Hardball Retrospective – The “Original” 1953 Milwaukee Braves

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. Therefore, Roy Halladay is listed on the Blue Jays roster for the duration of his career while the Brewers declare Gary Sheffield and the Cardinals claim Mordecai Brown. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the finest single-season rosters for every Major League organization based on overall rankings in OWAR and OWS along with the general managers and scouting directors that constructed the teams. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Additional information and a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.


OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams


The 1953 Milwaukee Braves         OWAR: 52.2     OWS: 300     OPW%: .664

GM John Quinn acquired 88% (22/25) of the ballplayers on the 1953 Braves roster after assuming the reigns from his father Robert Quinn in 1945. Based on the revised standings the “Original” 1953 Braves secured the National League pennant by a 16-game margin over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Thus began a streak of seven consecutive National League titles while pacing the Senior Circuit in OWAR and OWS.

Eddie Mathews (.302/47/135) established career-bests in home runs, RBI and SLG (.627) during his sophomore year. The slugging third-sacker placed runner-up in the 1953 NL MVP race and led the circuit in round-trippers. Al Dark (.300/23/88) rapped 194 base hits, clubbed 41 doubles and scored 126 runs from the leadoff slot. Johnny Logan slashed 27 two-base hits and registered 100 tallies. Del Crandall walloped 15 dingers and earned the first of eight All-Star invitations. Earl Torgeson aka “The Earl of Snohomish” drove in 64 baserunners while batting .274. Bill Bruton placed fourth in the 1953 NL Rookie of the Year balloting after collecting 14 triples and leading the League with 26 stolen bases.

Mathews is listed as the third-best ballplayer at the hot corner according to Bill James in “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.” Five teammates join him in the top 100 rankings including Warren Spahn (5th-P), Dark (27th-SS), Logan (39th-SS), Crandall (30th-C) and Bruton (73rd-CF).

Al Dark LF/SS 3.41 20.61
Johnny Logan SS 3.86 23.8
Eddie Mathews 3B 8.87 38.91
Earl Torgeson 1B 1.77 13.85
Del Crandall C 2.73 16.03
Bill Bruton CF 0.45 13.61
Jack Dittmer 2B -0.95 10.85
Bob Thorpe RF/LF -0.54 0.13
George Crowe 1B 0.2 1.28
Harry Hanebrink 2B 0.15 1.6
Mel Roach 2B -0.03 0
Sibby Sisti 2B -0.04 0.5
Jack Lohrke 2B -0.12 0.08
Gene Verble SS -0.16 0.29
Mike Sandlock C -0.4 1.85

Warren Spahn (23-7, 2.10) flummoxed opposing batsmen as he completed 24 of 32 starts and paced the National League in ERA, victories and WHIP (1.058). Hoyt Wilhelm aka “Old Sarge” provided 7 wins and 15 saves in 68 relief appearances. Returning from two years of military service, Johnny Antonelli delivered a record of 12-12 with a 3.18 ERA.

Warren Spahn SP 8.46 29.45
Johnny Antonelli SP 1.4 11.32
Don Liddle SP 1.43 9.36
Joey Jay SP 0.62 1.73
Hoyt Wilhelm RP 2.23 13.57
Ernie Johnson RP 0.63 6.03
Jerry Lane RP -0.37 0.64
Virgil Jester RP -0.38 0
Vern Bickford SP -0.39 0.72
Dave Cole RP -0.54 0.44


The “Original” 1953 Milwaukee Braves roster

NAME POS WAR WS General Manager Scouting Director
Eddie Mathews 3B 8.87 38.91 John Quinn
Warren Spahn SP 8.46 29.45 Bob Quinn
Johnny Logan SS 3.86 23.8 John Quinn
Al Dark SS 3.41 20.61 John Quinn
Del Crandall C 2.73 16.03 John Quinn
Hoyt Wilhelm RP 2.23 13.57 John Quinn
Earl Torgeson 1B 1.77 13.85 John Quinn
Don Liddle SP 1.43 9.36 John Quinn
Johnny Antonelli SP 1.4 11.32 John Quinn
Ernie Johnson RP 0.63 6.03 Bob Quinn
Joey Jay SP 0.62 1.73 John Quinn
Bill Bruton CF 0.45 13.61 John Quinn
George Crowe 1B 0.2 1.28 John Quinn
Harry Hanebrink 2B 0.15 1.6 John Quinn
Mel Roach 2B -0.03 0 John Quinn
Sibby Sisti 2B -0.04 0.5 Bob Quinn
Jack Lohrke 2B -0.12 0.08 John Quinn
Gene Verble SS -0.16 0.29 John Quinn
Jerry Lane RP -0.37 0.64 John Quinn
Virgil Jester RP -0.38 0 John Quinn
Vern Bickford SP -0.39 0.72 John Quinn
Mike Sandlock C -0.4 1.85 John Quinn
Dave Cole RP -0.54 0.44 John Quinn
Bob Thorpe LF -0.54 0.13 John Quinn
Jack Dittmer 2B -0.95 10.85 John Quinn


Honorable Mention

The “Original” 1902 Beaneaters         OWAR: 44.1     OWS: 314     OPW%: .580

Vic Willis (27-20, 2.20) shouldered a massive workload, completing 45 of 46 starts and leading the National League with 410 innings pitched and 225 strikeouts. Alas, Boston (81-59) finished three games behind Cincinnati. Togie Pittinger (27-16, 2.52) matched Willis’ win total and registered 36 complete games. Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman (.361/11/110) led the circuit with 193 hits and 288 total bases. Chick Stahl, Jimmy Collins, Fred Tenney, Patsy Donovan, Kitty Bransfield, Joe Kelley and Dan McGann exceeded the .300 mark in batting average.

The “Original” 1983 Braves    OWAR: 51.0     OWS: 293    OPW%: .568

Dale Murphy (.302/36/121) received his second straight NL MVP award. “Murph” topped the charts in RBI and SLG (.540) while earning the second of five successive Gold Glove Awards. Brett Butler led the League with 13 triples and Glenn Hubbard (.263/12/70) received his lone All-Star nod. Craig McMurtry (15-9, 3.08) merited a runner-up finish in the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year balloting. Larry McWilliams (15-8, 3.25) whiffed 199 batters and set career-bests in virtually every pitching category as he placed fifth in the Cy Young voting.

On Deck

The “Original” 1948 Indians

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database


James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive

Derek Bain is a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games. He has written a number of articles for Fangraphs and Seamheads, and enjoys spending quality time with his family.

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