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

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

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


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: Seven are still living as of May 6, 2021: Ray Crone, John DeMerit, Joey Jay, Bobby Malkmus, Felix Mantilla, Taylor Phillips, and Mel Roach.

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.


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.


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

PTWSW #53: The 1956 New York Yankees

Manager: Casey Stengel
Record: 97-57
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owner: Dan Topping & Del Webb
GM: George Weiss
Coaches: Frankie Crosetti, Bill Dickey, Jim Turner

Future Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter

All-Stars: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Johnny Kucks, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Gil McDougald

Team Leaders, Batting

Mickey Mantle, .353 (AL leader)
OBP: Mickey Mantle, .464
SLG: Mickey Mantle, .705 (AL leader)
OPS: Mickey Mantle, 1.169 (AL leader)
2B: Yogi Berra, 29
3B: Hank Bauer, 7
HR: Mickey Mantle, 52 (AL leader)
RBI: Mickey Mantle, 130 (AL leader)
BB: Mickey Mantle, 112
SB: Mickey Mantle, 10

Team Leaders, Pitching

Whitey Ford, 19
SO: Whitey Ford, 141
ERA: Whitey Ford, 2.47 (AL leader)
IP: Whitey Ford, 225.2
CG: Whitey Ford, 18
SHO: Johnny Kucks, 3
K/BB: Tom Sturdivant, 2.12 (AL leader)
SV: Tom Morgan, 11


Oldest Player: Enos Slaughter (b. April 27, 1916)

Youngest Player: Tom Carroll (b. September 17, 1936)

First to Leave Us: George "Ted" Wilson (d. October 29, 1974)

Last Survivor: Three are still living as of March 16, 2022: Billy Hunter, Bobby Richardson, and Lou Skizas.

First in Majors: Enos Slaughter (debut April 19, 1938)

Last in Majors: Elston Howard played his final Major League game on September 29, 1968, one day after his former teammate Mickey Mantle took the field for the last time.

First to Play For the Franchise: Phil Rizzuto (April 14, 1941)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Mickey Mantle (September 28, 1968)

Pre-union Team: The 1953-54 St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles (Billy Hunter, Don Larsen and Bob Turley).

Reunion Team: The 1957 Kansas City Athletics (Bob Cerv, Rip Coleman, Billy Hunter, Billy Martin, Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Irv Noren, Lou Skizas and Ralph Terry). The K.C. A's were essentially a Yankee farm team in those days, thanks to Topping and Webb getting their buddy Arnold Johnson installed as owner.


Mickey Mantle, AL MVP
Mickey Mantle, AL Triple Crown
Don Larsen, perfect game on October 8

Season Summary

As usual, the Yankees entered the season favored to win the pennant. The only ones they disappointed were fans of the other seven American League teams, as they nearly led wire-to-wire and won the flag by nine games. Their offense was unmatched in runs per game, homers, slugging percentage and OPS+, and they even finished second in stolen bases (only 51, but still...). Mickey Mantle led the way with a Triple Crown season, edging out Ted Williams for the batting title in the final week. On the other side of the ball, their defense was second-best in TotalZone rating and their pitching staff (aided by Yankee Stadium) was solid enough to allow the second-fewest runs per game.

One of the league's younger teams, the Yankees discarded several veterans over the course of the season. Most notable was longtime shortstop Phil Rizzuto, who drew his release in August. His roster replacement was the older Enos Slaughter, selected off waivers from the Athletics to give the Yanks sorely-needed outfield depth.

The World Series matchup was Yankees vs. Dodgers for the fourth time in five seasons. The Brooklynites had beaten the Bombers the previous year, and this time they had home-field advantage. The Dodgers won the first two at Ebbets Field, but the Yankees tied it by winning the next two on their own turf. Game 5 proved to be the most memorable of the Series; Don Larsen took the mound for the Yankees and retired all 27 batters he faced for what is still the only no-hitter in the history of postseason baseball. Back in Brooklyn for Game 6, the two teams staged another classic pitcher's duel. Young Yankee fireballer Bob Turley battled Brooklyn's Clem Labine, normally a reliever, for nine scoreless innings. The winning run scored in the bottom of the tenth, when left fielder Slaughter misplayed Jackie Robinson's line drive with Jim Gilliam on second. Like the previous year, the home team had won each of the first six games; also like the previous year, the road team would win Game 7. The Yankees scored nine runs while Johnny Kucks allowed none, cruising to their seventeenth World Series title.


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