Under the conservative hand of Fred Haney the Braves won two straight pennants, each by a comfortable eight games. Even so, Haney's cautious managerial methods were widely criticized. Last year, despite the absence of Red Schoendienst, Haney was expected to win again. When he didn't, the front office allowed him to retire and called in a new manager—excitable, imaginative, talkative Charley Dressen, who was lucky enough to get Schoendienst back (top left).
The change in spring training atmosphere was dramatic. Haney liked to sun himself on the clubhouse porch, leaving field operations to his coaches, but Dressen was all over the place, scolding, flattering and prodding. Seasoned pitchers like Warren Spahn and Lou Burdette were lining up for pointers on executing the pick-off play; sluggers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews (below left) joined the rookies for bunting and sliding practice ("Aaron didn't know how to slide," says Dressen) and welcomed the chance to learn. "This," declared an enthusiastic coach, "is the way a ball club should be run."
The Braves are sticking with the same men. They made no significant trades over the winter and fooled the experts by standing pat on their controversial second-base situation. They are confident that Schoendienst, spark and spirit of the pennant teams, has won his battle with tuberculosis, for which he was operated on last year, and they expect him to handle his position with a good share of his old skill.
•HARD CORE OF TALENT
With or without the Redhead, Milwaukee's established stars form the strongest nucleus in baseball: Spahn, Burdette and Bob Buhl on the mound; Del Crandall behind the plate; Joe Adcock, Johnny Logan and Mathews in the infield; Aaron, Bill Bruton and Wes Covington in the outfield.
Fresh from an awesome year at bat (.355 BA, 123 RBIs), Right Fielder Aaron has established himself as one of the game's great hitters. He and Third Baseman Mathews (46 HRs, 114 RBIs) provide an unmatched one-two punch. Both men are picture hitters: their swings are powerful yet effortless and, whether smashing into a double play or finding the far reaches of County Stadium, they hit the ball solidly and with astonishing force. Aaron's base hits totaled 400 bases, Mathews' 352, one-two in the major leagues for 1959. Both field their positions well, and run and throw with the ease of natural athletes. Close behind them come the hulking Adcock, who blasted 25 home runs; the still-developing Covington, who hit .279 in a puzzling off year; and the aggressive Logan, who hit .291 (18 points above his lifetime average) despite a late-season injury. Del Crandall, a 12-year Brave at the age of 30, is the league's best catcher; playing in 150 games last year, he achieved a career high in hits (133) and RBIs (72) while hitting 21 homers.
•SPAHNIE AND LOU
Spahn and Burdette, backbone of the Braves' staff since the old Boston days, started and won nearly half the team's games. Each worked more than any other pitcher in either league—Spahn 292 innings, Burdette 290—and finished with identical 21-15 records. The dependable Buhl, a rangy 190-pounder, won 15 of his 25 starts and had a 2.86 ERA last season, second-best among the league's regular pitchers.
But Manager Dressen has plans for aces Spahn and Burdette: like it or not (and Spahnie doesn't), they will work less to give the staff's now middle-aged young pitchers a chance to develop. Scheduled to join the regular rotation are Joey Jay (24), Carlton Willey (28) and Juan Pizarro (23). Only Pizarro had an impressive record last year (6-2, almost one strikeout per inning) but Willey and Jay, the Wunderkinder of the 1958 champions, were effective in spots. With six starters available for duty, Dressen hopes to cut the Spahn-Burdette workload by 14 starts each, leaving them close to a full week between assignments. Spahn hasn't had that much rest since his first full major league season in 1946.
Blessed with starters in abundance, Dressen needs another reliever, preferably left-handed, to team with hard-working Don McMahon (who almost doubled his appearances in 1959 while lowering his ERA). Top left-handed prospects in training were Bob Hartman, a diabetic with a quick, rocking delivery, and Ken MacKenzie, who stepped right from the Yale campus in 1957 to success in the Southern and American associations. Quebec-born Ron Piché, a right-hander, throws a good sinker; in five seasons with Braves' farm clubs his highest ERA has been 2.98. Still, the No. 2 relief spot will probably go again to veteran (34) Bob Rush, who has had a decreasing workload with the Braves despite a fine record.
•QUESTION OF RED
Last season everyone pointed to second base as the cause of Milwaukee's downfall, and with good reason: eight men played second and batted an average of .158. Lowest of the eight (at .000) was Schoendienst who made five token appearances, in September to signal his recovery and boost the club's morale. In Florida this spring Red looked like the Schoendienst of old at times, but he was harassed by a series of minor ailments (sunburn, sore ankle, stiff arm, etc.). There is doubt that Red can stand the strain of daily play. For this the wily Dressen has a common-sense answer: "If Red feels he can play I'll definitely start him. Then if we get a good lead, by the sixth or seventh inning I'll put the kid in."
The "kid" is Chuck Cottier, heir-apparent to the Redhead's job. Dressen calls him as fine a fielding second baseman as he's ever seen, but Cottier is a poor hitter; he batted .125 with Milwaukee last season and only .226 at Louisville. In camp Dressen made the kid use a heavier bat to shorten his sweeping swing. "I don't want any home runs from him," says the manager, "just singles." If Cottier can produce singles, if only .250 worth, the Braves—even without Schoendienst—will lay strong claim to another pennant.
Mel Roach, a standout rookie in 1958, seems to have recovered from the bad knee that hobbled him all last season. Stan Lopata, released and rehired since September, was impressive in spring training and may be the much-needed second catcher. If not, only Charlie Lau, who has a weak back, stands between Crandall and another 150-game season. In the outfield are Lee Maye, a speedy outfielder who batted an even .300 as Covington's replacement last summer, and spray-hitting Al Spangler.
Aging Ray Boone and Bobby Avila lend experience but little ability. Talented Felix Mantilla can fill in briefly at second, third and short, but his annual stints in winter ball leave him short on staying power for the regular season. The infield is deepest at first base, where right-handed Adcock (a slugger) and left-handed Frank Torre (a singles hitter) make a near-perfect pairing. Last season Torre's BA fell to .228 but neither Dressen nor Frank is taking that too seriously.
1959 TEAM PERFORMANCE
RUNS BATTED IN