It's like old times in the National League, with those transplanted geographical rivals, the Dodgers and the Giants, fighting for the lead.
Thus far the San Francisco club has been banking on tremendous hitting and the soft, slow curves of ex-American leaguers Billy Pierce and Billy O'Dell. That pair, and hard-throwing Juan Marichal have accounted for 20 of the club's 33 victories, but the staff cannot be called solid unless Mike McCormick returns to form.
The Giant line-up needs no supplementing; if anything it suffers by forcing talented young players (Matty Alou and Willie McCovey) onto the bench. But with Harvey Kuenn hitting well over 370 there seems to be little place for them now. As for M. Mays, who the other day assaulted the New York Mets' little Elio Chacon the way the Giants were assaulting the Mets, he is coming out of a slump which did not prevent him from leading the league with 16 home runs. Teammate Orlando Cepeda is right behind him in that department with 11, leads with 49 runs batted in, and is wielding a .349 bat. Felipe Alou is third among N.L. hitters with a .338 mark.
The Dodgers have been gaining ground steadily, and trail now by a mere game and a half. They have relied on speed (Maury Wills leads the league with 22 stolen bases) and the timely hitting of Tommy Davis. Their staff, which boasts Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Podres, Stan Williams, Larry Sherry and a trio of good rookies, looks fine, but Ed Roebuck has not been of much help in the bull-pen. It is hard to conceive of the Dodgers keeping pace with the Giants, a beautifully balanced squad with two real super-stars.
Probably the biggest surprise of the young season, has been the utter collapse of the Milwaukee Braves. In a sense, it should have been foreseen. Spahn and Burdette are awesome now in name only; Henry Aaron has not been hitting in the clutch, and Eddie Mathews has been on and off the bench. The fans, who once turned out in record numbers, have been staying away from County Stadium." They hate Lou Perini, who has traded away many good ballplayers, such as Frank Thomas. Thomas is hitting .335 with 13 homers for the heroic Mets. The Braves, who sorely need a left fielder, have been using Howie Bedell, a .260 hitter in the minors, as his replacement.
Neither of the two new clubs has come up with any big surprises. The Mets were playing better than .500 ball after an initial nine-game losing streak, but are currently in a new skid which has cost them eight straight. Thomas, Richie Ashburn, and Charlie Neal are performing for their new club with some of their greatest flair, but the club has been unable to bunch its hits. Rooting for the Mets, with their never-wases and has-beens becomes something of a sick joke: Hodges lines a screaming shot off the left field wall and is thrown out at first. Ashburn bunts and is thrown out at first.... But New York fans have been properly fanatic in adopting the New Heroes, and five years' worth of unrequited love-turned-into-hatred will be expressed at the Polo Grounds today as the Dodgers come in for their first visit.
Everyone knows that you need the breaks to win; all the Cardinals have gotten thus far was Minnie Minoso's broken skull. The Pirates have had some luck in Vern. Law's apparent recovery from a bad shoulder. The former ace of their staff has pitched two complete games now, both victories, and will soon be given a regular turn.
The Giants haven't gotten any breaks yet: but they have Mays and Cepeda.