History tells teams just don't three-peat

Phillies reliever Mitch Williams reacts after striking out Atlanta's Bill Pecota for the final out, wrapping up the NLCS title in 1993. The Braves were two-time champions.
Phillies reliever Mitch Williams reacts after striking out Atlanta's Bill Pecota for the final out, wrapping up the NLCS title in 1993. The Braves were two-time champions.
Posted: October 16, 2010

The 2010 Phillies are the 10th team since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals to have won consecutive NL pennants.

The previous nine, for a variety of reasons, failed to win a third.

The Dodgers fell short in four different seasons (1954, 1957, 1967 and 1979), the Braves three times (in 1959 as the Milwaukee Braves and in 1993 and 1997 in Atlanta).

Milwaukee lost a three-game tiebreaker to L.A. in the days before divisional baseball. Atlanta lost twice in the NLCS. The Boys of Summer couldn't do it and neither could the Big Red Machine.

Here's a brief look at those teams:

1954 Brooklyn Dodgers

Record: 92-62, 2d place, 5 games back of the New York Giants.

Manager: Walter Alston. Despite the consecutive pennants, grizzled manager Charlie Dressen was fired when he demanded a three-year contract. He was replaced by Alston, who went on to sign 23 straight one-year deals.

Hall of Famers: SS Pee Wee Reese, CF Duke Snider, 2B Jackie Robinson, C Roy Campanella. Two other Dodger players, P Tom Lasorda and OF Dick Williams, would get to Cooperstown as managers.

Top hitter: Snider hit .341 with 40 HRs and 130 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Carl Erskine went 18-15 with a 4.15 ERA.

What went wrong: The starting-to-age Boys of Summer hung around the top of the NL most of the season. Though their pitching wasn't up to their offense this time, they stayed there until, between Sept. 16-21, they lost five in a row and fell behind the hated Giants. New York, with Willie Mays the league's MVP, lengthened its lead in the final days and went on to sweep the 111-win Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

1957 Brookyn Dodgers

Record: 84-70, 3d place, 11 games back of Milwaukee Braves.

Manager: Alston.

Hall of Famers: Reese, Snider, Campanella, P Don Drysdale, P Sandy Koufax.

Top hitter: Gil Hodges hit .299 with 27 HRs and 98 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Twenty-one-year-old Drysdale went 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA. Still serving his Bonus Baby apprenticeship, Koufax was 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA, but fanned 122 hitters in 1041/3 innings.

What went wrong: In their final season at Ebbetts Field, the Dodgers began to display a trait that would mark the franchise through its first decade in Los Angeles - great pitching, so-so hitting. Brooklyn was first in the league in ERA and shutouts and next to last in total bases. As the season wore on and their chances faded, speculation that they might move to L.A. cast a pall over the club. For their final game in Brooklyn, on Sept. 29, fewer than 4,500 fans showed up.

1959 Milwaukee Braves

Record: 86-68, tied for 1st place with L.A. Dodgers. Lost first two games of a best-of-three tiebreaker playoff.

Manager: Fred Haney, who despite the two pennants and first-place tie, was fired days after the 1959 season, and replaced by Dressen.

Hall of Famers: RF Hank Aaron, 3B Eddie Mathews, P Warren Spahn, 2B Red Schoendienst, OF Enos Slaughter.

Top hitter: Aaron led the league with a .355 average and added 39 HRs and 123 RBIs. Mathews went .304, 46, 114. The teammates split much of the MVP voting, allowing the last-place Cubs' Ernie Banks to win.

Top pitcher: Spahn and Lew Burdette each went 21-15.

What went wrong: The Braves led the NL by 41/2 games on May 19, but Schoendienst was sidelined with tuberculosis and Milwaukee struggled mid-season, compiling a 42-44 record for June, July and August. They won their last two games at home against the Phillies' Robin Roberts and Jim Owens to force the tie. But Larry Sherry pitched 72/3 scoreless innings after relieving Danny McDevitt to beat the Braves, 2-1, in Game 1. Then after traveling to Los Angeles for Game 2 the following day, the Braves led, 5-2, in the ninth, but squandered the advantage and lost in the 12th on a Felix Mantilla throwing error.

1967 Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 73-89 (the biggest dropoff of any of the two-time NL winners), 8th-place, 281/2 games back of St. Louis.

Manager: Alston.

Hall of Famers: Drysdale, P Don Sutton.

Top hitter: OF Lou Johnson, .270, 11 HRs, 41 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Claude Osteen, 17-17, 3.22 ERA.

What went wrong: L.A. had no regular who hit higher than .272. The Dodgers were last in hits, HRs and batting average. And with Koufax having retired in the off-season, they didn't get enough from Osteen, Drysdale, Sutton, and Bill Singer to come close to contention. Astonishingly, for a two-time pennant-defender, they were in eighth place every day from June 1 on, finishing ahead of just the sixth-year Mets and Astros.

1969 St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 87-75, 4th place in the NL East, 13 games back of the New York Mets.

Manager: Schoendienst.

Hall of Famers: OF Lou Brock, P Bob Gibson, P Steve Carlton.

Top hitter: C Joe Torre, .289, 18 HRs, 101 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Gibson, 20-13, with a 2.18 ERA. (A year before, that ERA had been a record 1.12.)

What went wrong: Roger Maris had retired and, except for Torre, the lineup struggled. The Cardinals, playing for a final season on grass at pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium, were last in home runs, 10th in runs. They were awful early and by July 4 were 16 games out of first. They made a run in August, getting to within two games of the lead but sputtered again late.

1977 Cincinnati Reds

Record: 88-74, 2d place, 10 games back of the L.A. Dodgers.

Manager: Sparky Anderson.

Hall of Famers: C Johnny Bench, 2B Joe Morgan, P Tom Seaver.

Top hitter: LF George Foster hit .320 with 52 HRs and 149 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Tom Seaver went 14-3 with a 2.34 ERA after a trading-deadline, four-for-one deal with the Mets.

What went wrong: Foster's MVP season more than made up for the loss of run-producer Tony Perez, who was traded after the 1976 season. But the old bugaboo of the Big Red Machine, pitching, resurfaced. The Reds were last in the league in ERA. Still, they stayed within range of the Dodgers until they lost eight straight in July. By Aug. 1, they were eight games out and even 37 victories in their final 60 games couldn't close the gap.

1979 L.A. Dodgers

Record: 79-83, 3d in NL West, 111/2 games back of Cincinnati.

Manager: Lasorda

Hall of Famers: Sutton

Top hitter: 1B Steve Garvey, .315, 28 HRs, 110 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Rick Sutcliffe, 17-10, 3.46 ERA.

What went wrong: Except for Sutcliffe, the rest of the L.A. staff had subpar seasons. By mid-June, the club that had beaten the Phillies in each of the two previous NLCS was in last place in the division. The Dodgers got into such a hole that even a 34-22 record after Aug. 1 couldn't get them back to .500 or into contention.

1993 Atlanta Braves

Record: 104-58, 1st in NL West, 1 game ahead of San Francisco.

Manager: Bobby Cox.

Hall of Famers: None yet, but Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and, perhaps, John Smoltz are likely headed that way.

Top hitter: David Justice, .270, 40 HRs, 120 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Maddux was 20-10 with a 2.91 ERA, while Glavine was 20-6, 3.20.

What went wrong: The first of the two-time and defending NL champs to get eliminated in the NLCS, the Braves ran into a determined Phillies team. After beating the Giants by 1 game in the last of the pre-wild-card pennant races, Atlanta was up, two games to one, in the best-of-seven series and facing two games at home. But Danny Jackson and Mitch Williams, thanks to a ninth-inning doubleplay, beat the Braves, 2-1, in Game 4 and then, after blowing a three-run ninth-inning lead in Game 5, the Phils came back and won on Lenny Dykstra's 10th-inning home run. Two nights later, the Phillies beat Maddux to oust the Braves.

1997 Atlanta Braves

Record: 101-61, 1st in NL West, 9 games ahead of Florida.

Manager: Cox.

Hall of Famers: (See 1993 Braves.)

Top hitter: Chipper Jones hit .295 with 21 HRs and 111 RBIs.

Top pitcher: Denny Neagle was 20-5 with a 2.91 ERA while Maddux was 19-4, 2.20.

What went wrong: Again it was failure in the NLCS that sunk the Braves. After finishing 9 games ahead of Florida, the Braves and wild-card Marlins met in the NLCS. Livan Hernandez beat them twice - topping Smoltz and then Maddux - in Games 3 and 5 to sink Cox's club. In Game 5, with the aid of an extra-wide Eric Gregg strike zone, Hernandez struck out 15 hitters and permitted just three hits. Two days later, Kevin Brown bested Glavine and Florida clinched its first pennant.


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or at ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.

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