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by Harold Friend
Many older fans claim that today's players aren't as intense as players from the past. They point out that free agency has led to much player movement, which has decreased team loyalty and increased concern for individual performance. But how much have things really changed?
The Braves Appeared Ready to Win Again
The Milwaukee Braves won the 1957 World Series, beating the Yankees in seven games. Each team won their respective league's 1958 pennant, and the Braves took a three games to one lead in the World Series. It appeared that Milwaukee was well on the way to a second consecutive championship.
The Braves Lost Game 5
Game 5 was played at the real Yankee Stadium on a clear, cool, crisp early October day. Lew Burdette, who had beaten the Yankees three times in the previous year's series and was the winning pitcher in Game 2, started against Yankees' 21 game winner, Bullet Bob Turley. The Yankees won, 7-0, to send the series back to Milwaukee, where the Braves would have two more chances to close out New York.
A Revealing Headline
The headline in one of New York's newspapers after the Braves lost the fifth game told a story that confirms things weren't different more than 50 years ago.
"Braves Frolic in Clubhouse After Loss but Haney and Burdette Are Gloomy; Aaron Imitates Covington Lapse"
Fred Haney and Lew Burdette Were Upset
Manager Fred Haney and losing pitcher Lew Burdette were unhappy, but there was no evidence of gloom among the other Braves. Burdette made no alibis to reporters. although the first run he gave up was a Gil McDougald home run that traveled 301 feet and hit the left field foul pole.
"The ball hit the foul pole screen 301 feet away. If the foul pole had been 310 feet away, the ball would have been foul, wouldn't it?" a visibly upset Burdette asked reporters.
Wes Covington's Adventure
In the sixth inning, the erstwhile McDougald, or as the great Red Barber referred to him, "the McDougald," was the first batter Juan Pizarro, in relief of Burdette, faced. The McDougald hit a deep drive to left center field, which was not only "Death Valley," but which was a brutal sun field. Left fielder Wes Covington tried in vain to catch the drive, but he staggered after it as it hit the ground and bounced into the stands for a ground rule double that drove in two runs to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
Hank Aaron's Imitation
As Hank Aaron emerged from the shower as Wes Covington was being asked if he had lost McDougald's drive in the sun. Covington, who it seemed was always smiling, merely replied, "No comment." Aaron, wearing only a towel, began imitating Covington as he staggered aimlessly after McDougald's deep fly. Covington's reaction to Henry's act was to simply grin even more.
The Incident That Raised the Braves" Spirits
An incident between Frank Slocum, who represented the commissioner's office, and a sports writer that occurred as the Braves were entering their clubhouse helped their spirits. The reporter complained to Slocum that the writers had been "treated like animals -- put in a cage and pushed around by the cops" because they had to remain in a designated area while covering the game.
Some Milwaukee players, including Aaron, pitcher Bob Buhl, and back up catcher Del Rice egged on Slocum and the writer. Both were very upset, but when Rice pretended that he was a writer and began taking notes, the writer and the Braves began laughing heartily.
Take Nothing for Granted
The Milwaukee players knew that they had two more chances to become World Champions, but manager Fred Haney, who had been around a long time, knew that in baseball, as in life, one cannot take anything for granted. April baseball games count as much as September games, and allowing a three games to one series lead to become a three games to two games lead could lead to disaster. It did.
By ROSCOE McGOWEN. (1958, October 7). Braves Frolic in Clubhouse After Loss but Haney and Burdette Are Gloomy :AARON IMITATES COVINGTON LAPSE. New York Times (1857-Current file),45. Retrieved September 16, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 92651995).