Billy Southworth's 1948 Braves have experienced many ups and downs on their way to the second National League pennant a Boston club has won during the present century and the first since the fabled 1914. The team has looked like a top-flight championship combination at times and resembled a second division outfit on other occasions. However, during the critical month of September the Hub team scaled its greatest heights and definitely proved it possessed more stamina and class than the other clubs in the senior loop.
Throughout the season the Warriors have shown undeniable courage, coming from the ruck many times to gain verdicts in the eighth, ninth or extra innings. And the smart Hub operatives, under the expert guidance of Southworth, have cashed in on many costly mistakes made by their rivals.
Twice this year they have taken the measure of the once mighty Cardinals by amazing rallies with two out in the ninth. The first of these story book finishes was staged in St. Louis in the second game of a double-header on July 25 when dependable Bob Elliott exploded a three-run homer at a time when the Birds were leading 6 to 4.
On the 31st of that same month in Boston, it was Sibby Sisti, who delivered who delivered a base clearing triple after two had been retired in the ultimate chapter to pull the Tribe's chestnuts out of the flame.
Twice the resurgent Warriors vanquished the Dodgers in the 14th inning after leaving nine runners stranded on the sacks in the four previous stanzas. The first of these two crucial games was played at Ebbets Field on August 23 and permitted the Braves to leave on their final Western trip with a game and a half lead. Connie Ryan's double scored Phil Masi who had also produced a double on that occasion.
In the first fray of the Labor Day twin bill in Boston Earl Torgeson's two-ply wallop tallied Clint Conatser, who had walked, with the winning counter and thereby crowned Warren Spahn's five-hit box masterpiece over the 14-frame route with success. The Dodgers acted like a beaten team when they answered the bell in the second engagement of this twin bill and iron man Johnny Sain had compratively little difficulty in subduing them 4 to 0 in an abbreviated tilt which was called on account of darkness at the end of six and a half innings.
Another game of major importance to the Tribe's flag chances was the 13-inning thriller at Shibe Park, Philadelphia on September 12 in which Nelson Potter and Alvin Dark collaborated to produce a last ditch triumph. Potter stepped into the breach with none away in the tenth after Del Ennis had tripled off Vern Bickford to start the round.
After dolling out two intentional passes to fill the bases, Potter disposed of the next three enemy batters on ten pitches, whiffing Eddie Miller on five serves, Andy Seminick on four and causing pinch hitter Don Padgett to roll out to Sibby Sisti on the first pitch.
Incidentally this was Potter's first mound stint since he started the 14-reel battle in Brooklyn late in August and was forced to retire after one and a third innings because of a kink in his back.
The Braves are to be commended for carrying on with such fortitude over long stretches this season while minus the services of three valuable players, Eddie Stanky, Jim Russell and Potter. Stanky's ankle was broken in a game with the Dodgers on July 8 in Brooklyn and Eddie didn't appear again until he came up as a pinch hitter for Red Barrett on September 19 and unlimbered a single.
Russell, who nudged across the amazing total of 20 runs on the second Western trip, was stricken early on the third jaunt to the sunset sector, and, although he participated in a few more games, was only a shadow of his former self.
Losing these talented performers temporarily broke the Braves' "life line" but Sibby Sisti, who started as a rookie with the Boston club back in 1939, filled in most acceptably for Stanky on the defense and looked like Frankie Frisch in snagging prospective "Texas Leaguers" in short right.
In Tommy Holmes and Dark, the Braves have had two natural hitters with the faculty of landing on the sacks frequently and in many instances Bob Elliott and Geoff Heath have been successful in rescuing them. For the number of times he has been at bat the latter has whacked more long distance hits and driven in more runs than any other player on the club.
The Braves have had two stretches wherein they dropped six out of seven games, the first at the very start of the campaign and the second toward the close of their last Western trip. Twice, on May 5 and June 5, they lost heart-breakers to the Pirates at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, with two out in the ninth. Ex-Tribesman Danny Murtaugh beat Sain with a timely single on the first of these two black days and Frankie Gustine vanquished Vern Bickford with a homer in the second instance.
The Braves dropped five double-headers this season, the Giants taking a twin bill in April at the Wigwam, the Reds accomplishing the feat at Crosley Field June 12, the Phillies knocking them off twice at Shibe Park on July 4 and both the Cubs and Pirates capturing a pair of tussles in the course of four days on the last Western journey.
Southworth's charges went into first place on June 11 on a percentage basis over the Cardinals and Giants, but they dropped back to a tie for second 24 hours later. They gained the peak on the 15th of that month and remained there until August 21 when they were knocked off for a couple of hours by the Dodgers who won the opening fray of a doubleheader from them. Brooklyn fans celebrated the event by changing the flags atop Ebbets Field denoting the first and second place clubs but they had to put the Tribal banner back in the No. 1 spot after the Warriors annexed the second struggle that afternoon.
The Braves continued to hold the lead until Aug. 29 when the Brooks again passed them by winning a double-header from the Cardinals while they were dropping two contests to the Pirates. This put the Flatbushers a few percentage points in front but on the 30th they forged a game and a half ahead by again toppling the Redbirds twice while the Corsairs were edging the Warriors 2 to 1 in an arclight game.
Then the Dodgers invaded Chicago and received exactly the same treatment that had been accorded the Braves, in other words lost three of the four contests played. Thus the Warriors arrived home only two percentage points off the pace and took over the top spot on September 3 as Johnny Sain humbled the Phillies while the Brooks were losing twice to the Giants.
Because Manager Bill Southworth elected to "go" with Alvin Dark, a rookie short stop, the experts didn't give the Braves too much consideration during the early weeks of the campaign. But, finally, the Tribe began to roll and prove conclusively that they were the class of the National League.