An appraisal and comparison of the 1958 World Series teams: how they throw, hit, field and run—and which of the two should emerge as World Champion
September 28, 1958




The critical factor in any World Series is pitching and the most critical factor in this one may be Whitey Ford's left elbow. If it is all right, and his recent efforts against Kansas City and Baltimore indicate that it is, the Yankees will have a good chance. If it hurts when Ford tries to throw his famous curve-as it did throughout early September--the Braves could win in a breeze. This is all because of a fact made remarkably clear last fall: the kind of pitching in depth which it takes to win a pennant is less important over a short seven-game period than superb performances on the part of two or three men. The Braves still have Burdette, the renowned Yankee-killer of '57, and Spahn, and the beautifully controlled, low, breaking stuff they throw is deadly effective against a team of fast ball hitters like the Yankees. To match them, the Yankees have only the magnificent big righthander, Turley--and maybe Ford. Otherwise, taking into account Larsen's swollen elbow, Sturdivant's spike-slashed heel and the questionable condition of Duren's knee, the New York second string--Ditmar, Shantz, Maas, Kucks, Monroe, etc.--can hardly compare with Milwaukee's Buhl, Willey, Pizarro, McMahon, Rush and the rest. The Braves have the two big pitchers, the very capable supporting cast and they are healthy. The Yankees, with all their aches and pains, can hardly make the same claim.



Seldom has a Series matched opponents of such near-equal hitting ability--or at least that is what the statistics say. Both teams average around .270 and have almost the identical number of home runs. Each has its .300 hitters: Aaron, Covington and Torre for the Braves; Howard, Mantle and Siebern for the Yankees. And if Aaron, Mathews and the amazing Covington, backed up by Adcock and Crandall, seem to have an edge in power over Mantle, Berra and Skowron, the Yankees, as usual, have much the more dangerous bench. Yet statistics are often deceiving and these are complicated by one very important factor. In Milwaukee's County Stadium, even the less explosive Yankee hitters such as Howard, Carey, Bauer, McDougald and Siebern--even Kubek--can reach the fences. Yankee Stadium's vast outfield, on the other hand, is almost certain to decrease the home run potential of Aaron, Covington and Adcock, who are not sharp pull hitters. During the season the Yankees scored almost 100 more runs, and perhaps this is really the key.



No longer are the Braves labeled weak defensively. They still have problems--a hobbled Covington is No. 1--but Crandall and Torre are among the best at their positions; Mathews, Schoendienst, Aaron and Bruton are very good, Logan and Adcock adequate. But when the subject is defense, the Yankees are the best in baseball and only Siebern's inexperience dims their over-all brilliance. Berra and Howard match Crandall's skill. Skowron is an improved first baseman and the infield of McDougald, Kubek and Carey, backed up by Lumpe and Richardson, is superb. And no one underestimates the abilities of Mantle and Bauer.



Perhaps the best running team in either league, the Yankees take the extra base, stretch their hits and, on occasion, steal, although this is not their style of play. Mantle and Kubek have exceptional speed, Bauer and McDougald run very well, in fact only Howard and Carey are considered slow. The Braves, in contrast, are not fast at all. Among the regulars, only Aaron, Mathews, Bruton and Mantilla can be said to have above-average speed. Most of the others are downright slow.



Mickey Mantle was hurt last year and the Yankees lost. But now the powerful youngster is ready and his feared slugging, on top of New York's superiority afield and on the bases, could be the difference. But baseball is still a game of pitching and this the Braves have. Whether the Yankees do or not seems to depend largely upon Whitey Ford.