Vice-President Emil J. (Buzzie) Bavasi moved up through the front offices in the Brooklyn farm system, took over administration of parent team with Fresco Thompson (who directs farm system) when Walter O'Malley acquired control of Dodgers in 1950. Walter Alston had parallel career in farm system dugouts before his appointment as Dodger manager in fall of 1953. His first lieutenant, Billy Herman, coaches third, Jake Pitler first. Underpublicized Joe Becker does a fine job with the pitching staff.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S DODGERS
Brooklyn's pitching lacks glitter of Milwaukee's, but some insist it is actually strongest in league, especially in light of fact it has to pitch half its games in tiny Ebbets Field, a hitter's paradise. Sal Maglie, assuming that he continues to thrive, is toughest pitcher in baseball in a money game. Big Don Newcombe is not, but over a season his tremendous consistency racks up game after game. Talkative Clem Labine and taciturn Don Bessent provide strongest bullpen in league; Labine throws wicked sinking curve, and Bessent's fast ball is a wisp of smoke. Other starters (Carl Erskine, Johnny Podres, Roger Craig, Don Drysdale) are not up to same standards as "Barber" Maglie and Newk, but then there's the relief pitching. Brooklyn's strength lies also in superb fielding (though Catcher Campanella, Shortstop Reese, Outfielders Snider and Furillo have all fallen off a little from their peak in that respect), fast and skillful base running, and the not inconsiderable remnants of the once powerful hitting. Duke Snider, for instance, is still one of the greatest sluggers in baseball. Probably most valuable player on club last year, aside from pitchers, was relatively obscure Jim Gilliam, who played second base, left field, hit .300, stole 21 bases (second in league) and scored 102 runs (fourth straight year over 100).
Age and its infirmities are biggest worries Dodgers have. So much depends on ability of veterans like Reese and Campanella, Furillo and Hodges, Maglie and Erskine to play up to the hilt for yet another year. The club boasts about its farm system and all the brilliant prospects produced therein, but in last seven seasons only Gilliam has come off farms to become fulltime regular, if you exclude Relievers Labine and Bessent. A few (like Joe Black) flared briefly, and a few others (like Podres, Neal and Craig) give promise to assume full major league stature this year. Yet many more (names stick in the memory: Morgan, Bridges, Hoak, Palica, Abrams, Loes, Belardi, Podbielan...) arrived in a fanfare of publicity only to fade quietly from Brooklyn scene. Doubts about reliability of Dodger rookie crop constitute continuing major weakness.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
The most interesting rookie in Dodgertown this spring was a tall, skinny Cuban named Rene Valdes, who calls himself The Whip and whose pitching motion resembles one. His brilliant work in training games moved him ahead of more orthodox Dodger rookies like the lefthander Fred Kipp. Perhaps Johnny Podres, returned after a year in the Navy, could be termed a new face. John has a trick back; when it's O.K. he's O.K., but when it goes bad for a week or two then so does he.
THE BIG IFS
Don Newcombe is on the spot after his dismal World Series performance, but the real worry in pitching is Sal Maglie. Dodgers say they expect full season of outstanding work from the masterful Barber, and Sal feels the same way. But he passes 40 this month, and at 40...well, there's always that doubt. Another worry is Roy Campanella, three times Most Valuable Player in the National League. Last year Campy's batting average dropped 99 points to a miserable .219. Of course, the Dodgers won the pennant anyway, and presumably could do it again. But if Roy's injured hand is really well again he could give waning Dodger punch tremendous lift. And a tremendous lift may be what the team will need, now that the fiercely competitive Jackie Robinson is no longer around to needle his teammates to victory.
Some pessimists feel Dodgers will, at long last, fall apart this year (as Giants did after winning World Series in 1954), but depth of pitching Alston has assembled almost certainly will prevent that. However, even if team doesn't collapse, it has a tremendous task on its hands to repeat its narrow triumph over maturing and improving Braves and Redlegs. It's hard to forget how utterly weary club looked last September. This season it will be like an old king elk, fighting desperately to stave off insistent challenges of the young bulls.
Because of "bandbox" structure of this stadium you can get a pretty good view of the game from almost any one of 32,111 seats—if you're not behind a post. If you would like a new point of view, you might enjoy the first few rows of the centerfield grandstand (Section 36-38, $1.25). You'll feel like you're playing shortstop.
Best way to ball park from Manhattan is by subway (BMT to Prospect Park or IRT to Franklin Ave.). By car, use Manhattan Bridge to Flatbush Ave., or Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Prospect Ave. Expressway, but be pre pared for heavy traffic and inadequate parking facilities.
Park is certainly not beautiful, nor especially neat Rest rooms and concessions are too few and too far between to handle large crowds. Ushers growl if no tipped. Nevertheless, a visit to Ebbets Field is always entertaining. Before the game begins, there's Happy Felton and his Little Leaguers working out along right field line. Providing organ music before and after game is the estimable Miss Gladys Goodding, who's been a Dodger almost as long as Pee Wee Reese. And of course there's 'tween-innings cacophony of the Dodger Symphoney. This year Emmett Kelly, world-famous clown has been added to pregame lineup to provide chuckles No baseball park is more fun, for the Dodger fan show: his affections or his outspoken displeasure with a continuing riot of noise.
Ticket information: MAin 4-7030
Pee Wee Reese
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
runs batted in