ANALYSIS OF THE BRAVES
The Braves, who have finished 1-2-3 for eight straight years, have explosive power in the middle of the batting order, three first-rate pitchers and the best catcher in the league. Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock hit 104 homers, batted in 341 runs last year, figures strong enough to impress any pitcher. Warren Spahn with 288 wins and 51 shutouts is winningest lefty in NL history, should win his 300th game this year. Spahn's roomie, Lou Burdette, missed 20 by one last year, will start and relieve this season, will win less, but should prove just as valuable. Bob Buhl's slick 3.09 ERA, 16-9 record shows he's definitely recovered from 1958 arm trouble. Del Crandall at 31 is still No. 1 among NL catchers. Roy McMillan and Billy Martin from Reds and Frank Boiling from Tigers strengthen Braves infield, a trouble spot in 1960.
Primarily relief pitching, but there are also gaping holes in the outfield and in secondary pitching. Braves gave up on Joey Jay, Juan Pizarro, traded them for infielders, are no closer to solving problem of finding extra starters. Manager Charley Dressen hopes for comeback from hard-throwing Relief Man Don McMahon (3-6 and 5.91 ERA in 1960). Outfield situation is muddled: Wes Covington, with his bad knee, and Lee Maye, with his unfulfilled promise, are strong hitters, but slick-fielding, spray-hitting Al Spangler and Felix Mantilla may do most of the playing. The Braves already miss Billy Bruton, the outfielder they traded to Detroit.
THE BIG IFS
The outfield and the relief pitching. Braves are gambling that patchwork outfield this year won't hurt the way patchwork infield did last year. And McMahon must give the Braves first-class relief help.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Braves are gloating about Mack Jones, 22, an outfielder who runs fast, hits with power, throws well. His power is to right center. If he can be taught to pull, he could stick this year. Frank Torre's brother, Joe, who was with team in spring training, became catcher on Frank's advice, throws like a big leaguer, has shown a hot minor league bat, is rated a sure future bet. New Shortstop McMillan and new Second Baseman Boiling are first-class ballplayers, will give Braves solid double-play combination. Billy Martin wants to play, is Dressen's kind of ballplayer.
The Braves will win the pennant if the outfield holds together and the pitching staff comes up with a stopper in the bullpen. Even if that parlay doesn't come off, the Braves should be close to the top all year.
THE ROOKIE CATCHER
Joe Torre is a good-looking, thick-chested 20-year-old Latin with dark eyebrows and curly hair. With a fast hair-comb and a close shave, he could make a burly matinee idol for a Hollywood feature, but he doesn't want to be. He wants to be a major league catcher.
He leaned against the batting cage and rubbed his wrist. He had Band-Aids on the thumb and the ring finger of his left hand. He had a cut on his right palm and tape across the right knuckles.
"I'm not worried about the bruises. It makes your hands tougher," he said. "I played first base, pitched and played third in high school. My brother Frank [former Milwaukee first baseman] and I looked over the major league rosters one day. We didn't see many catchers who had big batting averages. So, I became a catcher.
"I used to read the papers and think about Crandall and Spahn and all those names. Then one day you get up here. I walked around the locker room and looked at the names—Crandall, Mathews, Spahn, Aaron. You just hear about them," said Torre. "Then just like that I saw 'Joe Torre' above a locker. Right near Spahn's, too.
"You know what," the rookie catcher said. "They're just guys. Just like the guys you play with on any team. Just as friendly, just as nice." After a pause, he smiled. "Yeah, just as nice, but better ballplayers."
After 10 years at Cincinnati, Roy McMillan was traded to the Milwaukee Braves last winter.
"No baseball player likes to be traded," he said this spring. "It's the toughest thing in the game. It's worse than a bad year. You get used to the fellows on the ball club and the town and the way of doing things.
"But I've been around in baseball long enough, so I wasn't surprised. I knew I was going to be traded. When you hear so many rumors it's not just a lot of general manager's talk. I knew it, but I hoped it wouldn't happen.
"I'll tell you something," McMillan said earnestly, "I didn't like being traded but I'm glad I'm with a club that has a chance to win it. Third place is the highest we ever finished in Cincinnati. I sure wouldn't mind playing in a World Series this year."
"The Pirates won," Charley Dressen said, "because they had a lot of guys who were willing to work hard. If we want to win, we have to work just a little harder.
"That's the trouble with baseball players today," the manager of the Braves continued. "Everybody wants to take it easy. It's not just the ballplayers. It's everybody. Just the other day I picked up a couple of kids who wanted a lift to get to the tennis courts. The courts were two blocks away. Can you imagine that? Two blocks away and those kids wouldn't walk."
Dressen laughed. "We pay big bonuses to these kids and then they come to camp figuring all they have to do is show up. Some kids think all you have to do is eat vitamins and you bang 'em off the wall. But baseball's a tough game.
"The Pirates are a good ball club. The Cards are improved. The Dodgers have all those good kids. We gotta work hard," he said. "We gotta work hard."
THE FRONT OFFICE
Louis R. Perini blazed baseball's New Frontier when he took Braves from native Boston west to Milwaukee. Now the 57-year-old contractor (Massachusetts Turnpike, Toronto subway, etc.) devotes more time to business and less to baseball. Perini made himself board chairman a few years ago, upped Joseph Cairnes to president. Loquacious George (Birdie) Tebbetts, former manager of Cincinnati Reds, is executive VP. John McHale, ex-Detroit Tiger general manager, is GM. A washout as a ballplayer with Tigers (lifetime BA: .193), McHale worked up through Detroit chain to top job, made surprise move to Braves after 1959 season. John Mullen, a fine Irish tenor, directs farm setup, one of baseball's best. Rivals say Braves teem with talented youngsters, should be near top of the league for years.
THE BALL PARK
Four miles and 20 minutes from downtown, County Stadium (44,426 capacity) is a fan's delight: plenty of good seats, excellent parking (11,000 spaces; cost 25¢), fine food, lots of beer. Novel section, introduced last season, is Braves Reservation—area at ground level between third base and left field that has tables and chairs, permits families and other groups to eat, drink, watch game at same time. Famous Perini's Woods—pine trees beyond center-field fence—grew scraggy as trees died, has been replaced this year by green-painted bleachers (middle section, in line with batter's vision, will be kept clear during games). Best grandstand eating in baseball: bratwurst, hot corned beef, cheeseburgers, two kinds of hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, combination sandwiches (cheese, cold cuts, lettuce, salad dressing). Plus that fine beer.
1960 TEAM PERFORMANCE
1960 INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES
RUNS BATTED IN