Friday, April 16, 2010

50 Year Counterparts, Pt. 1A

In the spirit of ’61, and raising a toast to this year’s 2010 Topps Heritage set, let’s take a look at the 1961 Topps Milwaukee Braves and its 50-year counterpart, the 2010 Topps Heritage Atlanta Braves.
Our look has got to start at the top, and since they (thankfully) don’t make cards of the suits, let’s look at the Chiefs: Chuck Dressen and Bobby Cox.

“The Giants is dead.” No, this isn’t a reference to the unforgettable 1993 season in which the Braves came storming from behind San Francisco to overtake the Giants during the last two months of the season. No, them’s the words of former MLB manager
Chuck Dressen, who declared the Giants to be dead as his Brooklyn Dodgers team held a 12.5 game lead over the New York Giants on August 10th of 1951. That was the same year, of course, that the Giants caught fire by winning 37 of their last 41 games to catch the Dodgers, forcing a three game playoff to decide which team would win the N.L. Pennant. And as we all know, Bobby Thompson would hit a game 3 game-winning homer (“The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”), giving the Giants the pennant.

Nine years later, in 1960, Dressen would be hired by the Milwaukee Braves- a team that thought Dressen could help them get past the team they had finished second to the year before- the newly relocated Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a short honeymoon, however, as Dressen was fired by the end of the 1961 season. While most fans remember the 1961 season as the year that Roger Maris broke The Babe’s single season record for home-runs, Milwaukee fans remember it as the beginning of their decline in the N.L. standings, which led to their leaving Milwaukee for Atlanta for the 1966 season.

During that 1961 season, Dressen led the Braves to a 71-58, but was replaced by then team vice-president Birdie Tebbetts. Under Tebbetts, the Braves would play sub-.500 ball (12-13) to finish the season 83-71. After learning of the firing, Dressen claimed to have been given no reason for the firing, only that they said he was “through.” And, in typical fashion, would brashly declare that “Tebbetts has wanted the job for some time.” One has to think there must be some truth to that, as the Braves were 13 games over .500 at the time of the firing. Dressen’s aforementioned brash character could have also led to the firing, as he was known as a very fiery competitor who once claimed to have knocked down a 230 pound pitcher with one punch while he was manager with Cincinnati (Dressen was a small-ish man at 5’6”).

After his firing in Milwaukee, Dressen only had one more major-league managerial job- with Detroit from 1963 until his untimely death in 1966.

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