By Tom Ruane
This article is a continuation of the Retro-Review articles. As with the other pieces, this is not intended to be a proper history of the decade. Instead, each review contain a summary of the year's pennant races and postseason as well as a collection of things that interested me while I was helping to proof the box scores for that year and generate the html files for our web-site.
In addition, from time to time I will be focusing on a few of the statistical discrepancies from these years. These are cases where the data being displayed on Retrosheet's web-site differs from either the current official statistics or what was considered official at the time. In many cases, it is unclear which version is correct, but in many others the official view is pretty obviously wrong and at some point ought to be corrected.
Many of the footnotes in the text below simply list a source for a quote or fact, but the cases where they contain additional information (and might be worth clicking on even if the sources don't interest you) are marked with a "+" following the superscript.
Of course, like the earlier articles, this one would not have been possible without the work of dozens of Retrosheet volunteers who worked on digitizing the major league box scores for the 1910s.
Similar articles on the 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are also available on our web-site.
Yearly links: 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
A note on the scope of the data presented in these articles:
As of this writing, the data used in these articles does not include any of the Negro Leagues that are now considered by MLB to be part of the "Major Leagues" as of December 2020. These leagues are the Negro National League from 1920 to 1931 and 1933 to 1948, the Eastern Colored League from 1923 to 1928, the 1929 American Negro League, the 1932 East-West League, the 1932 Negro Southern League, and the Negro American League from 1937 to 1948.
This omission is not in any way a reflection upon the major league status of those leagues (or for that matter any additional leagues that may come under the Major League umbrella in future years), only that I did not have access to data associated with these leagues while I was researching and writing these articles. In light of this, any data presented in this article, as well as my use of the term "major leagues," should be viewed in light of this omission.
It was a franchise even Branch Rickey couldn't fix. After extremely successful runs in both St. Louis and Brooklyn, Rickey had arrived in Pittsburgh in November 1950, inheriting a team that had finished in the NL cellar. When he departed five years later, the team was still in last-place. But while his five-year plan had not turned the team into a winner, Rickey did leave a stronger nucleus of talent than he had inherited, and his acquisitions and signings like Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski, Bob Skinner and Roy Face would be instrumental in their surprising second-place finish in 1958, Pittsburgh's first winning season in a decade.
Despite regressing to little more than a .500 team the next year, hopes were high in 1960 when an early nine-game winning streak landed them in first place by the beginning of May. And they would stay at or near the top for the rest of the season. On July 24th, two percentage points separated them from the Milwaukee Braves, who had recovered from a slow start to charge into the lead. But it was all Pittsburgh from the point onward, as they went into St. Louis and swept a three game series while the Braves stumbled, winning only two of nine on the rest of their road trip. By the time the Pirates finished off a four-game sweep of the Giants at home on August 7th, the Pirates were more than five games ahead and their lead was not in serious jeopardy again.
For the Braves, it was another disappointing season. They had two of the league's best position players in Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, solid front-line pitchers like Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl, and yet they failed to win as many as ninety games for the second straight year. Their inability to find an adequate second baseman, left-fielder or a fourth starting pitcher (at least until Joey Jay joined the rotation in late August), as well as a poor season from reliever Don McMahon, was their undoing. Worse, their attendance dropped by more than 200,000 for the third straight year. After setting a league record in 1957, they were outdrawn by three NL teams in 1960. And it would get worse, much worse, over the next two years.
In the Junior Circuit, it was a return to normalcy, as the Yankees took their accustomed place at the top of the league. A sluggish start caused worries that their 1959 performance had not been a fluke, and by the time manager Casey Stengel entered the hospital with a virus attack on May 28th, the team was in fifth place. Stengel didn't return to the helm until June 7th, but when he did, his team went on a 21-4 tear, a streak that landed them in first place by three games following a double-header sweep of the Tigers on July 3rd.
The defending champion White Sox made a charge at that point, winning ten of eleven, including three of four at Yankee Stadium, to take a game and a half lead at the end of July. Then it was Baltimore's turn to make a run at the top, opening August with a three-game sweep of the White Sox, the last one a thriller that included a two-out game-tying triple in the bottom of the ninth by Jackie Brandt and then a game-winning triple in the bottom of the eleventh by Gene Woodling. This set the Orioles off on a five week hot streak that culminated in a similar sweep of New York, featuring shutouts by Milt Pappas and Jack Fisher, and left them with a two game lead over the Yankees on September 4th.
They cooled off a little in the next week and a half, but were still only percentage points behind when they came to New York for crucial four-game series on September 16th. Stengel's team was returning home after losing both games of a brief series with the lowly Athletics, but those games would turn out to be his last two regular-season losses as Yankee skipper. His team swept the Orioles, the first coming on a strong start by Whitey Ford and the last a two-hitter by Ralph Terry, his second straight shutout and third within a month. Prior to the series, Ford had been 9-9 and Terry, before his recent resurgence, had posted a disappointing 9-14 record since arriving from the A's in early 1959.
By the time Baltimore left town, New York had a comfortable lead. They finished the season with five wins against the Senators and six against the Red Sox, a season-ending fifteen-game winning streak that gave them a deceptively large final lead of eight games over the Orioles. The team was led by Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron and Kansas City call-up Roger Maris, who hit 16 homers the year before, a total he had matched by June 8th. With 35 home runs by early August, it looked like Maris had a shot at hitting 50 or more, but he cooled off while Mantle hit nine in the last month to edge his teammate and take his fourth (and last) home run crown.
Baltimore allowed the fewest runs in the league with their "Kiddie Korps," a quintet of pitchers in their early twenties, led by Chuck Estrada (the oldest at 22), Milt Pappas and Jack Fisher. But New York's patchwork pitching staff was not bad either. Although Art Ditmar led the team with only fifteen victories, their ERA was actually the lowest in the league, despite unimpressive seasons from past standouts like Whitey Ford and Bob Turley.
For the Orioles, it was the franchise's first winning season since the end of the Second World War, when they were still being called the Browns. And it was the first winning season for a major league team in Baltimore since John McGraw was a playing manager and his crew, led by Mike Donlin, Jimmy Williams and Joe McGinnity finished 68-65 in 1901.
The World Series was a classic affair, with the Pirates winning their four games by a total of seven runs and the Yankees winning the closest of their three by ten. The Yankees scored more than twice as many runs as the Pirates in the series (55-27) and no other team has come close to outscoring their World Series opponent by as much. Ironically, the second largest margin of victory was 23 runs, by the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, and they came within a two-run rally in the bottom of the last inning of losing that series as well, to the Yankees. Up until 1960, there had been a total of five games decided by ten or more runs, the first in 1911 and the last in 1959 and there has never been another series with more than one such rout.
Since the Yankees won three blow-outs, their team was full of apparent heroes. Mickey Mantle hit three home runs and drove in eleven runs. Bobby Richardson set RBI marks for both a series and a single game. Bill Skowron had twelve hits, including four extra-base blows, while Tony Kubek chipped in ten hits and both Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard batted over .450 in limited duty. And the pitchers were led by Whitey Ford, who pitched shutouts in both of his starts.
But the Pirates won all the close games, and they had their share of heroes as well. Roy Face saved their first three victories and, showing what a different world it was for relief pitchers in 1960, pitched at least two innings in each game and three in an unsuccessful attempt to hold the lead in the finale. Ex-Yankee farmhand Hal Smith hit a dramatic eighth-inning home run in the last game to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead, and eighth-place hitter Bill Mazeroski delivered the most famous home run in the history of Pittsburgh to end the series and give the town their first World Championship since 1925.
In addition to the cheers and adulation of his home town fans, Mazeroski was also rewarded during the off-season when The Sporting News selected him as their Major League Player of the Year. It was a curious choice. Ever since The Sporting News had instituted an award for each league's Player and Pitcher of the Year, this was the first time that their Major League Player of the Year had not won one of those awards as well. This wouldn't happen again until 1976 when Joe Morgan won the award, but George Foster was the National League Player of the Year.
Stengel took some criticism for his handling of the pitching staff during the series, especially his decision to hold off starting Whitey Ford until the third game, preventing him from appearing more than twice, but this only seems like an obvious blunder in retrospect. Ford had not finished the year strongly, with a 4.99 ERA over the last six weeks of the season, and he was not the obvious ace of the staff heading into the series. Despite the criticism, fair or not, Stengel was probably not worried as he headed into the off-season that fall. After all, his team had just won their tenth pennant in his twelve years at the helm, and making unconventional and sometimes even unsuccessful moves was nothing new for him.
What he didn't know was that toward the end of July that year, Casey had already made the mistake that would get him fired that fall: he turned seventy.1 One day after his birthday, the Yankees had thrown their manager a party between games of a double-header. Fans were given either a "Happy Birthday, Casey" pennant or a red, white and blue hat when they entered the park that day, and he was serenaded with "Happy Birthday to You" as he was presented with a series of gifts.2 But it seems that the owners forgot to tell him about the new mandatory retirement age of 65 until five days after the World Series when he was let go by the team. Ralph Houk was announced as his successor. And although he was a youngster compared to Stengel, 66-year-old general manager George M. Weiss was also given the boot in a major shakeup of baseball's most successful franchise.
It's probably never a good sign when your manager quits after one game, but that's what happened to the Phillies when Eddie Sawyer decided he had seen enough and left the team after their opening day loss to the Reds. Gene Mauch took over, completing the team's third straight last-place finish. Things would get even worse in 1961, including 23 straight losses from July 29th to August 20th, but they would turn the corner in 1962, with the first of six straight winning seasons.
Willie Mays struggled in his first season in the Giants' Candlestick Park, but he did set a record away from home when he collected six hits in the two All-Star games that year, including a double, triple and homer. After the season, the fences at The Stick were moved in3, helping Mays average over 45 homers a year from 1961 to 1965.
Hurt by the sudden (and as it turned out, temporary) retirements of Jackie Jensen and Sammy White, the Red Sox had their worst year since 1933, but they had their bright spots as well. Ted Williams, after suffering through the worst year of his career in 1959, enjoyed a fine final season. On June 17th, he became only the fourth player in major league history to hit 500 home runs, and the first since Mel Ott turned the trick in 1945. And on September 28th, in front of a crowd that included John Updike, he homered in his final major league at-bat.
The Red Sox had three more games to play in a season-ending series at Yankee Stadium, but Williams chose not to make the trip. I wonder if he might have joined his team in New York had it not been for the rule changes during the 1950s that eventually resulted in requiring a minimum of 3.1 plate appearances per game to qualify for a batting championship. Prior to 1950, it had been customary to require only 100 games played to qualify, a total that Williams had comfortably exceeded after his game that day. At the time, Pete Runnels was the official leader with a .317 batting average, but Williams, despite having too few plate appearances to qualify, was only a point behind. It might have made for an interesting final series had Williams something to play for those last three games, especially after he had edged out Runnels for the batting championship in the final days of the 1958 season.
Ted Williams did manage to do something that had never been done before when, on September 2nd, he hit a home run off of Don Lee. That shot, together with his homer off of Thornton Lee in 1939, made him the first batter to ever hit for the circuit against a father and his son. It has been accomplished once since, by Andre Dawson, who hit home runs against both Pedro Borbon and Pedro Borbon. There have been several batters who have homered off two brothers, half-brothers and cousins, as well as a handful of batters who have turned the trick against an uncle and his nephew (Jim Davis and Marv Grissom, as well as Jose Mercedes and Jose Valverde were the victims) and a father and son-in-law (Dutch Leonard and Johnny Klippstein, and Juan Marichal and Jose Rijo).
In addition to winning the AL batting title, Pete Runnels also got nine hits in a double-header on August 30th, tying a record last accomplished by George Case in 1940. Runnels' big day helped him all but eliminate Al Smith's fifteen-point lead in the batting race.
On April 24th, both the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees managed to do something unusual. The Yankees scored eight runs in the bottom of the first before a man was retired, tying the American League mark originally set on July 6, 1954 by the Cleveland Indians. (The NL mark is nine runs before an out was recorded, set by the Phillies on August 13, 1948 and the current major league record is ten, by the Red Sox on June 27, 2003.) The Orioles batters countered with grand-slam homers in both of the last two innings, by Albie Pearson and Billy Klaus, neither of whom had started the game, to make the final score a more respectable 15-9. In doing so, they became the first team in major league history to hit two grand-slams in a losing cause. It would be done again by the Orioles on August 6, 1986, in a game that featured three grand-slams (one by the Rangers) in the first four innings.
As I mentioned above, one of the stars for the Yankees in the World Series was Bobby Richardson, who set a record with six RBIs in a game and twelve in a series. Just how unlikely was he to set these marks? Richardson drove in only seven runs after the first All-Star break. It was the lowest total in the majors over that period among players with 200 or more plate appearances. Richie Ashburn had driven in only six runs after the first All-Star break in 1959, but no one would have fewer than seven RBIs after the break again until Vic Davalillo drove in only six in the second-half of 1965.
The record for the fewest RBIs after the All-Star break with at least 200 plate appearances is four, set by Eddie Joost in 1943 and Bill North in 1978, but special mention should be made of Bobby Young who had five RBIs after the 1954 break. His total included two home runs. At one point that season, Young went six and a half weeks (from July 28th to September 12th) without knocking in a teammate.
The top three marks for the most RBIs after the All-Star break were all set in the American League in 1937, when Hank Greenberg (110), Lou Gehrig (108) and Joe DiMaggio (100) became the first and only players with 100 or more. Here are the leaders in a variety of categores (with a minimum 200 plate appearances for the averages):
G - 93 4 players, last time: Dale Mitchell (1947), AB - 404 Dale Mitchell (1947) R - 89 Joe DiMaggio (1937) H - 143 Ichiro Suzuki (2004) 2B - 40 Joe Medwick (1936) 3B - 15 Jeff Heath (1941) HR - 37 Mark McGwire (1999) RBI - 110 Hank Greenberg (1937) BB - 101 Barry Bonds (2004) SO - 103 Ryan Howard (2007) HBP - 25 Ron Hunt (1971) SB - 66 Rickey Henderson (1980 and 1983) CS - 20 Lou Brock (1974) and Omar Moreno (1980) AVG - .453 Ted Williams (1957) OBP - .612 Barry Bonds (2002) SLG - .908 Barry Bonds (2001)
And the fewest or lowest (minimum 200 plate appearances):
R - 7 Tom Pagnozzi (1992) H - 23 Bill Doran (1989) 2B - 0 Fred Stanley (1976) RBI - 4 Eddie Joost (1943) and Bill North (1978) BB - 0 Rob Picciolo (1977) SO - 1 Joe Sewell (1933) AVG - .131 Bill Doran (1989) OBP - .192 Andres Thomas (1989) SLG - .154 Steve Jeltz (1988)
On May 15th, Don Cardwell said hello to his new Cub teammates by pitching a no-hitter in his first appearance following his trade from the Phillies two days earlier. In his last start with his old team, Cardwell had allowed only a single hit before being removed after six innings. Since then, two other pitchers have pitched a no-hitter in their first appearance with a new team: Wilson Alvarez with the White Sox in 1991 and Hideo Nomo with the Red Sox in 2001. Alvarez' gem came in only his second major league start. In his first, two seasons earlier with Texas, he had failed to retire a single batter.
Juan Marichal made what was perhaps an even more impressive debut when he said hello to the major leagues with a one-hit twelve-strikeout performance on July 19th. He didn't allow a hit until Clay Dalrymple singled with two out in the eighth inning, and so narrowly missed joining Bumpus Jones and Red Ames (in a game shortened to five innings because of darkness) on the short list of pitchers who pitched a no-hitter in their first game. As it was, he became the fourth pitcher to start his career with a one-hitter, following Addie Joss (1902), Ed Albrecht (1949, in a shortened affair) and Mike Fornieles (1952). It has been done twice since, by Billy Rohr in 1967 and Jimmy Jones in 1986.
Gerry Staley won both games of a double-header for the third time on August 7th. He had previously done it in 1948 (only the second and third wins of his career) and 1950. The only other pitcher since 1918 to do this even twice was Phil Regan, who did it in 1968 for two different teams. The first was on April 21st, in his last two appearances before being traded from the Dodgers to the Cubs, and the second was on July 7th. Roy Face is the only pitcher since 1918 to lose both ends of a twin-bill in relief more than once (in 1963 and 1967), although Wilbur Wood deserves some recognition for losing both ends of a double-header both as a reliever (in 1970) and as a starter (in 1973). He also won two games in relief in 1969.
The greatest pitching performance of the year was turned in by 39-year-old Warren Spahn, who pitched the first no-hitter of his great career on September 16th. His fifteen strikeouts in the game set both a record for the most in a no-hitter (since tied by Don Wilson before being broken twice by Nolan Ryan) as well as the franchise record for the most strikeouts in a regulation game (in 1952, Spahn had struck out eighteen in an extra-inning contest). This last record has been tied on two occasions by John Smoltz. As a sign of things to come, Spahn's masterpiece was witnessed by only 6,117 fans, the second smallest crown since the Braves moved to Milwaukee.
On August 18th, Jim Piersall was ejected for the seventh time, the most by a player since 1914, when Johnny Evers (nine) and Heinie Zimmerman (eight) set the major league mark. At least it was a relatively straight-forward ejection (tossed for disputing a called third-strike). Piersall's sixth ejection, on July 23rd, was not so ordinary. He was thrown out for arguing after being told by home plate umpire Eddie Hurley to stop trying to distract Red Sox batter Ted Williams by jumping around in the outfield. The closest another player has come to being tossed out that often since was in 1996, when Gary Sheffield was ejected five times. Speaking of ejections, Paul Richards led all managers in 1960 with seven. From 1952 to 1961, Richards led or tied for the lead in managerial ejections every year. He left the Orioles dugout for the front office of the Houston Colt .45s toward the end of the 1961 season, ending his streak, but he would return for one more year at the helm of a team, with the 1976 White Sox, but would not be ejected once all season.
I suppose no review of 1960 would be complete without mentioning one of the odder trades of Frank Lane's career. On August 3rd, Lane and Tigers' GM Bill DeWitt swapped managers, with Lane's Indians sending Joe Gordon out and receiving Jimmy Dykes in return. Okay, I mentioned it.
While this stunt had little lasting significance, Lane had earlier ensured his legacy in Cleveland by making two other deals with Detroit. On April 17th, he traded Rocky Colavito, the team's most popular player, to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn, a move that outraged fans and eventually inspired a book by Terry Pluto called "The Curse of Rocky Colavito." Still, as bad as that deal was, Lane made an even worse one five days earlier when he sent Norm Cash to the Tigers (Bill DeWitt must have loved taking Frank Lane's calls that year) for Steve Demeter. Cash would hit 373 home runs over the next fifteen years, while Demeter's future output was limited to five hitless at-bats.
Finally, in the post-pennant wrap-up of the Pirates' season, The Sporting News focused on "the dangerous attack they could mount in the late innings," pointing to the 21 games they won in their final turn at bat.4+ Which got me to wondering if that was a historically high value. It wasn't. Well, according to my calculations, they had 22 wins in their final at-bat (and I think we're both defining a win here as cases where they take the lead for good in the last inning), but even 22 wasn't that high. Three teams in 1960 alone, the Cardinals (25), Orioles (24) and Yankees (24), all had more of these wins than the Pirates. The weird thing is that the record (at least since 1918) was set by the 1959 Pirates with 36. Here is the top of the list:
Year Team W TOT PCT 1959 PIT N 36 78 .462 1962 NY A 32 96 .333 1999 ATL N 31 103 .301 1970 PHI N 30 73 .411 1992 HOU N 30 81 .370 1992 STL N 30 83 .361 1974 STL N 30 86 .349 1933 PIT N 30 87 .345 1965 BAL A 30 94 .319
I added two columns, the total number of wins ("TOT") as well as the percentage of wins that came in their last ups. The 1959 Pirates also had the highest percentage of such wins. Here are the teams with the lowest:
Year Team W TOT PCT 1935 BOS N 2 38 .053 1953 STL N 6 83 .072 1974 TEX A 7 83 .084 1939 NY A 10 106 .094 2007 NY A 9 94 .096 1948 CLE A 10 97 .103 1975 DET A 6 57 .105 1998 SEA A 8 76 .105 2003 TOR A 9 86 .105
Since every win after the ninth inning occurs in a team's last at-bat, it's probably not too surprising that those Pirates also won the most extra-inning games over this period. Here are the top teams:
Year Team G W L RS RA 1959 PIT N 21 19 2 31 10 1949 CLE A 19 18 1 28 1 1988 MON N 25 18 7 39 23 1999 ATL N 22 17 5 27 6
That Indians team also set a mark by winning seventeen straight.
It was the summer of the M&M Boys, of a home run chase that spent the bulk of the season at the top of sport pages across the country. But before Maris and Mantle could start their battle to catch the Babe, there was a little matter of the first expansion in the history of the American League. This story actually started picking up steam the previous August when the Continental League, a group of businessmen with hopes of forming a third major league, folded in the wake of promises to include four of their proposed cities in an expansion within two years.5 On October 17th, the National League voted to expand, adding teams in New York and Houston starting in 1962. Beaten to the punch, the AL one-upped the Senior Circuit nine days later by voting to add teams in Minneapolis (actually, the new team was going into Washington, D.C. while the Senators shifted to Minnesota) and Los Angeles in time for the 1961 season, a bold decision that brought the two leagues to the brink of war and cast doubt upon both of these plans.6
Walter O'Malley was opposed to having a neighbor in Los Angeles so quickly and the American League countered with an offer to hold off on a team in California if both leagues would expand to nine teams the next year with interleague play. The proposal was turned down for a few reasons, one of which was that the National League was convinced that attempting to put together even one new team in time for the 1961 season was crazy. Eventually the territorial dispute was settled the old-fashioned way, with a bucket of cash, and the two leagues were free to pursue their original plans. In addition to adding two teams, the American League was also going to expand the schedule from 154 to 162 games.
The American League had awarded a franchise to Washington in November, but the Los Angeles owners weren't selected until after the nine-team proposal had been rejected at the December winter meetings. They had missed the major league draft at the end of November and had barely a week to prepare for the expansion draft.7 Despite that, the front office of the freshly minted Los Angeles Angels, led by general manager Fred Haney, did a great job of identifying and securing talent out of the expansion. Some of it, no doubt, was luck. They did pick up the prize of the draft, minor league infielder Jim Fregosi, but they waited until the 35th pick to do it, showing that his development was somewhat of a surprise to his new team. And at the end of the draft, the Senators wanted a fifth outfielder and offered Haney a list of three or four unfamiliar players to pick from in return for Joe Hicks. "Well, I don't know who to take," he said. "Hell, I'll take a chance on Chance."8+ That would be Dean Chance, who would win the Cy Young award as 1964's outstanding pitcher.
Led by Jim Piersall, who was hitting over .370 more than two months into the year, and Mudcat Grant, who won six straight starts in little more than three weeks, the Indians set the pace into the middle of June. Unfortunately, they faded badly after that, plummeting into fifth place and costing Jimmy Dykes his last managerial job. They were replaced at the top by the Tigers and Yankees. Both teams were led by a pair of home run hitters, Detroit by Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito, while New York featured the more famous pair of Mantle and Maris. But despite a record-setting advantage in home runs, the Yankees might have had only the second-best one-two punch in the league that year (Cash and Colavito had a slight edge in OPS caused by a forty point lead in on-base percentage), and people often forget that Detroit led the league in scoring.
The real difference between the two teams was pitching, particularly because of Ralph Houk's decision to make Whitey Ford the team's clear number one starter. His pitcher responded by winning twenty-five games against only four losses. After never winning twenty under Casey Stengel, the left-hander would average 22 wins a season in his three years with Houk calling the shots. Houk also employed the team's first workhorse relief ace since Joe Page in 1949, and Luis Arroyo also had a great season.
Still, Detroit was only a game and half out of first-place when they came into New York for a three-game series at the beginning of September. Ford was injured in the first game, but Bud Daley and Arroyo held the Tigers scoreless until the Yankees could push across a run in the bottom of the ninth. Maris hit two home runs the next day (his 52nd and 53rd) to give Ralph Terry all the help he needed, while Mantle helped close out the sweep on Sunday with two homers of his own (his 49th and 50th), making them the first teammates with fifty or more home runs each in a season.
It was the beginning of a thirteen-game winning streak that locked up the pennant and allowed them to rest all of their regulars except for Maris, who was trying to avoid any controversy by breaking Ruth's single-season home run record within New York's 154th decision of the season. That came on September 20th, in their pennant-clinching victory over the Orioles, but while Maris was able to hit his 59th home run in the third inning, he could not tie or surpass Ruth over the rest of the game. As it was, he tied the mark six days later and hit his record-breaking shot in the last game of the season, off of Tracy Stallard.
Over in the National League, it looked like the Dodgers would win the league's last pennant in an eight-team league. After their 8-0 win on August 13th, they held a two and a half game lead over the Reds and if any team was going to suffer a sudden collapse, most people would have picked Cincinnati, who had been a sixth-place team only the year before. But Los Angeles got blanked the next day by the Cards and then the Reds came into town and won three straight, allowing the Dodger hitters a total of only two runs and twelve hits. From there, the Dodgers headed up to San Francisco where their offensive woes continued. By the time Juan Marichal and Stu Miller shut them out on August 19th, they had scored only three runs in six straight losses, a streak that would eventually reach ten games. It was the first time a first place team had lost as many as ten straight games after the beginning of August since the 1896 Reds lost eleven straight from August 20th to September 1st, part of a 8-20 slump that landed them in third place. But the baseball world would not have to wait another 65 years to see another late season collapse, because the next one was only a little more than three years away.
They finally got back into the win column when they took the first two games of a critical series in Cincinnati, setting up a double-header on August 27th. Despite their recent poor play, a sweep would have put Los Angeles back in first place. But the opposite happened. A three-run homer by Gene Freese almost eliminated a 5-1 Dodger lead in the seventh, before a costly error in the next frame opened the door for the tying and winning runs. The second game was not as dramatic, as the Reds routed Don Drysdale in the sixth, on their way to an easy 8-3 triumph. But Los Angeles was still not done. They would draw close once more, coming within a game on September 6th, but then the Giants swept them in San Francisco while the Reds were starting a six-game winning streak at home, and this time, there was no coming back.
The Reds were led in the field by Vada Pinson and league MVP Frank Robinson, and on the hill by Jim O'Toole and newcomer Joey Jay, obtained in a one-sided trade with the Braves the previous December. But it was a very balanced league and each of the top five or six teams all had strengths as well as glaring weaknesses and could have easily won the flag. Yes, the Reds had two of the best hitters in the league as well as two top pitchers. But they also got little offense out of their catchers and second baseman. The Braves still had Aaron, Mathews, Spahn and Burdette, but they had no bench to speak of and few reliable other starters; the Giants got huge years from Mays and Cepeda (and the best run differential in the league), but they also had below average hitters at second, short and left-field. And so on. The Reds scored 710 runs that year; five other teams scored between 689 and 735 runs. They allowed 653 runs, the fewest in the league, but five other teams also allowed fewer than 700.
At the start of the 1960 season, no team had gone as long as the Pirates had without winning a pennant. Once Pittsburgh went to the World Series that fall, the Cincinnati Reds became the team that had gone the longest since leading the National League. When they took the crown in 1961, it meant that all eight teams had won at least one pennant within seventeen years, the shortest time period with all eight teams capturing a flag since they all won at least one crown between 1914 and 1926. The NL team whose fans had been waiting the longest to see a pennant winner at the start of 1962 was the Chicago Cubs. And their fans are still waiting.
The 1961 World Series was kind of a letdown. The Yankees came in as heavy favorites and proceeded to dispatch the Reds without a great deal of trouble, even without much of a contribution from Mantle, who was injured most of the series. Maris only had two hits against Cincinnati, but one of them was a decisive home run in the ninth inning of the third game. Whitey Ford again pitched shutout ball in both of his starts, although he was forced to leave the second in the bottom of the sixth with an ankle injury. Other stars of the series included Johnny Blanchard, Bill Skowron and Hector Lopez, a weak-hitting reserve outfielder during the season who replaced Mantle in the lineup and drove in five runs with a homer and a triple in the last game. The Reds were the first team since the 1944 Browns to win a pennant with absolutely no World Series experience, unless you count manager Fred Hutchinson's one inning pitched with the 1940 Tigers. The only team since then that could make that claim is the 2002 Anaheim Angels.
With two teams worth of players on the field who would not have been in the majors were it not for expansion, it was reasonable to expect to see some extreme (or at least interesting) performances this year, and we did. In addition to the Maris and Mantle show, Jim Gentile hit five grand-slams (all in support of Orioles pitcher Chuck Estrada9+), including ones in consecutive innings, both Willie Kirkland and Johnny Blanchard hit home runs in four straight at-bats (over two and three games) within a few weeks of each other, Willie Mays had both three and four-homer games, Bill Monbouquette and Art Mahaffey each struck out seventeen batters during the first month of the season, in the process setting the Red Sox and Phillies single-game records (since broken), and much more.
Mays' four home runs were part of a record-tying eight hit by the Giants in that game. The Braves, victimized that day, made news of their own on June 8th when they became the first team in major league history to hit four consecutive homers. Despite their seventh-inning fireworks, they lost that game to the Reds. Not to be outdone, the Giants tied the ML mark by hitting five (non-consecutive) circuit clouts in an inning on August 23rd in a 14-0 rout of the Reds. It had actually been a 2-0 pitchers duel until all those ninth-inning blasts led to twelve runs. And that wasn't the most lopsided shutout of the year. On August 3rd, the Pirates beat the Cards 19-0, the most runs scored during a shutout in the league since the Cubs blanked the Giants by the same score in 1906.
Bill White tied Ty Cobb's 1912 record when he collected fourteen hits in consecutive double-headers on July 17th and 18th. Lee Thomas became the ninth (and last player) with nine hits in a double-header on September 5th. He also tied the American League mark with nineteen total bases in a regulation twin-bill (since broken by Al Oliver in 1980). Despite his slugging, the Angels were swept that day, losing the last game 13-12 on a two-out two-run homer by Bobby Del Greco in the bottom of the ninth.
Cardinal first-baseman Joe Cunningham had the most extreme home park advantage of the decade in 1961. Here are his splits:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 56 151 42 58 8 1 5 20 28 14 6 2 0 1 0 .384 .497 .550 Away 57 171 18 34 3 1 2 20 25 18 5 1 1 0 0 .199 .317 .263
Lots of hitters enjoyed working at Busch Stadium but none more than Cunningham. Two years earlier he had hit .404 at home and for his career, he had a .339/.459/.504 slash/line (batting average, on-base and slugging percentage) in Busch Stadium. So he couldn't have been too happy when the Cardinals traded him out of St. Louis (and out of the league) during the off-season.
Most current baseball researchers think that lineup construction is an overrated subject, that it really doesn't matter all that much how the batters are ordered. Ralph Houk must have had an intuitive grasp of this, because he routinely hit his two worst hitters at the top of his lineup. In 1961, that would be Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek, two natural-born eighth-place hitters placed at the top of one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. Maybe he was looking for something other than hitters who could get on (they had the two lowest on-base percentages among their regulars). Maybe he was trying to lull opposing pitchers into a false sense of confidence before bringing out his big guns. I talked about this in greater detail in another article, but it turns out that it was not uncommon for even good-hitting teams to put their worst hitters in the first two slots of the order.
Warren Spahn had a memorable year. In April, he threw his second no-hitter, his second in a seven-start span. Apart from Johnny Vander Meer, it was the shortest gap between no-hitters since at least 1918. Dean Chance threw two within a five-start span in 1967, but one of them, a five-inning perfect game, is no longer considered an official no-hitter. The next shortest gap, counting only regulation games, is thirteen, by Allie Reynolds in 1951 and Nolan Ryan from 1974 to 1975. In his next start, Spahn very nearly pitched another gem. The only hit he gave up before two were out in the ninth was a routine fly ball to left that was misplayed by Mel Roach into a run-scoring double.10 Despite those two games, Spahn was only 8-11 at the All-Star break, in danger of winning less than twenty games for the first time since 1955. He caught fire after that, at one point winning ten consecutive complete games, and finished with 21 wins. His victory on August 11th was the 300th of his career, making him the first pitcher to accomplish this since Lefty Grove in 1941.
22-year-old rookie right-hander Ken Hunt was one of the surprises fueling Cincinnati's rise to the first division in the first few months of the season. After his complete game victory on June 21st, he had eight wins and a 2.73 ERA, both good enough for second-best in the league. But that was the high-water mark of his career. He won only one more game, and even that was due more to the Red's eleven runs that his pitching line (which featured five walks, three wild pitches and a hit batter). By early August, he had pitched his way out of the starting rotation and made his last appearance in the World Series, pitching the final inning of the year for the team. Here is his line both up to and after his June 21st win:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Up To 14 13 3 0 89 67 30 27 44 52 8 3 2.73 After 15 9 1 0 47.1 63 40 33 22 23 1 7 6.27
Despite his fall-off in the second half, Hunt had still shown enough to be selected as The Sporting News NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
It is unusual for a pitcher to throw that many innings in their only season in the major leagues. It was the most since Dutch McCall threw 151 1/3 innings for the 1948 Cubs, and only one pitcher since has topped Hunt's total in their single season: Randy Tate, who pitched for the 1975 Mets. The last pitch to qualify for the ERA title (using the one inning per game criteria) in their only big league season was Tommy de la Cruz, who was a 32-year-old war replacement for the 1944 Reds.
The Senators and Red Sox played a wild double-header on June 18th. Winning 7-5 in the top of the ninth, Willie Tasby's grand-slam capped a five run rally, giving Washington a seemingly safe 12-5 lead. But of course it wasn't safe (or I wouldn't be writing about it now). Carl Mathias, making his first start for the Senators and in an excellent position to win his first major league game, ran into trouble with two men out. After two singles and a walk had brought home a run and loaded the bases, Mathias departed (still with a 12-6 lead) and Dave Sisler entered. It didn't take Sisler long (two walks and the second grand-slam of the inning, this one by Jim Pagliaroni) for the lead to entirely disappear. Another walk and it was Marty Kutyna's turn to put out the fire. Two singles later it was out, although not quite the way the Senators manager Mickey Vernon had planned. The second game was another extra-inning walk-off win, courtesy of Pagliaroni's second home run of the day. Carl Mathias never did get that major league victory.
And keeping with the subject of how baseball can break your heart, Al Schroll took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Indians on September 27th before a single, two walks and Tito Francona's bases-clearing triple eliminated the chance for both baseball immortality and his first career shutout. He was able to settle down and complete the win, but he would make just one more appearance in the major leagues, failing to get out of the first inning on October 1st.
The major leagues continued experimenting with two All-Star games in 1961, but people usually only remember the first one. Played at Candlestick Park, the American League batters had managed only a single hit as they came to bat in the top of the ninth trailing by two runs. With one out, the wind started to blow. After a double by Norm Cash and Al Kaline's single had plated a run, reliever Roy Face was replaced by Sandy Koufax, making his first appearance in an All-Star game. It was a short one, consisting of a Roger Maris single, putting runners on first and second. Stu Miller replaced Koufax at that point, just in time for his date with destiny. While pitching to his first batter, Miller was blown off the mound by the gusting winds, resulting in a balk. Three wind-aided errors later, the AL had tied the game. Despite pitching in more than 700 major league games, leading the NL in ERA in 1958, and being named the Fireman of the Year in both leagues, this balk became the defining moment of Miller's career. Few remember that he ended up being the winning pitcher in the game (when the NL rallied for a come-from-behind victory in the tenth inning) or that he set an All-Star record that year with nine strikeouts in the two games.
Oh, twenty days later there was another All-Star game on the other side of the country. No one won.
The Kansas City Athletics probably welcomed expansion because it meant there would be two teams in the league below them in the standings. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. The two new teams were surprisingly competitive, with the Senators still playing .500 ball (30-30) as late as June 15th, and the Angels posting a winning record (45-44) after June 27th to finish 8th (only a half-game behind the Twins). The Athletics, on the other hand, had to win their final game of the season just to manage a tie for last-place with Washington.
The Phillies were the worst team in baseball in 1961. This was true even before they started their 23-game losing streak at the end of July and it was even more true after it. Still, that didn't mean that their manager, Gene Mauch, was not a bright guy. When Giants manager Alvin Dark would not name his starting pitcher before the first game of their June 29th double-header, Mauch listed pitchers as the center-fielder, right-fielder and catcher in his starting lineup. Once Dark announced lefty Billy O'Dell as his pitcher, Mauch substituted right-handed hitters for the three fake players. Not to be outdone, Dark removed O'Dell after facing one batter and sent right-handed throwing Sam Jones in his place. Well, two could play that game. So before his first two subs could bat against Jones, he replaced them with left-handed pinch-hitters. Oh, and Mauch also yanked his lefty starter and replaced him with a right-hander after just two batters. It was like going to a baseball game and having a chess match break out. Before the first inning was over, Mauch had already taken six of his pieces off the board. One of the side-effects of all his maneuvering is that Chris Short (a pitcher) is now officially one of the few left-handed catchers in history. Except of course he wasn't.
Speaking of bad teams, the Chicago Cubs decided to spread the blame around in 1961 and so instituted the College of Coaches, a panel of rotating baseball men who would take turns directing the team. While the flurry of mixed messages and ever-changing policies probably didn't confuse the players any more than they already were, it did make for an interesting managerial register at year's end.
Things were looking up for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the day on July 16, 1962. They had a two-game lead over the San Francisco Giants; Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, their two aces, were a combined 30-4; Maury Wills was on a pace to steal 81 bases, and Tommy Davis was leading the league in both RBIs and batting average. But Koufax had to leave his next start after pitching an inning and would not win again until next April. At first, the Dodgers held up surprisingly well without their best pitcher, starting a 16-3 run just three days after his injury. In addition to Drysdale, they were led by the resurgence of John Podres, who had only four wins at the first All-Star break but eleven after, as well as the continued hot hitting (and running) of Davis and Wills.
At that point, they held a five and a half game lead in what had turned into a two-team race, and the Dodgers were heading up to Candlestick for a three-game series with a chance to make it a one-team race. It didn't happen. The Giants routed Podres in the first game, winning 11-2 behind Billy O'Dell's five-hitter, Willie Mays' 35th homer, and three hits by Felipe Alou (who would have eight in the series). A three-run pinch-hit home run off the bat of Willie McCovey broke Drysdale's eleven-game winning streak the next day, before Juan Marichal's four-hitter completed the sweep on Sunday.
The Dodgers recovered shortly after that, and with Wills running wild on the bases (at one point in early September he stole thirteen in five games), headed into the final series of the year with a two-game advantage over their rivals. But they lost the opener 3-2 in ten innings and were shut out on consecutive days by Ernie Broglio and Curt Simmons while the Giants were taking two of three in Houston. The National League had its fourth playoff in their history, all of them involving the Dodgers.
The first game was a dud, as Koufax was relieved with no one out in the second inning, Mays had a perfect day at the plate, including two home runs, and Billy Pierce handed L.A. their third straight shutout, a three-hitter. The next day, down by five runs and facing elimination in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Dodgers ended the second longest scoreless streak of the major league season (at 35 1/3 innings) with a vengence, erupting for seven runs, highlighted by Lee Walls bases-clearing pinch-double. After letting the lead slip away two innings later, they won the game in the bottom of the ninth when Maury Wills scored on a sacrifice fly to make a deciding game necessary, the 165th game of the season.
Los Angeles was on the verge of redemption the next day, having come back from an early two-run deficit behind Wills' four hits and three stolen bases (giving him 104 for the season) and Tommy Davis' 152nd and 153rd RBIs, to take a 4-2 lead heading into the ninth. Ed Roebuck was on the mound, the possessor of a 28-7 record since the beginning of 1957. But it all unraveled in that inning, with the tying and go-ahead runs scoring without the benefit of a hit. It wasn't the shot heard round the world, but it was enough to send the Dodgers home and the Giants to the World Series.
Where they would meet the Yankees, who had triumphed in a pennant race that featured one surprise team after another, even if the eventual outcome was all too familiar. The first surprise was the early showing of the Cleveland Indians, who were in the middle of a five-year run of mediocrity, finishing slightly under .500 each year. Actually, their performance in the first few months shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone, since they had also sprinted out to the front in each of the previous two years, only to fade badly as the summer wore on. This time around, they were in first place as late as July 7th, highlighted the previous month by a four-game sweep of the Yankees at Cleveland Stadium. The first two games drew an average of nearly 50,000 fans and the closing double-header was attended by over 70,000.
Unfortunately for their fans, the team once again slumped in July, including nine straight losses at one point. Less than a month after being in first place, the Indians found themselves in sixth with more losses than wins. Here is their month-by-month record from 1960 to 1962:
Month G W L PCT RS RA APR 40 21 19 .525 166 154 MAY 82 52 30 .634 416 344 JUN 92 48 44 .522 417 400 JUL 84 34 50 .405 384 442 AUG 96 38 58 .396 344 468 SEP 80 38 42 .475 338 369 OCT 3 3 0 1.000 21 13
But even before their season went sour, an even bigger surprise team was ready to take their place: the second-year Los Angeles Angels. On July 4th, they stood by themselves atop the league, although only a half-game ahead of both the Indians and Yankees. Leon Wagner, picked up from Toronto of the International League the year before, was the first-half MVP, leading the league in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage as late as July 16th. And as early-season sensation Bo Belinsky, who won the first five starts of his major league career, including the season's first no-hitter, lost his effectiveness down the stretch, other young stars, like Dean Chance and Jim Fregosi, stepped up to keep the team in contention.
But the Yankees, who had lost Mickey Mantle for a month in May, got healthy in July and, despite nearly losing their lead when they dropped two games to the Angels in mid-July, recovered to win the thrilling series finale, a game New York seemingly had wrapped up before the L.A. used three home runs to tie the game in the late innings. The second-year team had first place firmly in their sights, with runners on first and second with only one out in the bottom of the ninth, but they let the opportunity slip away and lost in extra-innings.
That started the Yankees on their best stretch of the season, a 19-4 run that turned their lead from three percentage points to six and a half games. But the race wasn't over, and when the Yankees went into Baltimore and lost a five-game series in late August, it opened the door for one last surprise team: the Minnesota Twins. This franchise, which hadn't been in contention during the last month of a season since 1945, were able to pull within two games of the top on August 30th, helped by Jack Kralick's near perfect game (he walked a batter with one out in the ninth) four days earlier, and were still within three as late as September 17th.
They were led that last month by Harmon Killebrew, who hit thirteen homers and drove in more than a run a game and had an OPS of 1.125 despite a batting average of only .247. It was fifth time since 1918 that more than half of a player's hits had been home runs in a month (minimum eight homers). Here are the ones between 1918 and 1969:
Player Team Year Month G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG Hank Greenberg DET A 1946 Sept 27 94 27 30 4 0 16 39 .319 .443 .872 Ralph Kiner PIT N 1949 Sept 27 92 28 30 4 1 16 32 .326 .483 .913 Dick Stuart PIT N 1960 June 19 67 11 17 0 0 9 23 .254 .297 .657 Norm Cash DET A 1962 July 25 86 15 19 0 1 10 16 .221 .330 .593 Harmon Killebrew MIN A 1962 Sept 24 85 18 21 1 0 13 28 .247 .407 .718 Harmon Killebrew MIN A 1967 June 29 88 22 21 1 0 12 25 .239 .446 .659 Mike Epstein WAS A 1969 May 24 64 13 19 1 0 10 17 .297 .494 .781 Jim Wynn HOU N 1969 May 26 86 27 19 1 0 11 20 .221 .389 .616
The series that year was a closely fought affair remembered today primarily for the rain, which caused four postponements, and its exciting finish. But leading up to that last game, fans also saw Whitey Ford's scoreless streak snapped at 32 innings in his record tenth (and last) World Series win. Jack Sanford and Billy Pierce pitched three-hitters, and Chuck Hiller hit a grand-slam, the first by a National Leaguer in the history of the Fall Classic (AL hitters had already hit seven, six of them by members of the Yankees).
The deciding game was the third pairing of Sanford and Terry, and once again it was a low-scoring, well-pitched contest. Terry, who had been the goat the last time a series went the distance, had allowed no runs and only two base-runners before the Giants came to bat in the bottom of the ninth. Matty Alou led off the inning with a safe bunt, but the next two batters struck out. Down to their last out, Willie Mays hit a double to right and only a fine fielding play by Roger Maris prevented the tying run from scoring. Willie McCovey, who had tripled off Terry in the seventh inning, then hit a rocket toward right field. Unfortunately for the Giants, the rocket was hit right at Bobby Richardson, who made the catch to end the series. A few feet higher and Charlie Brown would have had one less thing in his life to lament.
As they had announced in October 1960, the National League expanded to ten teams (and a 162-game schedule) in 1962, adding ones in Houston and New York. The good news for these teams is that they had one year more than their AL counterparts to build an organization and prepare for their first season. The bad news is that the other teams had a year to manipulate their rosters in order to minimize the losses in the expansion draft. While Houston managed to field a somewhat competitive team, even finishing ahead of one established team, although one led by a tag-team of coaches rather than an actual manager, the Mets were historically awful.
Led by Casey Stengel and George M. Weiss, last seen combining their talents to bring the Yankees an unprecented string of American League pennants, the Mets lost nine games before their inaugural win. Even their highlights, like the double-header sweep over the Braves that featured two wins by Craig Anderson on May 12th, only seemed to exaggerate the low points (Anderson never won again, ending his career with nineteen straight losses). Or when Frank Thomas had a pair of homers in three consecutive games and the Mets lost all three. They won as many as three in a row only twice all season, and both times collapsed immediately after, losing seventeen in a row following the first and going 1-16 after the second.
They were so bad, they inspired a best-selling book, "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game," by Jimmy Breslin, and a host of stories about their ineptitude. Some of them, like one that gave the band Yo La Tengo their name, probably never happened, but others, like Marv Throneberry being called out on appeal after missing both first and second base on a triple, did (that one came on June 17th). As I alluded to before, because of the advance notice given to the established teams, there was probably less talent available in this expansion draft, but the new teams also overlooked some good young players, including Ray Culp, The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 1963, and Dick Allen, a future Rookie of the Year (1964) and MVP (1972).11
Like the expansion the previous year, both the additional players who wouldn't have otherwise been in the majors, as well as the longer schedule, caused a long-standing record to fall. And once again, there was a controversy over how it should be recognized, but this time with an even more confusing outcome. As I mentioned above, Maury Wills stole 104 bases in 1962, breaking Ty Cobb's major league mark of 96 set in 1915. As he approached the record, Ford Frick announced that both records would be listed along side each other unless Wills could surpass Cobb's total within the first 154 decisions of the season.12 Well, that game was on September 21st, and much like Maris the previous year, Wills ended up short by one. So Cobb's record was intact. Except in 1915, Cobb's team played two ties, giving him 156 games to set the record. If you don't count those two ties, Cobb ends up with 94 stolen bases, or one less than Wills had at the same point. If you decide to give Wills an extra two games to catch Cobb, his two stolen bases on September 23rd did the trick and then some. It was a best-case scenario for people who like these kinds of things as convulted as possible, By the way, Wills stole his record-breaking (or not) 97th base in the seventh inning of that game with his team trailing 11-2, and finished the season with 44 stolen bases in his last 44 games.
Whether or not you think Wills was a more prolific base-stealer than Cobb, he was certainly a more successful one. In Cobb's big season, he was caught stealing 38 times; Wills was caught only 13 times. As a matter of fact, those 13 caught stealing that year tied for the league lead with Bill Virdon, but that was just about all they had in common on the base paths. Virdon stole 99 fewer bases than Wills, making their respective success rates 88.9 and 27.8.
Roger Maris was not intentionally walked once during 1961, but on May 22nd he was purposely passed a record four times in New York's twelve-inning 2-1 win over the Angels. Mickey Mantle, who had hit behind him most of the previous year, was not in the lineup. Mantle had been back for a few weeks when he hit seven homers in only twelve at-bats from July 2nd to 6th. The next day, 41-year-old Stan Musial, enjoying a big comeback season, hit the first of four consecutive home runs. When he completed the string of longballs the next day, he became the oldest player to hit three in a game, beating Babe Ruth's previous mark by more than a year. Musial finished 1962 with a .330 batting average, his first .300 season in four years.
The marathon of the year took place on June 24th, when the Yankees jumped to an early 7-3 lead, didn't score a run for 19 innings, and then won the game on the only home run of Jack Reed's career, a two-run shot in the top of the 22nd inning. The Tigers' Rocky Colavito hit a triple and six singles in the game. Reed's shot was the latest homer ever hit in a game, eclipsing Larry Doyle's 21st-inning home run that provided the final margin of victory in the Giants' 3-1 win over the Pirates on July 17, 1914. Reed would hold the record until Harold Baines had a walkoff blow in the 25th inning on May 9, 1984.
There were some other wild games of note. On July 13th, the Athletics blew a 9-2 lead and lost to the Red Sox 11-10. The winning run scored when Lou Clinton, who already hit for the cycle, hit an extra-credit single in the fifteen inning. Both teams had at least twenty hits, the first time this had happened since an even wilder game in 1956. Five days later, the Twins exploded for eleven runs in the first inning of their game with the Indians. In that inning, both Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew hit grand-slams, the first time a team had two in one frame since August 16, 1890, when the Colts' Tom Burns and Malachi Kittridge did it in the fifth inning against the Alleghenys. That contest was part of a 23-game losing streak for Pittsburgh, who finished that season with a 23-113 record. Between July 4th and September 18th, the Alleghenys played only eight (of 66) games at home and finished the year in a 7-72 slump.
Back to 1962, another game I wanted to mention took place on August 19th. Mickey Mantle set a career high that day with seven RBIs against Kansas City and he didn't even lead his own team. Elston Howard, also with a career high, drove in eight. Their combined total of fifteen RBIs tied the American League mark set by Walt Dropo and Bobby Doerr on June 8, 1950. The major league mark was set by the Giants in 1944.
Starting in the second game of their May 13th double-header and going to May 21st, the Indians tied the major league record (originally set by the 1954 Giants) by hitting 26 home runs in eight games. They were led by early season sensation Chuck Essegian, who hit six in that span and by May 25th had already tied his career high in round-trippers. Like the rest of his teammates, Essegian could not keep up the pace. Here are his stats up to the game of May 26th and afterwards:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG To 5-26 28 99 25 38 3 0 12 22 12 11 3 0 0 0 0 .384 .465 .778 After 78 237 34 54 9 0 9 28 30 56 4 3 3 0 0 .228 .321 .380
Two last hitting notes before we turn to the pitchers. On June 22nd, Colt .45s pitcher Jim Golden became the last pitcher to hit two triples in a game, and the first since Don Larsen in 1954. They were the only two triples he hit in his career. And Bob Buhl achieved perfection of a sort when he went an entire season without getting a hit. His 70 at-bats, split between the Braves and the Cubs, are the most in a season without a hit. Bill Wight is in second place with his 0-61 performance for the 1950 White Sox.
Strikeouts were in the news during 1962. The stories started on the third day of the season when Dodgers rookie relief pitcher Pete Richert struck out the first six batters of his major league career, including four in one inning. Since the beginning of 1952, no other pitcher has begun his career with more than four consecutive strikeouts, and even four has only been done twice, by Neftali Feliz and Wade Davis, both in 2009.
The first hitter to put the ball in play against Richert was the opposing pitcher, Joey Jay, who had hit .090 the year before and would strike out 36 times in 1962, tied for the third most among NL pitchers that year, behind only Bob Purkey (56) and Sandy Koufax (42). Purkey's total represented the most strikeouts by a major league pitcher since at least 1918, one more than Don Cardwell the year before. It would be tied and then broken twice by Dean Chance in 1965, 1967 and 1968. In all, Chance would strike out more than fifty times in a season five times; no other pitcher has done this more than twice (Koufax and Bob Veale). Wilbur Wood topped Chance's highest total when he fanned 65 times in 1972.
But we digress. Less than two weeks after Richert's debut, Sandy Koufax struck out eighteen batters in a game for the second time. A little over a month later, he would fan sixteen. And a little more than a month after that, he would pitch his first no-hitter, striking out thirteen. The year before, he had struck out 269 batters, the most in the National League since the pitching distance was lengthened in 1893. With 208 strikeouts by July 12th, he was on a pace to shatter Rube Waddell's modern record of 349 set in 1904. But as mentioned above, he was hurt in his next start and would pitch less than ten more innings the rest of the year. Dodger fans couldn't help but wonder what he could do if he stayed healthy the entire year. They would find out soon enough.
Another Dodger pitcher would also tie a strikeout record when Johnny Podres fanned eight straight Phillies batters on July 2nd, tying the modern mark first set by Max Surkont in 1953. This would be tied twice more, by Jim Maloney in 1963 and Don Wilson in 1968, before being broken by Tom Seaver when he struck out ten straight Padres in 1970. Seaver also eclipsed Mickey Welch's all-time record, set when he struck out the first nine batters in a game on August 28, 1884.
Tom Cheney set a record that still stands when he struck out 21 Baltimore Orioles in his sixteen-inning 2-1 victory on September 12th, Cheney reportedly threw 228 pitches that night,13 but people didn't worry about things like pitch counts in 1962. Despite a poor outing six days later, his arm didn't fall off after throwing all those pitches on that September night. Or at least not right away. He closed out his season with a strong performance and was the hottest pitcher in the league in the early going of 1963, allowing only a single earned run in four complete game wins, including a one- and a three-hitter. But things went downhill from there. He lost his next six starts and struggled through the rest of his career, winning only five more times.
Jack Sanford had a sixteen-game winning streak in 1962. For a three month period, from June 14th to September 14th, he managed to stay out of the loss column while making twenty starts. Here is his record for those three months, along with Turk Farrell's of the Colt .45s:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Sanford 20 20 6 1 141 134 55 51 37 81 16 0 3.26 Farrell 21 17 6 1 140 120 56 50 24 108 5 13 3.21
Which shows the difference between pitching for the best and the worst hitting team in the league. Sanford had nearly three times the runs (6.05) to work with in his starts than Farrell (2.06).
On August 3rd, Bill Fischer walked Bubba Phillips, the first batter of the game. He did not walk another for 84 1/3 innings, when he threw four straight balls to Bubba Morton in his last inning of year. The control specialist then threw a wild pitch. If it weren't for batters named Bubba, his streak would have reached 95 innings. Fischer went 2-10 between those walks.
And finally, the Mets may have only won forty games in 1962, but one pitcher, Bob L. Miller (not to be confused with Bob G. Miller), was awfully glad it wasn't 39 instead. On the next to the last day of the season, he pitched a complete game victory over the almost-as-lowly Cubs, and in doing so, avoided tying Russ Miller in 1928 and Steve Gerkin14+ in 1945 for the most losses (twelve) in a season without a win. Terry Felton broke their mark when he went 0-13 in 1982. Between them, Russ Miller, Steve Gerkin and Terry Felton won only a single major league game (by Miller at the end of 1927).
It was the start of The Years of the Pitchers. In the off-season before the 1963 season, the Rules Committee instructed the umpires to extend the strikeout by a couple of inches at both its bottom and top. They made the changes not to help the pitchers and plunge the game into an offensive drought not seen since the Second World War and the Deadball Era, but to speed the game up. Or as The Sporting News reported at the time: "the committee members felt that, among other things, the expanded strike zone would cut down on the number of walks, a factor which would automatically speed up games without reducing the action."15
So did their changes have the desired effect? Here are the major league's offensive stats, along with the average length of each game, for the three years before and after the institution of the new strike zone:
Year AVG OBP SLG R/G BB/G SO/G TIME 1960 .255 .324 .388 4.31 3.39 5.19 2:38 1961 .258 .328 .399 4.53 3.46 5.23 2:37 1962 .258 .326 .393 4.46 3.37 5.42 2.39 1963 .246 .309 .372 3.95 2.96 5.80 2.30 1964 .250 .313 .378 4.04 2.96 5.91 2:34 1965 .246 .311 .372 3.99 3.09 5.94 2:36
So walks and scoring decreased by about 10% and strikeouts went up by close to that amount, while the length of each game went from about 2:38 in the three years before the change to around 2:34 after. Obviously, there was trade-off involved here between runs and time, but this seems like an awful lot of offense to give up in order to send fans home four minutes earlier.
Between the opening of Dodger Stadium at the beginning of 1962 and the adoption of the new strike zone a year later, things were looking up for Sandy Koufax. When asked about the proposed changes before the season, Koufax said he thought it would help him and added: "I wish they'd done this about eight years ago".16 But it's not clear how much it helped him. While his walk rate and ERA did hit a career low in 1963, his strikeout rate declined as well. There was no doubt, however, about the effect of Dodger Stadium. Here is his home and road record from 1962 to 1966 along with those of two others:
Koufax: G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 86 85 56 23 715.1 446 132 109 142 754 57 15 1.37 Away 95 91 44 10 661.2 513 210 189 174 690 54 19 2.57 Juan Marichal: G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 95 94 55 13 759.2 580 233 196 156 538 56 23 2.32 Away 92 88 52 13 696.0 605 236 208 129 531 55 23 2.69 Bob Gibson: G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 90 82 34 6 656.1 575 260 235 212 579 44 28 3.22 Away 91 88 52 14 698.2 526 240 209 246 573 49 30 2.69
It's uncanny how close Gibson's and Marichal's road record was over these years: same number of starts and complete games, within one of games, shutouts and earned runs, less than three innings apart, same (or nearly the same) ERA. And clearly Koufax was not a creation of his home park. Over that five year period, he had the lowest ERA both at home and abroad. But it should be clear that there wasn't as big a difference between these three as their overall records made it appear.
It had only been three seasons since the Dodgers' last championship, but the team had packed a lot of disppointment into those few years. So their fans could probably have been excused for feeling a sense of impending collapse when their team, which had a comfortable lead most of the summer, saw all but one game of it disappear in the face of a ferocious charge that had the Cardinals taking 19 of 20 games, including a double-header sweep of the Braves on the eve of L.A.'s arrival in St. Louis on September 16th for a three-game series that could decide the pennant.
The opener was a tight pitchers' duel between Johnny Podres and Ernie Broglio until manager Johnny Keane removed his starter for a pinch-hitter (Bob Gibson, who had hit two homers, knocking in eight runs, in his last five starts). With Broglio out of the game, Ron Fairly greeted reliever Bobby Shantz with a double before Willie Davis delivered the go-ahead run with a single. An error by Julian Javier plated an insurance run before Ron Perranoski, enjoying a great season out of the bullpen for the Dodgers, retired the Cards in order in the bottom of the ninth.
In the next game, Koufax pitched his eleventh shutout of the season, the most since Pete Alexander threw sixteen in 1916 and a National League record for left-handed pitchers (portsider Ed Morris had twelve for the American Association's Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1886). Only a run separated the two teams until Frank Howard's two-run eighth-inning blast.
With the season likely riding on the final game of the series, the Cards took a 5-1 lead into the eighth before a three-run rally against a tiring Bob Gibson narrowed the gap and a homer by Dick Nen (in his major league debut) tied it in the ninth. Ron Perranoski pitched shutout ball over the last six innings of the game before Julian Javier's second costly error of the series led to the Dodgers' winning run in the twelfth, all but ending the pennant race. For Nen, who would be sent to the Senators after the season in a trade involving seven players and $100,000, that home run would be his only hit as a Dodger.
In the American League, the Kansas City Athletics had their brief moment in the sun, landing in first place on May 4th behind the hot hitting of Wayne Causey and the pitching of Orlando Pena and Hank Fischer. Fischer had been moved back to the bullpen in spring training and won five games in the early going, including four straight appearances in relief. But it didn't last. After starting the year going 4-0, Pena dropped thirteen of his next fourteen decisions on the way to a league-leading twenty losses. His team dropped below .500 to stay on June 16th.
The day before, the Yankees had moved into first place, where they would stay for the rest of season. They did it while missing both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris for extended periods. On June 5th, Mantle broke a bone in his foot. He would not return to the starting lineup for 95 games, but the Yankees actually played better during his absence, going 64-31 to build a twelve and a half game lead over the Twins.
They did it with some of the old guard, like league MVP Elston Howard and Whitey Ford's 24 wins. But they also did it with an array of young talent like Tom Tresh, Joe Pepitone and Jim Bouton, as well as with an impressive rookie season from Al Downing, who within a month of being called up to the majors had pitched a two-hit and a one-hit shutout. Despite not appearing in a game until June 7th, Downing won thirteen games and would have probably been at least the Rookie Pitcher of the Year had it not been for the White Sox' Gary Peters who went 19-8 with a league leading ERA, and copped the award despite appearing (albeit briefly) in four previous major league seasons.
The Yankees entered the 1963 World Series with more experience in the Fall Classic than any other team in history, which makes sense when you consider that this was their 14th trip in 17 years.17+ Two-time defending champions and owners of the best record in the major leagues, the Yankees were favorites as the series began, but they received rough treatment right from the start. Sandy Koufax struck out the first five batters he faced, and until two were out in the bottom of the fifth, only one Yankee had hit a ball into fair territory, and that was a ground-ball back to the pitcher. By that time, his teammates had staked him to a five-run lead and when he was done, his fifteen strikeouts were a World Series record, toppling the previous mark set by Carl Erksine exactly ten years earlier. Bobby Richardson, who hadn't struck out more than once in a game all season (and only 22 times in 630 at-bats), fanned three times against the left-hander, the only time in his career he struck out more than twice in a game.
It was a similar story the next day, but without all the strikeouts, as the Dodgers again jumped out to a quick lead and Johnny Podres dominated the home team. After a one-out double in the ninth, Ron Perranoski came on to close out the game, the only time one of L.A.'s starters would need relief in the series.
After that game, the two teams travelled to California, but the Yankee bats failed to awaken as Don Drysdale pitched a three-hit shutout and Sandy Koufax brought the curtain down by allowing only a single run in the finale. The Yankees got a glimmer of hope in the last game when Mickey Mantle homered in the top of the seventh to tie the score. It was his first RBI since the final game of the 1960 series, a slump that had seen him hit just four singles and a double in 45 at-bats, and for New York, who never led in any of the contests, it was the first time they had managed to come back and even tie a game. But the deadlock was short-lived, as Joe Pepitone lost a throw from third-baseman Clete Boyer in the shirt sleeves of the L.A. crowd, a costly three-base error that resulted in the winning run when Willie Davis followed with a sacrifice fly to center. It was the first time New York had been swept in a World Series (although in 1922 they had only managed a tie in five games) and was a shock to a franchise that had once lost a total of four games while winning eight World Series from 1927 to 1941.
The rules committee may have given the hurlers the upper hand that year, but there were quite a few offensive highlights nonetheless. Don Leppert got a head start on the rest of the American League's home run hitters when he clouted three in game on April 11th. It gave him a share of the league lead until Elston Howard hit his fourth on April 19th. Were it not for his big day, Leppert would have hit exactly three home runs in each of his four big league seasons.
The Senators and Indians played the longest game of the year, nineteen innings, on June 14th. It was won by the Indians when Willie Kirkland hit his second extra-inning homer. He was the second player in major league history to do this, the first being Vern Stephens in 1943. Both Kirkland and Stephens knocked in all of their teams' runs.
Willie McCovey had the longest hitting streak of the year starting on June 25th. During those 24 games, McCovey hit fifteen home runs, which tied him for the most during a hitting streak of any length. The other players who have done this are Joe DiMaggio (56 games) in 1941, Alex Rodriguez (23 games) from 2006 to 2007 and Dan Uggla (33 games) in 2011.
The Indians became the second team to hit four consecutive home runs on July 31st. Unlike the first time, which featured middle of the order hitters on a team that led its league in round-trippers, this one was a far less likely combination, consisting of Cleveland's eighth-place hitter, a pitcher, their leadoff hitter and a shortstop hitting his first major league homer. All four were hit off relief pitcher Paul Foytack. The Twins put on an even more impressive display in a double-header in Washington on August 29th when they hit eight home runs while outscoring the home Senators 24-3. It must have made the fans in the capitol area proud to see how well their former team was doing now that they were based nearly a thousand miles away. Who knows? Maybe their current last-place team could someday contend in an even more distant locale.
Both Curt Flood and Bill White entered the last day of the season needing two hits to reach 200 for the year. Through eight innings, they had each collected one and so were perhaps the only players on the Cardinals who weren't upset when the Reds tied the game by scoring two in the top of the ninth. White singled in the thirteenth for his milestone hit and Flood did the same in the fourteenth, the latter part of St. Louis' game-winning rally that sent the local fans (and two Cardinal players) home happy. It was White's only 200-hit season. The year before he had collected his 199th hit with two and a half games to go, but was blanked in his ten at-bats.
I went looking for other examples of players who took advantage of extra-innings in the last game of the season to reach milestones and found two others. Leon Wagner knocked in his 100th run of the season in the thirteen inning of his team's last game in 1964. And George Foster hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, his fortieth of the year, to end the Reds' season in 1978. There may be more.
Despite their seventh-place finish, the Cubs were one of baseball's surprise teams in 1963, posting a winning record for the first time in seventeen years. They did it with a host of good young players like Ken Hubbs (who was 21 at the start of the season), Ron Santo (23), Lou Brock (23), Dick Ellsworth (23) and Billy Williams (24). They also did it with a real manager for the first time in three years when Chicago ditched the College of Coaches in favor of Bob Kennedy. Despite being in second-place as late as July 19th, they faded in the last ten weeks and when the team failed to improve over the next year and a half (hurt both by the death of Ken Hubbs and a poor trade with the Cardinals), Kennedy was let go. Three years later, he showed up at the helm of the Oakland Athletics, but was fired by Charlie Finley after leading that team to its first winning record in sixteen years.
The Angels regressed after their surprising third-place finish the year before, and at the end of 1963 the expansion teams had the four worst records in the major leagues. The Colt .45s and the Mets had the worst hitters in baseball, including a 40 1/3 inning scoreless streak by Houston in June that was almost matched (39 2/3) in September by the Mets. When your team brings in a ton new players, it almost always means that you're pretty bad, and the Colt .45s had the most major leagues debuts in a year (22) since the 1943 Athletics, and the most in a month (12 in September) since the 1919 Athletics, both terrible teams. On September 27th, they started an All-Rookie lineup, including future stars Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn and Rusty Staub. Two days later John Paciorek had the best debut (and the shortest career) when he reached base all five times in his only major league appearance.
The pitching highlights of 1963 actual started the year before, when the Cardinals pitchers had the longest scoreless streak since at least 1918. It stretched from the last three games of 1962 to the first four of 1963, and included two two-hit shutouts by Ernie Broglio and two five-hitters by Curt Simmons. The only longer string since was 54 2/3 innings by the Baltimore Orioles pitchers in 1974. Two days after the streak ended, the Twins beat the Angels in a game Tony LaRussa would have loved. The teams combined to use 17 pitchers, and five of the Angel pitchers retired one batter or less and another pitched only 2/3 of an inning. By the way, LaRussa made his major league debut for Kansas City on May 10th, but his first fourteen games (spread over more than three months) consisted of no at-bats and only a single inning played in the field.
On May 11th, Sandy Koufax threw his second no-hitter, although he struck out only four batters, tying his career low in a complete game. Five weeks later, Juan Marichal, who tied Koufax that year with 25 victories, also threw his own no-hitter. And in early July, Marichal hooked up with Warren Spahn in a classic scoreless duel that was not decided until Willie Mays homered in the bottom of the sixteenth. It was one of eighteen home runs Mays hit off of Spahn in his career. Here are the most homers a batter has hit off another pitcher in major league history:18+
# Batter Pitcher First Last 19 Duke Snider Robin Roberts 6-28-1949 8-25-1959 18 Willie Mays Warren Spahn 5-28-1951 4-25-1965(2) 17 Babe Ruth Rube Walberg 7-24-1923 5-24-1932 17 Hank Aaron Don Drysdale 6-29-1958 9- 3-1967 16 Jimmie Foxx Red Ruffing 5-30-1929(2) 8-14-1940 Jimmie Foxx General Crowder 7-12-1929(2) 8-26-1935(1) Jimmie Foxx Tommie Bridges 9-21-1931(2) 5-20-1940 Stan Musial Warren Spahn 6- 3-1947 8- 3-1960 15 Jimmie Foxx Ted Lyons 9-15-1927 9-14-1941(1) Willie Mays Vern Law 8-30-1951 8-12-1965(2) Ernie Banks Robin Roberts 5- 2-1955 8-12-1960
Mays' first homer off Spahn was also the first of his career.
Speaking of Spahn, in 1963 he tied Christy Mathewson with his thirteenth season of twenty or more wins. His last win that year, a four-hit shutout of the Cubs, gave him an even 350 for his career and seemingly put the 42-year-old lefty in range of the league record of 373. Spahn had company in the 300-win circle when Early Wynn picked up the milestone win on July 13th. He had won his 299th game the previous September 8th and would finish his career with an even 300. There wouldn't be another pitcher with as many wins until Gaylord Perry in 1982.
For Roger Craig, it had been a long two years. The Mets selected him off the Dodgers' roster in the expansion draft at the end of 1961 and stuck him in the starting rotation of the worst team in baseball. He lost 24 that first year, leading the majors, and things got even worse in 1963. After his second straight complete game win on April 29th had evened his record at 2-2, Criag lost eighteen games in a row, finally reentering the win column on August 9th. Jim Hickman, who two days earlier became the first Met to hit for the cycle, hit a ninth-inning grand-slam to win the game.
A month later, Craig pitched his next complete game victory as the Mets gave him six early runs. Perhaps he was feeling reckless with such an unaccustomed lead, but he was thrown out attempting to steal in the sixth, before being part of an inning-ending caught stealing double-play in the top of the eighth. For the Mets, who pulled off a successful triple steal in the third, they ended the day with a team record six steals (broken in 2009) to go with three caught-stealing. Craig is the only pitcher since at least 1918 to get caught stealing twice in one game. It was his last win for the team. He made two more starts, dropping both games 1-0, making him the major's losingest pitcher for the second straight year, before being sent to the Cards in November.
The balk disease, which had been lying dormant since it ran rampant through baseball during the first half of 1950, came back with a vengence in the first month of 1963. This time, the outbreak was limited to the National League, where league president Warren Giles, reportedly at the insistence of Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley19 decided to strictly enforce the requirement that the pitcher come to a full-second stop with runners on base.20 The results was a record number of balk calls in the Senior Circuit. By May 8th, umpires had already called 102 balks compared to only nine in the AL. Bob Shaw was targeted five times in one game (in less than five innings pitched), Bob Friend got called for four in another, and Jim Owens committed three in less than two innings.
Of course, there were variations from one umpiring crew to another. Here are the crews and their balk calls in the National league up to May 8th:
33 - Al Barlick, Ed Vargo, Doug Harvey and Lee Weyer 32 - Augie Donatelli, Shag Crawford, Tony Venzon and Mel Steiner 19 - Jocko Conlan, Ken Burkhart, Chris Pelekoudas and Frank Walsh 10 - Frank Secory, Bill Jackowski, Vinnie Smith and Paul Pryor 8 - Tom Gorman, Stan Landes, Ed Sudol and Al Forman
At that point, the call went out to cease and desist, and the league returned to normal. The timing on the crackdown did seem curious, however. Coming on the heels of Maury Wills' record-setting season, the base runners didn't look like they needed much help from the league's president and umpires.
There were two exciting pennant races in 1964, one resulting in a historic collapse and the other ending with a record-tying fifth straight Yankees pennant. For New York, this meant they had racked up pennant-winning streaks of five, four and five in the previous sixteen years. This was their most difficult race since they had a winner-take-all game on the last day of the 1949 season. This time they had to fight off two teams, the White Sox and Orioles, and this time they had Yogi Berra calling the shots.
Yogi had been selected to manage the Yankees after Ralph Houk took over general managerial responsibilities following Roy Hamey's retirement. That decision wasn't looking so good when his team got swept by Chicago in a four-game series from August 17th to the 20th, leaving them in third place, four and a half games behind the White Sox and four behind the Orioles. Riding to the airport after their last defeat, Phil Linz decided it was a good time to unwind by playing his harmonica on the bus. Berra emphatically disagreed, and the result was a shouting match between the manager and his weak-hitting infielder, a $200 fine for the player, and publicity that had to embarrass the team's front office.21
If the incident put a charge into the Yankees, it was one with a slow fuse. They headed into Boston and lost their first two games of the series before rookie Mel Stottlemyre's first major league shutout ended the six-game losing streak. They were playing better but still in third-place after they lost to Dean Chance (who pitched a two-hitter for his tenth shutout of the year) on September 15th. But the next day they began an eleven-game winning streak, culminating in Stottlemyre's second shutout, a win that left the team four games ahead of their two rivals.
It was a pennant race with no late season showdowns. None of the three principals played each other in September, so it involved a lot of scoreboard-watching, and for most of the month that meant Chicago and Baltimore watching the results of the Yankees beating up on the rest of the league. The White Sox won their last nine games, but they needed help and they didn't get it, the Yankees clinching the pennant with their 8-3 victory over the Indians on the next to last day of the season.
In retrospect, nearly everything seems inevitable and there were warning signs even in victory for the Yankees. Almost all of their young players, like Joe Pepitone. Tom Tresh and Al Downing, had disappointing seasons, and some of their younger veterans, players who should have been entering the prime of their careers, like Clete Boyer, Tony Kubek and Ralph Terry, looked old before their time. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford helped carry the team, but it wasn't clear how much longer they could continue to do the heavy lifting for the franchise.
Over in the National League, there wasn't much excitement for most of the campaign. The Phillies had more than a six-game lead after Jim Bunning's win on September 20th, and it appeared as if it might be time for manager Gene Mauch to start concentrating on his pitching rotation for the World Series. But the Reds came to town next, swept the Phillies, and when Bunning failed to stop the bleeding the next day, the lead was down to only three games and it was time to panic. In the next game, Mauch brought back Chris Short on only two days' rest. Actually, the panicking had begun before their losing streak. On September 16th, the Phillies had a six game lead when Mauch sent Bunning, who had pitched ten-innings in his previous start, out on short rest. Over the next two weeks, the two aces made a total of five starts with two days of rest. Here is their record in those games:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Bunning 3 3 0 0 10.2 26 19 18 3 6 0 3 15.19 Short 2 2 0 0 12.2 14 6 5 2 8 0 1 3.55
Short's record really wasn't all the bad, but Bunning was a disaster. He had been asked to start on short rest only once before, on the last day of the 1958 season, when a victory in the final game would have given his team a spot in the first division. That didn't turn out well either, with Bunning getting knocked out in the fourth inning, and he would not start with less than three days rest again in his career.
By the time Bunning lost the last game of their series in St. Louis on September 30th, the team's losing streak had reached ten games and the Phillies had gone from a sure-thing to an incredible long-shot. They could now do no better than tie the Cardinals. And when the Reds won their game on October 1st, the situation became even more dire. Now the best Philadelphia could hope for was a three-way playoff,
For the next two days, that's just what seemed to be developing. The Phillies rallied from three down behind a two-run triple by Dick Allen to beat Cincinnati while the Cards were losing a 1-0 decision to Al Jackson and the last-place Mets. Counting on the worst team in baseball to sweep the first-place team seemed the longest of long-shots, but it came one step closer to happening when the Mets trounced Ray Sadecki and won 15-5 for Tom Parsons' first (and next to last) major-league victory. The fourth-place Giants, who had been hoping for a four-team playoff, were not eliminated until they fell to the Cubs that Saturday.
Heading into the last day of the season, both the Reds and Cards were tied for first with the now-Cinderella Phillies a game behind. It could still happen. Bunning, back to pitching with full rest, hurled a shutout while Rookie of the Year Dick Allen hit a double and two home runs and the Phillies routed the Reds 10-0. The two teams were tied for second, only a half game behind the Cards.
But when the Mets rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth, St. Louis' manager Johnny Keane brought Bob Gibson into the game on only a single day's rest. Unlike Mauch's desperation moves, this one (sort of) paid off. Gibson wasn't great, allowing two runs in four innings, but he was better than who the Mets had to offer, as Galen Cisco, Willard Hunter (making his last major league appearance) and Dennis Ribant allowed nine runs in the last four innings, sending the Mets to their 109th loss of the season. At the beginning of the weekend, a four-way tie had still been possible, but that win sent the Cards to the series and avoided what would have been the third league playoff in only six years.
Both the Yankees and Cardinals had been helped by in-season additions. St. Louis general manager Bing Devine had been fired in August,22 but the team would not have been playing in the post-season had it not been for his June 15th trade with the Cubs. Each team got three players, but the key ones were Ernie Broglio, a former twenty-game winner who headed to Chicago, and Lou Brock, a promising young right-fielder who joined the Cards. Brock shifted over to left-field and proceeded to hit .348 the rest of the way, becoming only the fourth player in history (and the first since Red Schoendienst in 1957) to collect 200 hits in a season while playing for two teams. Broglio would spend a little more than two years in his new home, going 7-19 with a 5.40 ERA.
The two Yankees additions came later in the season, which was a problem in one of the cases. The first to arrive was Mel Stottlemyre, who was called up from the minors to pitch his first game on August 12th, and won nine of his twelve starts down the stretch. The second player, Pedro Ramos, didn't arrive until September 5th, but quickly brought order to the back-end of New York's bullpen, finishing nine wins in less than a month and allowing only three runs and thirteen base-runners in 21 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, that meant he wouldn't be eligible to play in the Fall Classic.
Whitey Ford made his last World Series appearance in the first game, extending his records for the most games pitched and started, innings pitched, hits, runs and earned runs allowed, walks, strikeouts and losses. It was his fourth consecutive World Series loss, but his ten wins were also a record. The Yankees won the next day, beating late-season hero Bob Gibson behind Mel Stottlemyre, 8-3. In that game, New York was able to do something that no else would manage in Gibson's nine World Series starts: they prevented him from pitching a complete game. They didn't actually knock him from the contest; he was removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth, but it was the only time he would not be around at the end of one of his post-season starts.
Gibson was on the verge of a four-hit shutout in game five when an error by Dick Groat gave Tom Tresh the opportunity to hit a two-out game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Tim McCarver responded with a three-run blast of his own in the top of the tenth to put St. Louis up three games to two. Joe Pepitone hit the second grand-slam of the series (Ken Boyer had won game four with one of his own) to knot things at three apiece and send the series to a deciding game.
Both of the seventh-game starters were pitching with only two day's rest. One of them, Mel Stottlewyre, was the first rookie to start the deciding game of a series since Joe Black in 1952. He only made it through four innings and by the time McCarver hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth, St. Louis had a six-run lead. Bob Gibson struggled down the stretch, giving up Mickey Mantle's last World Series home run, a three-run shot in the sixth, as well as two solo homers in the ninth, before finally nailing down the team's first championship since integration.
After the season, deposed Cardinals general manager Bing Devine was named The Sporting News Executive of the Year for the second straight time. The Yankees surprised many when they decided to replace Yogi Berra with Cardinals' manager Johnny Keane. In doing so, they added two names to the list of managers who did not return to their team after leading them into the World Series. The others at the time:
Year Team Manager Reason 1916 BOS A Bill Carrigan Retired 1926 STL N Rogers Hornsby Traded to Giants 1928 STL N Bill McKechnie Demoted to managing Rochester 1947 BRO N Burt Shotton Replaced when Leo Durocher's suspension ended 1953 BRO N Charlie Dressen Replaced when he demanded a three-year contract 1960 NY A Casey Stengel "Retired" because he turned seventy 1963 NY A Ralph Houk Promoted to general manager
Both Bill McKechnie and Burt Shotton returned to their teams midway through the next season, and Carrigan, Houk and Berra would also eventually manage their teams again.
It was another tough year for hitters, but on May 2nd the Twins hit four consecutive home runs in a game for the third time in major league history. Such streaks were almost becoming commonplace, with all three occurring within a three-year span, but no team would accomplish this feat again until 2006. This time, the homers were hit leading off the top of the eleventh inning of their 7-3 win over the Athletics, the first three off of losing pitcher Dan Pfister and the last off rookie Vern Handrahan.
Burt Campaneris tied Charlie Reilly and Bob Nieman's record when he hit two home runs in his first major league game on July 23rd. Mark Quinn would also join the club on September 14, 1999 when he debuted by homering twice in the Royals' 6-5 loss to the Angels. Campaneris' big day was part of a deceptively powerful start to his career. After hitting four homers in his first fifteen games, he would go another 351 at-bats before hitting another.
Curt Flood didn't set a record when he collected four hits in each half of the double-header on August 16th, but he probably deserved some extra credit for difficulty, since all of his hits in the first game came off of Sandy Koufax. Despite failing to retire Flood, Koufax pitched a shutout that day for his league-leading nineteenth win. He was also leading or tied for the lead in complete games, shutouts, strikeouts and ERA. For the second time in three years, however, his season was cut short, this time by an elbow injury23 and he would not pitch again until next year.
One of the hitting highlights this year was turned in by a pitcher when, on September 26th, rookie Mel Stottlemyre became the first pitcher with five hits in a game since Johnny Murphy in 1936. Stottlemyre entered the game with four career hits and a .133 batting average. Here are the players with four or fewer career hits prior to getting five or more in a game from 1918 to 2011:
Date Player Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI 1918- 4-17 Red Massey BOS N 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1933- 5-16 Cecil Travis WAS A 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1992- 9- 7 Alex Arias CHI N 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1986- 4-29 Billy Beane MIN A 16 21 0 3 1 0 0 1 1991- 7-23 John Wehner PIT N 4 10 0 3 2 0 0 0 1998- 8- 7 Shane Spencer NY A 9 17 2 3 1 0 0 2 2001- 6-21 Junior Spivey ARI N 9 13 4 3 0 1 1 2 1964- 9-26 Mel Stottlemyre NY A 11 30 1 4 0 0 0 1 2007- 9-16 Josh Anderson HOU N 8 13 2 4 1 0 0 2
Cecil Travis had his five-hit game in his major league debut, while Billy Beane had the biggest game of his playing career with his second major league team (and while playing in his third season).
The marathon of the year took place on May 31st, when the Giants and the Mets battled for over seven hours in the second game of their double-header before the Giants pushed across two runs in the top of the twenty-third inning to win 8-6. Those runs broke a nineteen-inning scoreless streak by the Giants' hitters that had turned a 6-1 lead into a 6-6 tie. Gaylord Perry pitched ten innings to pick up the win, while Galen Cisco took the hard-luck loss despite allowing only those two runs in his nine innings of work. Mets batters combined to strike out twenty-two times, setting a record for a single game that would last until 1971 when the Angels struck out twenty-six times against the A's. Catcher John Stephenson played in both of those games, and although he was responsible for the record-setting strike out as a pinch-hitter in the last inning for the Mets, he managed to put the ball in play (although unsuccessfully) in his three at-bats for the Angels seven years later.
It was the longest game by time in history, a record that wouldn't be broken until the White Sox and Brewers played a game lasting more than eight hours over a two-day period in 1984. (Like Gaylord Perry, the winner that day, Tom Seaver, would also win more than 300 games in his career.) The Giants and Mets came within eight minutes of taking ten hours to complete both games that day, and a record that still stands.
It's no surprise that baseball fans and commentators don't value all offensive statistics equally, and the fact that we keep track of something doesn't mean we necessarily care about it. A case in point: Carl Yastrzemski grounded into a major league record twelve double-plays that May, breaking Clyde Vollmer's mark (at least since major league baseball has been keeping track of it) of eleven set in August, 1951. And no one knew. There was no excitment as he pulled within one with his bases-loaded ground-ball on May 26th, or both tied and passed the record four days later with his rally-killers in the third and fifth innings. His record would last until September, 1970, when Cleon Jones grounded into thirteen DPs. Now you know.
After failing to hit for the Athletics in 1961, Deron Johnson was sold to the Reds two years later and given a chance to play first-base in 1964. He liked what he saw of National League pitching for the first two-thirds of the season. After hitting a home-run in the first game of the August 4th double-header, Johnson sported a .941 on-base plus slugging percentage. It was all downhill for the rest of the year, however. Here are his stats before and after the between-game festivities on August 4th:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 86 271 43 87 16 2 15 52 24 50 2 0 1 2 1 .321 .380 .561 After 54 206 20 43 8 2 6 27 13 48 0 1 1 2 2 .209 .256 .354
Included in his late-season slump were two games in which he struck out five times, making him the first player to do this twice in a career, much less in little more than a month. Sammy Sosa currently holds the career mark with four five-strikeout games, while Ray Lankford holds the single season record with three in 1998. Johnson would bounce back in 1965, leading the league with 130 RBIs and hitting 32 home runs.
The Cards did something on September 13th that hadn't been done since 1923 when they scored in all nine innings. It would not happen again until 1999. It has never been done in the American League, although several of their teams have scored in every inning of games in which they didn't bat in the bottom of the ninth. The last three times were in 1949, 1998 and 2006 (a game my son and I attended). Johnny Damon batted leadoff in both the 1998 and 2006 games.
No-hitters were in the news during 1964. It started on April 23rd, when Ken Johnson became the first pitcher to lose a nine-inning complete-game no-hitter. The winning run scored courtesy of two errors (one by Johnson) in the top of the ninth. On June 4th, Sandy Koufax pitched his third career no-hitter, tying the record set by Larry Corcoran, Cy Young and Bob Feller, as the Dodgers beat Chris Short and the Phillies 3-0. The only base-runner Koufax allowed (a fourth inning walk to Dick Allen) was erased on a caught stealing as the Dodger pitcher faced the minimum twenty-seven batters.
Two and a half weeks later, Jim Bunning also faced the minimum number of batters when he pitched the first regular season perfect game since Charlie Robertson in 1922, defeating the Mets in the opener of a Father's Day double-header. New York erupted for three hits in the second game, tying the major league record for the fewest hits in a twin-bill. The record would be broken by the Indians in a double-header on April 12, 1992.
Dean Chance set a major league record in 1964 with six 1-0 wins. The last pitcher with five was Carl Hubbell in 1933. Five of those wins by Chance were complete game shutouts, part of a league-leading eleven he threw that year, the most in the American League since Walter Johnson also threw eleven shutouts in 1913. In addition to those, Chance also made two other starts without allowing a run. He pitched the first six innings of a 1-0 win on August 5th, and fourteen scoreless innings, allowing only a single hit through the first twelve, in a game the Yankees eventually won in fifteen. Chance pitched five complete games in which he allowed two hits or fewer, the most in a single season since Pete Alexander had seven in 1915. And Chance did all this despite pitching out of the bullpen for nearly a month.
The all-rookie pitching duel of the year took place on September 12th, when Frank Bertaina, making only his third career start, picked up his first major league victory by pitching a one-hit shutout to defeat Bob Meyer, who also allowed only a single hit. A leadoff double by John Orsino in the bottom of the eighth broke up Meyer's no-hitter, before two sacrifices pushed across the only run of the game. Despite being a rookie, Meyer was well-traveled, pitching for his third team since June. He was looking for his third major league victory that day, but would never get it, losing six more decisions before ending his career with the Brewers in 1970.
Baltimore set a major league record that day by having only nineteen at-bats in a regulation game (although they only batted in eight innings). The previous record had been set by the Tigers on April 27, 1915, when they had only twenty at-bats.
Relief pitching was different in the sixties. In 1963, Dick Radatz struck out ten batters in relief on June 9th. Two days later, he struck out eleven. By the end of the year, he'd broken his own record for the most strikeouts in relief with 162. In 1964, he broke it again, a record that still stands. This was his third major league season, and in each year he had set a new mark.
Here's a chronology of the record holders:
Year SO Player Team 1927 88 Gene Braxton WAS A 1931 92 Bump Hadley WAS A 1947 114 Joe Page NY A 1959 115 Bill Henry CHI N 1962 143 Dick Radatz BOS A 1963 162 Dick Radatz BOS A 1964 183 Dick Radatz BOS A
At the beginning of September, the National League pennant race was shaping up as one of the most crowded in history, with six teams within a half dozen games of the lead. Even the disappointing Cardinals, who were stuck in seventh-place with a .500 record, were only eight games off the pace. Here are the third through seventh-place teams closest to the top on September 1st from 1900 to 1968:
Place GB Year Team Year Team Year Team 3rd 0.5 1920 NY A 1955 NY A 1965 SF N 4th 2 1927 NY N 1948 PIT N 1965 MIL N 5th 2.5 1965 PIT N 6th 5.5 1916 CLE A 1965 PHI N 7th 8 1965 STL N
This was a pennant race that had already produced one bizarre incident, when on August 22nd, batter Juan Marichal, objecting to a close throw back to the pitcher by John Roseboro, attacked the Dodgers' catcher with his bat. Marichal was ejected from the game and would be suspended for nine days.24 In addition, he was prevented from accompanying his team into Los Angeles for a two-game series on September 6th and 7th.25 The general feeling was that he had gotten off with a light punishment and, had the Giants not been in a tight pennant race, that the suspension would have been much longer, perhaps for the rest of the season.26
The Giants ended up winning that game on Willie Mays' three-run homer, one of a NL-record seventeen he would hit that month, handing Sandy Koufax only his second loss since late May. Two starts earlier, Koufax had pitched a ten-inning shutout for his 21st victory, giving him an outside shot at a thirty-win season. But his loss that day was part of a five-start winless streak that put an end to those hopes. It was a slump he would break out of in a spectacular fashion on September 9th when he pitched a perfect game, his fourth no-hitter in as many years, to defeat Bob Hendley and the Cubs 1-0. It was also one of the best games of Hendley's career, and the single hit allowed by both pitchers that day is the major league record for the fewest combined hits in a game.
The Giants also won that day behind Juan Marichal's four-hit shutout. It was part of a fourteen-game winning streak on their part, one that would go a long way toward thinning out the herd in the pennant race. By the time they finally lost on September 17th, they had a three and a half game lead over both the Dodgers and the Reds. But the Dodgers had already started their own hot streak and their win that day, Don Drysdale's twentieth, was part of a season-ending run of fifteen wins in sixteen games, one that saw their pitchers allow only fourteen earned runs for a 0.85 ERA. It was primarily the work of three starting pitchers and one reliever:
Pitcher G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Ron Perranoski 6 0 0 0 3 20.2 11 1 0 9 7 2 0 0.00 Don Drysdale 4 4 3 2 0 32.0 21 2 1 1 24 4 0 0.28 Claude Osteen 5 5 0 0 0 37.1 30 6 5 12 13 2 1 1.21 Sandy Koufax 6 5 4 3 1 39.0 21 6 6 9 47 4 0 1.38
For the most part, Dodgers manager Walter Alston went to a three-man rotation down the stretch, starting pitchers on less than three days of rest on five occasions. But unlike the Phillies of the previous year, Alston's pitchers made their manager look like a genius. All of the Dodgers big three (Koufax, Drysdale and Osteen) started at least forty games that year, the first time this had happened since Amos Rusie, Silver King and Ed Crane started all but one of the 152 New York Giants games in 1892. Alston would do it again in 1969 with Osteen being joined by Don Sutton and Bill Singer, and Chuck Tanner's White Sox would be the last team to join this club in 1972 with Wilbur Wood, Stan Bahnsen and Tom Bradley.
Los Angeles clinched a tie for the pennant despite losing on the last Friday of the season, as the Giants were getting clobbered by the Reds 17-2, a game that featured the final major league appearances by both 44-year-old Warren Spahn and 21-year-old Japanese pitcher Masanori Murakami. The next day, Sandy Koufax wrapped up the title with a four-hit win over Tony Cloninger, who was looking to join Koufax as a twenty-five game winner. With the pennant clinched, the Dodgers used six pitchers in the finale to blank the Braves on three-hits. It was the last game for the Milwaukee version of the Braves, as their next home game would be played in Atlanta.
Over in the American League, the rumblings started with a losing record in spring training. But that was nothing new for the Yankees. Their 13-18 mark that spring was only slightly worse than their 12-15 record the previous year and better than their 12-17 log in Grapefruit League action in 1963.27 Even their season-opening two-game losing streak was not cause for concern. Heck, the year before they had lost three straight out of the chute (albeit all three were extra-inning losses). But when they fell ten games out of first by May 17th, it started to become apparent that things were not going to turn around anytime soon. Injuries to front-line players like Elston Howard, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hurt, but so did the lack of depth that forced them to go outside their organization to plug holes with players like Doc Edwards and Ray Barker. The final straw was perhaps the collapse of 26-year-old right-hander Jim Bouton, whose victory on May 8th had raised his career mark to 49-29, but whose loss four days later started him on a 2-19 run over the next year and a half.
Their fall caused a power vacuum in the American League, and the team that rushed in to fill it was somewhat of a surprise. The Minnesota Twins had finished in seventh place the year before, and were without the services of both Harmon Killebrew and Camilo Pascual for significant portions of the year, but still won with relative ease over the White Sox and Orioles. At the end of July, Killebrew was leading or tied for the league lead in home runs, RBIs and walks. But two days later he dislocated his left elbow and was gone for the next seven weeks. Despite his absence, the team, led by strong finishing performances by both Tony Oliva, who won his second batting title, and league MVP Zoilo Versalles, didn't miss a beat. They were six games ahead when Killebrew was injured and nine when he finally returned.
Here's how Oliva did both before and after the morning of July 4th:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 73 296 45 79 21 1 11 43 19 32 2 2 4 7 3 .267 .312 .456 After 76 280 62 106 19 4 5 55 36 32 2 0 6 12 6 .379 .453 .529
Versalles found his stride a little later. Here are his splits before and after the beginning of August:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Before 101 426 73 99 22 8 11 49 25 91 4 5 5 14 5 .232 .278 .399 After 59 240 53 83 23 4 8 28 16 31 3 1 3 13 0 .346 .394 .575
At the beginning of that month, he had been in a long slump and few would have suspected he was in the middle of an MVP season. Here are the worst records (by OPS) each month for (non-pitcher) MVP winners (ten games minimum):
Player Year Mon AB R H 2B 3B HR BI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS Frankie Frisch 1931 Apr 41 3 7 1 0 0 2 6 0 1 0 .171 .277 .195 .472 Marty Marion 1944 May 95 7 24 5 1 0 12 8 9 0 0 .253 .311 .326 .637 Zoilo Versalles 1965 June 114 17 25 4 0 2 12 8 25 4 0 .219 .276 .307 .583 Zoilo Versalles 1965 July 124 25 22 3 2 3 9 9 30 6 1 .177 .244 .306 .551 Nellie Fox 1959 Aug 120 20 28 7 0 0 15 13 0 2 1 .233 .312 .292 .603 Jackie Jensen 1958 Sept 92 5 16 2 0 2 12 16 10 1 0 .174 .300 .261 .561
And the best each month:
Player Year Mon AB R H 2B 3B HR BI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS Barry Bonds 2004 Apr 53 21 25 5 0 10 22 39 6 2 0 .472 .696 1.132 1.828 Barry Bonds 2001 May 84 28 31 5 0 17 30 31 24 3 1 .369 .547 1.036 1.583 Lou Gehrig 1936 June 106 35 48 11 2 12 31 19 4 1 3 .453 .536 .934 1.470 Barry Bonds 2003 July 65 25 27 5 0 11 21 26 10 0 0 .415 .581 1.000 1.581 Barry Bonds 2003 Aug 42 14 19 3 0 7 12 20 4 0 0 .452 .629 1.024 1.653 Barry Bonds 2001 Sept 63 18 23 4 0 12 20 28 10 2 1 .365 .565 1.000 1.565
It doesn't have anything to do with 1965, but Barry Bonds also has the second, third and fourth best August MVP performances.
The Twins clinched the franchise's first pennant in forty years on September 26th as they completed a three game sweep in - where else? - Washington. They won despite collecting only three hits off Pete Richert, their runs scoring on a passed ball by Don Zimmer, who was attempting a late-career switch from infielder to catcher, and a sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers entered the World Series that year with a relatively weak offense supported by the best pitching staff in baseball. Or was this simply an illusion created by Dodger Stadium? The Twins' pitchers actually had a much lower ERA on the road in 1965 (3.00) than the Dodgers' (3.33). As a matter of fact, the number of runs scored and allowed that year by L.A. on the road (340-303) was just about the same as the Braves (342-302), a team known for their hitting.
Still, the Dodgers had some experience winning in October, while the Twins were only a few years removed from being the Washington Senators. And so there was some surprise when the Twins clobbered Don Drysdale in the first game and then took a two-run lead against Sandy Koufax the next day into the top of the seventh inning. When John Roseboro hit a one-out RBI single, it put the tying run on third with only one out and Koufax due to bat. Walter Alston surprised no one by pinch-hitting for his star pitcher, but American League fans might have been surprised by the hitter who took his place: pitcher Don Drysdale. He had hit .300 that year, with seven homers in 130 at-bats, and the rest of the Dodgers' bench was very weak. Unfortunately, even in his best year, Drysdale still struck out a lot, and he fanned against Jim Kaat to help end the team's last threat of the game.
The Twins had held serve in Minnesota, but the Dodgers weren't too worried as they headed home. The situation must have seemed familiar to Jim Gilliam and Johnny Podres, the only players left on the squad who had seen action ten years earlier when the then-Brooklyn Dodgers had lost the first two games of the series on the road. As in that series, the Dodgers came back to take the next three games, this time behind the pitching of Claude Osteen, Drysdale and Koufax. Once again, Dodger Stadium worked its magic, the three pitchers held the Twins to only fourteen hits. Had it not been for solo home runs by Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew in the middle game, the Twins would have gone scoreless in L.A. It was the Dodgers fifth straight Series win in their new park and here is the Yankees and Twins combined line in those games:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG 5 151 3 23 2 0 3 3 6 40 1 1 0 0 1 .152 .190 .225
Back home in Minneapolis and facing elimination, the Twins kept to the script from ten years earlier, beating the Dodgers 5-1 behind Jim Grant, much like the Yankees had won game six 5-1 behind Whitey Ford in 1955. Walter Alston decided to bring back his ace on short rest to pitch the final game. This would have been great news for the Twins if his ace had been Jim Bunning instead of Sandy Koufax. Not including the deciding game of the 1965 World Series, here's how Koufax pitched in his career on two days' rest:
GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA 8 6 1 67.2 45 15 11 19 75 6 1 1.46
He pitched even better on that day, holding Minnesota to three harmless hits while striking out ten. The game was played on a Thursday, and by the time the younger Twins fans living in the northeast could run home from school that day, the team was already behind by two runs. Those fans looked in vain for signs that Koufax was tiring, but instead he retired twelve consecutive batters in the late innings, a streak not broken until Killebrew singled with one out in the ninth. The tying run was at the plate. And stayed there, as both Earl Battey and Bob Allison struck out. The final score was 2-0, the same as the deciding game of that series ten years earlier.
Probably the top two offensive performances that year were turned in by Carl Yastrzemski and third-year player (and Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year) Joe Morgan. Yastrzemski hit for the cycle on May 14th, with an extra home run thrown in for good measure, in the Red Sox's 12-8 ten-inning loss to the Tigers, who collected twenty hits off of five Boston pitchers. Morgan became the first (and so far only) Astros player with six hits in a game on July 8th. He had two homers, a double and three singles, but his team also lost, 9-8, to the Braves in twelve innings.
Speaking of the Braves, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron became the homering-est teammates on August 20th when Mathews went deep in the Braves 4-3 victory over Don Cardwell and the Pirates. That home run gave them a combined 794, one more than Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had managed from 1923 to 1934 (only part of Ruth's homers from 1923 and 1924 counted since Gehrig spent most of those two years playing for Hartford). 28 By the time Mathews was traded to Houston after the 1966 season, their total had reached 863. Here are the top combos in history:29+
HRS Teammates 863 Hank Aaron (442), Eddie Mathews (421) 793 Babe Ruth (445), Lou Gehrig (348) 781 Willie Mays (410), Willie McCovey (371) 739 Duke Snider (384), Gil Hodges (353) 732 Harmon Killebrew (476), Bob Allison (256) 730 Jim Rice (382), Dwight Evans (348) 706 Andruw Jones (368), Chipper Jones (338) 704 Billy Williams (376), Ron Santo (328)
(I wrote another article with much more on the topic of teammates doing various things, as well as players debuting in the same game.)
A more significant (or at least much more widely reported) milestone was reached on September 13th, when Willie Mays became the fifth major league player to hit 500 home runs. Within a year, he had jumped past the three players not named Ruth into second place on the all-time list. The 500-club would get crowded. Exactly six years after Mays' 500th round-tripper, Frank Robinson would follow suit, swelling the ranks to eleven members.
On May 1st, Yogi Berra restarted his Hall of Fame clock by pinch-hitting in a game for the Mets. He would play three more times before returning to the ranks of the strictly coaching, but his time on the field with his new team would ignite a controversy over which cap should be pictured on his eventual Hall of Fame plaque.
A more confusing catching comeback occurred in July when Hal Smith returned after more than a four-year absence because of a heart ailment to serve as an emergency catcher for the Pirates.30 You could forgive Pirates fans for cheering the reappearance of one of the heroes from the 1960 World Series, at least until they realized that this was a different catcher named Hal Smith. Instead of hitting a big three-run homer in the deciding game of their last world championship, this Hal Smith had previously played with the Cards and the highlight of his career was probably his appearance in a 1959 All-Star game.
I suppose if Pat Corrales had his choice of which aspect of the game he would excel at, it might not have been tipping the opposing catcher's mitt with his bat. In the last two months of 1965, he reached first by doing this six times, breaking the live-ball record of four set by Julian Javier in both 1963 and 1964. His mark would be tied by Bob Stinson in 1978, before being broken by Dale Berra with seven in 1983 and then by Roberto Kelly with eight in 1992. Corrales reached twice via this route on August 15th and September 29th. In his other at-bat in that last game, he reached on an error by the pitcher, giving him a line (0-1) that hardly reflected his success at getting on base. The players to reach first this way twice in one game since are Seattle's Dan Meyer (1977) and Bob Stinson (1979), as well as David Murphy of the Rangers in 2010.
Gus Triandos didn't like to take chances on the basepaths and on August 15th, he played his last major league game without ever getting caught stealing a base. No one had ever gone as many consecutive games (1206) without getting caught, and if you ignore pitcher Jesse Orosco, no one still has. Again not counting pitchers, here are the players with the most games played without a stolen base or caught stealing:
- - - - No SB - - - - - - - - - No CS - - - - - Player G CS Player G SB Russ Nixon 906 7 Gus Triandos 1206 1 Del Rice 752 3 Terry Crowley 865 3 Jose Morales 733 4 Bob Tillman 775 1 Javier Valentin 631 0 Javier Valentin 631 0 Cory Snyder 630 3 Johnny Estrada 612 0
Actually, Triandos should probably be on top of both lists. His one career stolen base came in the last game of the 1958 season, in a situation (ninth inning, team down by three runs) that sure sounds like it should have been scored defensive indifference. And in case you're wondering, Bob Tillman's one career stolen base was legitimate. He stole third base in the second inning of a one-run game (against Johnny Bench no less).
Rudy May had a brush with immortaility in his major league debut when he took a no-hitter and a one-run lead into the top of the eighth inning against the Tigers on April 18th. A double by Jake Wood with one out spoiled the no-hitter before an error by Bobby Knoop took away the shutout and, as it turned out, the victory. May would leave after nine innings with a one-hitter and three more unearned runs in the thirteenth would eventually cost the Angels the game.
Two of the year's pitching highlights occurred on consecutive days. On June 14th, Jim Maloney pitched ten-innings of no-hit ball before giving up a leadoff home run to Johnny Lewis in the eleventh to lose to the Mets 1-0. He struck out eighteen in the game, tying the NL extra-inning mark set by Warren Spahn in 1952. The next day, Denny McLain made strikeout history of his own by fanning fourteen batters in relief, including the first seven he faced, during the Tigers 6-5 victory over the Red Sox. It was the most strikeouts by a reliever since Walter Johnson had fifteen in 11 1/3 innings on July 25, 1913.
Jim Maloney threw ten no-hit innings for the second time on August 19th, but this time Leo Cardenas hit a home run in the top of the tenth to help him to a 1-0 win over the Cubs. Maloney walked a career-high ten men to go with twelve strikeouts, throwing a reported 187 pitches.
In addition to his perfect game and World Series heroics, Sandy Koufax also made big news in 1965 with his assault on the modern (post-1893) single-season strikeout record. Unlike Bob Feller's attempt nineteen years earlier, there should have been little doubt about the record he had to beat, but Feller's second-best mark was still the "accepted" record at the time. As a result, when Mike Shannon became Koufax's 349th strikeout victim with one out in the top of the third inning of Koufax's September 25th game, people pretended that he had broken the record. No matter. Koufax eliminated all doubt by striking out the next batter as well, opposing pitcher Nelson Briles (who was making the first start of his major league career). And unlike the single-season home run and stolen base marks that had toppled in recent years, there was no need to worry about an asterick this time around: that game was Los Angeles' 154th of the season.
Here are the players with the highest strikeout totals at the end of each month both from 1918-1965 and 1966-2011:
- - - 1918 - 1965 - - - - - - 1966 - 2011 - - - Month Year Player SO Year Player SO March 1996 Randy Johnson 14 April 1962 Sandy Koufax 47 1998 Curt Schilling 65 May 1962 Sandy Koufax 110 2000 Randy Johnson 131 June 1962 Sandy Koufax 183 1977 Nolan Ryan 200 July 1946 Bob Feller 239 1977 Nolan Ryan 254 August 1965 Sandy Koufax 303 1999 Randy Johnson 315 September 1965 Sandy Koufax 369 1973 Nolan Ryan 383 October 1965 Sandy Koufax 382
The Phillies and Mets played an eighteen-inning scoreless tie on October 2nd. That day, Chris Short joined Spahn and Maloney by fanning eighteen batters in an extra-inning game. New York hitters struck out a total of twenty-one times in all, the second time in two years that they had topped twenty. At the time, only two other teams had done this even once, the Pirates in 1958 and the Orioles in 1962. Mets starter Rob Gardner, looking for his first major league win, blanked the Phillies for fifteen innings and was rewarded by not getting charged with a loss (which was a moral victory for their pitchers at the time).
The Mets were also shut out in game one that day, tying the Cardinals, who on July 2, 1933, also played twenty-seven innings in a double- header without scoring a run. In the last two days of their season, the Mets played back-to-back double-headers against the Phillies, scoring only two runs in 49 innings and striking out 53 times.
Of course, other teams enjoyed pitching against the Mets as well. Juan Marichal shut them out four times, allowing only a single run in five starts. In an eight-start span from 1964 to 1966, Marichal would blank the Mets six times and have a 0.25 ERA. And on September 10th and 11th, Braves pitchers held New York batters to a single hit in two straight games.
One of the wins during the Giants' fourteen-game September streak was a complete-game victory by Warren Spahn on September 12th. It was the 363rd and last win and 382nd and last complete game of his career. These are both the most for a pitcher since 1930, with Greg Maddux in second place with 355 wins, and Robin Roberts and Gaylord Perry in second and third place with 305 and 303 complete games. Spahn came very close to winning in his next (and final career) start on September 27th, but he was removed with one out in the top of the fifth with two runners on and a 7-2 lead.
More of a curiosity than a highlight was the exhibition put on by Bert Campaneris (and manager Haywood Sullivan) when he played all nine positions on September 8th. The Athletics lost the game to the Angels 5-3 in thirteen innings, but by then Campaneris was no longer around. While catching in the ninth inning, he was injured in a collision at home plate and would miss almost all of the next two weeks.
The weird thing was that the display was meant to highlight his versatility, but except for six innings in center-field, he had played the entire season at either short or left-field. Sure, one of the positions was in the outfield and the other in the infield, but playing two positions doesn't exactly qualify him as a jack of all trades. A little more than three years later, Cesar Tovar of the Twins would also play a position an inning (against Campaneris and the Athletics). But Tovar was much more deserving of such a tribute, having appeared in at least ten games that season at second, third, short and all three outfield positions.
But I think the point wasn't so much that Campaneris was versatile, but that the Athletics were going to do something unusual and that people should come out to the ballpark and witness it. And since over 21,000 fans did just that (and on a Wednesday night, no less), the promotion was a rousing success. That might not seem like a lot, but it was the fourth biggest crowd at home all year for Kansas City, and the other three were all Saturday games. The next biggest home crowd to see them that month (9,289 fans) came out on September 25th to watch 59-year-old Satchel Paige return to the majors after a twelve year absence. Paige allowed one hit over three innings, retiring the last seven men to face him. The Athletics lost the game anyway.
But help was on the way for Charlie Finley's team. In 1965, major league baseball instituted the first amateur draft. After years of struggling with one ineffectual rule after another designed to restrict the size of the bonuses paid to high school and college players, major league baseball finally discovered something that worked: lower the number of teams each player could bargain with to one. With the exception of the rare player who was willing to wait until he was drafted by a rich team, this now put all teams on an equal footing when it came to signing amateur talent. Actually, since it ordered the picks based upon the previous season's record, it favored the poor (or least the lousiest) teams.
On June 8th, the first draft began. The Athletics, picking first, selected Rick Monday. The Mets, up next, picked Les Rohr. In addition to Monday, Kansas City also added Sal Bando and Gene Tenace. They would get Reggie Jackson in 1966 and Vida Blue in 1967, players who would eventually form the basis of the first Athletics dynasty since the early 1930s.
Finally, no players made their major league debut for the Braves in 1965, the first time this had happened since the 1952 Phillies (and the last time before that was the 1926 Cards). The Reds in 1966 would also go an entire year without having a debut and it would be done again by the 1971 Orioles and six times since, the last by the 2004 Reds.
Trades are often risky, but few ever blow up as spectacularly as the one Cincinnati Reds president Bill DeWitt made on December 9, 1965, when he sent Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson. The Orioles had pitching to spare and wanted an outfielder, while the Reds had an excess of talented outfielders but were short on pitching. Earlier, the Reds had expressed a willingness to move Robinson, Vada Pinson or Tommy Harper.31 When it came down to it, DeWitt decided that it was better to give up an older player than a younger one and so Robinson (who had three years on Pinson and five on Harper) was the one to go.32 Pulling the trigger on the deal from the Orioles' side was Harry Dalton, who was in his third day as the team's director of player personnel, although Lee MacPhail, who was resigning as team president, laid much of the groundwork, including obtaining Baldschun and Simpson in prior deals that fall.33
Robinson had turned 30 the previous August and DeWitt thought that he was an "Old 30," a comment that caused Robinson to predict: "I'll play more games for Baltimore this year than any of the outfielders he's got over there."34 He was wrong. Vada Pinson played in 156 games that year, one more than Robinson did for the Orioles. But I think Baltimore was pleased with taking quality over quantity. As it turned out, it was Pinson who was old before his time. He was only 27 at the end of the 1965 season but had already peaked as a player, and despite playing regulary for another ten years, would be little more than average from then on. Here are the nine players in major league history with more than 1300 hits before their 27th birthday:
- - - Before 27 - - - - - 27 and older - - Player G AB H AVG G AB H AVG Ty Cobb 1143 4345 1600 .368 1891 7089 2589 .365 Mel Ott 1288 4542 1440 .317 1442 4913 1436 .292 Al Kaline 1204 4505 1390 .309 1630 5611 1617 .288 Freddie Lindstrom 1088 4242 1347 .318 351 1369 400 .292 Robin Yount 1224 4780 1338 .280 1632 6228 1804 .290 Rogers Hornsby 1022 3846 1337 .348 1237 4327 1593 .368 Vada Pinson 1073 4367 1315 .301 1397 5277 1442 .273 Hank Aaron 1039 4114 1309 .318 2259 8250 2462 .298 Jimmie Foxx 1109 3862 1307 .338 1208 4272 1339 .313
All of these players are in the Hall of Fame except for Pinson (although Lindstrom's selection was generous, to say the least).
Unlike Pinson, Robinson was just getting started. He homered in his first three games for Baltimore and was hitting .463 at the end of April. Following his lead, the Orioles won twelve of their first thirteen games. A slump during much of May dropped them into second place, behind the Indians, who were enjoying yet another deceptively good start. It was all Baltimore for the next five weeks though, as they went 31-8 from May 31st to July 3rd, a streak that helped give them a comfortable eight-game lead over the Tigers at the All-Star break.
In addition to Frank, the team was also led by Brooks Robinson, who at the break was leading the league in hits and RBIs, and Boog Powell, who took over the league's RBI leadership from Brooks for most of the summer. Baltimore had a big lead in September so much of the interest in the final weeks centered on whether or not Frank could take home the triple crown. He was comfortably ahead in home runs, but had a close fight with Tony Oliva for the batting title, and with Powell for the RBI crown. A big game on September 19th, featuring a double, homer and five RBIs, put him in the lead of all three categories and started a four-game stretch that saw him collect nine hits, eight for extra-bases, and drive in thirteen runs. The triple crown was his.
All of which would not have mattered quite so much to Bill DeWitt and the Reds had Milt Pappas won twenty-five games and led the team to a pennant of their own. Instead, he won about half that many and, among pitchers qualifying for the ERA title that year, only teammate Sammy Ellis had a higher ERA. He would bounce back and pitch pretty well in 1967, but by then the deal had already gone into trading lore as a disaster, and besides, Robinson also threatened to win a triple crown in the early going the next year as well, so a pretty good starting pitcher hardly seemed like reasonable compensation for one of the best players in baseball.
At the start of the season, the smart money wasn't on the Dodgers to repeat. For one thing, recent history hadn't been kind to defending NL champions. Since 1959, seven straight teams had failed to defend their crown. And then there was the matter of The Holdout: during spring training Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, who had combined to win 52 regular and World Series games in 1965, demanded a joint contract calling for them to split more than $300,000 a year for the next three years. They eventually signed one-year contracts at the end of March for somewhat less than that, but there was some concern about how the late start would affect them.35
They needn't have worried about Koufax, who after lasting only three innings in his first start of the season, quickly returned to form. His win over the Atlanta Braves on June 26th left him with a 14-2 mark and a 1.56 ERA. He was leading the majors in wins, complete games, strikeouts and ERA. At the same time, however, Drysdale was saddled with a 4-10 record, the third highest ERA among NL qualifiers and trailing only Sammy Ellis in losses.
While the Dodgers were getting mixed results from their aces, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry were helping the Giants sprint out to a quick lead. By the end of May, Marichal had won his first ten decisions, four by shutouts, and sported a 0.80 ERA. Perry fashioned winning streaks of five, seven and eight games and his win on August 20th gave him a 20-2 record, the first pitcher since Whitey Ford in 1961, Preacher Roe in 1951 and Lefty Grove in 1931 to win his twentieth game with as few as two losses.
But the Giants were hurt, as they had been for a few years, by having huge holes in the their lineup, especially in the outfield. This time around, they surrounded Willie Mays with players like Jesus Alou, Len Gabrielson and Ollie Brown, three corner outfielders who all had poor years at the plate. It's never a good sign when your team's shortstop hits better than your right and left-fielders, especially when that shortstop is Tito Fuentes. Despite these weaknesses, the Giants still headed into the All-Star break in first-place, thanks to excellent power production from Jim Ray Hart, Tom Haller, Willie McCovey and Mays.
Their main competition in July was from a rejuvenated Pittsburgh Pirates. Matty Alou had been yet another poor-hitting Giants outfielder the year before, but during the off-season he had been traded to the Pirates and turned his career around by hitting .342 and winning the batting title. It was the first of four straight years he would hit .330 or better for Pittsburgh, but with a poor eye at the plate and almost no power, Alou's batting average overstated his importance to the team's rise in 1966. The real reason they were in the thick of the pennant race had to do with big years from Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Donn Clendenon.
By the end of July, the three teams were separated by a couple of percentage points and the race would remain tight for the rest of the season. The Dodgers got the upper-hand when they took thirteen of fifteen games at the start of September, but all three teams still had a chance heading into the last weekend of the season. The Giants swept the Pirates in the double-header on Saturday, the second game a one-hit shutout by Bobby Bolin, eliminating Pittsburgh from the race and keeping their hopes alive. The Dodgers still needed either a win or a Giants loss to wrap up the pennant, but the Giants completed their sweep of the Pirates with a four-run rally in the twelfth inning while the Dodgers were losing the first game of their double-header in Philadelphia. Another loss would mean a playoff if the Giants could win a make-up game with the Reds on Monday.
The Dodgers had been hoping to save Koufax for the first game of the World Series, but were forced to use him in the final game of the regular season instead. Chris Short had won his twentieth game in the opener and Jim Bunning, who had won nineteen for the third straight year, hoped to join him in the second game. But a two-run homer by Willie Davis capped a three-run rally that gave Koufax an early cushion and heading into the bottom of the ninth, he had a six-run lead and was working on a four-hit shutout. But the Phillies would not go quietly and a lead-off error by Jim Lefebvre opened the door. Three hits later, the score was 6-3, Bill White was on second and there was still no one out. But Koufax regrouped and retired the next three batters, striking out Jackie Brandt to end the game and deliver the Dodgers their third pennant in four years.
They were heavy favorites entering the series. The Orioles had the American League's top offense, but their starting pitching, especially with staff ace Steve Barber unavailable, was less than impressive. They would be counting on 23-year-old Dave McNally, 21-year-old Wally Bunker and 20-year-old Jim Palmer, three pitchers who had combined for just fourteen complete games and a single shutout during the regular season. They were the youngest starters in World Series history, and it wasn't close. Here are youngest and oldest starters of the first three games of each World Series:
- - Youngest - - - - - Oldest - - Year Team Age Year Team Age 1966 BAL A 22.20 1941 BRO N 37.43 1916 BOS A 24.04 2004 BOS A 36.39 1985 KC A 24.79 1928 STL N 36.32 1905 PHI A 24.81 2003 NY A 35.54 1914 BOS N 24.84 1953 NY A 35.48 1992 ATL N 24.84 1995 CLE A 35.34 1969 NY N 24.91 2005 HOU N 34.91 1915 BOS A 25.26 1998 NY A 34.74 1918 BOS A 25.39 1952 NY A 34.48 2008 TB A 25.50 1926 STL N 34.32
The Dodgers got off to a rough start in the first game when Frank and Brooks Robinson hit back-to-back homers in the top of the first inning off Don Drysdale, who had bounced back from his poor start that year to win his last four decisions, including two September shutouts. Los Angeles was primed for a comeback when Dave McNally walked the bases loaded with one out in the third. He was replaced by Moe Drabowsky, who gave out another free pass to force in a run and cut the lead to 4-2.
But that turned out to be the last run the Dodgers would score in the series. Drabowsky would strike out eleven while allowing only two more base runners the rest of the game. Those strikeouts were the most by a World Series reliever, eclipsing Jesse Barnes' mark of ten set in 1921. Koufax was all set to even things up the next day when Willie Davis' horrific day in center-field led to three unearned runs in the fifth and an earned run the next inning when he ran Ron Fairly off of a Frank Robinson fly ball that fell for a triple. With the bases loaded and his team down by four in the top of the sixth, Koufax got Andy Etchebarren to hit into a double-play to end the inning.
It would be the last batter he would face in his career, as Ron Perronoski would come out to pitch the seventh. Jim Palmer's four-hitter that day would be followed in Baltimore by two more shutouts courtesy of Wally Bunker and Dave McNally, extending the Dodgers scoreless streak to a series-ending 33 1/3 innings. The Dodgers pitchers made only two mistakes in games three and four, solo homers by Paul Blair and Frank Robinson, but with their offense providing no margin of error, those were enough to ensure a surprising four-game sweep and the first championship in the history of the Orioles/Browns/Brewers franchise.
In the next meeting between these two teams on July 7, 2002, the Dodgers would come without one out of getting shut out again, this time by Rodrigo Lopez, before a single by Eric Karros ended the scoreless streak at 42 innings.
On of the year's top offensive performances was turned by pitcher Tony Cloninger when he hit two grand-slam home runs and a run scoring double in the Braves 17-3 win over the Giants on July 3rd. It was his second two-homer game in three weeks (the other was a 17-1 win over the Mets) and gave him a total of eighteen RBIs in a five-start stretch. Despite his hitting exploits, Cloninger had a disappointing year in 1966, winning ten fewer games than he had the previous year. In 1967, his number of wins would once again drop by ten, as it went from twenty-four to fourteen to four from 1965 to 1967.
In Cloninger's big game, the Giants called upon Ray Sadecki to mop up with his team down by eight runs. He was left out there to finish the rout, despite giving up nine more runs over the last six innings. A few months earlier, San Francisco had sent Orlando Cepeda to the Cardinals for the left-hander, and his use in that game pretty much told you all you needed to know about how that trade was working out for the Giants.
Art Shamsky didn't enter the game on August 12th until the eighth inning, but by the eleventh he had hit his third homer of the game, including a record-tying two in extra-innings. Despite his slugging, the Reds lost the wild game to the Pirates 14-11. Had Shamsky gotten up in the bottom of the last inning, he would have represented at least the tying run. It was the only time in major league history that a player who didn't start hit more than two homers in a game. Two days later, he hit a home run in his fourth consecutive at-bat. Ralph Garr was the next player to hit two extra-inning homers in a game, on May 17, 1971. For Garr, they were only the third and fourth of his career.
Ernie Banks was a 35-year-old first baseman in 1966 and he was not a fast runner. But on June 11th he hit three triples in a game, becoming just the third player since 1901 to have games in which he hit three doubles, triples and homers. The two previous 20th century players in this club were Joe DiMaggio and Ben Chapman, while Roberto Clemente would join this group by hitting three homers in a game in 1967. I'm not certain if any of these 19th century players ever hit three doubles in a game, but Jake Beckley, Bill Joyce and Frank Shugart all hit three triples and homers in a game during the 1890s. Lou Gehrig would also have been included if his three-triple game on June 30, 1934 had not been rained out.36
The Twins used an AL-record five seventh-inning home runs to beat the Athletics 9-4 on June 9th. Jimmie Hall came very close to making it a major-league record six when he followed his five teammates by hitting a line shot off the right-center field fence. That fence had been raised four feet in 1963, and Hall's drive would have cleared it at the old height.37
Boog Powell had the most productive day of his major league career on July 6th, driving in eleven runs in a double-header. A month earlier, Bob Saverine went to the other extreme when he went 0-12 in the Senators' twin-bill in Baltimore. And on August 7th, Lee Bales had a debut to forget when he struck out all four times he got up in Atlanta's 4-0 win over the Phillies. Bales would never strike out more than twice in a game again, but he would also not hit, finishing his short career with only four singles and a .093 batting average.
On September 16th, Willie Mays stole second base. The Giants wouldn't steal their next base until June 7, 1967, a record string of 62 consecutive games without a steal. Willie McCovey was the speed-demon breaking the streak.
The Astros challenged the 1931 Reds' live-ball era mark when their hitters failed to score for 43 2/3 consecutive innings from September 7th to the 13th, including four straight shutouts in Dodger Stadium. The day their streak ended, the Athletics' pitchers started one of the own. It reached 45 1/3 innings before the Senators scored in the bottom of the ninth to win a 1-0 game on September 18th.
There weren't quite as many pitching highlights as in previous years, with Sonny Siebert throwing the only no-hitter and no one pitching a perfect game for the first time since 1963, but there were still a few worth mentioning. Sam McDowell became the first pitcher since Whitey Ford in 1955 to pitch one-hitters in back-to-back starts. Unlike Ford, McDowell would pitch one-hitters both before and after those games, but he would also never throw a no-hitter.
Denny McLain had a month to remember that May, winning five games, including two one-hitters and a two-hitter. It was part of an excellent first half of a season for the Tigers pitcher, one good enough to carry him to a twenty-win season despite a mediocre final three months. Here are his splits before and after the All-Star break:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Before 19 19 8 2 148.2 94 54 51 59 104 13 4 3.09 After 19 19 6 2 115.2 111 66 64 45 88 7 10 4.98
McLain started for the AL in the All-Star game that year, pitching three perfect innings and leaving with a 1-0 lead over Sandy Koufax. (Which Jim Kaat promptly lost in the top of the fourth.) And on August 29th, he threw a reported 229 pitches while beating the Orioles 6-3.38
Larry Jaster shut out the Dodgers five consecutive times in 1966, the only time that has been done in major league history. Other pitchers have blanked an opposing team five teams in a year, most recently by Pete Alexander (against the Reds in 1916) and Tom Hughes (against Cleveland in 1905), but never in consecutive starts. Jaster did not shut out any other team that year. He would make his first start of 1967 against the Dodgers, extended his scoreless streak against them to 52 1/3 innings before a Jeff Torborg sacrifice scored a run in the top of the seventh. He would never shut them out again, and after his win that day, would have only a 3-5 mark and a 4.30 ERA against Los Angeles.
Tom Phoebus became the first pitcher since Karl Spooner in 1954 to pitch shutouts in his first two major league games that September. He allowed a first-inning run in his next start, leaving the game after the fourth inning and picking up his first major league loss. In 1967, he would win fourteen games and be named the American League Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
On May 1st, Lew Burdette gave up six hits while pitching 3 2/3 innings in relief to save Jim McGlothlin's second major league victory. The Red Sox helped out by hitting into double-plays in each of the last six innings and the nine combined DPs in the game tied the major league record for a regulation game (since broken by the Twins and Red Sox on July 18, 1990. The Red Sox's George Scott grounded into a double-play in the first inning of the next game, making the Red Sox the only team since at least 1952 to hit into double-plays in seven consecutive innings.
The St. Louis Cardinals moved into their new park on May 12th. It was named (with not too much imagination) the same as the previous one: Busch Stadium. One of the players who couldn't have been pleased to leave the old place was Tim McCarver. Here are his home/road splits from 1963 to 1965:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG Home 194 634 91 218 35 5 18 94 58 64 2 6 6 9 2 .344 .397 .500 Away 189 645 49 146 13 7 6 57 40 49 2 4 5 3 1 .226 .272 .296
St. Louis' new park was part of a building spree during the 1960s and early 1970s. Not counting new parks required by franchise shifts and expansion, here are the teams that moved into new places from 1960 to 1971 (along with the last year the park was home to a major league team):
Date Team Last Park 1960- 4-12 SF N 1999 Candlestick Park 1962- 4- 9 WAS A 2007 D.C. Stadium 1962- 4-10 LA N Act Dodger Stadium 1964- 4-17 NY N 2008 Shea Stadium 1965- 4-12 HOU N 1999 Astrodome 1966- 4-19 CAL A Act Anaheim Stadium 1966- 5-12 STL N 2005 Busch Stadium, the Sequel 1970- 6-30 CIN N 2002 Riverfront Stadium 1970- 7-16 PIT N 2000 Three Rivers Stadium 1971- 4-10 PHI N 2003 Veterans Stadium
So all of these new parks except the two in Southern California would be replaced between 1999 and 2008.
This urge to build new stadiums was primarily limited to the Senior Circuit. For each of the sixteen franchises in existence in 1960, here are their home parks at the start of the 1971 season and the number of years each team had played there:
- - - - - - - NL - - - - - - - - - - - - - AL - - - - - - Team Park Years Team Park Years ATL N Atlanta Stadium 5 BAL A Memorial Stadium 17 CHI N Wrigley Field 55 BOS A Fenway Park 59 CIN N Riverfront Stadium 1 CHI A Comiskey Park 61 LA N Dodger Stadium 9 CLE A Cleveland Stadium 39 PHI N Veterans Stadium 0 DET A Tiger Stadium 59 PIT N Three Rivers Stadium 1 MIN A Metropolitan Stadium 10 SF N Candlestick Park 11 NY A Yankee Stadium 48 STL N Busch Stadium II 5 OAK A Oakland Coliseum 3
Of the eight American League franchises in operation in 1960, the only ones with new parks were the teams that had relocated. The last one of the teams to move into a new stadium without changing cities was Cleveland in 1932. And this wouldn't change anytime soon. The next of these teams to get a park would be the Twins in 1982 followed by the White Sox in 1991.
For the National League expansion teams, it had been a tough first few years, but both the Astros and Mets set franchise highs in wins in 1966. The Astros were a surprise team in the early going, at least until injuries to Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn slowed them down, and managed to stay in the first division until July. While the Mets never scaled those lofty heights, they did manage to escape the cellar for the first time, finishing ahead of the Cubs, and for the first time in their existence, the Mets and the Astros didn't score the fewest runs in the league, as both teams outscored the Cardinals. The Yankees, on the other hand, ended up in the cellar for the first time since 1912. It had been inconceivable only a short time ago, but the Mets actually finished higher than the once-mighty Yankees, although the team in the Bronx did have the better record.
Every pennant race contains some surprises, teams that do unexpectedly well or poorly, and for the first half of 1967, the American League was no exception. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Baltimore Orioles' poor play through the early going, as they entered the All-Star break in seventh-place, saddled with a 39-43 record. But perhaps they weren't playing poorly at all: it could have been a simple case of bad luck. After all, they had scored the second most runs in the league (trailing only Minnesota by four) and their pitchers had allowed fewer runs than every team except the White Sox. And despite the various reasons offered for their slow start (Jim Palmer's injury, the control problems that caused them to dump Steve Barber in early July, disappointing first-halfs by Boog Powell, Dave McNally and Wally Bunker), they still had the best run differential in the league.
But of course, they also had a losing record. They had managed to go 11-19 in one-run games and 15-7 in blowouts (those decided by five runs or more). This might have been caused by luck or perhaps they (and their intangibles) simply forgot how to win close games. Whatever the reason, they were buried in the second divison, and with Frank Robinson going on the shelf for a month at the end of June, were little cause for concern to the usual suspects battling it out at the top of the standings: the White Sox, Tigers and Twins. I mean, the Orioles were even three games behind the fifth-place Boston Red Sox, who were led by Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Lonborg, and who also had to be ranked as one of the surprises during the season's first half.
The Red Sox's season got even more surprising when, instead of fading into the second division as the summer wore on, they won ten straight after the break, culminating into a four-game sweep in Cleveland on July 23rd that put them in the middle of a crowded five-team race. Normally a team in fifth place in the middle of August would be looking forward to better luck next year, but on August 13th, the fifth-place Red Sox were only two and a half games behind the league-leading Twins, who had been in fifth place themselves a little more than two weeks earlier.
The Angels were the first of the five contenders to fade from view, losing seven straight, including three at home to the Twins and a four-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox in Fenway Park. The first of those four games in Boston was especially costly to the Red Sox, however, when Jack Hamilton beaned Tony Conigliaro in the bottom of the fourth inning. Conigliaro was one of the brightest young sluggers in the league and at the time of the beaning had hit 104 home runs in his career, second only to Mel Ott's 115 at the same age. But the injury, and subsequent vision problems, would cause him to miss not only the last month and a half of the season, but the entire next year as well.
The rest of the league had been waiting for the Red Sox to collapse all season long, and after the loss of Conigliaro, it seemed like their wait might finally be over. But Boston took the last three games of that series, coming back from eight runs down to win the last one, with Yastrzemski homering in each game. And a week later, Jose Tartabull, one of the players the team tried in right-field in place of Conigliaro, made a dramatic throw to cut down Ken Berry at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to preserve a 4-3 Red Sox win. It came in the first game of a double-header that closed out a big five-game series with Chicago, and left the top four teams within a game of each other. On September 6th, it was even closer, with all four teams within a single percentage point.
Heading into the last Wednesday of the season, the schedule seemed to favor the White Sox. Only a game behind the Twins, they would wrap up the season against the lowly Athletics and Senators. But Chicago's offense, which had struggled all season long, completely collapsed, and they managed to score only five runs in as many games, including three straight shutouts.
The Twins held a one-game lead over the Tigers and Red Sox heading into the last weekend of the season, which meant they only needed a split in their last two games to eliminate Boston. The team was led by Harmon Killebrew, who was tied with Yastrzemski for the league lead in home runs, and Dean Chance, who already had won twenty games and would only start on the last day of the season if the team hadn't clinched a pennant by then. They had a one-run lead in the first game when Jim Kaat hurt his elbow while striking out Jose Santiago leading off the bottom of the third. Yastrzemski singled home the go-ahead run two innings later off of Jim Perry before icing the game with a three-run shot in the seventh.
Because of rainouts on Thursday and Friday, the Tigers were forced to play the Angels in back-to-back double-headers that weekend. Mickey Lolich's shutout in the first game on Saturday moved them into a three-way tie for first, before they took a 6-2 lead heading into the eighth inning of the nightcap. And then disaster struck. Fred Lasher, pride of Poughkeepsie, New York, was on the mound for Detroit when the trouble started. Jim Fregosi led off with a single, and three batters later, the lead had been cut in half, there were runners on first and third, and Lasher was gone. It got worse. A run scoring ground-out, a walk and two singles eventually brought Jim Fregosi to the plate again with the score tied and the bases loaded. He then capped the six-run rally with his second single of the frame, driving home the two winning runs. It was a crushing defeat for the Tigers. No matter who won the next day's showdown in Boston, Detroit knew they would have to sweep their double-header to force a playoff.
Sunday's game between the Red Sox and Twins was a match of their two aces: Jim Lonborg and Dean Chance. A walk to Killebrew and a Tony Oliva double gave the Twins a quick lead, before Yastrzemski's error in the third help the visitors to another run. But the wheels came off for the Twins in the bottom of the sixth. Yastrzemski made amends for his earlier miscue by hitting a bases-loaded single to tie the game, before a poor fielder's choice, two wild pitches and an error by Killebrew gave Lonborg a lead he would not relinquish. Minnesota was finished. Now it was time to watch and wait to see whether Boston's next game would be in the World Series or an American League playoff.
Once again, the Tigers took the first game of their double-header. But Denny McLain, who had pitched poorly during the last month of the season (averaging less than four innings a start), couldn't make it through three of the finale, and the Angels carried a 8-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth. A double and a walk brought the tying run to the plate, but with one out, Dick McAuliffe who had hit into just one double-play all season (and that was on September 26th), grounded into his second to end their season and send Boston to their first World Series since 1946.
It was the end of the closest four-team pennant race in major league history. From 1871 to 1968, here are closest the top four teams had been bunched together on each day from September 18th to October 1st (the last two weeks of the 1967 season):
Date Year LG G Year LG G Date Year LG G Year LG G 9-18 1967 AL 0.5 1908 AL 3.5 9-25 1967 AL 1.5 1908 AL 2.5 9-19 1967 AL 1 1908 AL 3.5 9-26 1967 AL 1.5 1964 NL 3 9-20 1967 AL 1 1908 AL 3.5 9-27 1967 AL 1.5 1908 AL 3.5 9-21 1967 AL 1.5 1908 AL 3 9-28 1967 AL 1.5 1908 AL 4 9-22 1967 AL 2 1908 AL 3.5 9-29 1967 AL 2 1964 NL 3.5 9-23 1967 AL 1 1908 AL 3.5 9-30 1967 AL 2 1964 NL 3.5 9-24 1967 AL 1.5 1908 AL 2.5 10- 1 1967 AL 3 1964 NL 3
Yastrzemski had been great all season, but he was especially great down the stretch, hitting .417 from September 1st on, with an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.229. In the last two games of the season, when a single defeat would have ended their chances for the pennant, he had seven hits, including a homer and a double, and drove in six runs. He led the league that year in runs scored, hits, home runs, RBIs, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. For the second straight year (and for the last time until Miguel Cabrera in 2012), the American League had a triple-crown winner.
For all but one of the MVP voters, he was the obvious choice. One writer, however, cast his ballot for Cesar Tovar, Minnesota's super-utility player. The writer (who not too surprisingly wrote for a Minnesota newspaper) caused an outcry with his selection, but he justified it by stating that he only took into consideration the games he actually saw. So since he followed the Twins, he ignored what Yastrzemski had done against all the other teams in the league. The Boston slugger's performance in the last two games might have swayed him, but by then the reporter had been reassigned to the city desk and no longer covered baseball. Many people at the time found this idiotic, and perhaps they were right, but I think it's refreshing to find a reporter unwilling to trust anything he read in a newspaper.39
It the end it was a miracle, an impossible dream: the Red Sox, a 100-to-1 longshot at the start of the season, had won the American League pennant. But how much of a miracle is it really when a 100-to-1 shot comes through? Well, in his long career Pete Rose came to the plate 15,861 times and hit 160 home runs. Each one of those homers, then, was greater than a 99-to-1 shot (99.13125-to-1 to be precise). So every time Rose hit one out, was it a miracle? Now, this is not meant to downplay what the Red Sox did that year. It was a great story; it was highly improbable, but it was only a "miracle" in the baseball sense of the word.
Over in the National League, it looked as if there could be an even more improbable upset brewing during the first half of the season. The Chicago Cubs had come from farther back than the Red Sox (they finished behind the Mets the previous year, after all) and on July 3rd were tied with the Cardinals for first-place. They were doing it with great hitting and pitching. On offense, they were getting another great season from Ron Santo, but much of their rise was due to some strong performances from unexpected sources. Here are how three of those players were hitting on July 3rd:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG Adolfo Phillips 66 210 35 67 8 5 13 48 39 45 17 4 .319 .430 .590 Ernie Banks 67 261 40 81 13 0 15 44 8 48 1 1 .310 .336 .533 Randy Hundley 72 264 41 82 13 2 9 35 22 37 1 2 .311 .364 .477
Banks was a 36-year-old first-baseman who had suffered through a poor year in 1966, while both Hundley and Phillips were talented young players in only their second year as regulars.
On the mound, they were led by Ferguson Jenkins, who had come to the Cubs along with Phillips in a trade with the Phillies the year before. This was Jenkins' first full season as a starter and it would be the start of a string of six straight seasons with twenty or more victories.
Like the Red Sox, the Cubs stumbled heading into the All-Star break, losing seven straight games, but they bounced back and after splitting the first two games with the Cards at the beginning of August, were still within striking distance of the top. But they lost the last two games of that series, the start of another seven-game losing streak, and a little more than two weeks later had fallen out of the pennant picture for good.
Although Jenkins had continued to pitch well after their high-water mark on July 3rd, those hitters shown above all slumped down the stretch. Here's how they hit after that date:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG Adolfo Phillips 78 238 31 53 12 2 4 22 41 48 7 6 .223 .346 .340 Ernie Banks 84 312 28 77 13 4 8 51 19 45 1 1 .247 .292 .391 Randy Hundley 80 275 27 62 12 1 5 25 22 38 1 2 .225 .288 .331
The Cardinals had suffered through two mediocre years after winning their championship in 1964. In a different organization, Red Schoendienst would have probably paid for those disappointing seasons with his job, but he was still there in 1967 when they turned it around. Most of their improvement came at the plate, but then again, there was a lot of room for improvement there, as the team had scored the fewest runs in the league the year before. Certainly, better years by players like Orlando Cepeda (the unanimous choice for the league MVP) and Curt Flood helped, but most of their improvement can be attributed to their hitting with men on base. Here are the team splits for those two years:
Bases Empty: Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP AVG OBP SLG 1966 3258 65 826 126 35 65 65 180 585 17 .254 .296 .374 1967 3193 69 808 129 14 69 69 208 548 25 .253 .304 .367 Men on: Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP AVG OBP SLG 1966 2222 506 551 70 26 43 468 165 392 18 .248 .300 .361 1967 2373 626 654 96 26 46 587 235 371 20 .276 .340 .396
And nowhere was this improvement more noticeable than in Cepeda's performance. His splits for St. Louis those two years:
Bases Empty: Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP AVG OBP SLG 1966 256 15 86 16 0 15 15 16 33 4 .336 .384 .574 1967 271 13 83 15 0 13 13 13 33 6 .306 .352 .506 Men on: Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP AVG OBP SLG 1966 196 50 51 8 0 2 43 18 35 9 .260 .336 .332 1967 292 78 100 22 0 12 98 49 42 6 .342 .438 .541
Despite the apparent ease with which they won the pennant, the Cards did have to deal with adversity during the year. On July 15th, Bob Gibson had his leg broken by a line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente. Ensuring his membership in the Tough Guy Hall of Fame, Gibson pitched to three more batters, walking two and getting one to fly out, before coming out of the game. He would miss nearly two months, an absence that cost him a shot at a third straight season with twenty or more wins, the only time between 1965 and 1970 he would fail to reach that mark.
The team didn't miss a beat with Gibson on the shelf, thanks to the emergence of Nelson Briles, who replaced their ace in the starting rotation, winning seven of nine decisions with a 1.78 ERA during his absence. They were also helped all season long by Steve Carlton and 29-year-old Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year Dick Hughes, who combined for a 30-15 record after entering the year with a total of five career wins between them. The team had a four game lead when Gibson was injured and an eleven and a half game lead when he returned. For Carlton, it would be the start of a long Hall of Fame career, one that would include another 312 regular season victories after that year. Hughes, however, would win only twice more.
There is often a debate about who has the advantage in the World Series when one team clinches earlier while another has to fight to the end. But this time around, there was little doubt that having to pitch Jim Lonborg on the last day of the regular season hurt the Red Sox chances against the Cardinals. As a result, while a rested Gibson was ready to start game one, Lonborg was forced to wait until the next day.
Both of the teams' aces were dominant, winning all four of their starts through the first six games. Jim Lonborg had pitched a one-hitter and a three-hitter, setting a World Series record by allowing only four hits in two straight complete game (breaking Mordecai Brown's mark of six set in the 1906 series), and the only run Gibson had allowed in his two wins was a home run by the opposing pitcher. The two teams had split the games not started by either ace, the Cardinals winning game three behind Nelson Briles, and the Red Sox taking game six by hitting four solo homers off of Dick Hughes and then clinching the game with four runs in the eighth, courtesy of five singles and a double.
Red Sox manager Dick Williams felt he had little choice but to go with Jim Lonborg on two day's rest in the deciding game. It was Jose Santiago's turn to pitch that day, but Gibson had already beaten him twice, and Santiago hadn't made it out of the first inning in his previous start. Once again, Gibson was in command. By the time he gave up his second hit of the game, a double leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, Lonborg was long gone. Whether it was the short rest or not, he had particular trouble with the bottom of the Cardinals' order. Weak-hitting Dal Maxvill started the first rally when he tripled to lead off the bottom of the third; Gibson hit a home run to start another outburst in the fifth, and seventh-place hitter Julian Javier capped the scoring for St. Louis when he hit a three-run homer the next inning. The Impossible Dream had come to an end.
I'm not sure why, but offense took another dip in 1967. And hitting would decline even more in 1968. Earlier, I presented a chart of the major league's offensive stats, along with the average length of each game, from 1960 to 1965. Here is the same chart from 1965 to 1968:
Year AVG OBP SLG R/G BB/G SO/G TIME 1965 .246 .311 .372 3.99 3.09 5.94 2:36 1966 .249 .310 .376 3.99 2.89 5.82 2:36 1967 .242 .306 .357 3.76 2.98 5.99 2:37 1968 .237 .298 .340 3.42 2.82 5.89 2:33
Tommy McCraw had one of the year's big offensive outbursts on May 24th when he hit three home runs and drove in eight during the White Sox's 14-1 win over the Twins. He did not drive in as many as eight runs in any other month that year and finished the year with 45 RBIs.
Pete Rose had the year's longest hitting streak, one that reached twenty-five games before it ended on May 30th. It was part of a stretch that saw him hit safely in 42 out of 44 games, making him the first player to do this since Ken Boyer was held hitless in only two of 46 games during 1959. Once Boyer's streak was over, by the way, he went hitless in his next five games, a run of futility that stretched into the first two games of 1960. The next players to do this would be Ron Leflore (44 out of 46) in 1977 and Pete Rose again, who hit in 44 straight games in 1978.
On May 14th, the Red Sox and Tigers set an American League mark by combining for 28 extra-base hits in a double-header, breaking the previous record by one, set by Boston and Philadelphia on July 8, 1905. The major league mark of 35 was set in a double-header by the Cubs and Cardinals on July 12, 1931. Both of those previous double-headers were affected by huge crowds that spilled onto the fields, resulting in quite a few cheap doubles.40
The Mets and Cubs combined for eleven home runs in the second game of their double-header on June 11th, tying the major league record for a regulation game originally set in 1950 by the Yankees and Tigers. The record was broken by the Tigers and White Sox in 1995. The eleven home runs included three by eighth-place hitter Adolfo Phillips, as well as three given up by Chuck Estrada, the former AL Pitcher of the Year who was appearing in his last major league game.
The Cubs scored the most runs in a game during 1967 when they routed the Dodgers 20-3 on May 20th. With his team ahead by seven runs in the third inning, Ted Savage stole home. Three innings later, Los Angeles pitcher Bob Lee hit him with a pitch. To which, one might reasonably ask: what took you so long?
Doug Clemens did not have a good year with the bat in 1967, hitting only .178 with a .509 OPS in 73 at-bats while being used primarily as a pinch-hitter for the Phillies. But in early June, he did something that had only been done once before when he doubled in three straight pinch-hitting at-bats. Rookie Bert Haas had done this in 1937 and Bob Robertson would be the next to accomplish this rather obscure feat in 1974.
Long games were all the rage that year. On June 12th, the White Sox and Senators played a 22-inning game. It was the first of four games of twenty or more innings played that season. In only two other prior seasons had there been even two games that long (1905 and 1918). (One surprising thing is that in 1971 there would be another four games of twenty or more innings, the only year since with more than two.) Teams also played twenty games that were at least fifteen innings long in 1967, the most since at least 1918.
Despite all those opportunities, only one pitcher threw as many as fifteen innings in a game that year, Gaylord Perry, who pitched sixteen shutout innings and got a no-decision to show for it in the Giants 21-inning 1-0 win over the Reds on September 1st. His durability may not have impressed old-time observers of the game, but it was the last time a starting pitcher has finished the sixteenth inning. Since starters going past nine innings seems to have gone out of fashion, I thought it might be interesting to note the last time a pitcher has pitched the following number of innings.
INN Pitcher Date 19.2 Les Mueller 1945- 7-21 18 Vern Law 1955- 7-19 16 Gaylord Perry 1967- 9- 1 15 Gaylord Perry 1974- 4-17 14.1 Luis Tiant 1974- 6-14 14 Steve McCatty 1980- 8-10 13 Charlie Hough 1986- 6-11 11.2 Andy Hawkins 1990- 7- 6 11 Dave Stewart 1990- 8- 1 10 Aaron Harang 2007- 7-23
Billy Rohr came as close as you could to pitching a no-hitter in his debut, giving up a hit to Elston Howard with two outs in the ninth as the Red Sox shut out the Yanks on April 14th 3-0. In his next start, also against New York, he pitched another complete game victory, but that would pretty much be it for Rohr, who would not pitch another complete game in his career, or win another start.
Two days later, Steve Barber also had a near-miss, giving up his first hit with one-out in the ninth. Later that month, he combined with Stu Miller to pitch (and lose) a no-hitter. Barber was removed with two outs in the ninth after walking his tenth batter of the game. The two teams combined for only two hits in the game and neither of the hits were involved in the scoring. During April, Barber pitched 23 1/3 innings, allowing only four hits but walking 22.
Don Wilson pitched the season's first complete game no-hitter, striking out fifteen Atlanta Braves on June 18th. While Dean Chance threw two no-hitters in 1967. One was a five-inning perfect game, the other went the full nine innings but was not a shutout, and both came within a five-start stretch in August.
When the Mets held on to beat the Giants 8-7 on July 4th, it marked the first time in their existence that they had managed to defeat Juan Marichal, breaking a streak of nineteen straight losses against the Giants' ace. It was the longest winning streak by a pitcher against another team during the decade, just one ahead of Larry Jackson's eighteen straight wins over, you guessed it, the Mets. Jackson was probably very thankful for the first round of expansion. In his career, he went a combined 39-8 against the Colt .45s/Astros and the Mets, and only 155-175 against the rest of the league.
For Lolich, his shutout on the last Saturday of the regular season was his third straight, part of a remarkable late season comeback. Earlier in the year, he had lost ten straight decisions. Here are his splits before and after the beginning of August:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Before 19 19 4 1 114.2 115 58 56 38 90 5 12 4.40 After 12 11 7 5 89.1 50 13 13 18 84 9 1 1.31
Ken Holtzman started only 12 games in 1967 due to his military commitments, but finished the year undefeated in nine decisions. He pitched well, but his ERA was higher that year than teammate Bill Hands, who finished the year with a 7-8 mark. Holtzman owed a big chunk of his success to his run support. Among pitchers with at least ten starts, here are the ones with the highest run support from 1963 to 1968:
Year Player Team G R R/G TR/G DIFF 1967 Ken Holtzman CHI N 12 80 6.67 4.15 2.52 1967 Al Jackson STL N 11 71 6.45 4.16 2.29 1967 Jose Santiago BOS A 11 69 6.27 4.32 1.95 1964 Curt Simmons STL N 34 198 5.82 4.04 1.78 1964 Bob Sadowski MIL N 18 103 5.72 4.86 0.86 Where: TR/G - teammates runs per start DIFF - R/G - TR/G
And finally, on October 1st, the Kansas City Athletics played their final game, losing to the Yankees 4-3. They went out with a whimper, going 5-20 down the stretch. They did manage to upset Chicago's pennant plans when they swept the White Sox in their last home appearance, a double-header on September 27th attended by a little more than 5,000 fans, but that was the only time the team managed to win back-to-back games since early August.
Despite appearances, Kansas City owner Charlie Finley took a talented young team with him out to Oakland. He had been threatening to move the team almost from the time he bought the franchise in 1961, and by the end of 1967, the Kansas City fans were delighted to see him go, especially once they had been promised an expansion team in time for the 1969 season. Much like Minnesota in 1961, Oakland would inherit a team on the cusp of contending. As they would soon learn, however, they were also inheriting Charlie Finley.
It had been a rough five years for major league hitters, or ever since the strike zone had been reinterpreted prior to the 1963 season, but in 1968 things were about to get even worse. The first inclination that offense had hit bottom occurred on April 15th when the Astros beat the Mets 1-0 in twenty-four innings. Two different Mets, Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda, went hitless in ten at-bats. It was the first time a player had done that since George Kell in 1945, and it has been done three times since, by Danny Thompson in 1972, Wayne Garrett (also playing for the Mets) in 1974 and by John Shelby in 1989. (Ironically, Swoboda was in the middle of the best month of his career, as he would end April leading the NL in homers. Unfortunately, he would hit only four more the rest of the year, and never as many as ten again in a season.)
In late April, the shutout streaks began. Since the start of the live-ball era in 1920, there had been three occasions when pitchers had thrown four or more shutouts in a row: Bill Lee in 1938, Sal Maglie in 1950 and Ray Herbert in 1963. In 1968 alone, there were four. They started with Luis Tiant, who pitched the first of his four straight shutouts (a two-hitter, three-hitter, four-hitter and five-hitter, although not in that order) on April 28th, a scoreless run that eventually reached 42 innings41+. Before that ended, Don Drysdale had already pitched a two-hitter against the Cubs, the first of six straight shutouts, part of a record-breaking scoreless string that would end in the fifth inning of his 5-3 win over the Phillies on June 8th.
His streak probably should have ended at 44 innings, when he hit Dick Dietz with the bases loaded and no one out in the top of the ninth on May 31st, but umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz had not tried to get out of the way of the pitch. This was a very unusual call and it is likely one that was only made because Drysdale was three outs away from a record-tying fifth straight shutout. But before Drysdale had given up that run to the Phillies, Bob Gibson had already pitched the first of his five straight shutouts. And finally, Ray Culp had a salary drive to remember when he threw four shutouts in a row, including a one-hitter, in September.
For Gibson, those shutouts were part of perhaps the most dominant stretch of pitching in baseball history, eleven straight complete victories in which he allowed a total of three runs or, if you find that more impressive, ten straight complete game victories allowing only two runs. Both of these overlapping strings came in the midst of his fifteen-game winning streak, one that helped the Cardinals overcome a sluggish start and run away with the National League pennant. On May 29th, Gibson had a 3-5 record (despite a 1.52 ERA) and his team was in fourth-place with a 22-21 mark. On August 19th, the day Gibson pitched his tenth shutout of the season for his fifteenth straight win, the Cardinals had a thirteen and a half game lead over the second-place Reds.
Of course, Gibson had help. Lou Brock led the league in doubles, triples and steals, while scoring 92 runs at the top of the lineup (that may not seem like a lot of runs but no player in either league scored more than 98). Still, pitching drove the team that year (the Cards offense was just the fourth best in the league) and NL MVP Gibson was clearly the leader of the staff. His thirteen shutouts are the most since Pete Alexander's sixteen in 1916, and his 1.12 ERA, the lowest in the National League (and the lowest in the majors among those pitching at least 225 innings) since it became an official statistic in 1912.42+
St. Louis' principal competition came from the San Francisco Giants, led by Willie McCovey, who topped the league in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS, and Juan Marichal, who posted a better record than Bob Gibson (26-9 vs 22-9) despite an ERA more than twice as high (2.43 vs 1.12). It helps when your teammates score nearly five runs per start (4.93), rather than the slightly more than three runs (3.03) the Cards averaged with Gibson on the mound.
Over in the American League, the Detroit Tigers also took the pennant with relative ease, although there was a time in late August when it looked like they might have a fight on their hands. Leadoff hitter and second-baseman Dick McAuliffe was suspended for five days after a fight on August 22nd, and so the Tigers were short-handed when they headed into New York the next day. A nineteen-inning tie on Friday night, which featured nine shutout innings by Detroit's John Hiller (who had pitched a one-hitter three days earlier) and seven perfect innings by New York's Lindy McDaniel, forced the two teams to play 55 innings over three days. All those innings resulted in four one-run losses and zero wins for the Tigers in a weekend that concluded with catcher Bill Freehan writing "Anyone who thinks the world ended today doesn't belong here" on the clubhouse blackboard.43
One of the losses was especially memorable. Detroit jumped out to a five-run lead in the opener of Sunday's double-header, knocking out Steve Barber with one out in the top of the fourth. Not wanting to further deplete his bullpen in a seemingly lost cause (the Yankees had scored more than five runs in a game only once that month), manager Ralph Houk called on reserve outfielder Rocky Colavito to pitch, and the farce, or so it seemed, was on.
Colavito, known for his strong arm in the outfield, managed to get out of that inning without further damage, and also held the Tigers scoreless in the fifth and the sixth. Meanwhile, the Yankees added a single run in the bottom of the fourth, before taking the lead with five more in the sixth, a rally that featured back-to-back home runs by Bill Robinson and future Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox. With Rocky now in line for the decision, he was quickly removed from the game, and they held on for the win.
In the end, however, Bill Freehan was right. By the time they headed home on August 28th, their lead had been trimmed to only four games, but McAuliffe was back at the top of their lineup, Denny McLain was on the mound, and Detroit won easily, the start of a 19-4 run that would secure the pennant. For McLain, that win broke his longest losing streak of the season (two games) and was the first of six straight complete game victories, including his thirtieth win against Oakland on September 14th and by then, the Tigers lead had swelled to nearly ten games and the race was over. It was the first time anyone in the major leagues had won at least thirty games in a season since Dizzy Dean in 1934 and you have to go all the way back to Pete Alexander in 1916 to find a pitcher with more than McLain's thirty-one wins.
Apart from McLain and All-Star catcher Freehan, the Tigers were helped by a big season from left-fielder Willie Horton, the only player in either league to finish among the top four in each of the triple-crown categories. And while his fourth-place marks of 85 RBIs and a .285 batting average may not seem too impressive, that says more about how far the pendulum had swung in favor of the pitchers than it does about Horton's fine performance that year.
The second-place Orioles, led by Dave McNally and Jim Hardin, could match the Tigers' pitching, but scored nearly a hundred fewer runs, primarily because of the injuries and ineffectiveness of outfielders Paul Blair and Frank Robinson. The once-miracle Red Sox fell to fourth place despite a career year from fashion icon Ken Harrelson and another fine performance from batting champion Carl Yastrzemski (despite a power outage that saw his home run total nearly cut in half). They were undermined by an off-season ski injury that ruined Jim Lonborg's campaign as well as an historically bad season from first-baseman George Scott.
How bad was George Scott's year? Well, after hitting .301 with nineteen home runs and a .837 OPS in 1967, his batting average and OPS dropped to .171 and .473. He hit only three homers, none either at home or against a right-handed pitcher all season. And while among players with at least as many plate appearances as Scott (387), this wasn't even the lowest OPS that year (Hal Lanier got up 518 times with a .461 OPS), Scott was a first-baseman, not a light-hitting shortstop. Here are the lowest OPSs among first-baseman with as many plate appearances as George Scott had in 1968:
Player Year Team(s) G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS George Scott 1968 BOS A 124 350 23 60 14 0 3 25 26 88 5 1 5 3 5 .171 .236 .237 .473 Milt Scott 1886 BAL a 137 484 48 92 11 4 2 52 22 9 11 .190 .239 .242 .481 Charlie Carr 1904 DET A-CLE A 124 480 38 104 18 4 0 47 18 52 1 22 6 .217 .246 .271 .517 John Ganzel 1901 NY N 138 526 42 113 13 3 2 66 20 32 9 7 6 .215 .256 .262 .518 Jake Stahl 1906 WAS A 137 482 38 107 9 8 0 51 21 80 8 15 30 .222 .266 .274 .540
And here's the list if you add outfielders to the mix:
Player Year Team(s) G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS Jim Lillie 1886 KC N 114 416 37 73 9 0 0 22 11 80 13 .175 .197 .197 .394 Mike Slattery 1884 BOS U 106 413 60 86 6 2 0 4 .208 .216 .232 .448 Ed Kennedy 1884 NY a 103 378 49 72 6 2 1 16 1 .190 .225 .225 .450 George Scott 1968 BOS A 124 350 23 60 14 0 3 25 26 88 5 1 5 3 5 .171 .236 .237 .473 Milt Scott 1886 BAL a 137 484 48 92 11 4 2 52 22 9 11 .190 .239 .242 .481
So pretty much no matter how you look at it, George Scott had a really bad year at the plate.
The World Series looked like a mismatch from the start. The Cardinals won three of the first four games behind Bob Gibson on the mound and Lou Brock on the basepaths. Gibson's performance included a post-season record seventeen strikeouts in game one as well as a five-hitter (including his second career World Series home run) in game four. That game marked his seventh straight complete game victory in the Fall Classic, games which included 75 strikeouts and a 1.27 ERA. Brock stole seven bases in those four games, scoring and driving in five runs, with eight hits (four of them for extra-bases).
But the series was not a best of five affair, and things went sour for Brock and the Cards in the next game. Despite hitting two doubles and a single, Brock is most remembered that day for getting thrown out at the plate when he tried to score standing up in the fifth inning, losing a run that would have given the Cards a 4-2 lead. As it was, their slim advantage was erased when Al Kaline hit a two-run single in the seventh, part of a three-run rally that ensured a game six.
Their one-sided loss in game four had a silver lining for the Tigers: Denny McLain's early exit that day allowed manager Mayo Smith to gamble on bringing him back on short rest in game six, a move that paid off when Detroit routed St. Louis (thanks to a ten-run second inning). Smith's strategy also permitted him to have Mickey Lolich face Gibson, also on short rest, in the game seven showdown.
That game was scoreless in the bottom of the sixth when Brock led off with a single (his thirteenth hit of the series) only to get picked off first. One out later, Curt Flood also singled, only to get picked off as well. Things unravelled for St. Louis shortly after that. With two men out and no one on base in the top of the seventh, Detroit rallied with four straight hits (including a two-run triple by Jim Northrup) to plate the three runs that decided the series. Instead of Gibson and Brock, the heroes were Mickey Lolich, whose victory over the Cardinal ace that day was his third complete-game win of the series, and Al Kaline, a sixteen-year veteran appearing in his first post-season, who had eleven hits and tied for the team lead with six runs scored and eight RBIs.
Kaline might not have played more than sparingly had it not been for another gamble made by manager Mayo Smith: moving center-fielder Mickey Stanley to short for the series, a position he had never played prior to that August. The move allowed the Tigers to bench Ray Oyler, a spectacularly bad hitter (he had a worse batting average and about the same OPS that year as the Tigers' pitchers), in favor of Kaline.
Even in a year considered a low-water mark for offense, there were hitting exploits to recognize, and the most prominent of those, perhaps, was turned in by Frank Howard. It started with the two home runs he hit on May 12th. He would eventually hit a record ten homers in six games. That broke the record of eight set first by Babe Ruth in 1930 and achieved most recently by Mickey Mantle in 1966. By the time he was done, he would be comfortably ahead in all three triple-crown categories. But of course it was still only May. By June 10th, he no longer had the league's highest batting average, and by July 2nd, his days atop the RBI leaderboard were also over.
Jim Northrup made some noise in 1968 with the timing of a few of his home runs. It started with a walk-off bases-loaded home run on May 17th (the same game in which Frank Howard hit his eighth homer in five games) and continued in earnest when he hit grand-slams in consecutive innings on June 24th. He followed this up with his fourth homer with the bases filled five days later. It wasn't even the All-Star break and he already had four grand slams, or one less than the record for a full season. In his previous eight plate appearances with the sacks jammed, he had collected four home runs, a double, single and walk. His only out in that streak? Ironically, a strikeout in the first inning of his big game on June 24th. He also got up with the bases loaded in the inning after his fourth grand slam (with the opportunity to match his earlier performance) but struck out. He got up with the bases full six more times during the regular season in 1968, with two singles to show for it, before hitting his fifth grand-slam of the season in the sixth game of the World Series, during the ten-run second inning mentioned above.44+
Horace Clarke doubled leading off the bottom of the fourth on June 6th, breaking a season-long string of 164 at-bats without an extra-base hit, the longest stretch to open a season since at least 1914. The previous mark, set by the unfortunately named Creepy Crespi, reached 154 at-bats in 1942. Clarke was hitting .221 at the start of that game (with an OPS of .464). So where was he hitting in the order? Well, lead-off of course. Say what you will about Ralph Houk during his years at the helm of the Yankees, but he was consistent about having his worst regular in the lineup hit first.
In keeping with the theme of the Year of the Pitcher, the NL won the All-Star game 1-0 on July 9th. In what I suppose was an attempt to encourage the hitters, Willie Mays was chosen as the game's MVP despite collecting only a single in four at-bats. Sure, Don Drysdale pitched three innings of one-hit ball and Tom Seaver struck out five men in two innings of work as part of a National League staff that combined to fan eleven while allowing only three hits, but did I mention that Willie Mays managed to score a run?
That run was the twentieth scored by Mays in All-Star competition, but it would be the last time he reached base in these games, going hitless in his last nine at-bats over his final five appearances. It was part of a career ending 3-27 All-Star slide after going 20-48 in his first fourteen games. Helped by playing twice each year from 1959 to 1962, Mays currently holds All-Star records for the most games (tied with Hank Aaron and Stan Musial), at-bats, runs, hits, triples (tied with Brooks Robinson) and stolen bases. One perhaps not so curious note: the career leader in sacrifice hits is a group of 39 players with one each. The only active player in the bunch? Russell Martin, who became the only player in this century to hit a Mid-Summer sacrifice in 2008.
Rick Monday set an unenviable record when he struck out 43 times in August, topping the previous monthly high, 40, set originally by Pat Seerey in July 1948 and tied by Dave Nicholson in May 1963. Monday's mark was finally broken in August 2002, when Jared Sandberg struck out 45 times, and the current record holder is Adam Dunn, who had 48 strike outs (to go with eleven home runs) in May 2012.
While hitters may have had little to cheer about in 1968, the Yankees were reminded of their glory days on September 7th, when they walloped the Senators 16-2 and 10-0 at Yankee Stadium. It was the most one-sided double-header sweep since the Red Sox trounced the Athletics 18-0 and 11-1 on July 11, 1954, and the only twin-bill since in which one team had two double-digit wins was on July 22, 1975.
We've already discussed the long scoreless streaks pitchers put together in 1968, but of course there were other great performances on the mound that year, starting with the perfect game thrown by Catfish Hunter on May 8th. Not only did he retire all 27 batters he faced, but he also collected three hits himself for the second straight game. No pitcher had done that since Pedro Ramos in 1958, and although it was done by Blue Moon Odom (also of the A's) the next year, it has only been accomplished twice since, by Livan Hernandez in 2001 and Dontrelle Willis in his first two games of 2004. Actually, if you count Willis' last playoff game the year before, he had three hits in three consecutive games, and ten straight hits overall, going back to his last at-bat of the 2003 season.45+
Luis Tiant became the second pitcher to strike out more than eighteen batters in a game when he fanned nineteen in a ten-inning shutout on July 3rd. (Tom Cheney had fanned twenty-one in sixteen innings in 1962.) Tiant didn't walk a batter in his gem.
Don Wilson tied the record previously set by Bob Feller and matched twice by Sandy Koufax when he struck out eighteen in a nine-inning game on July 14th. It would be fair to say that both teams were aware he was approaching the record toward the end of the game. After Vada Pinson became his fifteenth victim to open the seventh, the next batter hit a pop foul behind third base. As Doug Rader settled under the ball, Wilson yelled at him to drop it. (He didn't.) And with Wilson one shy of the mark with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Pinson elected to bunt in order to avoid becoming the eighteenth victim.46
On September 17th, Gaylord Perry pitched the fourth no-hitter in the majors that year, defeating the Cardinals, who had just clinched the National League pennant. Perry's victim that day was Bob Gibson, and the only run of the game scored courtesy of a first-inning home run off the bat of Ron Hunt (only his second of the year and his only career homer off of the Cardinal pitcher). Earlier in the season, Perry had also pitched a two-hitter to beat Gibson. The day after Perry's gem, Cardinals pitcher Ray Washburn returned the favor, holding the Giants without a hit. It was the first time since 1917 (May 5th and 6th) that no-hitters had been thrown on successive days.
Jim McAndrew knew that runs were going to be hard to come by as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets in 1968, but he probably had no idea just how scarce they would be. He was shutout by Bob Gibson in his major league debut, and then ran up against Mike Kekich, who pitched the greatest game of his career, blanking the Mets on one hit and striking out thirteen. Next up was Bobby Bolin, who pitched a four-hit shutout, and then he was blanked again, this time by Don Wilson and John Buzhardt who combined to allow New York only four harmless singles. His next start marked his one month major league anniversary and his teammates celebrated by ending his personal scoring drought at 38 innings when they scored twice against Juan Marichal in the third inning. But McAndrew had never pitched with a lead before and got knocked out in the fifth inning.
He finally won his first major league game his next time out, shutting out Steve Carlton to win 1-0, before Carlton responded by winning their rematch five days later, another (you guessed it) shutout. If you ever wondered how a pitcher could go 4-7 despite a 2.28 ERA (and a 2.28 ERA that included no unearned runs), well you do it by pitching for a team that scores only 1.33 runs a game in your starts. By the way, of the twenty pitchers who had a least ten starts in a season with an average run support of two runs a game or less, all but six appeared either during the Deadball ERA or from 1963 to 1968. Those six are:
Year Player G R R/G T/RS Diff W L 1980 Doug Capilla 11 19 1.73 3.94 -2.21 1 8 1941 Ike Pearson 10 18 1.80 3.33 -1.53 0 10 1971 Fred Norman 18 34 1.89 3.16 -1.27 3 12 1969 Mike Paul 12 23 1.92 3.69 -1.77 1 7 1953 Harry Brecheen 16 31 1.94 3.80 -1.86 3 10 1993 Anthony Young 10 20 2.00 4.29 -2.29 0 8 Where: RS - their run support per start T/RS - their teammates run support DIFF - RS - T/RS W and L - their record in their starts
Chicago pitchers (of both leagues) could sympathize with McAndrew in 1968. Starting on May 22nd, the White Sox were held scoreless for more than forty innings, including back-to-back 1-0 extra-inning losses. Less than a month later, the Cubs started a scoreless streak that lasted more than 49 innings, including three 1-0 losses. And finally, in July, the White Sox had the season's third longest scoring draught, this one lasting more than 38 innings.
Ferguson Jenkins pitched eleven games in 1968 in which he allowed a single run. He went only 6-5 in those games. That got me to wondering which pitcher had the worst record in a season in games allowing a single run. Well, it wasn't Jenkins. Since 1914, the pitcher with the worst luck in these games was Roger Craig, who while pitching for the New York Mets in 1963 allowed a single run in eight games. His record in those games? 0-6 with two no decisions. The last pitcher to have a losing record in one-run games (six or more decisions) was Orel Hershisher, who went 3-4 in 1989.
Seven pitchers qualified for the ERA title in 1968 with an ERA under 2.00 (and Wilbur Wood came close to making it eight, falling just three innings short), by far the most since the Deadball Era. The year since 1919 with the second most? 1972, led by Cy Young Award winners Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry, with four. (Luis Tiant made the list in both years.)
After Colavito won his only appearance on the mound in 1968, the next position player to pick up a pitching win was Brett Mayne in 2000. He was later joined by Wilson Valdez in 2011 and Chris Davis the next year. The last position player before Colavito to win a game on the mound? Well, that depends upon whether or not you count Chubby Dean, who started a game for the A's in 1937, but was considering a switch to the mound after flunking his two-year trial at first base (after that game, he would play first only twice more in his career while pitching in another 160 games). If you exclude Dean from consideration, you next have to decide what to do with Babe Ruth, who made five scattered appearances from 1920 to 1933, four of them starts, and won them all. And if you pass on Ruth, the next candidate is probably George Kelly, who came in to pitch the last five innings of a game at the tail end of the Giants' 1917 season (McGraw was resting his regulars prior to the start of the World Series).
Ron Hansen had an interesting four-day stretch as July turned into August that year. It started on July 30th, when he executed the first unassisted triple-play in the majors since 1927 (there would not be another until 1992). Despite his feat, the Senators lost the game to the Indians and Sam McDowell, 10-1. It didn't help that Hansen struck out in all four of his plate appearances that day, a streak that would reach six before he walked and hit a grand-slam home run on August 1st. So what happened the next day? He got traded to the White Sox.
And finally, May 27, 1968, was a big day in major league history, and not just because Eddie Mathews hit the last two home runs of his major league career. Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas were born that day, two Hall of Fame (or at least Hall of Fame caliber) first-basemen who were named the NL and AL MVPs in 1994 (Thomas also won it the year before). It didn't compare in quantity with March 25, 1969 (the only date in history that brought more than five future major leaguers into the world), but when Bagwell is finally elected to the Hall of Fame, it will be the first day to produce two members of that club.
In case you wondered if other major award winners were born on the same day, I considered a variety of awards (the League, Chalmers, BBWAA and the Sporting News MVPs, the Cy Young award, as well as the Sporting News Player and Pitcher of the Year) and came up with one other day: September 25, 1917, the birthdate of both Phil Rizzuto (1950 BBWAA MVP) and Johnny Sain (1948 Sporting News Pitcher of the Year). Adding the various Rookie of the Year awards to the mix, gets you the following extra days:
December 26, 1948 Chris Chambliss and Dave Rader October 26, 1949 Mike Hargrove and Steve Rogers January 1, 1955 LaMarr Hoyt and Bob Owchinko April 14, 1966 David Justice and Greg Maddux
And (I promise I'll stop after this), inviting the Manager of the Year awards to the party adds two more days:
December 15, 1944 Stan Bahnsen and Jim Leyland August 4, 1962 Roger Clemens and John Farrell
The eight-team league had lasted from 1900 to the early 1960s, but the ten-team version wouldn't survive a decade. Both the NL and AL voted to expand in time for 1969, increasing its west coast contingent with teams in San Diego and Seattle, placating angry politicians in Missouri by returning a team to Kansas City, and making major league baseball an international sport with a franchise in Montreal. All of which meant that in the span of nine years, major league baseball had effectively added that third eight-team league proposed by Branch Rickey and his Continental League associates back in 1959.
To ensure that no team would have to remind their fans of the woeful 1899 Cleveland Spiders, the last outfit to finish a season in twelfth place, each league was split into two six-team divisions, doubling the number of playoff races while squeezing in a round of post-season play between the end of the regular season and start of the World Series.
There were other changes in store for major league baseball fans in 1969. After six years of depressed offense, the height of the pitching mound was lowered by five inches and the strike zone reduced slightly so that it extended up to the batter's armpits rather than the top of his shoulders, moves designed to answer the claims of critics that the game had grown boring with too many low-scoring games.
But the big story this year was not expansion, the height of the mound or the shape of the strike zone. It was the Miracle Mets. On June 3rd, they defeated the Dodgers 5-2, behind Tom Seaver's eighth win of the season. The victory left them with a 24-23 record, the latest the team had ever had more wins than losses. Prior to 1969, the perennial doormat had poked its head above .500 only once, when their win on April 17, 1966 had given them a 2-1 mark.
That win on June 3rd was part of an eleven-game winning streak that left them in second place, seven games behind the streaking Chicago Cubs. And it seemed like a first-division finish would have to be enough for Mets fans that year. On August 13th, a loss to the Astros dropped them into third place, nine and a half games behind the Cubs. It was their ninth straight loss to Houston, a streak that included an embarrassing double-dip in late July. In the opener, they gave up eleven runs in the top of the ninth (including grand-slam homers by Denis Menke and Jim Wynn), only to follow that by allowing ten runs in the third inning of the second game, an outburst that featured manager Gil Hodges walking out to left-field to remove Cleon Jones for lackadaisical play.
But starting on August 16th, the Mets played their next twenty games against the league's three west coast teams, winning fifteen, including all seven with the Padres. By the time they returned from California to open their home-stand on September 5th, they were five games behind the Cubs. Chicago had raced out to a 40-18 start that year, and had led comfortably all season, but they faded badly down the stretch and starting on September 3rd, dropped eleven of twelve, including the famous game against New York on September 9th, when a black cat walked in front of the Cubs dugout.
There have been many reasons offered for the Cubs' collapse, but most have pointed to manager Leo Durocher's failure to give his regulars adequate rest during the season, made worse by the fact that, as Wrigley Field had no lights, all of Chicago's home games that summer were played during the heat of the day. Five of his regulars played more than 150 games that season. Here's how they hit from September 3rd to the end of the season:
Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS P-OPS C Randy Hundley 24 26 83 6 12 0 0 2 4 8 15 0 0 0 1 0 .145 .220 .217 .437 .776 1B Ernie Banks 38 24 91 4 19 4 1 2 14 5 17 0 0 1 0 0 .209 .250 .341 .591 .752 3B Ron Santo 29 24 79 8 20 2 0 2 13 15 14 1 0 3 0 0 .253 .379 .354 .733 .900 SS Don Kessinger 27 21 82 8 14 2 0 0 0 8 9 0 1 0 2 1 .171 .244 .195 .439 .736 LF Billy Williams 31 26 102 15 30 5 0 6 14 5 11 1 0 0 1 1 .294 .333 .520 .853 .819 Where: P-OPS - their OPS prior to September 3rd
Only Ironman Billy Williams was immune from the late-season slump. And of their top three pitchers (who averaged more than forty starts in 1969) only Bill Hands pitched well during the last month, as Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman combined for a 3-9 record and a 4.89 ERA from September 3rd onward.
While the Cubs were in free-fall, the Mets were putting together their second double-digit winning streak of the season, one that reached ten games on September 13th. In a little more than two weeks, a five-game deficit had turned into a five-game lead. And the Mets would win going away, clinching the division title with a week left. They were led by Cy Young award winner Tom Seaver on the mound, who led the major leagues with twenty five wins, and on offense by Cleon Jones, who despite that bad day against the Astros in July, established team records (both broken by John Olerud in 1998) with his .340 batting average and .422 on-base percentage
Of course there were three other divisional races that year, but both of the ones in the American League were mismatches, as the Orioles and Twins romped to their titles by nineteen and nine games, respectively. Baltimore's lead was the largest since the 1936 Yankees' won by nineteen and a half games. Frank Robinson and Boog Powell led an Orioles lineup that was strong throughout, and their revamped pitching staff was the best in the league, featuring Dave McNally (who won his first fifteen decisions) as well as two pitchers who were not with the team in 1968: Mike Cuellar, who came over from the Astros in an off-season trade involving Curt Blefary that was almost as one sided as the Frank Robinson deal three years earlier, and Jim Palmer, who returned to the team after missing most of 1967 and all of 1968 with arm troubles.
Minnesota, under rookie manager Billy Martin, ran away with the much weaker Western Division (which was comprised of both expansion teams as well as four second-division finishers in 1968). MVP Harmon Killebrew was the big gun for the Twins, leading the league in home runs, RBIs, walks and on-base percentage, in a triumphant return from a serious groin injury the previous year. But he wasn't the only reason they had the AL's best offense. Tony Oliva led the league in hits and doubles, while batting .309 and driving in 101 runs. Leo Cardenas came over from Cincinnati in an off-season trade and plugged a huge hole for the team at short, and second-baseman Rod Carew won his first of an eventual seven batting championships by hitting .332.
The Twins were chased for a while by the Oakland Athletics. Reggie Jackson was on a record pace when he hit his 41st home run in a 5-4 win over the Red Sox on August 2nd. It was only Oakland's 101st game, so had he continued to hit homers at that rate, he would've ended up with 66. But of course he didn't. Here are his stats up to and after that day:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG To 8-2 100 354 92 104 27 2 41 86 73 86 7 1 1 10 4 .294 .424 .729 After 52 195 31 47 9 1 6 32 42 56 5 0 0 3 1 .241 .388 .390
After drawing within a game of the Twins with their win in the opener of the double-header on August 8th, the Athletics would go only 23-31 the rest of the way.
It might not have been the most miraculous, but the NL West certainly staged the best race in 1969. Only two games separated the first and the fifth-place teams as late as September 10th, and starting on September 7th, there were five changes at the top within six days. On September 17th, the Giants were in first place in the morning, the Dodgers in the late afternoon, and the Braves at the end of the day. After the games on the 18th, those three teams were all within a half-game of one another. The Dodgers then went into San Francisco, the start of a seven-game losing streak that dropped them out of the race, while the Braves swept the Padres to stay on the Giants' heels.
Without any head-to-head battles between the top two teams over the last half of September, San Diego ended up deciding the race, taking four of six from the Giants, while Atlanta's six straight wins over the expansion club was part of a ten-game winning streak that culminated with their division-clinching win over the Reds on September 30th, staff leader Phil Niekro's twenty-third of the season.
In addition to Niekro, the Braves were led by Hank Aaron, who posted his highest OPS since 1962, hitting forty-four home runs for the fourth time in his career. Still, the Giants had a better hitter in league MVP Willie McCovey and probably a better pitcher in Juan Marichal and, like the Dodgers, had a better run differential than the Braves. In the end, it was all about timing. Atlanta went 28-17 in one-run games, while both San Francisco (27-32) and Los Angeles (25-26) had losing records, and that made the difference in the race.
Except for fans of the winning teams, the first round of the playoffs was a bit of a disappointment. Both ended in sweeps, although at the least the Twins made the first two games close, dropping each by a single run in extra-innings (with relief ace Ron Perranoski giving up both walk-off hits), before getting blown at a home by the Orioles in the deciding game, a victim of (among other things) Paul Blair's five hits and RBIs. It was the only five-hit game of his career.
Despite the fact that they were in the middle of a miracle season, the Mets were clearly the best team in the National League and disposed of the Braves without too much difficulty. They did it in a surprising fashion, however: with hitting. Although their starters posted a 8.56 ERA in the series (victimized by Hank Aaron home runs in each game), their hitters averaged more than a run an inning to take the series with relative ease.
The heavily favored Orioles beat Tom Seaver and the Mets in the World Series opener, 4-1, before New York rallied to take the next four games and the title. All of them were hotly contested. The second was won with two outs in the ninth on a run-scoring single by light-hitting Al Weis. The next game, a five-run win for the Mets, looked easy in the box score, but it was decided by two great catches by Tommie Agee, plays that closed out the fourth and seventh innings, one with two on and the other with the bases loaded.
The fourth was won on a controversial play in the bottom of the tenth inning when J.C. Martin laid down a sacrifice bunt with men on first and second and no one out. Pete Richert's throw to first hit Martin, who was running in fair territory, and rolled into right field, allowing the winning run to score. Earl Weaver would have complained vigorously (and justifiably) that Martin should have been called out for interference, but he had already been ejected for complaining vigorously about ball and strike calls in the second inning. He was the first manager to be ejected from a World Series game since Charlie Grimm in 1935.
Down three games to one, the Orioles jumped out to an early lead in the fifth game behind home runs by Dave McNally and Frank Robinson. But the Mets, again aided by a controversial call, would not be denied. In the sixth inning, Cleon Jones was awarded first base when a shoe-polish like smudge on the ball convinced home plate umpire Lou DiMiro that Jones had been hit on the foot by a pitch. Donn Clendenon followed with his third homer of the series to cut Baltimore's lead to a run. The Mets drew even in the next inning when Al Weis, who would never hit a regular season home run in his home park, went deep. The winning runs were scored in the eighth, courtesy of doubles by Jones and Ron Swoboda, and a pair of Oriole errors. A lead-off walk brought the tying run to the plate three times in the top of the ninth, but Jerry Koosman retired all three to win his second game of the series and complete New York's miracle run.
Donn Clendenon was named the World Series MVP despite not playing at all in the League Championship Series, the first and last time this has happened.47+ Mets' manager Gil Hodges went with a strict platoon at first base during the post-season, which meant that Ed Kranepool faced the right-handed pitching of the Braves, while Clendenon played in the four games started by the Orioles left-handers in the World Series.
So how did the expansion teams do in their inaugural seasons? Well, they all won their first games. The San Diego Padres ended up sweeping their first series, allowing only one run in the three games. The Montreal Expos' opening win was a wild 11-10 decision over the Mets, who were still looking to start a season with a win, losing their eighth straight (although from 1970 to 1994 they would go 22-3 in first games).
Not only did the Expos win a season-opener sooner than the Mets, but they also had their first no-hitter in only their ninth game, or in 8011 less games than it took the Mets to do the same. Bill Stoneman was the pitcher, and it was only his third major league win. It was one of his five shutouts that year, the modern record for a pitcher with a first year expansion club.
But, at least in the National League, the success of the new teams was fleeting. The Expos would embark upon a twenty-game losing streak in May, while the Padres would follow up their opening sweep of the Astros by losing nine of their next ten, including a 14-0 loss to the Dodgers, one of seven shutouts they would lose than season by ten runs or more, including two games by 19-0 scores. The last team to lose even six two-digit shutouts was the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. The only team with five? The (division winning) 1990 Red Sox.
In the American League, it was a different story. At the All-Star break, only a half-game separated the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots in their battle for third place in the West. Admittedly, it was a weak division (the West had only a .433 winning percentage against the East that year48+), but neither team ended up losing a hundred while the NL entrants lost 110 apiece. As a matter of fact, the two new Senior Circuit teams were so bad that only one other team in the league, the Philadelphia Phillies, had a losing record.
Here are the combined marks of the two new teams in each league compared to the record of the teams in the first round of expansion:
- 1969 - - 61/62 - League W L W L NL 104 220 104 216 AL 133 191 131 191
So each league's entrants did pretty much the same as they had the previous time around.
Kansas City Royals' rookie Bob Oliver collected six hits in a regulation game on May 4th, the first player to do this since Jesus Alou (also a rookie) in 1964, but the year's top hitting performance probably belonged to Reggie Jackson, who had five hits, including a double and two home runs, driving in ten runs during a 21-7 romp over the Red Sox on June 14th.
And Jackson's day could have been ever better: his three-run single in the eighth should have been double, and he made his only out to end the sixth, a strike out, with the bases loaded. In all, he came up with the bases loaded three times in the game, and saw a total of thirteen base runners in his seven plate appearances. The last player to get up with at least as many men on base in a regulation game was Al Kaline, who failed to knock in any of the thirteen runners on base in his six times up during the Tigers 9-8 loss to the Yankees on July 25, 1959. And the next time would be on July 26, 1976 when Bill Plummer also failed to drive in any base runners (all fourteen of them) in the Reds 9-3 win over the Giants.
On September 5th, Billy Williams hit two doubles and two home runs against Steve Blass and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was all the offense the Cubs could muster that day as they went down to a 9-2 defeat. His performance was notable for two reasons. First of all, it was only the second time in history that a player had as many as four hits while his teammates had none. Kid Elberfeld hit four singles, driving in all of the Highlander runs in their 3-2 win over the Athletics on August 1, 1903. It would happen next on April 23, 2006, when Miguel Tejada hit a homer and three singles in a 6-1 Orioles loss to the Yankees.
The game was also the second time that year in which Williams had four extra-base hits (earlier, he had four doubles in a game against the Phillies). It was the first time since Ducky Medwick in 1937 that this had happened, and it wouldn't be accomplished again until Paul O'Neill turned the trick in 1991.
In the first game of a double-header on July 16th, Rod Carew stole home for the seventh time that season. There were fourteen steals of home in the American League that year and Carew was responsible for half of them. The Minnesota Twins stole home ten times; no other team in the league did it more than once.
At the time, it was felt that he had broken Ty Cobb's American League record (set in 1912) and tied Pete Reiser's 1946 major league mark of seven. Since then, further research has shown that Cobb actually stole home eight times that year, a record Carew probably should have tied when he was called out at home in the third inning on September 26th.
It was probably more of a pitching than a batting highlight, but on September 12th the Mets swept the Pirates in a double-header by 1-0 scores, and their pitchers knocked in both runs. It's probably not too much of a surprise to learn that this was the only time such a thing had happened in at least a hundred years (data is incomplete prior to 1914), but I was wondering if a team's pitchers had ever knocked in all of their runs in a double-header49+, regardless of scores or outcome, and found one other: on August 1, 1915, the Federal League's St. Louis Terriers scored three runs in a double-header against Buffalo and their pitchers knocked in all of them. They ended that day with a loss and a tie.
On September 23rd, John Miller homered in his last major league plate appearance. That in itself was not extraordinarily rare. During the 1960s and 1970s, it happened four other times: Ted Williams famously exited with a home run in 1960, former teammate Don Gile did so much less famously in 1962, followed by Tony Kubek in 1965, and Ken McMullen in 1977. What set John Miller apart was that he also homered in his first plate appearance more than three years earlier, and that he had no home runs in between.
Despite the tinkering that went on during the off-season to benefit the hitters, there were still plenty of pitching highlights in 1969. For the second time in little more than a month (in baseball terms) there were back-to-back no-hitters in the majors. It started when Jim Maloney no-hit the Astros on April 30th only to have Don Wilson return the favor the next night. It was the second career no-hitter for each pitcher, the third for Maloney if you count his ten innings of hitless ball in a losing cause on June 14, 1965.
One of the best pitching performances of the season is most well-known for what it wasn't: a perfect game. On July 9th, Tom Seaver retired the first twenty-five batters before Jim Qualls singled, the only batter to reach base against him that day. So instead of the fourth perfect game of the decade, Seaver had to settle for his first career one-hitter instead.
Steve Carlton had an ever more bittersweet achievement on September 15th, when he became the first major league pitcher since 1884 to strike out nineteen batters in a regulation game, yet lost to the Mets 4-3, courtesy of a pair of two-run homers off the bat of Ron Swoboda. Carlton broke his own NL record for the most strikeouts in a loss (sixteen, previously set on September 20, 1967). In all, he fanned fifteen or more batters in a game five times during his career. In those starts, he won one, lost three and had one no decision. His ERA in those games? A pedestrian 3.64, more than forty points higher than his career ERA. And in none of those games did he allow fewer hits than innings pitched.
To give you an idea of how unusual Carlton's performance was, here are the career records of pitchers with at least five of these games, along with the sum of all 233 fifteen or more strikeout games from 1914 to 2013:
Pitcher First Last G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Pedro Martinez 1999 2001 10 10 5 2 85.0 37 6 5 11 156 9 1 0.53 Roger Clemens 1984 1998 10 10 6 3 86.0 46 9 8 7 166 8 0 0.84 Tom Seaver 1970 1974 5 5 4 1 48.0 14 5 5 10 81 4 0 0.94 Sam McDowell 1965 1970 6 6 3 0 54.2 29 11 8 19 92 4 1 1.32 Randy Johnson 1992 2004 29 28 16 7 244.1 138 39 37 57 464 21 3 1.36 Nolan Ryan 1970 1991 26 26 18 6 243.2 113 48 41 112 423 20 2 1.51 Sandy Koufax 1959 1966 8 8 5 0 82.2 51 21 18 33 129 5 2 1.96 Dazzy Vance 1923 1928 5 5 4 1 47.0 37 15 15 18 77 4 0 2.87 Steve Carlton 1967 1982 5 5 4 0 42.0 44 17 17 13 82 1 3 3.64 ALL 1914 2013 233 232 154 48 2118.2 1155 351 310 575 3707 170 31 1.32
On July 19th, the Seattle Pilots began what would turn out to be a eighteen-inning loss, spread out over two days, to the Minnesota Twins. Five games later, they would play even longer before losing to the Red Sox in twenty innings. It was the shortest span (in games) between a team playing two marathons of eighteen innings or more since the Braves and the Cubs played eighteen and twenty-two innings in back-to-back games in 1927.
The closest span since has been nine games, by the San Diego Padres on August 15 and August 26, 1980 (with a seventeen inning game in between for good measure). The longest span? Well, about a month after the Seattle marathons, the Orioles lost to the Athletics in eighteen innings. They would not play another game that long for more than forty-three years, until beating the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on September 18, 2012, a span of 6841 games
Of course, eighteen innings was arbitrarily chosen and other cutoffs would produce very different results. Here are the longest spans (again, in games played) using different minimum lengths from 1914 to 2013:
Inn Span Team First Second 20 15664 BAL A No games of this length 19 7655 NY N 1914- 7-17 1964- 5-31 18 6841 BAL A 1969- 8-24 2012- 9-18 17 4615 PHI N 1919- 6- 1 1949- 6- 9 16 3384 MON N 1992- 8-11 Current 15 1916 COL N 1994- 7- 4 2006- 8-15 14 1313 SF N 2001- 6-19 2009- 7-17 13 623 SEA A 1985- 7- 9 1989- 6- 5 12 379 NY A 1998- 8-18 2001- 4-19 11 185 CHI A 2001- 5-27 2002- 6-18 10 129 STL A 1936- 4-26 1936- 9-12
Speaking of longer than normal games, the 1969 Montreal Expos are the only team since at least 1914 to fail to win (or even score a run in) an extra-inning game. They allowed eighteen unanswered runs in losing all twelve that year. They finally scored their first run after the ninth-inning on April 14, 1970, and finally won their first extra-inning game on May 8th of that year. Their thirteen straight losses in these games is also the most in the last century.
A host of people worked on making these boxscores available to baseball researchers. They include: Dave Lamoureaux, David Vincent, Bob Allen, Javier Anderson, Greg Antolick, Mark Armour, Chris Bates, Bob Boehme, Steve Bond, Jeff Bower, Tom Bradley, Rob Carron, Jim Clausing, Wade Coble, Clem Comly, Dennis Dagenhardt, Tom Davis, Richard Deegan, Larry Defillipo, Chris Dial, Jeff Eby, Mike Elliot, Steve Elsberry, Ken Fisher, Michael Fornabaio, David Foss, Jim Fraasch, Terry Frala, Jonathan Frankel, Gary Frownfelter, Mike Grahek, Aaron Greenberg, Brian Grinnell, Ed Hartig, Kathy Hartley, Chuck Hildebrandt, David Hoehns, Patrick Hourigan, Hugh Humphries, Howard Johnson, Ryan Jones, John Kalous, Christopher Kamka, David Kocher, Herm Krabbenhoft, Sean Lahman, Gary Lauher, Andre Leclerc, Walter LeConte, Dan Lee, John Lee, Bob LeMoine, Joel Luckhaupt, Trent McCotter, Bill McMahon, Sheldon Miller, Joe Murphy, Jack Myers, Dave Newman, Bill Nowlin, Paul Olubas, Charlie O'Reilly, Eric Orns, Ian Orr, Claude Paradis, Gary Pearce, Rob Pettapiece, Jonathan Pollak, J.G. Preston, Brad Ramirez, Denis Repp, Mike Round, Mark Ruckhaus, Ken Ruppert, Charles Saeger, Carl Schweisthal, Tasha Shaindlin, Stu Shea, Terry Small, Sean Smith, Matt Souders, Tom Stillman, Bob Strab, Tom Thress, Bob Timmermann, Dixie Tourangeau, Steve Vetere, Ron Wargo, Ed Washuta, Ron Weaver, Paul Wendt, Neil Williams, Mark Williamson, Rob Wood, Andrew Zager, Don Zminda and Pete Palmer.
1"Stengel: His Life and Times," Robert W. Creamer. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1984), Page 291.
2"Fans, Ball Club and Sponsors Give Stengel a Birthday Party." The New York Times. August 1, 1960. Page 26.
3"Giants Slash Homer Range in Wind-Swept Candlestick,"
Jack McDOnald. The Sporting News. December 21, 1960. Page 15.
4"Pirates Fattened Up on 4 Also-Ran Clubs," Les Biederman.
The Sporting News. October 5, 1960. Pages 11 and 26. The season write up
in their 1961 Guide (page 58) mentioned 23 wins in their final at-bat.
That same article also referred to the NL pennant as a "gonfalon,"
which made me feel very old, realizing that I was five years old at a time
when someone could use "gonfalon" in a sentence and expect people to know
what he was talking about.
5"Big Timers Clearing Decks for Expansion," Jerry Holtzman.
The Sporting News. August 10, 1960. Pages 3 and 4.
6"A.L. Speeds Expansion - Ten Clubs in '61," Joe King.
The Sporting News. November 2, 1960. Pages 3 and 4.
7"Expansion Accord Hailed as Guidepost," Bob Burnes.
The Sporting News. December 14, 1960. Pages 1, 2 and 84.
8This is from my article "If God Owned the Angels,"
published in volume 23 (1994) of The Baseball Research Journal,
pages 32-38. It can be viewed online
just scroll down to 1994 and click on the front cover (featuring
Tom Shieber's piece on The Evolution of the Baseball Diamond).
9Thanks to noted baseball researcher Bill Deane for
pointing this one out to me.
10"Spahn's 2-Hitter Stops Dodgers, 4-1," Frank Finch.
Los Angeles Times. May 4, 1961. Pages C1 and C6.
11"Vet Ex-Stars Head Lists of Performers Offered
Colts, Mets," Joe Reichler. The Sporting News. October 11,
1961. Page 4.
12"Wills Needs 3 More Tonight to Break Mark."
Chicago Daily Tribune. September 21, 1962. Page C4.
13"Tom Cheney Had Everybody Rooting for Him," Bob Addie.
The Washington Post. September 14, 1962. Pages D7 and C6.
14An odd thing about Gerkin's career is that after the
major league part of it ended, he set a minor league record
for the most games pitched in a season when he made 83 regular
season appearances for the Minneapolis Millers in 1947.
And Gerkin was rewarded for all that work by being named the
American Association's Most Valuable Player. So what's the odd
part? Well, despite posting a 10-2 record in all those games,
Gerkin didn't pitch particularly well that year. He allowed
193 hits and 51 walks in 177 innings on his way to a 4.27 ERA.
23 other pitchers in the league with 100 or more innings pitched
had a lower ERA, including
who finished the season with a 18-7 record and a 2.15 ERA in
15"Hurlers Hail New Strike Zone, Expanded by '10 to 12'
Inches," Bob Joyce. The Sporting News. February 9, 1963. Pages 4 and 8.
16"New Strike Rule to Speed Game, Cut Walks, Some Observers Say."
The Sporting News. February 9, 1963. Page 8.
17Actually, at first I thought it would have been the 1964
(since they would have also had the experience
from the year before), but that group played without either
18Where I linked to match-up pages for players who appeared
before 1952, the numbers on my chart might not agree with the data on
the page because of missing play-by-play accounts for some games.
19"Umps Instructed to Slow Down on Strict Balk Calls," Joe King.
The Sporting News. May 18, 1963. Pages 1 and 6.
20"Umpires Flash 'Stop' Sign on Balky Hurlers," Edgar Munzel.
The Sporting News. April 6, 1963. Page 42.
21"Phil's Harmonica Rascal Skit Hits $200 Clinker," Til Ferdenzi.
The Sporting News. September 5, 1964. Page 7.
22"Busch Directs Cards' Exec Shakeup," Neal Russo.
The Sporting News. August 29, 1964. Page 5.
23"Never Rains, It Pours, Drooping Dodgers Learn," Bob Hunter.
The Sporting News. September 5, 1964. Page 15.
24"Dodgers Seething Over Marichal Attack," Bob Hunter.
The Sporting News. September 4, 1965. Pages 7-8.
25"Giles Orders Juan: 'Don't Go to L. A.'".
The Sporting News. September 11, 1965. Pages 30.
26Two typical reactions:
"Too Soft a Sentence for Marichal,"
The Sporting News. September 4, 1965. Page 14.
"Loss of One Turn No Stiff Penalty," Bob Broeg.
The Sporting News. September 4, 1965. Page 14.
27Spring training records taken from three sources:
"Angels and Colts Cop Spring Titles; Giants Last in N.L."
The Sporting News. April 20, 1963. Page 31.
"Milwaukee Finishes on Top in 1964 Spring Training."
The Sporting News. April 25, 1964. Page 35.
"Spring Standings." The Sporting News. April 24, 1965. Page 35.
28"Mathews, Aaron Shatter Record for HR Combos," Bob Wolf.
The Sporting News. October 2, 1965. Page 16.
29This doesn't include the following:
The seventeen homers Mays
hit in 1959 before McCovey arrived on July 30th, the three
that Mays hits in 1960 while McCovey was playing for Tacoma,
or the thirteen McCovey hit in 1972 after Mays had been
The eight homers Hodges
hit in 1948 while Snider was playing for Montreal,
and the seven that Snider hit for the Mets in 1963
after Hodges was traded to the Senators.
The seven homers Evans
hit in 1974 while Rice was playing for Pawtucket.
The twenty-five homers
Chipper Jones hit in 1996 while Andruw Jones was playing
in the minors.
The nine homers Santo
hit in 1960 while Williams was playing for Houston.
30"Hal Smith Fills In as Buc Catcher 4 Years
after His Heart Ailment," Les Biederman. The Sporting News.
July 17, 1965. Page 30.
31"Orioles Stirred Up Plenty of Rumors - Result: One Trade,"
Doug Brown. The Sporting News. December 18, 1965. Page 12.
32"Robinson's Grin Hides Sadness Over Trade,"
Earl Lawson. The Sporting News. December 25, 1965. Pages 11 and 26.
33"Ticket, Ad Buyers Come Alove With Robinson in Birds' Nest,"
Doug Brown. The Sporting News. December 25, 1965. Page 11.
34"'Old 30' Rap Rubs Frank Wrong Way,"
Doug Brown. The Sporting News. April 16, 1966. Page 34.
35"Dodger Film Idols Pitch It All When Buzz Hikes Ante,"
Bob Hunter. The Sporting News. April 9, 1966. Page 10.
36"Rain Halts Yankees' Game With Senators After Gehrig
Hits Three Triples," James P. Dawson. The New York Times.
July 1, 1934. Page S2.
37"Mele's Maulers Tie Mark, Clout Five HRs in Inning,"
Max Nichols. The Sporting News. June 25, 1966. Page 9.
38"Major Flashes." The Sporting News.
September 17, 1966. Page 29.
39"We Believe," C. C. Johnson Spink. The Sporting News.
December 16, 1967. Pages 14 and 18.
40"They Play to a Record Crowd." Boston Daily Globe.
July 9, 1905. Page 5.
"Cubs Lose to Cards, 17-13, After Winning, 7-5," Irving Vaughan.
Chicago Daily Tribune. July 13, 1931. Page 21.
41I calculate scoreless streaks a little differently than
most record books. For example, Luis Tiant is normally credited with a
streak of 41, rather than 42 innings in 1968. The reason is mostly
semantic and is perhaps best shown by example. Let's say a pitcher retires
the first fourteen batters in a game, gives up a solo home run (with two
outs the fifth) and then retires the last thirteen. I reason that he
started the game with a scoreless streak of four and two-thirds of an
inning, while ending the game with one of four and a third. The record books,
who typically list records for "most consecutive scoreless innings"
reason that since the fifth inning was not scoreless, the pitcher should
be credited with no part of it on either end.
And they are correct about that, but such a distinction makes little
sense these days when teams routinely use three or more pitchers in a
game and determining who gets credit (or blame) for what happens in an
inning can be complicated. For example, in
pitched 32 consecutive
without being charged with a run. During those games, he was
credited with pitching 30 innings. So how many consecutive scoreless innings
did he pitch? Well, in the sixth
of his string he entered in the eighth inning with one out, two
runs already in, and retired the side without further damage. Well,
clearly that wasn't a scoreless inning. So do we count it?
And what about the twentieth
In that one, he entered in the seventh inning
with one out and a man on first. He proceeded to give up a walk
and a double, allowing the inherited runner to score, before retiring
the side. So not only was the inning not scoreless, the runner scored
while he was on the mound. So does that break his streak? What if he
been relieved after the walk and another pitcher has given up the run-scoring double?
Would his streak have been broken because he had allowed the lead runner to
advance to second? Or what if he had come into game with a man
on third and no one out (where the runner is very likely to score) and
given up a sacrifice fly? And so on.
In short, I think that fixating on a scoreless inning is a mistake.
And while it is fine if the keepers of record books want to continue to
do this, assuming they are clear about how they handle situations like
the ones above (and others), I think it makes more sense to simply keep
track of the number of outs a pitcher records between being charged with
42Much was made at the time about Gibson eclipsing
mark of 1.14 in 1913
among those pitching at least 300 innings, a threshold designed
to exclude both Dutch Leonard (224 2/3 innings) and
(for those years prior to its adoption as an official statistic)
in 1906 (277 1/3 innings) and
in 1880 (105 innings).
has a good claim to holding the major league record for the lowest ERA in a season.
In 1916, he pitched 140 1/3 innings and held opponents to a 0.90 ERA. As
argued in a 1996 article that appeared in SABR's Baseball Research Journal
("Best Season ERA? Try Ferdie Schupp," pages 3-5),
Schupp was recognized as holding the record both at the time and
for several decades afterward (at least into the 1950s). He has typically
not been recognized since because of his failure to meet either the current
or the previous criteria for qualification (one inning pitched per scheduled
game or ten complete games), rules that were not in effect in 1916.
43"Bengals Alive Despite Jolt, Freehan Reminds." The Sporting News.
September 7, 1968. Page 21.
for reminding me about Northrup's World Series grand-slam.
45Thanks to Clem Comly
for reminding me about Dontrelle Willis' post-season performance in 2003.
46"Wilson Ties Mark, Whiffing 18 Reds," John Wilson. The Sporting News.
July 27, 1968. Page 25.
47Thanks to Clem Comly for bringing this to my
48Here are the ten weakest divisions during the
two-division era (1969 to 1993):
49And I'm not including double-headers without at least one
RBI in each game.
1969 AL West 187 245 .433
1987 NL West 187 244 .434
1983 AL West 256 332 .435
1980 AL West 255 329 .437
1970 AL West 189 243 .438
1978 AL West 220 281 .439
1979 AL West 259 327 .442
1991 AL East 264 324 .449
1979 NL West 194 236 .451
1982 AL West 265 323 .451
4"Pirates Fattened Up on 4 Also-Ran Clubs," Les Biederman. The Sporting News. October 5, 1960. Pages 11 and 26. The season write up in their 1961 Guide (page 58) mentioned 23 wins in their final at-bat. That same article also referred to the NL pennant as a "gonfalon," which made me feel very old, realizing that I was five years old at a time when someone could use "gonfalon" in a sentence and expect people to know what he was talking about.
5"Big Timers Clearing Decks for Expansion," Jerry Holtzman. The Sporting News. August 10, 1960. Pages 3 and 4.
6"A.L. Speeds Expansion - Ten Clubs in '61," Joe King. The Sporting News. November 2, 1960. Pages 3 and 4.
7"Expansion Accord Hailed as Guidepost," Bob Burnes. The Sporting News. December 14, 1960. Pages 1, 2 and 84.
8This is from my article "If God Owned the Angels," published in volume 23 (1994) of The Baseball Research Journal, pages 32-38. It can be viewed online here, just scroll down to 1994 and click on the front cover (featuring Tom Shieber's piece on The Evolution of the Baseball Diamond).
9Thanks to noted baseball researcher Bill Deane for pointing this one out to me.
10"Spahn's 2-Hitter Stops Dodgers, 4-1," Frank Finch. Los Angeles Times. May 4, 1961. Pages C1 and C6.
11"Vet Ex-Stars Head Lists of Performers Offered Colts, Mets," Joe Reichler. The Sporting News. October 11, 1961. Page 4.
12"Wills Needs 3 More Tonight to Break Mark." Chicago Daily Tribune. September 21, 1962. Page C4.
13"Tom Cheney Had Everybody Rooting for Him," Bob Addie. The Washington Post. September 14, 1962. Pages D7 and C6.
14An odd thing about Gerkin's career is that after the major league part of it ended, he set a minor league record for the most games pitched in a season when he made 83 regular season appearances for the Minneapolis Millers in 1947. And Gerkin was rewarded for all that work by being named the American Association's Most Valuable Player. So what's the odd part? Well, despite posting a 10-2 record in all those games, Gerkin didn't pitch particularly well that year. He allowed 193 hits and 51 walks in 177 innings on his way to a 4.27 ERA. 23 other pitchers in the league with 100 or more innings pitched had a lower ERA, including Clem Dreisewerd, who finished the season with a 18-7 record and a 2.15 ERA in 201 innings.
15"Hurlers Hail New Strike Zone, Expanded by '10 to 12' Inches," Bob Joyce. The Sporting News. February 9, 1963. Pages 4 and 8.
16"New Strike Rule to Speed Game, Cut Walks, Some Observers Say." The Sporting News. February 9, 1963. Page 8.
17Actually, at first I thought it would have been the 1964 Yankees (since they would have also had the experience from the year before), but that group played without either Yogi Berra or Tony Kubek.
18Where I linked to match-up pages for players who appeared before 1952, the numbers on my chart might not agree with the data on the page because of missing play-by-play accounts for some games.
19"Umps Instructed to Slow Down on Strict Balk Calls," Joe King. The Sporting News. May 18, 1963. Pages 1 and 6.
20"Umpires Flash 'Stop' Sign on Balky Hurlers," Edgar Munzel. The Sporting News. April 6, 1963. Page 42.
21"Phil's Harmonica Rascal Skit Hits $200 Clinker," Til Ferdenzi. The Sporting News. September 5, 1964. Page 7.
22"Busch Directs Cards' Exec Shakeup," Neal Russo. The Sporting News. August 29, 1964. Page 5.
23"Never Rains, It Pours, Drooping Dodgers Learn," Bob Hunter. The Sporting News. September 5, 1964. Page 15.
24"Dodgers Seething Over Marichal Attack," Bob Hunter. The Sporting News. September 4, 1965. Pages 7-8.
25"Giles Orders Juan: 'Don't Go to L. A.'". The Sporting News. September 11, 1965. Pages 30.
26Two typical reactions: "Too Soft a Sentence for Marichal," The Sporting News. September 4, 1965. Page 14. "Loss of One Turn No Stiff Penalty," Bob Broeg. The Sporting News. September 4, 1965. Page 14.
27Spring training records taken from three sources: "Angels and Colts Cop Spring Titles; Giants Last in N.L." The Sporting News. April 20, 1963. Page 31. "Milwaukee Finishes on Top in 1964 Spring Training." The Sporting News. April 25, 1964. Page 35. "Spring Standings." The Sporting News. April 24, 1965. Page 35.
28"Mathews, Aaron Shatter Record for HR Combos," Bob Wolf. The Sporting News. October 2, 1965. Page 16.
29This doesn't include the following:
The seventeen homers Mays hit in 1959 before McCovey arrived on July 30th, the three that Mays hits in 1960 while McCovey was playing for Tacoma, or the thirteen McCovey hit in 1972 after Mays had been traded.
The eight homers Hodges hit in 1948 while Snider was playing for Montreal, and the seven that Snider hit for the Mets in 1963 after Hodges was traded to the Senators.
The seven homers Evans hit in 1974 while Rice was playing for Pawtucket.
The twenty-five homers Chipper Jones hit in 1996 while Andruw Jones was playing in the minors.
The nine homers Santo hit in 1960 while Williams was playing for Houston.
30"Hal Smith Fills In as Buc Catcher 4 Years after His Heart Ailment," Les Biederman. The Sporting News. July 17, 1965. Page 30.
31"Orioles Stirred Up Plenty of Rumors - Result: One Trade," Doug Brown. The Sporting News. December 18, 1965. Page 12.
32"Robinson's Grin Hides Sadness Over Trade," Earl Lawson. The Sporting News. December 25, 1965. Pages 11 and 26.
33"Ticket, Ad Buyers Come Alove With Robinson in Birds' Nest," Doug Brown. The Sporting News. December 25, 1965. Page 11.
34"'Old 30' Rap Rubs Frank Wrong Way," Doug Brown. The Sporting News. April 16, 1966. Page 34.
35"Dodger Film Idols Pitch It All When Buzz Hikes Ante," Bob Hunter. The Sporting News. April 9, 1966. Page 10.
36"Rain Halts Yankees' Game With Senators After Gehrig Hits Three Triples," James P. Dawson. The New York Times. July 1, 1934. Page S2.
37"Mele's Maulers Tie Mark, Clout Five HRs in Inning," Max Nichols. The Sporting News. June 25, 1966. Page 9.
38"Major Flashes." The Sporting News. September 17, 1966. Page 29.
39"We Believe," C. C. Johnson Spink. The Sporting News. December 16, 1967. Pages 14 and 18.
40"They Play to a Record Crowd." Boston Daily Globe. July 9, 1905. Page 5.
"Cubs Lose to Cards, 17-13, After Winning, 7-5," Irving Vaughan. Chicago Daily Tribune. July 13, 1931. Page 21.
41I calculate scoreless streaks a little differently than most record books. For example, Luis Tiant is normally credited with a streak of 41, rather than 42 innings in 1968. The reason is mostly semantic and is perhaps best shown by example. Let's say a pitcher retires the first fourteen batters in a game, gives up a solo home run (with two outs the fifth) and then retires the last thirteen. I reason that he started the game with a scoreless streak of four and two-thirds of an inning, while ending the game with one of four and a third. The record books, who typically list records for "most consecutive scoreless innings" reason that since the fifth inning was not scoreless, the pitcher should be credited with no part of it on either end.
And they are correct about that, but such a distinction makes little sense these days when teams routinely use three or more pitchers in a game and determining who gets credit (or blame) for what happens in an inning can be complicated. For example, in 2013 Rex Brothers pitched 32 consecutive games without being charged with a run. During those games, he was credited with pitching 30 innings. So how many consecutive scoreless innings did he pitch? Well, in the sixth game of his string he entered in the eighth inning with one out, two runs already in, and retired the side without further damage. Well, clearly that wasn't a scoreless inning. So do we count it?
And what about the twentieth game? In that one, he entered in the seventh inning with one out and a man on first. He proceeded to give up a walk and a double, allowing the inherited runner to score, before retiring the side. So not only was the inning not scoreless, the runner scored while he was on the mound. So does that break his streak? What if he been relieved after the walk and another pitcher has given up the run-scoring double? Would his streak have been broken because he had allowed the lead runner to advance to second? Or what if he had come into game with a man on third and no one out (where the runner is very likely to score) and given up a sacrifice fly? And so on.
In short, I think that fixating on a scoreless inning is a mistake. And while it is fine if the keepers of record books want to continue to do this, assuming they are clear about how they handle situations like the ones above (and others), I think it makes more sense to simply keep track of the number of outs a pitcher records between being charged with a run.
42Much was made at the time about Gibson eclipsing Walter Johnson's mark of 1.14 in 1913 among those pitching at least 300 innings, a threshold designed to exclude both Dutch Leonard (224 2/3 innings) and (for those years prior to its adoption as an official statistic) Mordecai Brown in 1906 (277 1/3 innings) and Tim Keefe in 1880 (105 innings).
Actually, Ferdie Schupp has a good claim to holding the major league record for the lowest ERA in a season. In 1916, he pitched 140 1/3 innings and held opponents to a 0.90 ERA. As Dan Levitt argued in a 1996 article that appeared in SABR's Baseball Research Journal ("Best Season ERA? Try Ferdie Schupp," pages 3-5), Schupp was recognized as holding the record both at the time and for several decades afterward (at least into the 1950s). He has typically not been recognized since because of his failure to meet either the current or the previous criteria for qualification (one inning pitched per scheduled game or ten complete games), rules that were not in effect in 1916.
43"Bengals Alive Despite Jolt, Freehan Reminds." The Sporting News. September 7, 1968. Page 21.
44Thanks to Mark Armour for reminding me about Northrup's World Series grand-slam.
45Thanks to Clem Comly for reminding me about Dontrelle Willis' post-season performance in 2003.
46"Wilson Ties Mark, Whiffing 18 Reds," John Wilson. The Sporting News. July 27, 1968. Page 25.
47Thanks to Clem Comly for bringing this to my attention.
48Here are the ten weakest divisions during the two-division era (1969 to 1993):
49And I'm not including double-headers without at least one RBI in each game.