jackson shot a 78. Jackie Robinson brought his wife and two boys into New York to see Moby Dick. Carl Erskine said: "Took the family into New York City, to Fifth Avenue. Did some shopping saw a couple of friends, had dinner, took a nice drive." Don Newcombe got a haircut and then put in a day's work at his liquor store in Newark. Duke Snider went out on Long Island and visited some friends; except for hitting out a pail of golf balls, he did nothing but loaf. Gil Hodge stayed at home all day with his new baby. Walter Alston went to a movie and then listened to Vin Scully's recreated broadcast of the Cincinnati-Milwaukee game which, he said with a smile, he didn't mind at all. And sinister, blue-jawed Sal Maglie, honing his razor for hi; pitching assignment on Wednesday, took his 15-month old son to the park and pushed him gently on the swings It was a wonderful day off.

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WEDNESDAY

At Milwaukee's batting practice, before the last game of the Cincinnati series, someone watched Billy Bruton swing his bat and asked him if it contained any base hits. "Ought to. I haven't taken any out," was the reply.

Poor hitting has Manager Haney worried. This would be no time for the club to go into a hitting slump. The pitching, of course, is fine. Lew Burdette, the star, sat on the dugout steps and good-naturedly accepted some needling about his alleged fondness for the spitball. "I'm having an awful lot of luck with a pitch I don't even have." He wiped his forehead with his hand and slapped it across his glove a couple of times with ostentatious exaggeration.

Johnny Logan remarked innocently: "It looks like it's going to be a close National League, doesn't it?"

But the game gave the Braves nothing to kid about. Warren Spahn took the mound in expectation of his 200th major league victory. Twenty-seven pitches later he was back in the clubhouse and the Redlegs had a 5-0 lead. They scored seven more times to win shatteringly, 12-2.

Who said the pitching was O.K.? Who said anything was O.K.? There was no joy in the dressing room, nor in Milwaukee. People here don't refer to the Braves; it's always, "we did this today" or "we won yesterday."

The Redlegs spent a lazy morning before getting out to the Milwaukee park that afternoon. The only variation in the dressing room routine was offered by Jimmy Dykes in the shape of an impromptu Charleston in his underwear in front of the lockers.

The game was a dull one as the Redlegs tore the Braves' pitching apart. They really looked like a pennant winner. A key to their success just now is a little Greek who never made it as a shortstop with the Cardinals but who is playing a tremendous third base for Cincinnati: Alex Grammas. Said a Cincinnati writer: "If we'd had him all year, we might be six games ahead by now."

The Dodgers were sprightly and cheerful in the locker room both before and after their game with the Pirates, which they won 4-3. TV viewers on the squad offered sound advice to Sheena of the Jungle before the game ("Duck!") and to Manager Mike Higgins of the Boston Red Sox after it ("Walk Skowron and pitch to McDougald!"). On the field their hitting was far from overpowering but it had spark. In the sixth Robinson squeezed Reese home from third with a perfect sacrifice bunt for what proved to be the winning run. Sal Maglie's splendid curve and pluperfect timing had Pirate batters so off stride that 18 of their 27 outs came on ground balls to the infield. Maglie's earned run average over his last 10 starts was an eye-opening 1.91 runs per game.

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THURSDAY

Milwaukee was unscheduled. Manager Fred Haney went hunting, Joe Adcock caught eight small trout. Henry Aaron saw a movie. In the late afternoon the club entrained for Chicago.

The Redlegs, also unscheduled, took an overnight train to St. Louis. Some slept well, some complained of "the bouncy ride."

The Dodgers, due to start a four-game series with the Giants, were rained out.

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FRIDAY

The Braves came to Wrigley Field full of zip and vinegar. "Why should we be feeling bad?" asked Adcock, when gently reminded of the club's three-game losing streak. "We're in first place."

The boys frisked around as if they had a 10-game lead and one week to go. O'Connell joked to Adcock: "Ain't it a shame we can't just buy these four games from the Cubs?" "Go ahead," Adcock laughed, "put the fix in." "Too many guys to pay off," O'Connell retorted.

Then came the debacle at the hands of Chicago's in-and-out Jones (a 5-0 shutout), and the Braves' joy went out like a fractured electric light bulb. Haney slammed the clubhouse door for 10 minutes and delivered a crisp lecture on the need for base hits. Adcock sulkily nursed a small spike wound. Burdette and Charlie Root opened some beer and vainly tried to console the others.

Cincinnati that night was in St. Louis where there isn't supposed to be any pitching, but the Cardinals' Vinegar Bend Mizell shut the Red-legs out with two hits, while Ken Boyer hit a game-winning homer.

In the morning before the night game the players held a fan-tan game in their hotel lobby. Among them was Joe Nuxhall, who was to lose the tough 1-0 verdict that evening. Wally Post and Gus Bell also kept an eye on the swimming pool and reported any pretty girls approaching.

Around lunchtime Birdie Tebbetts, feeling lonesome, spent a couple of hours with Freddie Hutchinson, an old pal of his American League days, who was also feeling lonesome in the hotel next door. In the dressing room, Ted Kluszewski found his shower slippers nailed to the floor. "That son of a gun. That's Wehmeier did that."

It was the coldest Sept. 7 in St. Louis in 107 years. The game took less than two hours. Afterward, the Redlegs, slightly shocked, were saying little.

Brooklyn Manager Walt Alston expounded his views on pennant pressure before the double-header with the Giants at Ebbets Field. "I don't believe a player can produce his best when he's trying with all his might to play his best. Of course, some play better when the chips are down."

He may have been pridefully talking of his own men, now trying to come from behind in the pennant race. They blew the first to the Giants but came out expecting to win the second without strain behind Don Newcombe. Yet the Giants and Al Worthington held on 1-1 into extra innings. In the 11th, Jackie Robinson choked a rally when he was trapped between first and second, but with two out Carl Furillo took Jackie off the hook with a game-winning homer into the left field seats. The clubhouse afterward was not ecstatic but immensely cheerful. Reese put on a wonderful act of moaning about the official scorer who had called what Reese thought was a base hit an error. Pee Wee climbed into his locker and said feelingly to Hodges, "Lock me in, Gil. Don't let me out where I can get at him." Robinson shouted at Furillo, "Carl Furillio, you home run hitter. I can sleep tonight now. If you hadn't of hit that one I'd of tossed and turned all night, getting myself picked off like that." For the first time all week they seemed to be looking forward to the next day's game.

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SATURDAY

The Braves were given extra batting practice this morning. They have become the weakest hitting team in the majors.

Their spirit and their hitting were lackluster, and they lost their second game with the Cubs 2-1 despite fine pitching from Burdette. It was their fifth straight defeat, their longest losing sequence of the season.

The clubhouse was like a morgue after the game. Down the bench line the Braves sat, apparently numbed. Even voluble Burdette was not equal to the task of raising spirits. He lit a filter-tip cigaret, took three puffs, flipped it away and said with no spirit at all, "Blank 'em all."

The Redlegs knew that the Braves had lost before their game with the Cardinals, and they were confident of gaining ground on Milwaukee. But they were plastered by St. Louis hits and lost 6-4. Three crucial hits were just missed by McMillan and Temple, although probably no two other National League infielders would even have got as close to the ball as they did. Three former American Leaguers present (Tebbetts, Hutchinson and Dykes) agree that McMillan is the best shortstop they have ever seen. The bespectacled Roy's bony body is a mass of bruises, scrapes and strawberries.

Real dejection settled on the clubhouse afterward.

The Dodgers beat the Giants today. It was a tense and exciting game, but Brooklyn took it like a very good but slightly bored runner who turns on just enough in the stretch to catch an inferior opponent at the tape. In the clubhouse came word of Milwaukee's fifth straight defeat. Duke Snider said, in wonder rather than contempt. "They lost again. Seems as if they just can't score any runs, doesn't it?"

The cheerful Dodgers, whose weariness had noticeably abated day by day during the week, clustered around the TV after the game to watch the National tennis singles. "Look at that serve!" Jackie Robinson shouted. "He missed," Pee Wee Reese said. "You think he'll try a change-up?" Ralph Branca said, "No, he's behind. He'll come in with the curve." In his office Walter Alston, carefully tying his tie, posed smiling for a photographer.

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SUNDAY

The Braves came into the double-header with every chance of dropping out of first place, and they looked it. The pre-game pall became heavier when Johnny Logan (kneed in the back in Friday's game) told Haney, "It's no use, Boss, can't even bend over." Logan had been the nucleus of what little power remained to Milwaukee.

Yet the Braves got 22 hits to sweep both games from the Cubs. The clubhouse was a scene of joy for a change. Burdette shouted, "Now, write this down very carefully: Lew Burdette is very happy, yessiree, very happy." He began to sing Side by Side. Crandall said: "The turning point, that's what it was."

Cincinnati had Jablonski at third instead of Grammas for the last game at St. Louis, and Jabbo missed three plays which cost the Redlegs the game—a four-hour heartbreaker which ended in the 13th inning. The players walked off the field with bowed heads, as if they were all praying. The nine-hour train ride to New York would be a black one.

Brooklyn beat the Giants with the aid of four runs driven in by Hero of the Week Carl Furillo. Afterward, Jackie Robinson summed up Dodger feeling about the Braves: "They've never been through this before. We have. We haven't been playing good ball, but we've been winning and coming from behind." One game off the pace? That was fine by Robby. "I don't know if we're going to win—our hitting is awful—but I'd say we have a hell of a chance now."

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PHOTOTRYING TO BREAK UP A DOUBLE PLAY, JOHNNY LOGAN TANGLES WITH ROY McMILLAN, BUT TOO LATE TO PREVENT THE THROW TO FIRST BASEPHOTOBONY FINGER OF DOOM WAGGLES AT REDLEG MANAGER TEBBETTSPHOTODODGERS' CARL FURILLO LOSES HAT BUT BELLY-SLIDES THROUGH DUST TO REACH SECOND SAFELY WITH TWO-BASE HIT AGAINST THE GIANTSTWENTY ONE ILLUSTRATIONS