Hearts may break at the news, especially in St. Louis and Baltimore, but the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees are going to win the National and American League pennants. That's official. Or, at any rate, a majority of major league players think so. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED polled the two leagues: players were asked to select the team, other than their own, of course, which they thought most likely to win in their league. (The same system is used in selecting the All-Star teams.) The results are shown in the accompanying box.
It is not surprising that the players selected the Pirates and Yankees as winners. Both teams were in first place when the poll was taken, the Pirates by as much as four to five games, the Yankees by one or two. It was surprising how many votes the Yankees got, half again as many as the Pirates, despite the modesty of their lead.
It was also interesting that the players showed an almost total indifference to the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals. The Orioles have hung on grimly near the top, one, two or three games back, yet they received only six of the 193 American League votes cast.
The Cardinals have been even more surprising than the Orioles. During the last seven weeks they have been winning steadily and have risen to second place. Nevertheless, only one man, Cal McLish of Cincinnati, picked the Cards to win.
The players who chose the Yankees to win the American League pennant did so for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them.
Ned Garver, Kansas City: "The old man over there in New York has been playing McDougald and Berra sparingly. They're not worn out, and they should be at their best when they are needed most."
Jimmy Piersall, Cleveland: "Thanks to Kansas City, the Yankees have too much power. If we don't win I want to see them win. I couldn't stand to watch another World Series like the last one."
Early Wynn of Chicago made the most caustic comment. "They always seem to come up with the guy they need," he said. "They'll get him from Richmond or someplace."
The Chicago White Sox got their strongest support from the Yankees, who, of course, were not allowed to vote for themselves. "Roy Sievers has made them a tougher team," said Elston Howard. Bobby Richardson liked the White Sox pitching and defense through the middle, the same ingredients that made the White Sox successful last year.
The six men who liked Baltimore all agreed that its pitching was the best in the league. Dick Williams of Kansas City had an added reason for picking Baltimore. "They have the best manager," he said, "the best I ever played under."
In the National League, the Pirates received strong support from the Dodgers, 1959's champions. "They look like we did last season," said Maury Wills. "They have hustle and desire and no real weakness."
Gil Hodges thought the Pirates have a sound team. "And they have the lead," he pointed out. "That's important. They may not continue to be as hot as they have been, but they may not need to be."
Milwaukee threw most of its votes to the Dodgers, probably because the Dodgers have beaten the Braves out of two pennants on the last day of the season, in 1956 and 1959.
"The Dodgers have good pitching every day and a strong bench," said Wes Covington. "They won't beat themselves," said Larry Jackson of St. Louis. He admired the Dodgers' pitching. "They have five pitchers who can throw seeds," he said. "They won on pitching alone last year, and I think they can do it again."
Don Elston of Chicago summed up the feelings of those who voted for Milwaukee. "They have experienced players who seem to keep right on going," he said.
And as for Mr. Cal McLish of Cincinnati, the only one of the 172 voting National Leaguers to pick St. Louis? "They've got a head of steam," he said. "So far they've been going along unnoticed. I think they're ripe."
Perhaps they are ripe but, according to the majority, it's still going to be Pittsburgh against New York when the World Series starts on October 5. Of course, it just could be that the major leaguers play baseball better than they predict it. But before fans in Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles or Milwaukee get drunk with optimism, a sober reminder: last year when the Braves and Giants were fighting for first place and the Dodgers were a close third, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED asked the five other teams in the National League to pick the eventual pennant winner. Their choice: Los Angeles.
OPTIMISTIC BANNER at his back, dapper Manager Danny Murtaugh crosses street.