What kind of a year was it…? A year like all years, filled with those events which alter and illuminate our times and—you (some of you) were there!!
“The ‘60s” showed no hesitation whatsoever in getting right into the tumult and change that would evermore mark this as a watershed decade…In one of his last acts as President, Ike announced that the U.S. had severed diplomatic and consular relations with Cuba. Russian spaceman, Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1, became the first man in space, orbiting the earth for just under an hour and a half in April…U.S. astronaut, Alan Shepard, followed in May and Gus Grissom again in June. Shades of James Bond, Batman, British Intelligence revealed an huge Soviet spy-ring in London. We “welcomed” a number of new words and phrases into news coverage and our everyday language: The Berlin Wall; The Cold War; Freedom Riders; Civil Rights; The Marvel Universe (FF #1); Ken (swain to Barbie); “Cool” and “not Cool”. In more world news with ramifications, Pan-African unrest saw Rwanda and Sierra Leone declare their independence and the death of Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. Still more violence: Brutally oppressive dictator, Raphael Trujillo, was killed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In a totally botched, group-think fiasco, the Bay of Pigs landing was a complete disaster, further aggravating relations with Cuba. Brand-new President, John F. Kennedy, sent 15 helicopters to Laos to thwart an invasion by North Vietnamese troops. On the domestic scene, the President signed legislation that upped minimum wage to $1.15 per hour. Congress passed the 23rd Amendment giving The District of Columbia residents a vote and representation in that august body. Robert Noyce, noted earlier, patented the integrated circuit. On a more mundane level, TWA showed the first-ever in-flight movie…it might have been West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 101 Dalmatians, The Guns of Navarone or something from last year. In football, The Green Bay Packers won the NFL crown. The cost of living was sky-rocketing; so said my Grandpa…gas was 27 cents a gallon, a movie cost a buck, stamps were four cents, eggs-30 cents a dozen, milk-$1.05 a gallon, hamburger was 40 cents a pound, bread was 21 cents a loaf and the average salary was barely over $5,300 a year—my Dad opined we’d be “in the poorhouse” real soon. TV commercials featured “In the valley of the-Ho! Ho! Ho!-Jolly Green Giant and the new Pillsbury Dough Boy—who had a kind of giggle. If your terpsichorean skills included The Jerk, The Pony or The Frug, you’d be “cool” at sock-hops or watching American Bandstand after school. Juke box and radio hits included Jimmy Dean’s Big Bad John, The Marcels’ Blue Moon, Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson and Hit the Road, Jack by Ray Charles. Although most of us were not yet quite aware of it; The Beach Boys played their first gig, Bob Dylan just hitch-hiked to NY’s Greenwich Village and the Beatles had their first gig at the Cavern Club. Everything is cookin’…everything is cool…!!!
As we were remiss in failing to include this important milestone in the prior chapter, this is a “house-keeping” update…
During Spring Training in 1960, Joe Taylor, who has been the assistant trainer and equipment manager since 1954, died suddenly, unexpectedly. Tommie Ferguson, who had been the visiting clubhouse-man was brought over as the home team club-house man and equipment manager. Dave Pursley was brought up from the minor league system to be the assistant trainer.
Shortly after the holidays the NL expansion teams began, in earnest, their MLB-sanctioned piratical raids on the venerable eight—these are in search of front-office personnel—players will be picked in October. The Braves took some heavy hits—maybe a few more than other teams—due to the fact that the new General Manager for the Los Angeles Angels was none other than former Braves’ manager, Fred Haney. Just after Christmas, Braves’ Secretary and Assistant Treasurer, Francis X. “Frank” Leary, announced his resignation to become the new Treasurer of the Angels. On January 4th, Braves’ Assistant Farm Director, Roland Hemond, announced his resignation to become the new Angels’ Farm Director. He would be the youngest Farm Director in ML history. Roland, who’s been with the Braves since ’51, is widely regarded as one of the most promising young administrators in baseball. He is married to Margo Quinn, daughter of former Braves’ GM, John Quinn. While still at work at his off-season department store job in Boston, Tommie Ferguson was approached by the Angels new manager, Bill Rigney, and Angels owner, Gene Autry…needless to say; it caused quite a commotion on the floor. They offered Tommie the Traveling Secretary position with the new ball club and the rest, as they say, is history.
On January 14, Miller Brewing Company President, Norman R. Klug (no relation), announced that The Gettleman Brewing Company had been purchased by Miller.
On January 14, Warren Spahn was named “Pitcher of the Decade” at the Tops in Sports dinner in Baltimore. Spahn, who currently has 288 wins, says he hopes to reach 300 before Early Wynn—who has 284.
On January 17th, Frank Torre said that for economic reasons he would be forced to quit if he has to take the pay cut that goes with his current assignment at Louisville (AA). He was clear that he does not want to be out of baseball. (Torre was out of baseball in 1961; he caught on again in ’62 with the Phillies.)
At the January 21st 8th Annual Diamond Dinner, The Baseball Writers Association of America presented awards to Warren Spahn, for his no-hitter against the Phillies; Del Crandall, the Manning Vaughn Most Valuable Player and Lou Burdette, for his no-hitter vs. the Phillies.
On February 7th, the St. Joseph Home for Children Athletic Association presented Johnny Logan with its Pal Joey Award. Inside are letters from Governor Gaylord Nelson, Milwaukee County Executive John L. Doyne, Mayor of Milwaukee Henry W. Maier plus numerous other congratulations and well-wishes to St. Joseph Home and, especially, to Johnny, for all the time, effort and love they extend to kids and particularly to kids with disabilities. It’s a side of Johnny that many haven’t had opportunity to see…!! Note the Marshall Merrell art…
February 9th was this year’s Old Time Ballplayers Association Annual Banquet at the Elks…to honor Bob Buhl. The list of VIPs is, again, a veritable Who’s Who of professional baseball in Wisconsin—currently and historically!!
On February 15th, The Milwaukee Criterion Club sponsored a testimonial dinner honoring former Braves’ star, fan favorite and hero, Billy Bruton. It was held at the Schroeder Hotel and Roy Campanella was the principal speaker.
As is always the case, the Hot Stove League heated up as we got closer to Spring Training. Charlie Dressen’s name came up a lot but he probably wouldn’t have appreciated much of what was said; we read that things were “better” between Charlie and the players—from one relatively provincial perspective: Things never got better between Charlie and the fans. It remains to be seen, but, he probably has “solved the problem’ at second base. Frank Bolling was good in Detroit; he’ll probably be good here. However, the “solution” created a serious problem in the outfield; only Hank Aaron is money in the bank…which is not intended as anything negative re Wes Covington (bad wheels); Al Spangler (great speed, Bachelors in math from Duke, like to see a little more pop in his bat); Mack Jones (bat-pop he’s got, may need more seasoning…); Eddie Haas (liked him a lot before he got hurt…is he healed?); Mel Roach (my personal fave at the moment…he played every position last year except pitcher, catcher and beer vendor and still hit .300 and seems to still be “blown off” by Dressen). Last year our pitching was incredible if the pitchers were named Spahn, Burdette or Buhl—haven’t yet seen how that’s changed—Charlie says it’s solved…his excuses never have his name in them…everything, everybody conspires against him. In fairness to Dressen it must be noted (although Frank Torre might not agree) that playing Joe Adcock every day, instead of platooning two first basemen, has borne good fruit!!! Dressen is colorful…and quotable…maybe too much so…or maybe it’s just too much about him. Late last season, when, unless there were multiple miracles, the Braves were effectively out of the pennant chase, Dressen is still chanting, “I can still do it; I can still win the pennant”. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at a quote attributed to Cards’ manager, Solly Hemus, who reportedly said, “If Dressen isn’t careful, he may finish five games ahead of the rest of the team”.
March brought on the usual spate of professional prognostications and convivial conjectures regarding the outcome of the not-yet-begun National League pennant race. With almost no variations, the general consensus had the Dodgers meeting the Yankees in the ’61 World Series. Pittsburgh was pretty roundly regarded as unlikely to repeat but would come in a solid second ahead of Milwaukee with San Francisco fourth. The scribes generally felt the second division teams, in order, would be St. Louis in fifth, Cincinnati in sixth and Chicago and Philadelphia ending exactly where they did in 1960.
On March 15th, in a little inside page blurb—at least in Wisconsin papers—the St. Louis Cardinals signed free-agent Red Schoendienst to a one-year contract…Don’t get me goin’…
On March 23, in one of the local pubs, there was a meeting of “Operation Six-Pack”, a fan-based committee working toward getting 300,000 signatures on a petition to get the County Board to repeal the carry-in beer ban…privately, they hoped to get 50- or 60,000 signers…
On March 31, the Braves traded IF Daryl Robertson and SS Andre Rodgers to the Cubs for Pitchers Moe Drabowsky and Seth Morehead.
Spring Training was good from a number of perspectives: Per several of the players—they got on better with Dressen and he with them as they’d all gotten to know one another better. The weather was warm…hot, even…!! It may have rained once all during the Bradenton schedule. A number of the younger guys looked good…some of them needed still more playing time but…they looked real good!! Mack Jones hit home runs like a power hitter, but insisted he was a spray hitter…plus he looked good in the outfield. Several young pitchers—Bob Botz, Denver Lemaster, Tony Cloninger—got high praise—again tempered by the reality that they needed more starts than they’d probably get during the spring session. It appears as though Andy Pafko will coach first base this year since Bob Scheffing took the manager’s job at Detroit. Andy coached…and caught in the bull-pen last year…probably young Hawk Taylor will be sent out there to do the catching. Dressen has brought in four respected minor league managers from the Braves system to assist in Spring Training: Ben Garaghty-Louisville (AA); Bill Hitchcock-Vancouver (PCL); Gordon Maltzberger-Boise (Pioneer) and Bill Adair-Austin (Texas). They’re all excited about a hot young-21-pitcher who had a 2.77 ERA in relief last year in Jacksonville (Sally). His name is Phil Niekro and Dressen says “his knuckle-ball is as good as Hoyt Wilhelm’s…”. Niekro says: “My Dad taught it to me in sixth or seventh grade back home in Lansing, Ohio”.
Bob Wolfe writes in the Milwaukee Journal that Braves’ relief pitching looks promising citing the Spring outings of Don McMahon, Seth Morehead and Ron Piche. Oliver Kuechle, also in the Journal, notes this is the last year of an era wherein the Braves set new records in attendance that will never be surpassed…it won’t be the same playing 162 games next year versus 154 now. In the nine year period since 1953, the Braves drew 15,444,368 fans…second best (Brooklyn ’45-’53) isn’t even close at 12,416,871. These numbers indicate County Stadium was filled to 60% of capacity…every day…for the past nine years. The Dodgers’ Ebbets Field was 42% of capacity…and, for whatever it’s worth; in 1957 when 2,215,404 fans filed through the turnstiles—Milwaukee County Stadium was 70% full (on average)…every single day!!!
On April 7, 1961, less than a week before Opening Day, Charles B. Perini, First Vice-President of the Braves, passed away. The brother to Louis R. Perini and Joseph Perini and partner in the Perini Construction business, was 50. He died in his hometown of Framingham, MA.
The Elks Club hosted their annual night-before-opening-day-banquet on the evening of April 10, 1961.
It featured a host of players who accommodated a host of fans with conviviality, stories and autographs…and a good time was had by all!!
If memory serves-and with the possible exception of ’53-’54-this year marks the greatest number of guys leaving and guys arriving to take their places. We noted earlier a lot of changes. We bid a fond farewell, at least for the moment, to the following friends…
Len Gabrielson was sent back down to Louisville for more experience. We’ll be seeing him again in ’63…
Eddie Haas was sent to Vancouver (PCL) for more seasoning…in an odd “coincidence”, his cousin will be one of our “new guys”.
Mike Krsnich went back down to Louisville for additional playing time—we’ll see him again in ’62…
Stan Lopata served well as a back-up catcher for two years. He played his last Major League game 6/12/60…and retired.
Mel Roach, a wonderful and versatile utility man who never seemed to recover from an unfortunate injury was traded to the Cubs for Frank Thomas 5/9/61.
Wes Covington was sold to the White Sox for cash on 5/10/61.
Neil Chrisley-After the season ended and Selection Day had come and gone, the Mets purchased OF Chrisley for cash.
We welcomed a whole passel of new faces in 1961…at least a couple were old friends who have just been gone for awhile.
Frank Bolling is no stranger to baseball fans…he spent the first six years of his career with the Detroit Tigers. He’s a two-time MVP, Gold Glover and led all AL second-basemen in fielding in 1958.
Bob Boyd was purchased for cash from the KC Athletics on June 10, 1961. A veteran first baseman/outfielder, he boasts a .293 lifetime batting average.
John DeMerit, a ’57 bonus baby, spent the obligatory two years with the parent club (mostly on the bench), spent a year getting some good playing time in Louisville and is back up again.
Mack Jones is up after a good year in Louisville. He’s got some TNT in his bat (14 HRs in ’60) and is “Mack the Knife” wherever he goes. He also runs pretty well.
Billy Martin-As noted earlier, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” to purchase Billy Martin from the Reds…He will serve as a utility infielder.
Roy McMillan-Also comes to the Braves as a 10-year, Gold Glove veteran; two-time All-Star and four-time MVP.
Phil Roof is a 20-year-old catcher up from Cedar Rapids (III) where he hit .228 but had a .324 slugging average. In case your curiosity is making you crazy; he’s Eddie Haas cousin.
Hawk Taylor-Another of the ’57 bonus babies who spent the required two years mostly on the bench in Milwaukee. He played last year in Louisville and is back in the Bigs. May spend time in the bull-pen…
Frank Thomas-A 10-year veteran slugger, mostly with Pittsburgh, was acquired in a trade with the Cubs for veteran utility man, Mel Roach, on May 9, 1961.
Sammy White was a nine-year veteran catcher, mostly with Boston in the American League…acquired for cash on June 15, 1961.
Johnny Antonelli began his successful career with the Braves in Boston, was in Milwaukee in ’53. Had a fine career with the Giants…was purchased outright from the Indians July 4, 1961.
Tony Cloninger-This 20-year-old native of Cherryville, NC, is a hard-throwing right-hander who looked good in Louisville last year and is getting a shot at the Show.
Moe Drabowsky, only Polish-born pitcher in the ML to date; came over from the Cubs in the Andre Rodgers/Daryl Robertson deal. He’s been with the Cubs since “56.”
Bob Hendley-This 21-year-old rookie right-hander is up from Louisville after going 16-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 189.1 innings pitched in 1960.
Seth Morehead-Also came over in the Andre Rodgers trade. He had a 3.94 ERA in 123.1 innings pitched…mostly in relief.
Chi Chi Olivo-Federico Emilio Olivo; from the Dominican Republic, was signed as a free agent in 1955. In 1960, with Louisville, he went 5-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 69 innings.
Claude Raymond-Another rookie right-hander from Canada, also signed as a free agent in 1955. Raymond (pronounced Ray-mone, nicknamed “Frenchy”) spent 1960 in Sacramento (PCL) going 9-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 155 innings pitched.
Opening Day was Tuesday, April 11th, hosting the St. Louis Cardinals with Ernie Broglio going against Warren Spahn. Charlie Dressen’s brand new line-up had Lee Maye in the lead-off spot, playing left-field; batting second-Del Crandall, catching; Eddie Mathews (3B) batting third; Hank Aaron (RF) in the clean-up spot; batting fifth-2B was Frank Bolling; sixth was Joe Adcock-1B; seventh-Roy McMillan at SS; eighth-John DeMerit in CF and Spahn in the ninth spot. As many might have expected, the first three innings were a pitching duel. Spahn continued do so in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth, Eddie Mathews led off with a home run, 1-0. There was no more scoring by either team through the seventh. With one out in the top of the eighth, Hal Smith tripled to center…Curt Flood went into run for Smith. Bob Nieman, pinch-hitting for Broglio, singled, scoring Flood,1-1. Lindy McDaniel came on to pitch for the Cards. Neither team scored in the ninth. Daryl Spencer led off the top of the tenth with a home run. 2-1. The Braves went three up, three down in their half and that was that. McDaniel got the win, Spahn got the loss…only his second in six opening day starts.
The Braves won on Thursday when McDaniel walked in the winning run in the 11th—Seth Morehead got his first victory as a Brave. That was the way of it for the next two weeks: Win one; lose one; win a couple, lose a couple…Spahn won his second start; Burdette won his first.
Spahn’s third start, April 28th, was cold (44 degrees), dreary and against Sam Jones and the heavy-hitting Giants. The Braves scored in the first when Bolling singled, Ed Bailey (who’d been traded to the Giants the day before and had flown in from Cincinnati that afternoon) had a passed ball that allowed Bolling to get to second. Mathews struck out. Aaron singled, scoring Bolling (unearned). Roach struck out. In the second the Giants went three up, three down and, except for a walk to Adcock, the Braves did likewise. The Giants did nothing in the third. Bolling got hit by a pitch, Mathews struck out again, Bailey had a passed ball again, Bolling went to second again, Aaron was walked intentionally and Roach struck out again. In the fourth, Chuck Hiller drew a walk, Harvey Kuenn (playing in his first ML game in his hometown), hit a grounder to Spahn who threw to McMillan at second who threw to Adcock at first for the double play. Felipe Alou grounded out. In the bottom half, except for a walk to Lau (in for the injured Crandall), the Braves went three up, three down. In the fifth, Willie McCovey drew a walk, Orlando Cepeda hit a little topper back to Spahn who threw to McMillan who threw to Adcock for the double play…Felipe Alou grounded out. The Braves went down in order. The sixth was uneventful for the Giants and, although Roach and Adcock singled, was, ultimately, uneventful for the Braves. The seventh had the Giants out 1…2…3…Spahn reached on a McCovey error, McMillan sacrificed him to second, Eddie was walked intentionally but Aaron and Roach made outs. The eighth was three up, three down for both teams except for another walk to Lau who languished. In the ninth Spangler replaced Roach in left. Bailey led off and hit high pop foul near the third base dug-out that Lau chased down…and dropped. Spahn then struck Bailey out. Matty Alou came on to pinch-hit for Jose Pagan. He dropped a perfect bunt down the first base line that Spahn just got to, picked up bare-handed and back-handed to Adcock to nip the speedy Alou by a step. Joey Amalfitano came up to hit for Jones…he hit a hard smash at McMillan that took a bad hop and hit Roy in the groin. The ball rolled off to the side…McMillan, not sure he had time, pounced on it and threw Amalfitano out at first…!!! Five days after his 40th birthday, about six starts after his first one, Warren Spahn had his second no-hitter!!! He became the second-oldest pitcher ever in ML history to pitch a no-hitter (Cy Young was 41).
It was just wonderful on many levels…The papers reported that Milwaukee County Stadium was “like a refrigerator”…only 8,518 Brave fans turned out…both similar to his first no-no. The Braves, who were in last place nine days ago, leaped over the Giants into first. Spahn was excited yet said he made mistakes that just weren’t capitalized on…in particular he cited a high screwball to Willie Mays in the seventh that “hung”—did nothing…Mays topped it back to Spahn who threw him out at first. Lau was a bit more in awe…he held Spahn’s performance in high regard and said that what Spahn said were “mistakes” were pitches that missed a spot by an inch or so…he did agree about the pitch to Mays and was “relieved” when Mays “didn’t get all of it” and topped it back to the mound.
Lorene (Mrs.) Spahn said she was beside herself in the stands and was mentally “calling” pitches. Both parents agreed the only disappointment of the night was that son, Greg Spahn, had decided to stay home this night. All around it was a great pitching demonstration—Sam Jones only allowed five hits and had 10 strike-outs. Spahn faced only 27 batters, Jones only 36.
Spahn said NO one talked to him in the dug-out between innings. It was his 52nd shut-out and 290th career win. After the last out, Spahn ran over to McMillan and hugged him as the rest of the team joined the jubilation behind the mound. Afterwards Spahn’s respect for Al Dark was evident as he talked about the mental aspects of the game and trying to out-think whether this would be one of the times Dark would have his sluggers taking or swinging on 2-1 or 3-1 counts; trying to counter whatever pitch they might be looking for with something else. Apparently, while Dark was with the Braves, he and Spahn had numerous discussions on pitching and hitting—two noble students of The Game!!!
Sadly, April 29th was the only day of the 1961 season that the Braves were in first place. San Francisco led the league the entire month of May. The Braves went 13-14 for the month and were pretty solidly ensconced in fifth behind the Giants, the Dodgers, the Reds and the Pirates.
On May 9th, the Braves traded a great utility player, Mel Roach, to the Cubs for a bona fide slugger, Frank Thomas. From ’53 to ’58, Thomas averaged 27 HRs and 90 RBIs per year.
On May 10, in another gut-wrenching deal, the Braves sold Wes Covington to the Chicago White Sox for cash.
On May 15, against the Dodgers, Lou Burdette won his second game of the year beating Johnny Podres, 7-3. Lou aides his own cause by hitting a home run…Eddie Mathews and Frank Thomas also hit homers…
The inflammation in Del Crandall’s right shoulder was not healing so they called Joe Torre up from Louisville. Joe hit a home run in his debut game.
June had a little more action than May but not so much of it on the field. The team reversed last month’s win-loss numbers going 14-13. They, again, spent most of the month in fifth—at least once dropping into sixth for a week or so. Cincinnati overtook San Fran as the new league leader. Based, most likely, on Frank Bolling’s success at second, Billy Martin was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Billy Consolo on June 1st.
On June 8th, the Braves set a new ML record by hitting four consecutive home runs. It happened in Cincinnati; the Reds were leading 10-2 in the seventh—Bolling led off with a single; Mathews and Aaron hit back to back homers. Marshall “Sheriff” Bridges came in to relieve Jim Maloney and was greeted by Adcock and Thomas round-trippers. Sadly, the Braves lost, 10-8. Spahn had hit a dinger in the early going; Mathews hit a second in the eighth…they still lost…!!!
The Braves signed an outstanding 17-year-old high-school pitcher, Wade Blasingame, to a six-figure contract on June 9th. He’ll spend the remainder of the season in Boise (Pioneer League).
On June 10th the Braves bought Bob Boyd, veteran first baseman, from the Kansas City A’s for cash.
On June 15th, we acquired veteran catcher, Sammy White, from the Red Sox for cash.
On that same day a trade was made with the Pirates. The Braves would receive seasoned outfielder, Gino Cimoli in exchange for fan favorite, kid favorite, granite block in the middle infield—Johnny Logan…another guy who came here in 1953.
As if that’s not enough—on June 15th, the Reds begin a streak where they will win 21of 28 between today and the first All-Star break (7/10). The Braves will be in …fifth…
On July 1st, 1961, in the second game of a four-game series with the league-leading Reds, Lou Burdette is the winner, 5-1, Jay Hook is the loser. It is the ninth win in 12 games for the Braves…it is Burdette’s fourth win in a row and Aaron and Adcock had back-to-back homers…A Good Day!!!
Sunday July 2nd was a double-header against those same Reds. The Reds won both games but not without a fight. In the early game, the Braves had Jim O’Toole picked off third…as Mathews started to tag him, he kind of chopped Eddie’s wrist or his glove to knock the ball out. Eddie grabbed him and it was ON…”it” wasn’t much at all, but Eddie got kicked out and Aaron played third the rest of the game.
On July 4th, in patriotic fashion, we got back former Brave pitcher, Johnny Antonelli, from the Indians for cash. On July 6th, Johnny Antonelli got a 1-0 victory over the Phillies, 7-6. It was his final win in a marvelous 12-year career (that some think should all have been played in Milwaukee). Lee May had a home run.
On July 9th, Charlie Dressen was hanged in effigy…The Braves were in fifth, 13½ games out of first, had lost three straight and eight of their last 12 games…at home…it was “enuff aready”..!!!
Major League Baseball continued to opt for two All-Star Games in 1961. The first of these was on July 11th in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, infamous for its wind currents. As was the case for the past couple of years, managers, coaches and players voted for the position players. Each manager could have a roster of 25 and the pick of the remaining 14 including pitchers. Spahn started for the NL and pitched three hitless innings. The NL scored in the second and fourth; the AL scored in the sixth; the NL tallied again in the 8th and it was a 3-1 game going into the ninth. In the ninth the winds picked up and reached gale-force by the second AL batter—local newspapers used the term “typhoon. The wind may not have “caused” the following but most certainly contributed to the AL tying the score in the ninth. This was the occasion of the Trivia Question: “Who was the Major League pitcher who committed a balk in an All-Star Game by being blown off the Mound during his wind-up?” Two runners advanced on a balk by SF’s Stu Miller and a pop foul was blown away from a NL fielder. In the 10th, the AL scored again on an error, 4-3. In the bottom of the 10th, Hank Aaron led off with a single, went to second on a passed ball and scored on a double by Willie Mays, 4-4. Roberto Clemente singled to right scoring the speedy Mays and the NL won, 5-4!! Jimmy Dudley and Jerry Doggett handled the Radio play-by-play and Mel Allen and Russ Hodges did the same on TV.
On July 13th, Mack Jones made his ML debut with an NL record-tying four-hit effort…Carlton Willey won and the Braves won…!!! Yippeee!!!
On July 17th, Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach, one of the original five enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, died…of cancer; in Atlanta, GA. He was 75.
On Sunday, the 23rd of July, the Braves moved into fourth place in the NL by defeating the rapidly fading Pittsburgh Pirates in both games of a double-header in Pittsburgh. Bob Buhl got the win in the early game, 11-4; McMahon, in relief of Willey, won the second game, 5-4.
The second All-Star Game was at Fenway Park in Boston on July 31st. It was all about pitching: Bob Purkey (Reds), Art Mahaffey (Phillies), Sandy Koufax (LA) and Bob Miller (Cards) for the NL; Jim Bunning (Tigers), Don Schwall (Red Sox) and Camilo Pasqual (Twins) for the AL. The American League got their only run in the first on a Rocky Colavito home run. In the sixth, Eddie Mathews walked; Orlando Cepeda was hit by a pitch, sending Mathews to second; Cincy SS Eddie Kasko hit a hard bouncer to Luis Aparicio at short who waited back for the hop and had no time to make a throw…the bases were loaded. Cards’ first baseman, Bill White, then hit a hard shot through the box. Little Luis made a spectacular play on the ball to keep it from going to the outfield—yet…Mathews was able to score from third, 1-1. In the seventh the skies got so dark they had to turn the lights on. As the ninth inning ended, the heavens opened and the rains came in sheets. The umpires called a 30-minute delay but there was no waning of the rain so the game was called…the only tie, to date, in the history of the All-Star contest. Ernie Harwell and our own Blaine Walsh handled the radio call; Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola did the same on TV. NBC carried both All-Star Games which were both sponsored by The Gillette Razor Company and The Chrysler Corporation. Some 44,115 fans saw the game in SF and 31,851 were in attendance in Boston. Gate receipts from San Fran totaled $259,230.81 and $172,298.19 from Boston…plus $250,000 from Radio-TV rights. As usual 60% goes into the Players’ Pension Fund and the rest to the MLB General Fund.
So—as a matter of perspective: At the end of July, the Braves were 50-48, 11 games back; only two pitchers have winning records—McMahon is 5-1, Burdette is 12-7 (Spahn 10-12); Aaron has 26 HRs, Mathews-22 and Adcock has 21…Joe Torre has nine.
August was a wild and crazy month!! Carl Willey won on Wednesday, August 2nd in the first game of a double-header against the Cubbies; the second game was called on account of darkness and declared a tie after 11 innings. Burdette, Spahn and Buhl were winners in the next three games; Willey, Burdette and Nottebart were the losers in the three games after that. On Friday the 11th, Spahn battled the Cubs and Jack Curtis for eight innings, deadlocked at one run apiece.
In the bottom of the eighth, Gino Cimoli, who came over from Pittsburgh in the Johnny Logan trade, hit a home run to right center that he would later call “the biggest shot of my career”. Spahn got the three outs in the ninth with the final out being a fly ball to Aaron in right…Aaron trotted in and handed that ball to Spahn as a trophy of career win #300!!!
Lorene Spahn was overjoyed!! Spahnie had asked her what she wanted for their 15th Anniversary (yesterday…He gave her a lovely dinner ring…she loved it but told him she wanted him to win #300…He did!!! The win gave the Braves sole ownership of fourth place in the NL.
The win was the FIRST in what would be an unprecedented 10 game winning streak for the Braves.
They swept Chicago with Burdette (14-8) getting the 8-3 win of the 13th; Mathews had a home run and three RBIs.
Cloninger went to 3-2 in a win, in relief, against Pittsburgh on the 14th…Mathews hit homer #24 and McMillan had four RBIs. Carl Willey won on the 15th with a five-hitter while Frank Thomas hit his 21st HR on the year…Aaron hit his 31st.
Spahn won #301 on the 16th to go 13-12 for the year…Thomas hit his 22nd homer. To complete the streak, Nottebart (4-6), Burdette (15-8), Cloninger (4-2) and Spahn (14-12) each got another win…Keep an eye on Spahn—He’s on a roll!! While we hoped the streak was a portent of things to come ; sadly, it was not. The team went 6-6 for the remainder of the month which accorded to 20-9-1 for all of August…but Spahn won two more; 16-12!!
On September 1st, the Milwaukee Braves were in third place, .003 percentage points ahead of the Giants but still behind the Reds and the Dodgers. News was beginning to spread regarding the two new teams—The Houston Colt 45s and the New York Metropolitans. The Colts hired a manager, Harry Craft, and announced they would the season in a temporary park next to their new-under-construction-domed-stadium.
On September 2 Charlie Dressen was brusquely fired…brusquely in that there were no hints or rumors beforehand…apparently it was a surprise to the players as well. Probably not “brusquely” enough as far as many of the fans were concerned…it appeared that some of the players appreciated him more as they got to know him better…it was different for the fans…we never got to know him better…
His replacement was of the same ilk to the fans…Birdie Tebbetts would be the new manager. Some of the old “I told you so” crowd took up their trumpets even though Tebbetts wasn’t replacing Haney…he was replacing Dressen. For the most part, fan opinion of Tebbetts hadn’t changed much while Birdie was doing his V.P. thing.
To eliminate the stress of suspense; the Braves split the two games in September under Dressen. In the remaining 25 games (including two in October) under the tutelage of Birdie Tebbetts, they went 12-13 which included an eight game losing streak from September 9th to September 19th.
National League teams were required to submit their lists for the Players Pool to the Commissioner’s office by September 20th. These will be the players that the Colts and Mets will choose from to form the new teams.
By the 22nd the Braves had dropped back into fifth, mostly on account of the string of losses. In a press conference on September 23rd, Lou Perini announced the promotion of Joe Cairnes from President of the Braves to Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Perini Corporation. Perini’s announcement was noted as a most appropriate utilization of Mr. Cairnes skills. Additionally, Perini announced the promotion of John McHale into the Presidency formerly held by Cairnes. McHale will have oversight of the duties of both the President and General Manager of the Braves.
On the 25th Carlton Willey (6-12) won his last outing of the season over the Cardinals, 2-1. Hank Aaron hit home run #34 and with only 4,689 fans in attendance, it was the smallest crowd—ever—to see a NL game in Milwaukee County Stadium. Burdette won his 18th on the 26th against the Cards—Adcock hit his 35th HR; Mathews hit his 31st…final score: 9-2. The Braves weren’t scheduled on the 27th or the 28th…
On Friday the 29th, Spahn beat SF for his 21st victory, 4-1. Ed Mathews hit home run #32/370 which tied him with Ralph Kiner for ninth on the all-time list. The game was called in the bottom of the fifth on account of rain…5,913 wet, happy fans were delighted!!
Saturday’s game (9/30) was rained out; so it was played as the first game in Sunday’s (10/1) season-ending double-header. The Giants clinched third place in the first game while beating Burdette, who was going for his 19th win. The Braves won game two on six-hit pitching by Piche and some timely hitting. The Braves were down 2-1 in the ninth until Hawk Taylor, pinch-hitting for McMillan, hit a lead-off home run to tie it up. San Francisco didn’t score in the tenth. In the home half, Aaron singled, stole second and went to third on Adcock’s single. Joe Torre was walked intentionally to load the bases. Al Spangler, pinch-hitting for Thomas, hit a single that scored Aaron, won the game and closed out the season with a win!! Hawk Taylor likes to say that his home run went largely unnoticed because on that same day, Roger Maris hit his 61st homer of the season, erasing Babe Ruth’s old record of 60…I’m with you, Hawk…!!!
The Braves ended the season in fourth, two games behind the Giants, six behind LA and 10 behind the league-leading Reds. Spahnie went 21-13, tied for Most Wins with Joey Jay; the best ERA in the league—3.02; the most Complete Games (21); tied with Jay for most Shut-Outs (4); and second behind Burdette for Innings Pitched (263).Burdette went 18-11 which was good for fourth in Wins; was fourth in Complete Games-14; first in Fewest Walks per Nine Innings and first in Innings Pitched-277. The only other pitcher with a winning record (10 or more decisions) was McMahon, 6-4, who had a 2.84 ERA. Aaron led the league in Total Bases-358 and Doubles-39. He was third in Runs Scored-115 and Hits-197 and fourth in RBIs-120 and Stolen Bases-21. His .328 BA was good for fifth. Mathews led the league in Bases on Balls (93) and had 32 homers. Defensively, he led NL third basemen with 168 put-outs. Adcock led the team, and was tied for fourth in the league, in Home Runs with 35; Aaron had 34; Mathews had 32, Frank Thomas-25, Frank Bolling-15, Lee Maye-14 and Joe Torre had 10. The Braves led the NL in Home Runs with 188. The Team Fielding Average (.982) was also tops in the circuit…Ironically; they also led in Errors-111. Adcock, Bolling and McMillan led the league for Fielding Average at their respective positions.
Perhaps the most amazing stat of the season is noted by team Statistician, Bob Allen…It’s Warren Spahn’s wins-by-month stat. In April he went 2-1, in May 3-3, in June 3-5, in July 2-3; but, in August he went 6-0 and in September, 5-1—Absolutely astonishing numbers for the final months of the season by anyone; an awesome achievement for a 40-plus-year-old…The Amazing Mr. Spahn!!!
On October 2nd the Mets made two announcements: The Old Perfesser, Casey Stengel, would forsake retirement to become their manager; and, they would play their games at the Polo Grounds until The Stadium at Flushing Meadows was completed.
The World Series began October 4th between the Reds and the Yankees. It was pretty much all Yankees except for Joey Jay’s 6-2 four-hit victory in Game 2…the Reds only win…
Tuesday, October 10th, was “Selection Meeting Day” when the Mets and Colts picked teams. As noted earlier, each team had submitted to the Commissioner’s Office, a list of seven players from the Major League roster, eight minor league players plus two “Premium Players” who had been on the roster on August 31. The new teams were allowed to each buy up to two players from the list of 15 (7+8) and one from the Premium list…picks from the Premium list cost more so that pick was not required. Potentially, each team could lose four (…or up to six…) players total. Obviously teams were permitted to protect their “Ultra-Premium” players. Picks were taken alternately with a coin toss determining who got to go first.
In toto the Braves lost catcher Phil Roof, catcher Merritt Ranew and OF Al Spangler (Premium) to Houston and IF Felix Mantilla and OF John DeMerit to New York.
The very next day, October 11, the Mets purchased pitchers Johnny Antonelli and Ken MacKenzie for cash.
Less than a week later, on October 16, the Mets purchased pitcher Bob Botz and OF Neil Chrisley for cash.
On October 24, the St. Louis Cardinals released Red Schoendienst as a player…and signed him…as a coach!! Sorta like more salt in the wound…
On October 27, the Braves released Sammy White who appeared in 21 games since arriving in Milwaukee in mid-June. Sometime, live-and-in-person, ask me about the Sammy White/Lou Burdette story…Lou told it at one of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association dinners…nothing nasty or untoward to it…a tad long but wonderfully hilarious…!!!
In the fall of 1961, Duffy Lewis, long-time traveling secretary for the Braves (since 1936) announced his retirement. Duffy handled all the arrangements and details of all the team’s travel and housing. PR Director Don Davidson will assume these duties. Duffy played in the Majors for 11 years, mostly with the Red Sox. He was the left fielder in the “Dream Outfield” or “Million Dollar Outfield” with HOFers Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker. He was there for Babe Ruth’s first and last home run. He was widely recognized as a gentleman’s gentleman, purported to own upward of 70 suits and was famous among cabbies, bellhops and waiters as a big tipper. He is also often quoted on “Spend another dollar and go first class”.
He will retire, with his wife of many years, Eleanor, to Salem, MA…and he will be missed…!!!
On November 28th, the Braves made a deal that puzzled many at the time…They traded slugger Frank Thomas (25 HRs in’61; 15 doubles; .284 B.A. and ..497 slugging average in 124 games) to the Mets for cash…and a player to be named later…who turned out to be 12-year veteran, Gus Bell. Gary Caruso, Braves’ historiographer-cum-laude, said what a lot of fans were thinking, “There’s no telling what he (Thomas) might have done if he’d been surrounded by the sluggers on the Braves”…There were rumors of discordance…Ah, well…
On December 15th, the Kansas City A’s traded pitcher Bob Shaw and IF Lou Klimchock to the Braves for reputable minor leaguers, catcher Joe Azcue, IF Ed Charles and OF Manny Jimenez.
On December 18, 251 Associated Press sports writers and broadcasters around the nation named Warren Spahn the Veteran Athlete of the Year. Spahnie received 153 first place votes. They cited his age, this year’s accomplishments and the fact that he is the seventh hurler all-time to reach the coveted 300 win plateau.
In no particular order, here is a smattering of the memorabilia from the 1961 season plus a few things that may or may not be ’61 exactly…
The 1961 Press Guide is once again filled with all manner of useful information…mostly aimed at giving the media things to write about, ask about or talk about. It is usually out early—like February, I think. It covers the Braves top to bottom; a who’s who in the organization, statistics, spring training info, regular season info, roster info, some ‘phone numbers and, for you and me, a brief bio of all the players—current and up-and-coming.
The Wisconsin Coloring Book put out by The Reedsburg Bank, another group of Braves followers. It’s almost all outdoor scenes that are typical of Wisconsin’s natural beauty and recreation areas. The artwork is line-drawings, just like the cover. The Braves and the Packers each get one page.
The Nu-Card Baseball Scoops don’t say “Nu-Card” anywhere on them. They’re a tad smaller than last year-more like the size of a baseball card. There are 80 in the set and are numbered 401 to 480 for whatever reason. They still feature grand moments in the history of the game in their unique newspaper format. They are pretty easy to find and collect but beware of forgeries if that matters to you.
Yearbooks hold the same fascination for me that Press Guides do…except more so!!! Again, there’s a wealth of information that just enhances, enlarges other information we have available to us. For instance, the Press Guide notes the Braves’ Spring Training hotel as The Bradenton Cabana Motor Hotel (this is prior to the word “motel”…). The ’61 Yearbook has an ad for the Bradenton Cabana with a picture (three, actually) that makes real what only existed in the imagination before…HA!!! This particular Yearbook is autographed by Andy Pafko…HA!!!
I know, I know, I dropped the ball regarding the Team Balls for a couple chapters…I’ll try to make it up to you. It’s getting a little more complicated as more guys are coming and going. Several of our faves were only there for part of ’61…I’ll note those first. Johnny Antonelli, who was here in ’53, was back, but for only nine games…same thing for hero Wes Covington. Ken MacKenzie was only in five games. Chi Chi Olivo was only in three games (But he’ll be back in ’64). Phil Roof, who we lost in the expansion draft, was only in one game…for those who note these things; Phil Roof was back in Milwaukee with the brand-new Brewers in ’70 and ’71. George Brunet only appeared in five games with Braves. Mel Roach, lost to expansion, only played in 13 games. Terrific clutch-hitter Johnny Logan was only in 18 games. Billy Martin was in six games, Bob Boyd-36 games, Gino Cimoli-37, Charley Lau-28 (one was Spahnie’s no-hitter) and last, but certainly not least, Frank Thomas was in 124 games. Perhaps more to the point re the Team Ball, the following guys were with the Braves ONLY during the ’61 season: Phil Roof, Bob Boyd, Gino Cimoli and Billy Martin. While you’re digesting that, keep in mind that Johnny Antonelli WAS here in ’53, Chi Chi Olivo will be back in ’64 and Frank Thomas will be back in’65…just so’s ya knows…
There is a ton of information out there about the Braves Farm System in general and another stack about Bravesville at Waycross, GA. Young ballplayers with talent but maybe not enough experience/seasoning to go to one of the farm teams were sent to Waycross to get experience and hone their skills with excellent coaching and instruction. Jimmy Brown was a former National League infielder, Boston Braves coach and minor league coach who was on staff at Waycross in 1961. The signatures on the bottom are John Mullen and Austin Brown.
The passes are pretty much the same as last time. I’m not sure who Jim Schaefer is…I still wonder how the PARKARD works-it has no magnetic strip…Frank Stanfield is still the famous-at least to us-photographer and Walter Pelzek is our good old friendly usher at County Stadium.
The 1961 Topps set was interesting for those who are into the anomalies of card collecting…what little I know of misprints, errors and the like were stumbled onto totally by accident or (far more likely) told to me by someone else. The only reason I even mention that is I think I remember there is something amiss regarding the ’61 Braves Team card…or not…I would like to find some of that original cartoon art from the backs of these cards.
This 33 1/3 record is an interview with Warren Spahn and is part of an eight-record set that was put out in 1962. The stats on the back are through 1960 so I’m including it with 1961. If that is horrific to you, please skip this item. It is commonly known in the hobby by two names; Auravision (which is part of Columbia) or Sports Champions records. There will be a second set next year.
The pink cards were put out by “7-11”…stores…I kinda think, but really don’t know and the cards have no clues; nor, incidentally, does the internet. This is not a particularly sophisticated effort. The grade of card board isn’t much like anything else…pink??!! For goodness sake…!!?? However…in a set of 29 cards plus a checklist…FOUR are Braves!! Joey Jay has on a “M” hat but the card says Reds; not real sure how Don Nottebart got picked over Aaron or Mathews; Burdette and Spahn are the final two. These have been very difficult to find…at least for me. The other card in this picture is a Roy McMillan Wilson Sporting Goods Advisory Staff card. The sig is a facsimile and the back is blank.
This is the box 1961 Topps Baseball Cards came in…wax packs…still a nickel I think…
The Braves had Baseball Schools at County Stadium starting in 1954 when they were sponsored by The Plankinton Meat Packing Company. This ad is actually from 1960 and is sponsored by Hollywood Bread…two bread labels was the price of admission.
These are kids (and a few parents) at the baseball school…not certain what year this picture is from…I have another that is taken from farther away but shows nearly the entire lower section of the Stadium filled with kids…wowzer…how cool is THAT!!!???!
The top placemat is printed daily for every Braves game with who they’re playing today, who they played yesterday and who is playing who around the National League. It is distributed widely around the Greater Milwaukee area. This one is from July 21, 1961, and the Braves are in Pittsburgh. All of these are printed by “Al Cissa-Legionnaire”, who also shows up as part of the planning committee for the Annual Elks Banquet. The one on the bottom left is pretty generic with a home schedule and a game you can play…ostensibly while you’re waiting for your food. On bottom right, from Walgreens, is a fairly busy placemat; it has a small Stadium seating plan, brief stats for Mathews, Spahn, Aaron and Adcock, a home sched and a rhyming contest where you can win two tickets to a Braves game if the judges pick your entry as best for finishing this line, “We’ll back our Braves as they fight for the crown,________________”. You could be a Winner!!!
Very nice group of schedules…I’m always partial to Matchbooks as scheds. The Barber one is tough to find and, of course, the pre-geek pocket-protector is an instant fave!!
Gran’pa Graf was a very popular advertising figure in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Graf’s was a local beverage company that I remember for root beer-Gran’pa Graf’s in a flat-top can. They also sold other soft drinks that were a little different-not all the same flavors we were used to…Cool Schedule…!!!
This is a nifty Fleer Baseball Greats wrapper; however, the reason I have it is because it advertises the send-away offer for a Big-League T-Shirt.
This is Post’s first foray into an actual card set endeavor. You could get these cards in various ways but it came down to send away for them or cut them off the box you had to beg your Mom to buy-all the while promising to eat the cereal…I have a few send-