For almost four months the National League pennant race had been a hodgepodge of contending teams, sometimes as many as six stacked within half a dozen games of the lead. It was fun but hardly unusual; the staggering gait of the Yankees over in the American League and the possibility that the White Sox or Indians might win the pennant seemed much more important.
Then, on July 22, the Braves and the Giants and the Dodgers began to move out. Their paths never crossing, they fattened up on the Cubs and Pirates and Cardinals, winning and winning and winning again. By the morning of Aug. 4 it had become a triangular affair, neat and clean and dangerously explosive. And that was the day the three teams began to run into each other. Even American League fans stopped to watch.
Most of the interest early in the week centered on San Francisco's pleasant but cramped Seals Stadium, where the Braves, in third place but only a game behind, came in to challenge the Giants. Milwaukee won the first game behind Warren Spahn, and the race was even tighter than before. But then the Giants, their pitchers performing beautifully and their amazing rookie first baseman, Willie McCovey, supplying the spark (see page 58), won the next two. Throughout the series a cloud of dust seemed to hang continually over home plate. The pitching was mean, the hitters tough, the base running deadly. As if in appreciation, in a ball park which can seat only 22,900, the average attendance was 22,896.
Next it was the Dodgers' turn. Having split a pair with Cincinnati and fresh from a two-day rest, they were ready when the Braves moved south. On Saturday night, before a vast crowd of 90,000, of which more than 67,000 were paid, Don Drysdale pitched Los Angeles to a 4-2 victory. But on Sunday Milwaukee held on to win 8-7. And the Giants, their lead endangered once again after dropping Saturday's game to Cincinnati, responded with a 10-inning 4-3 victory over the Reds.
It had been a tremendously exciting week—yet there had been no explosion. No one was down, no one was out. The three teams seemed equal. It also seemed that this sort of thing might go on for another seven weeks. If you like baseball, who could ask for anything more?