Wednesday, June 30, 2010

PTWSW #54: The 1957 Milwaukee Braves

Manager: Fred Haney
Record: 95-59
Ballpark: Milwaukee County Stadium
Owner: Lou Perini
GM: John Quinn
Coaches: Bob Keely, Johnny Riddle, Charlie Root, Connie Ryan

Future Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst, Warren Spahn

All-Stars: Hank Aaron, Lew Burdette, Johnny Logan, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst, Warren Spahn

Team Leaders, Batting

BA:
Hank Aaron, .322
OBP: Eddie Mathews, .387
SLG: Hank Aaron, .600
OPS: Hank Aaron, .978
2B: Eddie Mathews, 28
3B: Bill Bruton, Eddie Mathews, 9
HR: Hank Aaron, 44 (NL leader)
RBI: Hank Aaron, 132 (NL leader)
BB: Eddie Mathews, 90
SB: Bill Bruton, 11

Team Leaders, Pitching

W:
Warren Spahn, 21 (NL leader)
SO: Bob Buhl, 117
ERA: Warren Spahn, 2.69
IP: Warren Spahn, 271
CG: Warren Spahn, 18 (NL leader)
SHO: Warren Spahn, 4
K/BB: Warren Spahn, 1.42
SV: Don McMahon, 9

Tidbits

Oldest Player:
Andy Pafko (b. February 25, 1921)

Youngest Player: Hawk Taylor (b. April 3, 1939)

First to Leave Us: Dave Jolly (d. May 27, 1963). Less than two years after playing his last professional ballgame (for the minor league Mobile Bears), a brain tumor claimed Jolly's life.

Last Survivor: Thirteen are still living as of September 13, 2014.

First in Majors: Warren Spahn (debut April 19, 1942)

Last in Majors: Hank Aaron (final game October 3, 1976)

First to Play For the Franchise: Warren Spahn (April 19, 1942)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Hank Aaron (October 2, 1974)

Pre-union Team: The 1951 Cardinals had four: Dick Cole, Nippy Jones, Del Rice and Red Schoendienst.

Reunion Team: The 1959 Phillies (Gene Conley, Harry Hanebrink, Taylor Phillips, Carl Sawatski) and 1962 Phillies (Wes Covington, Bobby Malkmus, Mel Roach, Frank Torre) each had four. Braves GM John Quinn joined the Phils in 1959, and evidently he had a soft spot for his old organization's spare parts.

Accomplishments

Hank Aaron, NL MVP
Warren Spahn, Cy Young Award

Season Summary

If one phrase summed up the Braves' team philosophy it was "power hitting." Milwaukee led the league in OPS+, home runs and slugging while attempting the fewest stolen bases and drawing relatively few walks. They were second in team batting average and third in OBP. Their pitching staff was led by three workhorse starters in Warren Spahn, Bob Buhl and Lew Burdette, but overall they prevented most of their runs because of strong defense and a pitcher-friendly ballpark; their team strikeout and walk rates were both second-worst in the league.

The non-waiver trade deadline back then was June 15, and the Braves made a last-minute deal that day to bolster their lineup: they acquired veteran second baseman Red Schoendienst from the Giants for weak-hitting incumbent Danny O'Connell, aging left fielder Bobby Thomson and pitcher Ray Crone. Schoendienst proved his worth by putting up a 116 OPS+ while playing strong defense for Milwaukee. Young Wes Covington took over for Thomson in left field and flourished there, finishing third on the team with 21 homers. When torn ligaments sidelined center fielder Bill Bruton for the season in July the Braves moved Hank Aaron over to his spot and platooned Andy Pafko and Bob "Hurricane" Hazle in right. Hazle's batting line of .403/.477/.649 down the stretch was a valuable surprise. Their weak bullpen also got a big boost with the arrival of 27-year-old rookie Don McMahon at the end of June. McMahon saved nine games and posted a 1.54 ERA while leading the team in relief appearances.

The first half of the season was a close race between five teams: the Braves, Cardinals, Redlegs, Dodgers and Phillies. A hot streak that began in late July allowed the Braves to leave the competition in their dust. They were never out of first after August 6, and they won the pennant by an eight-game margin. Their World Series opponent? The New York Yankees, champions of 1956.

Game 1 was a matchup between Spahn and Yankee ace Whitey Ford in New York, and the home team walked away with a 3-1 win. Milwaukee would get their revenge behind Lew Burdette in Game 2, who went the full nine innings for a 4-2 victory. After winning Game 3 in a blowout, the Bronx Bombers were on the verge of taking a 3-1 Series lead in Game 4. Elston Howard had hit a dramatic three-run homer to tie it with two outs in the ninth, and they followed by taking a one-run lead in the top of the tenth. The Braves got a game-tying double from Johnny Logan to keep their hopes alive in the bottom of the inning, which Eddie Mathews then followed with a walkoff two-run shot that knotted up the Series. Burdette worked his magic again in Game 5, pitching a complete game shutout. The Yanks won Game 6 back at home, but Burdette, on only two days' rest, thwarted the Yankee lineup once more in Game 7. The West Virginian pitched his second shutout of the Series to seal the title for Milwaukee and win the World Series MVP.

Acknowledgements:

Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

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