Maybe it was just me…maybe I was just “growing up”, maturing in awareness of things outside of my senior-in-high-school world; however, 1959 is a huge year in my memory. General (now President) Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon were President and Vice President of the United States, Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra were big in news of the Cuban Revolution and (in one my earliest realizations that there were people out there who had totally different value systems from those in our good old U.S. of A.) the Soviet Army pushed into Afghanistan. Russian TV also showed photos of the “other” side of the moon. The U.S. launched the Vanguard weather satellite…Alaska and Hawaii were granted statehood. In another event-with-far-reaching-effects; the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened allowing Atlantic shipping to bring world trade to the Midwest. In other business news, American Airlines offered flights between the East Coast and the West Coast. You could catch a Pan Am flight to London and back for about $450. Ford and Chrysler raced to the patent office (or wherever); each wanting to name their newest vehicle “Falcon”…Ford won. Also…Ford, amidst incredible public outcry, officially ended production of the Edsel. Closer to home, Dad bought a brand new car for under $2500, gas was 25 cents a gallon, milk was a dollar a gallon, bread-20 cents a loaf, coffee-95 cents a pound, hamburger-58 cents a pound and a stamp cost four cents. Somebody invented pantyhose and Barbie dolls and, in another event-with-far-reaching consequences, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce invented the micro-chip. For a buck we went to see Rio Bravo or Ben Hur, Elvis was still rockin’ as was Wilbert Harrison (Kansas City) and Bobby Darin (Mack the Knife). The absolutely all-time biggest news in music was the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper)…The Day the Music Died!!! It was one of those I-remember-where- I- was-and-what-I-was-doing moments for this old rocker. However,
on a much brighter note…1959 was the year Weird Al Yankovic was born…Take THAT you Stan Freberg maniacs…!!!
The general mood in Milwaukee and around Wisconsin was varied and, for the most part, minus the level of elation of previous years. However, it seemed Braves fans were more “sophisticated” than in earlier times. The level of anticipation was tempered but, we were far better educated to the ups and downs of fandom…we were empathetic to the vicissitudes of the game…we’d arrived and won, we’d arrived again and lost. We had, by no means gotten our minds around the concept of “lost”…we-collectively-were still at sea on that part. Nevertheless, this was still OUR team, these are OUR Braves and we agree with the sportswriters: the Braves are still the team to beat!!! There is, or course, talk of other teams-the Giants, the Phillies, Pittsburgh and, sometimes, the Dodgers…We don’t think so!!
Who out there has anyone to compare to Spahn and Burdette; 22-11/3.07 ERA,20-10/2.91 ERA, respectively? Not to mention Rush-10-6/3.42; Buhl-5-2/3.45; Jay-7-5/2.14 (who undoubtedly would have pitched in the ’58 W.S. if not for that finger injury…think about THAT!!); Willey-9-7/2.70 and Pizarro, Conley and Trowbridge. Don McMahon seems healthy as a horse in the relief role…but, even if…the starters were almost all used in relief as needed. Catchers: Crandall has always been among the stellar performers in the league, solid as a rock offensively and defensively!! Del Rice may leave a tad to be desired as a hitter, but, as a handler of the pitchers and on defense he’s hard to match. Young Hawk Taylor, 20, who also plays outfield shows great promise. The infield is a mixed bag. Frank Torre and Joe Adcock aren’t interchangeable; but, any team in the league would be glad to have either one of them—we’ve got ‘em both!!
Second base IS an issue: Red Schoendienst has Tuberculosis!! He went into the hospital in late fall of ’58, will undergo surgery on his right lung in February and will be lucky to play at all in ’59. Mel Roach, his logical replacement is still on the DL from knee surgery and likely won’t play until June or July. There’s no reason whatsoever to think Johnny Logan won’t bounce back from last year’s .226 BA. If, heaven forbid, that doesn’t happen, Felix Mantilla could be utilized at either keystone spot and some decisions would have to be made regarding who’d be best at which…we do have options. Mathews will be as good as always at third!! The outfield is as easy as ABC…Aaron, Bruton, Covington; augmented as needed by the always-solid-as-a-rock Andy Pafko.
Once again, as we do every year, we say “Good-by for the nonce” to some great guys and “Hello and welcome” to some new guys who we always hope will be the “new blood” of the Braves…!!!
It’s not entirely appropriate to be saying good-by to Eddie Haas…He came to the Braves in the Bob Rush trade and was in the dug-out some in ’59. Unfortunately he breaks an ankle and won’t be back up again ‘til 1960—So long for awhile, Eddie…
Harry Hanebrink has been a Brave, off and on, since 1953. He departs 3/31/59 as part of the Conley, Hanebrink, Koppe for Lopata, O’Brien, Kazanski trade with Philadelphia.
Joe Koppe, a rookie last year, is part of that same trade. Joe will go on to a very respectable eight year career in the bigs.
Bob “Hurricane” Hazle was mentioned last year…and some of us still don’t understand how “business” could play so large a role in the life of a guy who played so large a role in the history of the Braves. A major hero in the ’57 World Series, he started slowly in ’58 in 20 games, was beaned badly enough to be hospitalized and a week later was sold to Detroit. He played in 43 games for the Tigers and retired. It IS my job to wonder how/why we could allow that to happen to one of our heroes…and call it “business”…
Bob Roselli was sent down after the 1958 season and was picked by the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 draft on 11/28/60.
Gene Conley is the Oh-no-it-can’t-be guy in this group. He’s been here since the team moved here from Boston in 1953!! He got the win in the only All-Star game played in Milwaukee during the team’s stint here. Except for arm-trouble last year, he only had one losing season in Milwaukee and even then he went 8-9. Sadly, he and Fred Haney didn’t see eye to eye…I hope none of those puns were lost on you…Haney thought Gene’s basketball career was detrimental to his baseball career. Gene is still One of a Kind (the title of his wife, Kathryn’s biography of him): He’s still the only man to ever win a Championship ring in TWO major league sports…the Braves in baseball and the Celtics in basketball!!! If, however, you heard his comments at The Braves’ 50th Reunion Dinner, it was obvious—he’s still one of us!! We miss you, Gene!!
Ernie Johnson is another guy who came with the team from Boston to Milwaukee. In nine years, mostly in relief, he’s rung up an amazing .635 winning percentage!! You might compare that to some other guys on some other teams who got a lot more ink…Eddie Mathews said Ernie was the “best pitcher in the American Association”. Remember the great job he did in the World Series…!! Sadly, Ernie was placed on waivers toward the end of the ’58 season and played the ’59 season with Baltimore. He went to Cleveland in 1960. He never pitched a lick for the Indians but did get a baseball card—Topps #228. At that point he retired and moved back to Milwaukee where he had a TV show, ”Play Ball” and worked some games in the broadcast booth…and he sold insurance and coached some Junior-High basketball. In ’62 the Braves offered him a job as administrative assistant to GM John McHale. Subsequently he moved with the team to another town and eventually became a full-time, award-winning play-by-play broadcaster…and he, too, is STILL a Braves guy!!!
Dick Littlefield who, as you know, is still one of my faves, retired after the 1958 season. Dick enjoyed nine years in the Bigs with 10 different teams.
Humberto Robinson, the fire-balling Panamanian pitcher, was traded to Cleveland for Mickey Vernon on 4/4/59. I often wish he could have gotten a few more appearances while he was with the Braves…
Here are the new guys…For many years now I’ve been fascinated by Milwaukee management’s decision(s) in 1959. Yeah, yeah, I know about trying to second-guess…especially after 50 years…but isn’t that part of all this…wondering what if…? Why that instead of this other…? In ’59 they appeared to lean toward some short-term strategy or fix…get some veterans who’d been around awhile but, also, who had probably seen their best days. Why that? I don’t know…maybe the vaunted minor league system had no one ready…maybe we’re trying to save money…maybe we can be lucky enough to get another Red Schoendienst…maybe one of these guys has a career year left in him…maybe…maybe…maybe maybe it’s just me; but it seemed like just when we shoulda been infusing the team with some new, young blood, we, instead, brought in guys we’d have loved to have had in their prime…I had a great respect for every one of these guys during the years they played against us…Only ONE of them will start the 1960 season with us…!!
Bobby Avila, a 35-year-old infielder was acquired for the $20.000 waiver price on 7/21/59. Beto (nickname) has had a very respectable 10-year career with the Indians. He will get some key, clutch hits for us as well.
Ray Boone, 36, is another very fine, hard-nosed infielder who has been mostly with Cleveland and Detroit since 1948. He also came via the waiver line on 8/20/59. Ike (nickname) will be the first of three generations of Boones to play Major League Baseball.
Chuck Cottier, 22, is a rookie second-baseman. He had a very good year in Louisville in 1958 which earned him a shot with the parent club.
Bob Giggie, 25, is a rookie pitcher up from Wichita. He, too, gets high marks from Mgr Ben Geraghty…good fastball, good control.
Bob Hartman, 22, is a rookie pitcher up from Atlanta of the Southern League. He is the only pitcher in the Braves organization, with the exception of Spahn and Burdette, who won 20 games in 1958…with 163 strikeouts and a 2.94 ERA. He is also a Wisconsin guy…from Kenosha.
Ted Kazanski was part of the Lopata, O’Brien for Conley, Hanebrink, Koppe trade. He was a Philadelphia rookie in 1953 and appeared in 417 games from ’53 through ’58; he never played at Milwaukee or in the majors again.
Joe Lonnett became the property of the Braves with the trade that sent Carl Sawatski to Philadelphia. Joe never played for the Braves; however, as a result of the J.D. McCarthy postcard and his inclusion in the picture of the five Braves’ catchers, he apparently signs a lot of autographs for Braves collectors…He’s a good signer.
Stan Lopata, 34, was acquired from the Phillies along with Johnny O’Brien and Ted Kazanski in the Conley, Hanebrink, Koppe trade on 3/31/59. Lopata has been a catcher for the Phillies for the past 11 years and is a very solid, dependable player.
Lee Maye, 25, is a rookie outfielder. He’s been invited to camp based on his batting averages and his home run totals. In addition to his baseball prowess, Maye is an accomplished singer of considerable merit…more on THAT later…
Joe Morgan, 28, is a rookie infielder…in particular, another second-baseman. Joe was an All-American hockey player at Boston College in addition to playing baseball. He’s up after a good season in Wichita (A.A.).
Johnny O’Brien is pretty well known to Braves fans as he and his twin brother, Eddie, played second and short for the Pirates from ’53 to ’57. He comes over in the Conley, Hanebrink, Koppe trade for Kanzanski and Lopata.
Jim Pisoni, 29, is an all-around outfielder up from Denver (A.A.) where he got high marks from Mgr Ben Geraghty. Pisoni was the property of Baltimore and was traded to KC along with Ryne Duren. He was up with the parent club for parts of ’56 and’57.
Enos Slaughter, 43, came via the waiver line. This 19 year veteran broke in with St. Louis in 1938 and bounced between the Yankees and KC from ’54 to ’58. Slaughter also is no stranger to Braves’ fans having played against us in both the ’57 and ’58 World Series. An outfielder, Slaughter joined the Braves 9/12/59 and hit .167 in 11 games.
Al Spangler, 24, rookie outfielder, is fresh out of military service. This speedster is up from Louisville (A.A.) where he hit .297 while performing very well defensively and on the base paths.
Mickey Vernon, 40, has been a stalwart first baseman for the Washington Senators from 1939 through 1955. Since then he’s been with Boston and Cleveland. Mickey has a lifetime BA of .286 and also plays the outfield.
There were a couple of changes in the Braves organizational structure in the spring of 1959 that had far-reaching ramifications. After going 52-61 for the first two-thirds of the season, Cincinnati Reds Manager, Birdie Tebbetts, was summarily fired and replaced by Jimmy Dykes. After the season ended, Lou Perini offered Tebbetts a job as Executive Vice President of the Braves…of course this stirred up a hornet’s nest of speculation about the security of Fred Haney’s job.
Tebbetts could not have been more gracious in his comments and compliments toward Haney. He compared Haney to Stengel as another marvelous tactician; as having contemplated every possible exigency before the game ever got under way; Stengel was the only other manager he knew who could have led the Braves to the ’58 pennant…and on and on…BUT…the murmurers still murmured and the rumors still took wing. On January 13, 1959, another bombshell, far worse, was dropped: John Quinn, General Manager of the Braves since the mid-‘40’s, announced his resignation and intent to join the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Various rumors circulated citing internal issues with Joe Cairnes; Braves’ President, or with Lou Perini himself. The story Quinn told his family was that the Braves had no retirement plan and the Phillies had offered that as one of the incentives to entice him away from Milwaukee. Whether some, any or all of these rumors are true, this event will have ramifications that will shake the Braves’ organization to the core…more on that later…
Shortly thereafter, John McHale was hired away from the Detroit Tigers to take Quinn’s old position.
The Grapefruit League—Spring Training—got underway in mid-February with pitchers and catchers reporting first and position players about two weeks later. Certainly the biggest news in Bradenton was the absence of Red Schoendienst.
As noted earlier, Red’s likeliest replacement would be Mel Roach; but Mel’s continuing rehab raises the question, Who’s gonna play second? A number of possibilities have already been brought to mind. Rookie Joe Morgan is plenty tough enough. He hits lefty and had a good season last year. Chuck Cottier will get a lot of playing time in training camp. Also keep an eye on Joe Koppe, Casey Wise and veteran Johnny O’Brien. If Felix Mantilla had hit a little better last year, his vacuum-cleaner fielding would have rendered all this moot.
At other positions, Manager Fred Haney is taking a good look at Merritt Ranew, a catcher up from Wellsville in the NY-Penn League, Jim Pisoni who is hitting and fielding at least as well as he did last year at Denver and the aforementioned Bob Hartman who is looking quite good against the other Grapefruit Leaguers.
The weather in Bradenton is posing a serious problem for Haney—it rained—downpoured—every single day from March 16th through the 20th. Sadly, this will not bode well for anyone. The younger players won’t get as much playing time which means Haney and the coaches won’t get as much time to evaluate performances. The veterans need playing time both to get the kinks out and to hone their skills. Pitchers are probably hurt the most as they need innings to strengthen muscles and increase endurance.
In order to try to make the best of a bad (wet) situation, Haney had players, in uniform, doing drills on the hotel lawn and even at the beach while the grounds at Al Lang Field were too wet to play on.
Opening day, for the Braves, was April 10th, on the road, in Pittsburgh. Despite a ho-hum (at best) spring training record, the Braves started the season like a house afire!! Spahn won the opener; Burdette won the next day. They were off the 12th and 13th and rarin’ to go for the home opener on Tuesday the 14th: Spahn beat the Phils 4-3. Burdette went the distance and won again on the 16th and they were 4-0. Friday’s game was a huge letdown…Playing the Pirates, who were 0-5, they went into the 10th inning tied at two-all when the game was called on account of rain. Pizarro had an 0-2 count on Clemente when it ended. The next day they suffered their first loss 11-5. Spahn won again on Monday over the Redlegs with Aaron getting a single, double and a triple with two RBIs and raising his BA to .567!! The next five games ended with two wins and three losses; however, they closed out April with another win each for Spahn and Burdette. Against St. Louis on the 29th, Burdette won 9-3 with homers by Covington, Logan, Aaron and Bruton. Spahn beat the Cards Thursday night, 1-0, on six-hit pitching and Aaron’s solo homer. So…for the month, the Braves went 9-4-1 and are in first place in the National League.
May started with two losses that dropped them into second behind the Giants. But…they won on Sunday, 9-4, on Aaron’s two HRs and were back in first…it was Burdette’s fifth straight win. A loss to LA on Monday dropped them into third but a 16 inning win on Tuesday put them on top again. They won both halves of Sunday’s (10th) double-header. Rush got the win in game one with a lot of hitting help including Mathews 11th homer of the year.
In the second game Willey and Nuxhall dueled with Willey coming out on top, 2-1, on Aaron’s RBI single sending Logan home with the game-winner. The Braves won five of their next six to put them in front by three and a half games…sadly, this would be their biggest lead of the season.
On Tuesday, the 19th, the Giants were able to end Aaron’s 22-game hitting streak…nonetheless, Wes Covington stepped up with single, a double and a homer while Joey Jay held the SFers to seven scattered hits for an 8-1 victory…Del Crandall also homered for the good guys. The Braves lost four of their next six games. On Tuesday, May 26, 1959, the Braves played Pittsburgh in Milwaukee. The pitchers were Harvey Haddix for the Pirates and Lou Burdette for the Braves; both went the distance. Haddix proceeded to retire the first 36 Braves in order—12 perfect innings.
Burdette, on the other hand, was carefully allowing 12 singles but no scores…zero to zero at the end of 12 innings. Some 19,194 Milwaukee fans were demonstrating their sophistication by giving Haddix a standing ovation at the end of the ninth inning and every inning thereafter!! In the whole affair, Haddix struck out eight, Burdette struck out two. In those 12 innings neither pitcher gave up a base-on-balls. There are reasons innumerable for calling this The Greatest Game Ever Pitched!!! It is often forgotten that Burdette continued his shut-out mastery for one more scoreless inning—the top of the 13th!! In the bottom of the 13th –the Milwaukee half—Felix Mantilla led off by hitting the ball toward third; Don Hoak, the Pirate third-baseman, in haste, threw the ball low to first for an error and Mantilla became the first runner of the evening. Mathews sacrificed him down to second. Given that first base was open and the Pirates needed a double-play to end this threat, Pirates manager, Danny Ozark, said to give Hank Aaron an intentional walk. The next batter was Joe Adcock… he hit Haddix’ second pitch over the right-center field fence. Mantilla trotted home from second. Aaron thought the ball hadn’t cleared the fence so, after rounding second, saw that Mantilla was home with the winning run and headed for the Braves’ dugout on the first base side.
Adcock, head down in his home run trot, headed for third. Haney and the coaches saw what was happening and ran out to get Aaron and Adcock to go back so Aaron could go touch third and then home, closely followed by Adcock. The umpires on the field, after consulting with one another, ruled Adcock’s hit a double and allowed Aaron to score—final score: 2-0. The next day NL Prexy Warren Giles ruled that only Mantilla’s run counted: 1-0.
As an adjunct…the story is widely told and easily believed—that in the next season’s contract negotiations, Lou Burdette was opting for a significant salary increase. It was Lou’s stance that one of the very best reasons to give him the increase was that while nearly everyone agreed that Haddix’ 12-inning no-hitter was the greatest game ever pitched; that, in fact, it was he—Lou Burdette—who beat the guy who pitched that greatest game!!! Glory…we love ya, Lou!!!
For the remainder of the month of May the Braves played .667 ball and stayed a couple games in front. The better news was Johnny Logan…after a slow spring training and at least as slow an April, by the end of May he was hitting .394!! Go, Johnny, go!!!
June was not a stellar month for the Braves as they played a sub-par .483 (14-15) for those four weeks. Yet, at month’s end they were still leading the National League (most specifically SF and LA) by a game and a half. Spahn was statistically on course to win 20 games again…in fact, per the statisticians, he was on track to better that number. He’d won his 256th career game and hit his 22nd career home run. Johnny Logan was still hitting like a wild man and Aaron and Mathews had 20 and 22 homers respectively.
A mid-month road series with Los Angeles was critical and typical: They split the first two games, then lost a Sunday double-header. Thursday, June 18th, was a must-win game to hold on to a half-game lead. The Braves had a 7-3 lead at the end of four innings, but, by the bottom of the eighth the Dodgers had chipped away and it was 7-6 with one out and Wally Moon on third. Gil Hodges hit the ball on the ground to Mathews at third; Moon broke for home with Mathews in chase—
Mathews was faster and tagged Moon out just shy of home plate. Trowbridge struck out Roseboro to end the threat and the half-game lead was maintained.
There was one other interesting piece of news that came out during the series with LA…it was announced that Fred Haney had accepted a position as Vice President of the new Studio City Bank. Concomitant commentary hinted strongly that this might be his last Major League season…film at 10…
July was a month of highs and lows with the lows being serious and excruciating for the fans. Percentage-wise, the Braves played much better ball in July, winning 13 of 23 contests for a .565 average. Better…but not close to ’57 or ’58 seasonal averages.
Carlton Willey won the game immediately preceding the All-Star break. It was a good, solid four-hit shut-out for Willey which prompted pitching-great/commentator, Dizzy Dean, to comment to the effect that he (Dean) couldn’t understand why the Braves didn’t use him more often because, “He’s got more stuff than Burdette”…High praise…and…we’ll get back to that…
1959 marked the first year of two All-Star Games in the same season. The first one was July 7th at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. The eight starting position players were picked through a poll of players, managers and coaches—you couldn’t vote for anyone on your own team. Hank Aaron received the honor of being the only player picked on all 208 ballots. The managers, Casey Stengel and Fred Haney, picked the remaining 17 players for each squad. From the Braves, Aaron, Mathews and Crandall were elected; Spahn and Burdette were picked by Haney. Vice President Richard Nixon was in attendance and threw out the first ball. Don Drysdale started for the National League and retired his nine batters in order. AL starter, Early Wynn, did nearly as well with the exception of the second batter, Eddie Mathews, who hit a solo home run,1-0. Lou Burdette matched Wynn’s performance, allowing only Al Kaline’s solo homer in his three inning stint, 1-1. Ryne Duren allowed only a single to Aaron in his three inning turn. Roy Face, Pittsburgh, set down three in a row in the seventh. Jim Bunning, Detroit, started the bottom half and gave up a double to Ernie Banks, a single to Crandall which scored Banks and a single to Bill Mazeroski which scored Crandall, 3-1. In the top of the eighth, Face gave up three runs until Johnny Antonelli came in and put out the fire…4-3. Whitey Ford started the bottom of the eighth. Ken Boyer singled and was sacrificed to second by Dick Groat. Aaron singled, scoring Boyer and Mays tripled scoring Aaron with what proved to be the winning run as there was no further scoring in the game. Final score: NL-5, AL-4. Antonelli was the winning pitcher, Ford got the loss. Spahn did not play. Stengel used 22 of his 25 players; Haney used 17… Net receipts for the game: $194,303.43; 60% of which would go to the Players Pension Fund, youth baseball and aid to needy retired players.
After the All-Star break, the Braves went 2-3 until their infamous mid-July nosedive when they lost SEVEN in a row. If there was any precedent in prior years, I have conveniently, mercifully repressed it. It was AWFUL!!! It started on the 14th and included a three-game sweep by the Cubs…and then…a three-game sweep by the Cardinals…and a seventh ignominious 12-2 loss to the Redlegs. It had some notable individual-performance moments but it had horror, too. Here’s a “great” (not!!) trivia question from that dreadful dive: Name a major league, household name, ball player who received credit for a double-play without ever tagging a player, touching a base or throwing a ball?? Give up?? Of Course you do…!!! Al Dark… who next year will be a Brave, but now is a Cub. Here’s how that happened: Frank Torre triples, Stan Lopata (new guy) singles scoring Torre. Logan (still hot!!) singles, Lopata stops at second. Burdette grounds to Dark at third; Lopata runs into Dark just as he’s fielding the ball. Umpire Ed Sudol rules interference by runner and calls both Lopata AND Logan out. Good Grief…!!!
Fortunately the carnage ends on the 22nd. We got Bobby Avila, 10 year veteran, from the Boston Red Sox on the 21st of July…On Wednesday the 22nd, still versus Cincinnati, in Milwaukee. We’re losing 4-3 with Spahn pitching. Spahnie has already hit a homer and a single and has two RBIs to aid his own cause. Burdette is on first, running for Lopata who hung in for a base on balls.
Avila hits a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win it for Spahn, to win it to end the losing streak and so I can…breathe…again!!! This is the beginning of a 9-2 run that will take us to the end of the month. We come to the end of July with Spahn and Burdette both at 14-10, Buhl at 7-6 but with a 2.62 ERA, Rush at 4-3 with a 2.25 ERA and Logan still hitting .318 with 12 homers (three in the past week). Mathews is hitting .304 with 29 homers; Aaron is hitting a torrid .358 with 28 dingers and Bruton and Adcock are hitting .290 and .286 respectively. While Jay, Pizarro and Willey have had some brilliant outings, all in all, their records don’t show a consistency…Not sure what’s up with that…but do have some suspicions…
The dog days of August were doggoned indifferent days; the Braves won two of the three games prior to the second All-Star Game. Juan Pizarro won the first game 8-1 scattering six hits and may not have given up a run at all but for an unfortunate error.
Mathews scored the first run after singling, stealing second and going to third on a throwing error. Joe Adcock singled him home. Both Aaron and Mathews subsequently homered. In Sunday’s double-header they lost the first game, 4-3, but came back and won the second, 11-5. Bruton hit TWO bases-loaded triples for six RBIs; plus, Mantilla hit a three-run homer.
The second All-Star Game was held in Los Angeles on Monday, August 3rd. There was no “break” before of after. It was agreed that the second game would utilize the same players as the first plus three additional players to increase rosters to 28. Also, managers, Stengel and Haney, could make whatever changes they saw fit with the pitching staff and, finally, each manager would choose his starting line-up. Due mostly to injuries, the American League made too many changes to list here. Haney added SF ace, Sam Jones, LA’s Jim Gilliam and Charley Neal and Milwaukee’s own—Johnny Logan. The NL ended up with a roster of 27 as Orlando Cepeda was injured. Haney also chose Milwaukee coaches Billy Herman and John Fitzpatrick. So…for the Braves it was Aaron, Mathews and Crandall as starters and Logan, Spahn and Burdette in the wings. The ol’ Perfesser, knowing Drysdale was the starter, inserted six left-handed swingers in the top of the order. In the top of the first, none of those lefties got a hit. In the bottom of the first versus Jerry Walker, Baltimore, Aaron sacrificed flied Johnny Temple home for the first run, 1-0. In the second, Mantle was safe on a bunt but thrown out by Crandall attempting to steal second. Malzone hit a solo homer, 1-1. The NL got nothing going in the second. In the top of the third, Yogi Berra hit a two-run home run, 3-1. Except for Crandall’s single, the NL did zip in the bottom half. No one had any action to speak of in the fourth or top of the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Frank Robinson hit a homer, 3-2. No action in the sixth except Wilhelm came in to pitch for the AL. In the top of the seventh, Nellie Fox singled Tony Kubek home. 4-2. In the bottom half, Billy O’Dell came in to pitch for the AL and Jim Gilliam hit a home run, 4-3. In the top of the eighth, Roy face gave up a homer to Rocky Colivito, 5-3, which turned out to be the end of the scoring, 5-3. A record 55,105 were in attendance. The net gate receipts were $262,336.47. Logan, Spahn and Burdette stayed in the wings (did not play), Mathews and Crandall played five innings each and Aaron went the distance. The two All-Star Game concept was such a success that it was decided to do it again in 1960, but with both games to be scheduled in American League parks.
Sadly, the dog days of indifference resulted in a 13-16 record for the team in the remainder of August…or…a .448 winning percentage…Not Good!! Most of the month was spent trying to get out of third place and keep out of fourth…generally about three games behind the Giants and a game or so behind the Dodgers.
During August Burdette won four games and lost three (18-13). Spahn won three and lost three (17-13). Buhl won a couple more. Willey threw one six-hit shut-out; not much more. Aaron was still hitting .359 with 36 homers at the end of the month and Mathews was hitting .309 with 34 long balls. But there was no cohesion… we still needed, somehow to get reliable production from the younger pitchers. Starting pitchers appeared to be a three-man rotation (Spahn, Burdette, Buhl) with the “committee” approach to the fourth man…which came first, the chicken or the egg…???
September began inauspiciously with two losses and four games out of first place behind San Francisco and Los Angeles. Yet, by the end of the week, we were 4-3 and by the end of the second week we were 9-4 and only one down behind San Fran. In addition, on Saturday, September 14th, Red Schoendienst returned briefly at the end of the game and, in fact, had the assist for the final out, a 4-3 victory for Burdette, his 20th win of the season.
Some other high points: You recall all those veteran guys we got via waivers, et al.? They all contributed in some way to the stretch run!! Hank Aaron was still leading the league in hitting with a .355 BA and ended up with 39 home runs—three in September. Eddie Mathews was still hitting .306 with 46 homers—eight in September…he was named the NL Player of the Month for September. In a 13-6 loss on the 17th he had all six RBIs!! Del Crandall was hitting, Lee Maye, the rookie was, too!! Probably the best news for Braves fans was the meltdown of the Giants—they had a critical five-game losing streak that pretty much took them out of contention. Instead of a three-team run, it became a two-team run.
On the 19th, Buhl won at Philadelphia, 9-3. Crandall had a grand slam and another RBI!! Maye had the other four RBIs with a two-run homer plus two singles…and the Dodgers beat the Giants twice to tie for first which put us only a half-game down. On Sunday, the 20th, the Braves were tied with the Phillies, 5-5, after the eighth inning but scored three in the ninth with Aaron (HR#39), Mathews (HR#41), Mickey Vernon, John DeMerit and Bobby Avila contributing. Joey Jay got the win. The Dodgers beat SF again putting the Braves a half-game behind them and a half-game ahead of the Giants. Monday the 21st marked the 20th win of the season for Spahnie—the 10th time he’d accomplished the 10-win feat!! Career win #266 tied him with Eppa Rixey’s league record!!
Mathews helped with HRs #42 and 43 plus five RBIs. For those mindful of prodigy; #42 bounced off and over the roof at Forbes Field. Both LA and SF were idle Monday so the win brought a tie with LA for first. It was the first time the Braves had a share of the lead since the first week in August. As an added bonus, Red Schoendienst got in the game for the last innings. Tuesday the 22nd had Juan Pizarro winning over the Pirates,5-3, for his sixth win against just two defeats. He also hit a two-RBI double and scored. Del Crandall hit his 21st homer. The frosting on the cake was in the Cardinals beating LA and the Cubs doing the same to SF. The Braves were alone in first!!! Wednesday the 23rd was a letdown; we lost to the Pirates, 5-4, but Eddie hit HR#44. The Dodgers beat St. Louis, the Cubs, again, beat San Francisco…we’re tied with the Dodgers for first in the NL. No games were scheduled for Thursday the 24th…probably so NL fans can catch their breath. The Phillies came into Milwaukee on Friday the 25th for the final three-game series of the season. Both starters were gone by the fourth inning and we lost. LA beat the Cubs; SF and St. Louis were rained out…
Mathews hit HR# 45, but we’re still in second by a full game. On Saturday the 26th, 36-year-old Warren Spahn out-dueled 33-year-old Robin Roberts, 3-2…Career win #267 is a new league record for left-handers. The Cubs beat LA so we’re tied again. SF beat St. Louis so they’re third. Some 48,642 fans, the largest crowd EVER in County Stadium, turn out on Sunday, September 27, 1959. Jim Owens and Bob Buhl are the starting pitchers. Owens is 12-11. Buhl is 14-9. The Braves score first in the fourth as Adcock comes in on a wild pitch to Logan, 1-0. The Phils tie it up with a Sawatski homer in the fifth, 1-1. At some point, the final score of the LA-Cubs game goes up on the scoreboard; LA wins 7-1…at that moment this becomes a must-win game!!
Crandall leads off the seventh with single and at that point Owens shoulder stiffens up and he has to leave the game. To replace him, the Phillies bring in Humberto Robinson, late of the Braves pitching staff, having been traded to Philly in April for Mickey Vernon. Logan sacrificed Crandall to second. Enos Slaughter, late of the Yankees, pinch-hit for Buhl and drew a walk. Johnny DeMerit was sent in to run for Slaughter. Bruton sent a bouncer to Bouchee at first who threw to Koppe at second to start the double-play. Koppe dropped the ball and the bases were F.O.B. (think Earl Gillespie…). Mathews hit into what shoulda, coulda,woulda been a double-play…but Eddie hustled… and beat the relay to first—Bruton was a force-out at second—and Crandall scored, 2-1. On a passed ball by Sawatski, DeMerit went to third and Mathews went to second. Somehow Robinson forgot or failed to notice the runners had moved up and whirled and threw to first and was called for a balk. DeMerit was waved home and Mathews to third, 3-1. Aaron then singled Mathews home, 4-1. Crandall and Logan singled. Sawatski, in an attempted pick-off, threw the ball away and Crandall scored, 5-1. McMahon allowed one run in the ninth so the final score was 5-2…
So…the season ends with the Braves and Dodgers tied for the NL pennant. For whatever it’s worth—the Giants lost both games to the Cards…
The Commissioner’s office indicated the three-game playoff would begin on Monday afternoon, September 28th in Milwaukee. The game was held up about 45 minutes by rain showers. The rain, the short notice and the fact that people had to work on Monday… limited the attendance to 18,297—over 30,000 less than yesterday.
Left-hander Danny McDevitt, 10-8 with a 3.97 ERA and Carl Willey, 5-9, with a 4.15 ERA were the starters. LA scored once in the first inning, 1-0. The Braves came back with two in the second, 2-1. LA manager Walter Alston relieved McDevitt in the second with fire-balling Larry Sherry, 7-2, 2.19 ERA. The Dodgers tied it up in the third, 2-2, and Sherry shut the Braves down. During the fourth and fifth it began to look like a classic pitcher’s duel. Unfortunately for us, Roseboro led off the sixth with a home run (3-2) and Sherry continued his mastery so that held up as the final, 3-2.
Both teams flew to LA immediately following the game. The second game was scheduled at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon.
Starting pitchers for game two were Don Drysdale, 17-13 with a 3.46 ERA and Lou Burdette, 21-15 and a 4.07 ERA. The Braves scored twice in the first on a walk to Mathews, a double by Aaron and a single by Torre, 2-0. LA scored once in the bottom half, 2-1. The Braves scored again in the second on singles by Logan and Burdette plus a Dodger throwing error, 3-1. The Dodgers got a home run in the fourth to make it 3-2. Mathews hit a homer in the fifth and it was 4-2.
In the seventh, Norm Larker crashes into Johnny Logan at second trying to break up a double-play. Logan comes out, Mantilla goes in to play short. In the eighth, Crandall hits a triple and is sac-flied home, 5-2. In the ninth Burdette allows three consecutive singles which brings in Don McMahon in relief. A single scores two, 5-4. Spahn comes in to relieve McMahon…a sac-fly ties it at 5-5. It goes into extra innings; Joey Jay on for the Braves, Stan Williams for the Dodgers. There are no scores in the 10th…no scores in the 11th…Bob Rush comes on for the Braves in the twelfth—he gets two outs, then walks Gil Hodges. Joey Pignatano singles Hodges down to second. Carl Furillo hits a high, tricky bouncer behind second which Mantilla tracks down and throws, off balance, into the dirt in front of Frank Torre. The ball takes a goofy hop and gets past Torre while Hodges motors home and the Dodgers win the pennant…
For the past 50 years fans and sportswriters have questioned, criticized, second-guessed and vilified Fred Haney as, variously; too conservative, too cautious, too out-of-touch with the talent he manages, too ready to rely on Spahn and Burdette, too reluctant to give his younger pitchers regular starts…His supporters, and they probably are at least as great in numbers as his detractors, see him rather, as conventional, patient and reserved.
Many on both sides of the issue thought they saw handwriting on the wall when Lou Perini brought Birdie Tebbetts over to the Exec VP job. The detractors mostly didn’t much like Tebbetts but were glad to be contemplating the immanent departure of the guy many referred to as ‘Bunty O’Haney”…a reference to his predilection for playing “small ball” with a team of sluggers. Haney didn’t see it that way: he saw the slugging as inconsistent—he felt the consistent element on the team was the pitching…so he worked at the “one run at a time” philosophy. He certainly wasn’t the only ML manager to hold that approach. History/experience tells us that neither works all the time and a good manager has to know which approach to use in each unique situation—small ball…or…swing for the fences…Haney was seen by some as lax and uninspiring toward the players…some refer to him as a California guy, a Hollywood guy…too many movie-star, entertainment-types hanging around the locker room…There may be evidence to indicate he knew how to communicate with players better that some might imagine. He often used players to go speak to other players about an issue or with some advice so that it came from a peer as opposed to “from the boss”.
Fifty years of armchair quarterbacking or, more to the point, 20-20 hindsight, has not resolved whether or not Carl Willey was the obvious/not obvious choice to start game one of the ’59 playoffs. Sadly, I also have no way of knowing whether or not Johnny Logan would have been able to shake off the hit he took from Norm Larker and continue playing instead of going out on a stretcher. I know Eddie had an opinion on that—maybe he had info I don’t. I was just a kid—what do I know?? BUT—I always thought my Mom could have led that magnificent array of guys to the World Series in ’56, ’57, ’58, and ’59…You’d hafta know her…!!!
So, then…regardless of all this conjectural speculation; five days after losing the play-off to the Dodgers…Fred Haney resigned; “to spend more quality time with family” was the reason-of-record…Many speculated on that, too…
We alluded earlier to another area of concern; namely the considerable drop in attendance since 1957’s high of 2,215,404 rowdy, rabid, exuberant fans. Per figures cited in the Green Book, the National League as a group enjoyed a 15.8% rise in attendance. The Braves, on the other hand, lost some 244,303 fans in 1958…a
drop to 1,971,101. As also noted earlier, this was unheard of for a championship franchise in any sport. In 1959, attendance dropped another 11.3% to 1,749,112. There was, undoubtedly, a cooling of the ardor of bygone days, alas!! Where went the enthusiasm? Is the honeymoon over? Is the romance gone? There was no celebration, no hero’s welcome, no parade, zippO after the Series loss in ’58. Likewise when they returned from Los Angeles in 1959…IF the purported early years of ignorance was bliss, is the new found sophistication making many blasé’? After fifty years it’s difficult to find a particular answer to these questions. Certainly many of the early fans got emotionally swept up in the joyous enthusiasm of the moment…of the day. Many may have been no more than curious or looking to find the “next big thing” and curiosity waned. It’s not a good sign…it does not augur well…
There is an even more frustrating issue at hand…it almost certainly was not intended to frustrate, but, at some point, some of the fall-out will be troubling.
We lost General Manager John Quinn to the Philadelphia Phillies…as is often the case it appears to be about money although I heard rumors and you probably did, too. There’s almost nothing upstanding to be gained from following in the trail of rumors…too many of ‘em…
Generally the GM of a Major League team is the guy in charge of player transactions: Acquisitions, trades, releases. He also is usually the guy who is the club’s rep in contract negotiations. He is also the guy who has oversight of the guys who are in charge of minor league operations; in this case John Mullen and Roland Hemond. The GM is also usually the guy who hires and fires managers and coaches. As many of you know, the Braves have one of the best farm systems in the Majors. John Mullen and Roland Hemond are second to none in the work they do to keep that system stocked with good players to feed into the Braves team or to other teams within our organization. The scouts employed by the Braves organization are key to finding young, promising, talented players at every level around the country. Until a young ballplayer actually signs a contract with the parent club, the scout is his main connection to that particular club. The scout works to have a trusting relationship with the player as well as with his family, his coach and anyone else who has influence with the young man. There is some history to indicate that when a GM moves from one club to another, camaraderie or allegiance may result in others accompanying or following him. Research is continuing…don’t touch that dial…!!
Time to look at some of the memorabilia from 1959…As always, if you see errors or discrepancies, please let us know as this is a continuous learning project at this end. The stuff from 1959 is a prolific profusion of prints, publications and personal remembrances…
I am privileged to have acquired some items from the late, great Bob Allen’s files. These are boiler-plate, fill-in-the-blank memos that were used to handle/respond to innumerable situations/questions that came up related to an upcoming World Series. They’re all on 8 ½ x 11 letterhead and show some dis-coloration from age. I’ve included four but there’re a lot more.
Given that one of those memos indicated they sold out of WS tickets, there must have been a passel of these sent out with checks. This is one of the very few I’ve seen. Not sure what G.R.T. means but the restricted areas might mean this was a TV camera guy or something like that.
If this is the John Sullivan I know, he’s a long-time Braves fan and collector who actually knew a number of the earlier players. The pin is not even a repro…It’s a pin with a picture of the ’59 World Series press pin. I’m still looking for the real thing.
These are the “phantom” 1959 World Series tickets for what would have been the three home games. That looks like Tebbetts’ signature and maybe he gave these to Bob Allen in 1997…? The time frame fits…The little medal down at the bottom with printing so small you need a magnifying glass to read it is from by the Prestone Anti-Freeze folks. Above the cap it says “Prestone Anti-Freeze”; just below the cap it says “MILWAUKEE BRAVES”; just below that it says (in smaller capitals), “World Series Special”; and, finally, on the bottom, it says, “NBC—TV—1959”. The other says exactly the same thing except the cap is a Chicago White Sox cap and just below the cap , it says, “CHICAGO WHITE SOX”. I’m pretty sure I’d have enjoyed a Braves-WSox series more than the Sox-Dodgers series…
You got the Bazooka pennant through a Topps Baseball card send-away; if this one had a tip (sorry…!!) they measured about about 4 5/8 by 14 inches long. The missing part is the same color as the other part…honest!! That’s the Bill Duehren laughing Brave—reversed. The set of 1959 Bazookas is 23 cards…some are more common/plentiful than others…both of these are of the more common variety. You cut them off a one cent Topps bubble-gum box…If you have a box, it’s worth more!!
These are the 1959 contracts of Kendall Casey Wise and Chuck Cottier…I almost didn’t include these because once you’ve seen a Uniform Player’s Contract you’ve pretty much seen them all; emphasis here is on “uniform”…The thing I enjoy about them is noticing the salary amounts as compared to what’s happening these days…I’ll shut up now…
The ‘59 Topps set was the biggest to date; some 570-some cards. There were a few variations such as the color of the backs of some of the cards…some were gray…some were white. There was a variation re high numbers but there were no Braves in there. Probably my fave of these is the Burdette…Many have heard the story: When the Topps photographer showed up, the two tricksters—Spahn and Burdette—switched gloves for the pictures, sure the photog wouldn’t know. As the story goes, someone later caught the “error” on the Spahn, but Burdette sneaked by…When I asked Lou to sign this, I asked if he’d mind signing “Lefty”; he (graciously I thought at the time) said “yes”. I later found about a zillion cards like this signed “Lefty”…got me, too…
This is the scorecard/scorebook from Spahn’s September 26, 1959, 3-2 win versus Robin Roberts and the Phillies during that last week. It was Spahnie’s 21st win for the season and his 267th career victory.
Milwaukee’s fan base was hard to beat. There were so many organizations that actively supported the team. We hear a lot about the businesses and service clubs but less about the kids’ clubs or the groups that specifically served the youth of the city. I have or have seen pieces that show that the Girls’ Summer Club and the Senior Boys’ Sports Clubs went to quite a few games together. The Shorewood Public Schools’ Department of Recreation was also very active in their attendance. Note that the bottom half of both of these flyers appear to have had a permission slip to be completed by Mom or Dad. These entities accounted for at least two of those many, many buses you always see in the overhead shots of the Stadium.
Don Davidson and the Braves’ Public Relations Department had an annual banquet that served at least two purposes: One was it provided a good opportunity to inform the various media people who covered the Braves of news, changes, insights before the general public got to know them; and, two, it was a time for the Braves to show their appreciation for the kindnesses extended to them by those media people. This glass is a souvenir of the 1959 meeting.
As always there was a plethora of Braves schedules from all manner of places. Of these, the one from Boulder Junction (way up nort’ for youse outta-staters) has a bunch of touristy information including a Braves sched on page 10. The rest are fairly common but cool…
Both the T-shirt and cap are probably from earlier but would have been in use in 1959. The shirt is a kids’ size 16 with no other identification…it also comes in white and maybe even other colors. I like it because it looks like the front of the team’s jersies without the number. The cap is also fairly common with one exception…I have another one exactly like it, but the other one is a run-of -the-mill cotton. This one is made of some smooth, shiny, sateen-type material; brim, panels and button—all shiny…cool!! It’s a 6 7/8 with a faux-leather band that’s cracking.
The original Home Run Derby had its debut in 1959. It was hosted by Hollywood Stars broadcaster, Mark Scott. Each show featured two major league sluggers trying to hit the most home runs according to the rules of the game. It was a great show—but short-lived. It was filmed at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles though the name of the park was never mentioned. Mark Scott died in 1960 at age 45 and the show was cancelled. Hank and Eddie were the only two Braves on it but there were some other great hitters that you kind of got to know a little bit. It’s available on DVD; we just ordered it.
These are more passes that are kind of special more for who’s they were than anything else. I think we showed a Fred Saddy pass before—local boxing hero and onetime Commissioner of Boxing. Walter Pelzak was an usher at the Stadium from ’53 to ’64. Frank Stanfield is the famous Milwaukee photographer that provided many, many of the images that many, many of us collect.
If you recall, Armour Meat Products came out with Armour coins in 1955. They did not issue any coins from ’56 to ’58, however, they did again in 1959. There were only two Braves in the ’59 issue; Crandall and Aaron. These are pretty much “garden variety” as we haven’t seen too many of the rarer colors.
1959 was the debut of Topps Venezuelan card sets. The “set” was only slightly larger than the regular Topps set—196 cards…actually it was exactly the same as the Topps set…just the first 196 cards of the regular set. So…the only Braves in the set are the guys who were numbered below 196. Experts say the gloss on the front of the cards is less on the Venezuelan variety but, that’s difficult for a non-expert like me to tell. There is an interesting difference on the backs and I have no valid explanation for it except to assume some were printed in the U.S.A. and some were printed in Venezuela…some say “Printed in U.S.A.”…some say “Impresso en Venezuela por Benco C.A.”. You’ll maybe need a magnifying glass to read that…? The Warren Spahn card, front and back view, is from the Oklahoma Today set. Apparently the set was part of a 1959 issue of Oklahoma Today magazine and had modern and not-so-modern ballplayers from that state where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.
These placemats are always a little different from year to year. This year has ACE—Across the street from the Stadium…What is ACE? A restaurant, a bar, a hardware store…? We’ll have to look into that a little more…The Blatz Trio is being part of the Knothole Gang with but one flag. These are around if you’re looking for one. The one with the 1959 National League Schedule seems like it’s an all-purpose placemat…could