By Tom Ruane
Many fans consider the game of baseball to be close to perfect. Oh, we may quibble about the DH and the meaningfulness of the All-Star game, but most of us agree that our mythical founding fathers got the big things right: ninety feet between the bases, a pitching mound only slightly more than ten inches high, the short-fielder, Sunday baseball and so on.
Well, almost everything. I'm talking, of course, about the length of the game. Simply put: it's just too long. I was thinking about this during the recent SABR convention when the lot of us ambled over to Target Field for the obligatory trip to the park. And don't get me wrong - it was great... for a while. But around about the third inning, I could tell people were getting restless. Isn't that Denard Span at the plate? Didn't we already see him hit? He grounded out. Well, that's original.
Of course, some people didn't mind. I could easily spot those people, since they were either studying some hand-held device of theirs or working their way through a batting helmut full of nachos and their second or third tub of beer. But most normal people had had enough. Of course, we didn't want to miss the game's conclusion. After all, who wants to leave a game without knowing who won? We just wished that conclusion could come a lot sooner than the ninth inning.
But what if our forefathers had understood this? What if they had determined that a regulation game would last three innings instead of nine? I think it's pretty obvious that the world would have been a much better place.
Of course, there's little chance of that happening today. It's hard enough getting the powers that be to move a team from one league to another or add another round of playoffs more than once a decade. Good luck getting them to slice the time of a game down to around an hour and change. So I decided to do the next best thing. Taking Retrosheet's play-by-play data for the last sixty-one years,1 I decided to see what kind of game we could have had if they only lasted three innings. Of course, there would still be extra-inning contests, but it would be a rare contest that would approach the current "normal" span of nine tedious innings.
Now my approach was simple yet elegant. I just stopped any game when the home team had a lead after two and a half innings or the visiting team had the lead at the end of the third or beyond. Of course, this is over-simplifying things.2 I am overlooking how such a drastic change would have affected strategy, roster constuction, the price of tickets, and a hundred other things.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. On June 9, 1967, Dean Chance was pitching for the Minnesota Twins and his team headed into the bottom of the third inning on the short end of a 3-0 score. He was due to hit lead-off and, since the team had six other innings in which to rally, he was allowed to hit for himself. Well, "hit" was seldom the correct word for what Dean Chance did at the plate and this time was no different (he struck out). In a world of three-inning baseball games, only a manager who also owned the team (and I kid Connie Mack because I'm a big fan) would have let Dean Chance wander up to the plate in a situation like that. In the real world, he left for a pinch-hitter two innings later and his team ended up losing 11-2.
And the differences would extend far beyond pinch-hitting appearances. Can you imagine how many pitchers Tony LaRussa would have crammed into the second and third innings if the end of the game was nigh? And what about our closers? It's hard to imagine Mariano Rivera's role in the brave new world I'm envisioning, but it probably would be more significant that nineteen games pitched (and four saves) since 1997. And yet that's all he has in my three-inning universe. I admit it's not fair.
Despite all these shortcomings (and there are more you will notice as we proceed through this exercise), I think this is an interesting approach and one I am prepared to beat to death. So what teams will succeed in this world? Well, relief pitching is not a priority. Or bench strength. But in general, good regulars and starting pitching will carry the day much as they do today.
Oh, one more thing. Shortening the game in this fashion will also give the cream, as the say, less time to rise to the top. So I suspect luck will play a greater role in the outcome. And as we will see, the breaks will not always even out over the course of a 154 or 162-game season. Not that they do in the real world of marathon nine-inning contests, but expect more evidence of random chance in these seasons, or as I like to think of it, intangibles you can almost touch.
Now when I first started this article, I envisoned doing a "history" of this pretend world from 1951 to 2011, but I soon realized that such a scope was a) overly ambitious, and b) a little bit nuts. So I scaled it back to a nineteen-year history, although there is a section on all-time records, division winners and such in the appendices that covers the full sixty-one years.
So what that as a preamble, let's look at what I found.
It was a crazy time, with American workers more productive than ever, especially since their national pastime no longer took a two-hour chunk out of their day. Perhaps the craziest thing about the decade was that it only had nine years. It was as if one day people woke up and said: hey, what happened to 1950?
Here are the pennant winners each year, along with the runner-up:
Pennant Winner Pennant Winner Year Team W L GA 2nd Team W L GA 2nd 1951 NY N* 90 64 8.0 STL N NY A* 96 58 5.0 BOS A 1952 NY N 88 66 2.0 PHI N NY A* 91 63 3.0 CLE A 1953 PHI N 100 54 9.0 MIL N-BRO N* CLE A 94 60 6.0 WAS A 1954 BRO N 88 66 1.0 NY N* CLE A* 95 59 1.0 CHI A 1955 BRO N* 92 62 5.0 PHI N NY A* 99 55 13.0 CHI A-DET A 1956 MIL N 88 66 2.0 BRO N* NY A* 99 55 16.0 CHI A 1957 MIL N* 89 65 - BRO N CHI A 94 60 8.0 BOS A-NY A* 1958 PIT N 87 67 1.0 MIL N* CHI A 92 62 5.0 NY A* 1959 MIL N 89 65 3.0 SF N CLE A 95 59 10.0 NY A * - won the real pennant
Well this is quite a bit different that what actually happened. Depending upon the result of the 1957 NL playoff between the Braves and the Dodgers, either only two or three of the NL pennant winners duplicated their feats in this world. And the best team of the decade was the 1953 Phillies,3 who benefited from being able to forego the eighth inning, where they were outscored 110-73.
Here are the actual pennant winners not shown above:
Year Team W L GB PL Team W L GB PL 1952 BRO N 83 71 5.0 3rd 1953 NY A 79 72 13.5 4th 1959 LA N 84 70 5.0 3rd CHI A 78 76 17.0 4th
The Yankees would see their dominance fade, taking four pennants instead of seven, or as many as the two Al Lopez-led teams during those years.
And although these certainly aren't the most important statistics, here are the leaders in the batting and pitching triple crown stats in each league:4
Batting National League Home Runs RBIs Batting Average Year Player HR Player RBI Player AVG 1951 Gil Hodges 15 Monte Irvin 52* Roy Campanella .348 Ralph Kiner 15* Ralph Kiner 52 1952 Hank Sauer 16* Hank Sauer 57* Frank Baumholtz .367 1953 Eddie Mathews 21* Del Ennis 58 Monte Irvin .383 1954 Hank Sauer 18 Ted Kluszewski 65* Duke Snider .360 Gil Hodges 18 Ted Kluszewski 18* 1955 Eddie Mathews 25 Duke Snider 64* Eddie Mathews .359 1956 Duke Snider 18* Duke Snider 53 Bill Virdon .318 1957 Hank Aaron 20* Hank Aaron 60* Stan Musial .342* 1958 Ernie Banks 16* Ernie Banks 52* Stan Musial .354 1959 Eddie Mathews 19* Ernie Banks 62* Joe Adcock .342
American League Home Runs RBIs Batting Average Year Player HR Player RBI Player AVG 1951 Gus Zernial 17* Eddie Robinson 60 Ted Williams .343 1952 Gus Zernial 14 Eddie Robinson 49 George Kell .343 Larry Doby 14* 1953 Al Rosen 20* Al Rosen 71* Harvey Kuenn .345 1954 Ray Boone 12 Larry Doby 55* Billy Goodman .343 Larry Doby 12* 1955 Larry Doby 14 Ray Boone 49* Ted Williams .375 1956 Mickey Mantle 15* Harry Simpson 59 Bill Skowron .358 1957 Roy Sievers 19* Roy Sievers 51* Ted Williams .406* 1958 Mickey Mantle 15* Sherm Lollar 43 Billy Goodman .347 1959 Rocky Colavito 22* Rocky Colavito 60 Tito Francona .390 * - lead the real league
Pitching National League Wins Strikeouts ERA Year Player W Player SO Player ERA 1951 Sal Maglie 25* Warren Spahn 69* Larry Jansen 2.35 Warren Spahn 25 1952 Robin Roberts 22* Vinegar Bend Mizell 92 Billy Loes 2.18 1953 Robin Roberts 26* Robin Roberts 97* Curt Simmons 2.09 1954 Johnny Antonelli 25 Harvey Haddix 88 Johnny Antonelli 1.59* 1955 Robin Roberts 20* Sam Jones 99* Johnny Podres 2.26 Bob Rush 20 1956 Don Newcombe 23* Harvey Haddix 93 Al Worthington 1.97 1957 Bob Friend 23 Jack Sanford 100* Don Drysdale 2.24 1958 Lou Burdette 24 Sam Jones 117* Harvey Haddix 2.24 1959 Johnny Antonelli 22 Don Drysdale 123* Roger Craig 1.56 Don Drysdale 22
American League Wins Strikeouts ERA Year Player W Player SO Player ERA 1951 Vic Raschi 25 Vic Raschi 73* Mel Parnell 2.05 1952 Bob Lemon 25 Virgil Trucks 84 Billy Pierce 1.63 1953 Mike Garcia 23 Billy Pierce 92* Mickey McDermott 2.25 1954 Bob Lemon 23* Bob Turley 94* Mike Garcia 2.26* 1955 Whitey Ford 22* Herb Score 131* Billy Hoeft 2.38 1956 Herb Score 23 Herb Score 134* Herb Score 1.89 1957 Billy Pierce 23* Early Wynn 90* Frank Sullivan 2.12 1958 Dick Donovan 22 Early Wynn 93* Gary Bell 1.82 1959 Cal McLish 24 Early Wynn 104 Art Ditmar 2.11 * - lead the real league
Of course, lopping off the last two-thirds of most games (but, as we will see, extra-inning games will abound) reduces most counting stats by quite a bit. Four big exceptions for pitchers: wins, complete games, shutouts and no-hitters. In 1968, to take an extreme example, there were 221 complete game no-hitters, meaning that fans attending these shortened games had about a one in eight chance of seeing one.
A brief year-by-year recap.
After dropping their game on August 11th, the fifth-place Giants trailed the Dodgers by five games. Within a week, they had caught Brooklyn and now only trailed the first place Boston Braves by three. And by the time the Giants had finished a nine-game winning streak on September 7th, they had reversed places with the Braves and coasted home to an easy pennant. Bobby Thomson led the team with ten homers, none of them particulary memorable.
The Yankees had a tougher time of it, trailing the Red Sox by a half game as late as September 26th, But New York finished the year by sweeping Boston in five straight games, giving the appearance of a more comfortable race than it was.
Robin Roberts might have been little more than a .500 pitcher with a 20-19 record, but he did complete all 39 of his starts. From 1951 to the end of 1956, he would fail to complete only a single start, that one on June 26, 1955.
The longest hitting streaks of the year only lasted eleven games. They were by Bobby Avila and George Metkovich, whose streaks both ended after their games on July 27th. Only one player had more than four RBIs in a game, but Randy Jackson did it twice, on May 16th and August 18th. Pitching highlights included 143 no-hitters as well as a sixteen-walk game by Tommy Byrne.
One thing I noticed in looking through the pretend statistics for this year is that Preacher Roe went from 22-3 (real) to 18-13 (ours) despite having a higher real than pretend ERA (3.04 to 2.89).5
Finally, since the two actual pennant-winners won them here as well, we can see what effect, if any, the shortened games would have had on the World Series. The short answer is none at all. The only game not decided by the end of the third was the fourth game, and the Yankees went ahead for good in that one in the top of the fourth. Kind of makes you wonder why they bothered playing out the string.
In what would have been a furious pennant race, the Phillies led the Giants by one game heading into a final three-game series at the Polo Grounds. Maglie's shutout on September 26th knotted things up before Mario Picone beat Paul Stuffel, both going for their first major league wins, 2-1 to clinch at least a tie for the pennant. You have admire the gutsiness of managers Leo Durocher and Steve O'Neill, going with pitchers like that in such a big game. In another curious choice, Durocher went with Jack Harshman, also looking for his first major league win, to oppose twenty-two game winner Robin Roberts in the final game. Once again, this bizarre confidence in his young pitchers paid off, as Harshman blanked Roberts and the Phillies, winning 2-0, helped along by Hank Thompson's sixth home run in the bottom of the second.
The Yankees were in fifth place as late as August 27th, but finished with a rush, going 22-5 down the stretch. Unlike the NL race, there were no late-season showdowns, as the second-place Indians played New York only once in September, a 4-0 Yankee victory on September 14th.
Gus Zernial had the top RBI day of the year, batting in all seven runs in the Athetics' 7-0 win on August 22nd. Satchel Paige pitched the longest outing of the year, holding the Tigers scoreless for twelve innings before winning 1-0 on August 6th.
The Dodgers scored fifteen runs on May 21st, all of them in the first inning. No team would score as many runs in a game until 1972.
When great teams of this decade are discussed, the 1953 Phillies don't even get a mention. But is it their fault that the game was nine innings long instead of three? In our abbreviated world, this team was the only one from 1951 to 1964 to hit the century mark in wins, easily outdistancing the second-place Dodgers and Braves. Robin Roberts, in his best season, led the league in games, games started, complete games, wins, innings pitched, hits allowed (okay, that one isn't so good), strikeouts, and tied for the lead in shutouts with sixteen. His teammate, Curt Simmons had the majors' lowest ERA (at 2.25) and chipped in twenty-one wins.
On September 13th, the Indians found themselves in a battle for the pennant with the surprising Washington Senators. But they won their next three games behind the shutout pitching of Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller, and would not lose again until the final day of the season.
Where were the Yankees? Well, they suffered through a mediocre year, a full twenty games worse than they did in the real world. This was tied for the biggest negative difference from 1951 to 1969 with the 1960 Cardinals, who went 66-88 in these shortened games, good (or bad) for sixth place, compared to their actual 86-68 third-place finish. The biggest dropoff from 1951 to 2011 was the twenty-three games that went missing from the 2004 Yankees, as the team with the best record in the league (101-61) fell all the way to 78-84, only two and a half games from the basement.
Dick Kryhoski became the first hitter in this period to collect as many as five hits in a game on September 9th as the Browns fell 2-1 in twelve innings. And Bob Turley struck out a season-high fourteen in another twelve-inning game four days earlier.
You should have been there. In one of the most dramatic comebacks that never actually happened, the Dodgers came from two and a half games behind with four games to play to take the 1954 pennant from the Giants. It began when Karl Spooner shut out New York in his major league debut on September 22nd, avoiding a three-game sweep and elimination. A no-hitter by Carl Erskine (one of 137 no-hitters in the majors that season) while the Giants were splitting a double-header with the Phillies made it a one-game lead. That lead was gone the next day, when the Dodgers recovered from two first-inning runs to beat the Pirates 4-2 while the sliding Giants were being no-hit by Curt Simmons. It would all come down to the final day.
And what a day! First year Dodgers manager Walter Alston gambled again with Karl Spooner, and he traded ciphers with Pirates' rookie right-hander Jake Thies until a Gil Hodges home run, his eighteen of the season, won the game in the bottom of the seventh. Meanwhile, the Giants were facing Robin Roberts in their final game, and that also was scoreless after regulation. The end finally came in the bottom of the fifth inning when, with no one out and runners on first and third, the Giants chose to turn a double-play as the winning run scored. I'm not sure what they were thinking.
And things were just as dramatic in the Junior Circuit, with the Indians holding only a half-game lead over the White Sox as they began a crucial three game series on September 20th. After a split in the first two games, Indians rookie Don Mossi, appearing for the first time in over a month,6 held the Indians to only a single while scoring the winning run himself in the bottom of the second.
Both the Indians and White Sox were victims of no-hitters the next day (Billy O'Dell pitched a perfect game against Chicago for his first major league victory) before Early Wynn pitched a no-hitter of his own to clinch the pennant on September 25th.
Whitey Lockman had an eleven game hitting streak from July 16th to 25th. It was the first double-digit hitting streak since 1951 and there would not be another until 1960.
The Dodgers spent most of the summer in the lead, but for a few days in September it looked like there might be an exciting finish after all. After finishing off their sweep of the Pirates on September 18th, the second-place Phillies came into Ebbets Field only three games behind. If the visitors could take both ends of the double-header, the last five days of the season could get very interesting. Brooklyn, however, had no sense of the dramatic, winning the opener without a hit before Roger Craig completed the sweep by shutting the Phillies out in the second.
The situation in the American League was similar, with the Yankees holding a three and a half game lead after the games of August 30th. New York, however, shortly put an end to any remaining suspense by winning nineteen of their next twenty.
For only the second time during this period, both of the actual pennant winners triumphed in the three-inning world as well. So how would the World Series have gone? Well, every one of the first six games went the same way as the full length version except for game four, but that would have been enough to give the series to the Yankees four games to two, denying Johnny Podres a chance at immortality.
On June 19th, Stan Lopata joined the not-very-crowded five-hit club in the Phillies 1-0 fifteen-inning win over the Cubs. Despite hitting a double and four singles, he was not involved in scoring the game's only run. And Bob Niemann had two homers and a single, driving in seven runs and scoring three, in the White Sox 14-3 trouncing of the Athletics on April 23rd. Kansas City probably would have welcomed an early end to this one, since the nine-inning version ended with them on the short end of a 29-6 score.
After beating the Dodgers on September 12th, the Milwaukee Braves had a six game lead with fifteen to play. It was time to start printing pretend World Series tickets. But then they went into Philadelphia and New York and proceeded to get shut out six times in a row. Suddenly, their lead was only a single game. Fortunately, their hitters began hitting again at this point, while the Dodgers were losing three out of four in Pittsburgh, and the Braves had their first pennant in their new home.
The Yankees won their pennant by the largest margin of the decade. They were led by Mickey Mantle and Bill Skowron on offense, and by Whitey Ford on the hill, who won at least twenty games for the second straight year.
One pitcher who suffered with a shorter working day that year was Early Wynn, as he saw his 20-9 mark in the real world morph into a record of 14-20. Other pitchers with similar turn-arounds were Bob Tewksbury in 1992, who went from 16-5 to 12-18, and Jack McDowell in 1993, who would probably not have won a Cy Young award with a 14-20 line instead of 22-10.
The White Sox built up a ten-game lead by late August and coasted to the American League, easily outdistancing their rivals despite a run differential (258-202) that was not much better the two second place teams, the Red Sox (254-211) and Yankees (259-213). I guess they just knew what it took to win these shorter games.
It was quite a different story over in the Senior Circuit. The Dodgers held a three game lead over the Braves after taking two of three from them from September 12th to 14th, but that lead evaporated in a hurry after three straight losses (and three straight Brave wins) gave Milwaukee a percentage point lead on September 17th. Without any more games between each other, both teams waged a furious battle with the rest of the league, Brooklyn losing only once more (their hot streak including wins in the last four games ever played at Ebbets Field) and the Braves matching them win for win. With two games left in the season, the Braves still held a one-game lead, but a four-inning no-hit loss to Johnny Klippstein and the Reds opened the door for the Dodgers. Walter Alston, in another bold managerial move characteristic of three-inning baseball, elected to start Rene Valdez, a rookie making his first major league start, a decision that didn't look so good when the Phillies took a 1-0 lead into the last inning. But the Dodgers rallied in dramatic fashion, highlighted by a three-run homer by little-used Randy Jackson, his first of the season, and the teams were tied with one game to play.
Both teams took 1-0 decisions the next day, the Braves' win an extra-inning affair that was aided by Reds' manager Birdie Tebbetts decision to remove rookie starting pitcher Jay Hook after he had thrown five no-hit innings. As you can imagine, it was a controversial decision that was very unpopular among the Dodger faithful.
So what happened next? Well, I suppose the two teams met in a three-game playoff. And at least one of those would have been played in Brooklyn. But of course, those games never happened and so we don't know who would have represented the NL in the three-inning World Series that fall. But at least the Dodgers gave their fans one last exciting pennant race before their move to the west coast.
Vic Wertz hit two home runs, good for seven runs, in the Indians 10-9 five-inning win over the Red Sox on September 14th, a game that also featured four hits by Joe Caffie, who would get only one more hit in his major league career (well, at least in the three-inning world).
Ted Williams hit .406. There would not be another .400 hitter until George Brett in 1980 (.435), and Brett's mark would not be topped until Larry Walker hit .441 in 1999 (and, in case you're wondering, Walker hit .494 at Coors Field that year and .389 on the road).
Once again, the White Sox moved out to a comfortable lead and easily won the AL pennant. By the time their thirteen-game winning streak ended on August 20th, their lead was seven and a half games over the second-place Yankees. And once again, their intangibles were somewhat responsible as their run differential (255-210) was slightly worse than New York's (261-207).
The real race was in the National League, where the Pittsburgh Pirates almost suffered a monumental collapse in the closing week of the season. Trailing the Braves by a game and a half on September 1st, the Pirates seemingly ran away with the pennant with a 14-2 streak that left them with a four game lead with five games to play on September 20th. But not only did they not win any of those remaining five games, they failed to score another run.
The Braves meanwhile won three of their next four games, and following Warren Spahn's shutout on September 27th, had a chance to force a playoff with a victory on the final day of the season. As the scoreless game headed into extra-innings, however, Braves manager Fred Haney replaced starter Bob Rush with Carl Willey, and it was Willey who gave up the deciding runs in the top of the sixth inning. The Pirates had backed into a pennant.
For the fourth straight year, the Braves spent September embroiled in a tight pennant race. After dropping the opener of a five-game road trip on September 19th, their lead over the second-place Giants was only a half-game. But the two teams went in different directions after that, Milwaukee taking their next three while San Francisco was dropping three straight, and when Warren Spahn won an eight-inning decision over the Phillies on September 26th, the Braves had either their second or third pennant in the last four years. And there would be more to come.
Over in the American League, it was the Indians' year. They started the season with an eleven-game winning streak and simply blew away the rest of the league. By August 26th, they had a 85-41 record and a sixteen and a half game lead over the Yankees. Cleveland played poorly the last month of the season, but it hardly mattered. The disappointing White Sox, who seemed to have forgotten how to win after back-to-back pennants, spent most of the year in the second division, until a 25-12 finish allowed them to sneak into fourth-place.
Whitey Ford posted the top strikeout performance of the Fifties when he fanned fifteen Senators over fourteen innings on April 22nd. It wasn't the longest outing of the year, however. That belonged to Jerry Walker, who pitched a sixteen-inning shutout on September 11th.
It was a crazy time, with people protesting segregation and racial discrimination early in the decade and an unpopular war in Vietnam at its close. One thing people didn't have to protest, however, was the length of their baseball games, which still clocked in at little more than an hour apiece.
Here are the pennant winners each year, along with the runner-up:
Pennant Winner Pennant Winner Year Team W L GA 2nd Team W L GA 2nd 1960 MIL N 98 56 11.0 PIT N* BAL A 88 66 4.0 CHI A 1961 MIL N 93 61 14.0 SF N NY A* 93 69 1.0 DET A 1962 CIN N 96 66 1.0 SF N* DET A 90 71 3.5 BOS A 1963 LA N* 99 63 4.0 SF N CHI A 98 64 7.5 NY A* 1964 PHI N 96 66 6.0 CIN N CHI A 91 71 - MIN A-NY A* 1965 LA N* 91 71 2.0 SF N MIN A* 105 57 10.0 CLE A 1966 SF N 88 73 1.5 PIT N MIN A 100 62 1.0 BAL A* 1967 CHI N 99 62 1.0 STL N* MIN A 88 74 2.0 CLE A 1968 STL N* 95 67 5.0 NY N DET A* 93 69 1.0 OAK A East West Year Team W L GA 2nd Team W L GA 2nd 1969 NY N* 93 69 - STL N CIN N 92 70 3.0 HOU N East West Year Team W L GA 2nd Team W L GA 2nd 1969 BAL A* 96 66 9.0 BOS A MIN A* 90 72 9.0 OAK A * - won the real pennant or division
The two best teams of the decade were the 1965 and 1966 Minnesota Twins.
Here are the actual pennant or division winners not shown above:
Year Team W L GB PL Team W L GB PL 1960 NY A 81 73 7.0 3rd 1961 CIN N 78 76 15.0 3rd 1962 NY A 84 78 6.5 3rd 1964 STL N 86 76 10.0 4th 1966 LA N 83 79 5.5 4th 1967 BOS A 82 80 6.0 5th 1969 ATL N 87 75 5.0 3rd
Once again, the Yankees fared far worse here than in the real world, taking only one and a third pennants (and more about 1964 later) instead of five.
And the leaders in the batting and pitching triple crown stats in each league:
Batting National League Home Runs RBIs Batting Average Year Player HR Player RBI Player AVG 1960 Ernie Banks 21* Ernie Banks 59 Norm Larker .352 1961 Joe Adcock 17 Hank Aaron 56 Roberto Clemente .368* Joe Adcock 56 1962 Willie Mays 27* Willie Mays 72 Stan Musial .366 1963 Willie Mays 19 Ken Boyer 48 Vada Pinson .345 1964 Willie Mays 17* Ron Santo 56 Joe Torre .343 1965 Willie Mays 27* Willie Mays 69 Willie Mays .364 1966 Dick Allen 19 Dick Allen 50 Ron Hunt .353 Willie Mays 50 1967 Hank Aaron 15* Roberto Clemente 46 Matty Alou .361 1968 Willie McCovey 16* Dick Allen 45 Cleon Jones .327 1969 Jim Wynn 17 Joe Torre 56 Pete Rose .367*
American League Home Runs RBIs Batting Average Year Player HR Player RBI Player AVG 1960 Rocky Colavito 15 Roger Maris 43* Jimmy Piersall .342 Roger Maris 15 Vic Wertz 43 1961 Roger Maris 26* Jim Gentile 73* Norm Cash .387* 1962 Harmon Killebrew 19* Harmon Killebrew 53* Al Kaline .350 1963 Al Kaline 15 Al Kaline 48 Al Kaline .320 Dick Stuart 15 1964 Mickey Mantle 16 Mickey Mantle 57 Mickey Mantle .349 1965 Fred Whitfield 12 Rocky Colavito 51* Tony Oliva .326* 1966 Frank Robinson 16* Frank Robinson 51* Ken Berry .329 1967 Harmon Killebrew 15* George Scott 46 Frank Robinson .323 1968 Ken Harrelson 15 Ken Harrelson 52* Carl Yastrzemski .340* 1969 Reggie Jackson 21 Harmon Killebrew 64* Lee Maye .372 Carl Yastrzemski 21 * - lead the real league
Pitching National League Wins Strikeouts ERA Year Player W Player SO Player ERA 1960 Vern Law 23 Don Drysdale 112* Curt Simmons 2.00 Warren Spahn 23* 1961 Don Cardwell 24 Sandy Koufax 140* Carl Willey 2.62 1962 Bob Purkey 27 Sandy Koufax 124 Sandy Koufax 1.62* 1963 Sandy Koufax 31* Sandy Koufax 164* Sandy Koufax 1.52* 1964 Jim Bunning 26 Jim Maloney 134 Don Drysdale 1.20 1965 Don Drysdale 28 Sandy Koufax 196* Bob Veale 1.69 1966 Sandy Koufax 26* Sandy Koufax 138* Juan Marichal 1.13 1967 Fergie Jenkins 23 Gaylord Perry 128 Phil Niekro 1.32* 1968 Bob Gibson 28 Fergie Jenkins 134 Bob Gibson 0.59* 1969 Larry Dierker 26 Bill Singer 140 Larry Dierker 1.42
American League Wins Strikeouts ERA Year Player W Player SO Player ERA 1960 Early Wynn 21 Jim Bunning 119* Camilo Pascual 1.73 1961 Whitey Ford 25* Ken McBride 101 Dick Donovan 1.57* 1962 Jim Bunning 25 Jim Kaat 95 Hank Aguirre 1.88* Ralph Terry 95 1963 Whitey Ford 26* Dick Stigman 99 Juan Pizarro 1.89 1964 Mickey Lolich 25 Dean Chance 113 Dean Chance 1.30* 1965 Jim Kaat 28 Sam McDowell 166* Jim Kaat 1.57 1966 Jim Kaat 26* Sam McDowell 135* Gary Peters 1.81* 1967 Dean Chance 24 Jim Lonborg 129* Joe Horlen 1.38* Joe Horlen 24 Jim Lonborg 24* 1968 Denny McLain 29* Sam McDowell 168* Luis Tiant 1.24* 1969 Dave McNally 26 Sam McDowell 142* Jim Hannan 1.80 Jim Perry 26 * - lead the real league
So this decade saw our first thirty game winner (and it wasn't Denny McLain), three winners of the batting triple crown (and they weren't named either Frank Robinson or Carl Yastrzemski), and ended with a new single-season home run record holder (and it wasn't held by Roger Maris).
Actually, Ted Williams had a higher average than Jimmy Piersall in 1960 (.349 to .342), but was short a few plate appearances, enough to place him second in the race.
And I'm sure few of us expected to see Fred Whitfield at the top of the 1965 AL home run leaderboard, or Jim Hannan leading a league in ERA.
A brief year-by-year recap.
It was the pennant that nobody seemed to want. After losing the first game of their double-header on July 23rd, the Orioles were a perfectly mediocre team at 46-46, and yet their win in the second game left them in fifth place, but only three and a half game off the pace. So once they got on a roll, and they went 17-1 between August 17th and September 4th, they leapt over the teams ahead of them and took a five and a half game lead by Labor Day. They didn't play that well after that, but still easily outdistanced the White Sox.
After several years of close pennant races, the NL went against form in 1960, as the Milwaukee Braves started the year by going 41-16 and had over a ten-game lead by July 26th.
While the pennant races may not have been exciting, there were a few notable offensive performances in 1960. Al Kaline broke the record for the longest hitting streak when he collected at least one hit in fourteen straight games from August 27th to September 9th. The previous mark, eleven, had been accomplished three times. And Dick Stuart became the first hitter with a three-homer game when he turned the trick on June 30th.
The Senators set an unenviable mark when they were held scoreless for 41 2/3 consecutive innings from May 22nd to May 30th. It included seven shutouts and was a mark that wouldn't be broken until the 1985 San Francisco Giants failed to score in 47 2/3 innings from June 3rd to 15th. That stretch included eleven shutouts.
For the second straight year, the Milwaukee Braves beat up on the rest of the NL. Led by Joe Adcock (18 HRs, 56 RBIs and a 1.047 OPS) and Hank Aaron (17 HRs, 56 RBIs and a .996 OPS) at the plate and by Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn on the mound, it was either their fourth or fifth pennant in the last six years. They were a team built to succeed in this shortened format, since their lack of depth seldom hurt them.
The Yankees hadn't won a pennant since 1956, but that seemed sure to change when a split in their double-header with the White Sox on September 14th gave them a three and a half game lead over the defending champion Orioles. But then they headed into Detroit, where they lost four straight and by the time they headed to Boston for the final weekend of the season, they were tied with the Tigers.
Whitey Ford pitched a shutout on Friday while the Tigers' Jim Bunning was losing a battle of twenty-game winners with Camilo Pascual. Detroit would not lose again, but it did them little good, because Ralph Terry and Bill Stafford followed up Ford's effort with shutouts of their own. The season ended in the bottom of the fourth inning on October 1st, when Roger Maris hit a game-winning home run off of Tracy Stallard. It was Maris' twenty-sixth of the season, breaking the previous single-season record set by Eddie Mathews in 1955.7
The American League expanded to ten teams in 1961 and both of the new teams acquitted themselves well. The Washington Senators had a winning record as late as August 27th and finished the year with a 79-82 mark, only a half game out of the first division, right behind Washington's last tenant, the transplanted Minnesota Twins. The Angels were also surprisingly good, finishing three games behind the Senators, in seventh-place. They were led by pitcher Ted Bowsfield, who finished with a 17-5 mark and a 2.90 ERA.
Jim Gentile hit two grand-slams on May 9th, setting a record for the most RBIs in a game with eight. He hit them in the top of the first and second innings, meaning that he already had his RBIs by the time the fans stood up for the second-inning stretch. It would broken and tied within a ten-day span in 1999, first by Ivan Rodriguez, who had nine RBIs on April 13th and then by Fernando Tatis, who did Gentile one better by hitting both of his grand-slams in the same inning on April 23rd. Gentile finished the season with 73 RBIs, a single season record that would stand until Manny Ramirez had 81 in 1999. Ramirez' mark would last only until 2003, when Carlos Delgado finished with 82 RBIs.
1962 was a year of surprises in the American League. As late as June 17th, the Kansas City Athletics were in first place. And as late as August 20th, the second-year Los Angeles Angels were in front. But they both faded toward the end of August and for a while, it looked like the Tigers would battle the Red Sox for the pennant. But when Boston went into Yankee Stadium and were swept in a four-game series, it put an end to their hopes, and the Tigers had their pennant.
There was a furious two-team race between the Reds and the Giants in the Senior Circuit. From August 10th to the end of the season, the two teams were never more than two games apart. On September 26nd, there were separated by a single percentage point. But the Giants could only split their remaining four games while the Reds were winning behind two unlikely heroes: rookie right-hander Sammy Ellis and late-season call-up John Tsitouris, who both pitched shutouts to clinch the pennant for the Reds.
It was the NL's turn to expand in 1962 and they added the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s. Neither did as well as the first-year Angels or Senators, the ninth-place Mets finishing with a 63-98 mark and the Colts .45s ending up in the cellar with a record of 60-101, the first major league team to top a hundred losses since the 1954 Pirates went 48-106 (the 1953 team had done even worse, 45-109). The Mets were led on the mound by Roger Craig (15-17) and Al Jackson (15-18).
Roger Maris didn't hold the single-season home run record for long. In 1962, Willie Mays hit twenty-seven to set a new mark. His record-setting blow came in the third inning of the game on September 19th and was hit off of Larry Jackson.
The Dodgers hadn't fared too well since leaving Brooklyn, their best showing being 84 wins and a third-place finish in 1959. But in 1963, they were able to ride the strong left-arm of Sandy Koufax to a pennant. He started the season with eight straight shutouts, including four no-hitters in a span of five starts from April 23rd to May 19th. He would add another five no-hitters before he was done, and end up with thirty-one wins, including a record twenty-six shutouts. His nine no-hitters tied Sam McDowell in 1969 for the most in this world, although Greg Maddux deserves special mention for pitching the longest in such games, totaling thirty-one innings in his eight 1995 no-hitters.
Even with Koufax (and Don Drysdale, who won twenty-five games that year), the Dodgers still trailed the Giants by two and a half games as they hosted their rivals in a four-game series at the end of August. They ended up sweeping San Francisco and a week later headed into San Francisco and took two of three. That gave the Dodgers a three and a half game lead and the Giants would not get closer than three games again.
The other pitchers with thirty or more wins since 1951 all came in one six year span: Dave McNally (30 wins in 1970), Mickey Lolich (31 in 1971) and Catfish Hunter (31 in 1975).
The Chicago White Sox led the race in the AL for most of the year. For a while, the Detroit Tigers, behind triple-crown winner Al Kaline, were close at their heels, but they faded badly down the stretch, going 12-18 over the final month.
Other highlights included a record-tying fourteen-game hitting streak by Maury Wills from June 4th to 17th, and a ten-game streak by the man whose record he tied. Al Kaline collected fourteen hits in sixteen at-bats, including a double, triple and five home runs from June 2nd to 13th.
And Juan Marichal would have grabbed headlines with his performance in 1963 had he not been overshadowed by Koufax. He won twenty-eight games, including twenty-three shutouts. At one point, he held opponents scoreless for 52 1/3 consecutive innings, including an eight-inning no-hitter and a sixteen-inning shutout.
They would eventually call it the "Great Race," but it was late developing. On August 26th, the White Sox had a four-game lead over the Twins and the Tigers were the only other team within ten games of the top. But the next day saw Chicago start a 6-19 stretch that threw the pennant up for grabs. By September 23rd, they had fallen to fourth place, three and a half games out of first, but they were also done losing for the year.
By September 29th, the top four teams were separated by only two games. By the start of the last weekend of the season, they were bunched even closer. The fourth place Tigers were finally eliminated on Saturday, and heading into the final day of the season, a game separated the other three, with the only hope for Chicago lying in a three-way playoff, and that could only happen if both the Twins and Yankees lost while the White Sox won.
Chicago took care of their part, beating the Athletics behind late-season rookie sensation Bruce Howard, and the Twins fell to Dan Osinski and the Angels. That left it up to the Yankees, whose game with the Indians wasn't decided until Cleveland's Vic Davalillo scored the winning run in the top of the thireenth, setting up what would have been the only three-team playoff in history.
Things were less exciting in the National League. The Phillies behind rookie Dick Allen's hitting and right-hander Jim Bunning's twenty-six victories, ran out to a commanding lead. After Chris Short shut out the Dodgers on September 18th, they had a seven game lead over the second-place Cincinnati Reds. They slumped somewhat over the last two weeks, but were able to clinch the pennant on September 26th. Despite the fact that the games were now meaningless, Gene Mauch chose not to rest his starters over the last week of the season, and worked his top starting pitchers especially hard.
For the second straight year, an American League batter won the triple crown. This time it was Mickey Mantle. There were four hitting streaks of ten games or longer, including the third by Al Kaline and the second by Maury Wills, but there were none longer than eleven games.
One of the most impressive pitching performances of the decade was put on by Mickey Lolich that year. He won twenty-one straight games from June 10th to September 26th, including twelve straight shutouts at one point. Lolich had a 6.26 ERA when his winning streak started and a 2.58 mark at its end. And Bob Veale set a new strikeout record when he fanned sixteen Reds over 12 1/3 innings on September 30th. The two teams combined for thirty-six strikeouts in that sixteen-inning game.
It took a long time for the National League to sort itself out in 1965. At the end of August, the eighth-place Cubs were only seven games out of first place. A half-game ahead of them were the Dodgers. Anything seemed possible. And it was. Three weeks later, after winning seventeen of nineteen games, Los Angeles had vaulted into second place, only a game behind the Giants. They were still in second place four days later, but they had lots of company. Even the fourth-place Reds were only four games out. But over their last nine games, the Dodgers would only allow a single run, and they would clinch the pennant on the next to last day of the season, when Sandy Koufax shut out the Braves for his twenty-seventh win of the season.
The Dodgers recipe for success in both 1963 and 1965 was simple: lots of Sandy Koufax and Drysdale. In 1963, they combined for 56 wins; this time around, they won 55. And that was enough to overcome a great performance by Willie Mays, who tied his single-season home run record on his way to the batting triple crown, the third such performance in as many years (following Al Kaline in 1963 and Mickey Mantle in 1964). Koufax struck out 196 batters, a mark tied by Randy Johnson in 2000, but never bettered.
The Twins, on the other hand, coasted to their pennant, winning a record 105 games (a mark that would be broken by the 1970 Orioles with 107). They were led by Jim Kaat, who topped the league with twenty-eight wins, sixteen shutouts and a 1.57 ERA, Mudcat Grant, who added twenty-five wins, and the major's top offense, This was the first time in ten years that the pennant winners matched those in the real world. So who would have won the World Series? The Dodgers. Nothing would have changed (except that the games would have been a lot shorter).
We have seen that no-hitters were pretty common in this world, but they were no more common than on July 9th, when there were seven thrown, including a four-inning double no-hitter between the Indians and Angels.
In the real world, Warren Spahn suffered through a 7-16 campaign and was through as a major league pitcher. But maybe his problem wasn't that his skills had eroded to the point where he was no longer an effective pitcher. Maybe his problem was simply that the games were too long. In the three-inning world, Spahn would have finished 1965 with a 17-13 mark and a 2.64 ERA. And I suspect that with that line on his resume, he probably would have been able to find work the next year.
Finally, Bob Veale's single-game strikeout record didn't last long. First, Jim Maloney struck out eighteen Mets over eleven-innings on June 14th. And then Chris Short fanned eighteen (again, the Mets were the victims) over fifteen innings on the next to last day of the season.
Maloney also has the distinction of throwing the longest no-hitter, his ten-inning gem against the Cubs on August 19th.
With two weeks to go in the season, it looked like there wouldn't be any late-season drama. But then things got interesting.
The Baltimore Orioles, behind a great first season by Frank Robinson, who led the league in both home runs and RBIs, appeared to be cruising toward their second pennant of the decade. On September 22nd, they had a four game lead over the second-place Twins. But then they lost three straight to the Angels while the Twins were winning four of five from the Tigers and Indians, and by the time the two teams met in Baltimore the final weekend the season, the Orioles lead was a single game.
Their slide continued as they were swept in the Friday double-header. After a rainout on Saturday, the two teams met for another twin-bill on Sunday. Facing elimination, Baltimore rallied to take the first game behind the perfect relief pitching of Frank Bertaina, setting up a winner-take-all showdown in the season finale. The game was scoreless into the eighth until Jim Perry, who had held the Orioles to four hits, singled in the winning run to give the Twins their 100th win of the campaign and either their second or third straight pennant (depending upon the outcome of the three-way playoff in 1964).
By the way, the Orioles finished the year playing only 160 games, having two rainouts with the Kansas City Athletics that were not made up. Had those games been played, and had they both resulted in Oriole victories, there would have been a tie atop the league, necessitating a playoff. But such a delay could have pushed the World Series into the second half of October, and of course no one wanted that.
The Giants had finished second five times since moving from New York, by they looked poised to take their first San Francisco pennant in 1966. After Juan Marichal's twenty-fourth win on September 17th, they had a six and a half game lead over the Pirates with twelve games left. But their rivals came to town the next day and proceeded to sweep the four-game series. By the time the two teams met the last weekend of the year, San Francisco still hadn't clinched, and a sweep by Pittsburgh would ensure a sixth second-place finish for the visiting Giants.
The Pirates took the first game of the Saturday double-header, as Woody Fryman outdealed Marichal, but the possibility of a decisive game on Sunday ended when Bobby Bolin held the Pirates to a single hit over eight innings in the nightcap, while hitting a run-scoring double to bring San Francisco the game and the pennant.
The Dodgers slumped to fourth place. Although Sandy Koufax was excellent in his final season, winning twenty-six games (including twenty-two shutouts), Don Drysdale slumped badly, losing a record twenty-five games. It was a total that wouldn't be topped until Wilbur Wood finished his 1973 campaign with a 21-27 mark. Claude Osteen also lost twenty games in 1966, part of a six-year stretch from 1964 to 1969 that saw him lose 120 games (two years each of nineteen, twenty and twenty-one losses).
Mediocrity ruled the American League in 1967. By September 15th, only a single percentage point separated the Twins and Indians, who had battled each other for the lead most of the summer, but both of these teams had only ten more wins than losses, and seven teams were within five games of the top spot. The Red Sox, who hadn't had a winning record since their surprising second-place finish in 1962, were in third place, just two games back.
But Boston could get no closer than that and eventually faded to fifth place. Meantime, the Twins and Indians were deadlocked with only two games to play. On the final Saturday, the Twins' Jim Kaat shut out Jose Santiago and the Red Sox, while the Indians were the victims of a perfect-game by Gene Brabender of the Orioles. The next day, Dean Chance finished a sweep of the two-game series, holding Boston scoreless while errors by Carl Yastrzemski and George Scott led to both Minnesota runs.
It was strictly a two-team race in the NL, with the Cardinals and Cubs separating themselves from the pack in September and engaging in a furious battle down the stretch. A streak of sixteen wins in seventeen games gave the Cubs a half-game lead on September 19th. The two teams played each other only once the final month, a 3-0 Cardinal win that left Chicago with a one game lead on September 26th with only three left to play.
The Cubs clinched a tie for the pennant when Fergie Jenkins held the Reds to a single hit in their next game, while George Stone, making his major league debut for the Atlanta Braves shut out the Cardinals, handing Bob Gibson his first loss since returning from the disabled list after breaking his leg on July 15th.8 An eight-run first inning the next day ended the suspense early as the Cubs romped past the Reds on their way to their first three-inning pennant.
Lou Brock set a record that still stands when he hit in fifteen straight games from May 21st to June 5th. He went 16-26 during those games, with four doubles, four home runs and five stolen bases. And the Braves also set a record that still stands when they hit six home runs on August 3rd.
It's probably not too surprising that the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League pennant in 1968. After all, they came close to beating the Cubs the previous year. But the team they beat was one you might not expect. The New York Mets had never finished higher than ninth place previously, and their 59-103 record the year before had been the worst in franchise history. But while they might not made the pennant race particularly close (and the final margin of five games is deceptive since the Cardinals slumped after clinching the pennant on September 20th), they did finish far ahead of the other eight teams, and their 90 wins were fifteen more than their previous high (set in 1966). They were led by rookie phenom Jerry Koosman, who set a team record with twenty-three wins and a 1.51 ERA. And Tom Seaver was not far behind with a 19-14 mark and a 1.59 ERA. The previous franchise record for wins was held by Jack Fisher, who had gone 18-16 in both 1964 and 1966.
But surprising or not, it was still the Cardinals' year. They were led by Bob Gibson, who had a year that was almost hard to believe. His ERA that year was a major league record low of 0.59, nearly a half a run lower than the next on the list (Don Drysdale, at 1.03, also accomplished in 1968). Gibson also set a mark with 56 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. From May 28th to September 6th, he allowed a single run in 81 innings, a stretch that included twenty shutouts in twenty-one starts and was part of a twenty-two game winning streak. In case you're wondering, the one run he allowed during that streak came on July 1st and scored on a two out wild pitch in the first inning. After that game, he had an ERA of 0.78 and would not allow another run for more than two months.
There would be one other twenty-game winning streak by a pitcher from 1951 to 2011. It was accomplished by Frank Viola in 1988. The streak, which lasted from May 1st to August 20th, included fifteen shutouts (eight straight at one point).
There was an unfamiliar contender that year in the other league as well. The transplanted Oakland Athletics had finished in ninth place the year before but overcame a slow start to surge to the top in August. On September 11th, they still had a half game lead over the Tigers. They headed into Detroit next, where they lost three straight and the lead, but then bounced back to take six of their next seven games, including three straight 1-0 shutouts against the White Sox.
For the Tigers, their three wins over Oakland had been part of a fifteen game winning streak that had seem to secure the pennant, but they followed that by losing two of three to the Senators and all three to the Orioles. Heading into the last series of the year, the Athletics and Tigers were tied, and after each split their games on Friday and Saturday, they were tied heading into the season's final day as well.
The Tigers won their game behind Mickey Lolich's shutout of the last-place Washington Senators and the pressure was on the Athletics to force a playoff. Minnesota had a disappointing season in 1968, dropping all the way to seventh-place after spending the previous four years in first place. But they relished the role of spoiler, and with Jim Merritt pitching a perfect game, the winning run scored on the only home run of Frank Quilici's career.
Luis Tiant set a single-game strikeout record when he fanned nineteen Twins in a ten-inning shutout on July 3rd. It would be tied by Nolan Ryan over eleven innings in 1974.
And the Astros and Mets played the longest game of three-inning baseball when it took them twenty-four innings to push across a single run on April 15th. Four different players in the game had ten at-bats, the first time this had been done in the three-inning era, and two of the players, Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda, went hitless.
There was another round of expansion prior to 1969, this one synchronized so both leagues added teams at the same time. And since no one wanted to be associated with an eleventh- or twelfth-place team, that year also saw the birth of divisional play. So instead of one pennant race in each league, there were now too. Unfortunately for the AL, that meant two bad pennant races, as both the Orioles and Twins won their divisions with relative ease, the Orioles lapping the Red Sox and the Twins romping home over the .500 Athletics.
The National League, on the other hand, had two closer battles for their divisional titles. In the West, the Astros were the surprise team, and on September 10th had a two game lead over the Reds. But then midnight struck for the Cinderella Astros, and a 3-11 stretch heading into a four-game showdown with the Reds on September 25th put them on the brink of elimination. A win in the opener gave Houston a brief glimmer of hope (a sweep would leave them just a half-game out of first) before Cincinnati put an end to this foolishness, shutting out the upstart Astros in both ends of a double-header, the last one thrown by Jack Fisher, making the last start of his major league career.
The most exciting pennant race, however, was in the eastern half of the NL, as the Cardinals and Mets reprised their struggle of a year earlier. While closer than in 1968, the Cards still looked like they had the title well in hand with a three-game lead on September 20th, the day the Mets lost their third straight shutout, this one a no-hitter by Bob Moose. But they swept the double-header the next day, cutting the lead in half before hosting the Cards in a crucial three-game series.
A shutout by Tom Seaver (his twentieth win of the season) set the tone for the rest of the series, and was followed by two Mets' shutouts, the last a no-hitter by Gary Gentry. Now the Mets had a game and a half lead and were heading into Philadelphia, where three more shutout victories (giving them a streak of seven) should have locked up the title. But the Cardinals were in Montreal and answered with three straight shutouts of their own, and when they also won their next game (while the Mets were idle) it cut New York's lead to a single game with two more to play.
The Cardinals streak to the finish featured some bold choices by manager Red Schoendienst and resulted in some unlikely heroes for the team. Three different rookie St. Louis pitchers made their major league debuts in these "must-win" games: Jerry Reuss, Santiago Guzman and Reggie Cleveland, and all three emerged victorious. The Mets made only one misstep over those last ten games, a 2-1 loss to Ken Holtzman and the Cubs on October 1st, but that was enough to let the Cardinal force a playoff.
Despite the improvement in their record from 1968 to 1969 (three more wins and a share of the best record in the NL), the previous year's squad actually had a better run differential (201-163 in 1968 versus 233-215 in 1969). Some might even say it was a miracle that they did as well as they did in 1969.
Jim Maloney pitched a record four consecutive no-hitters from April 15th to 30th and was soon dubbed Jim "Quadruple No-Hit" Maloney. This feat would be matched by Andy Messersmith from June 9th to 21st of 1975 and by David Cone from May 6th to 22nd of 1994. The mark was eclipsed by Josh Johnson, who started 2011 with five straight no-nos. Fortunately, by 2011 the press was no longer making up nicknames like "Quintuple No-Hit" for the players.
All the statistical data provided in this article really happened. Well, I suppose not the stuff about complete games, wins, shutouts and the like. But all the home runs, strikeouts, runs scored and runs allowed actually happened. All the teams I credit with winning a game actually led at some point after the middle of the third inning. But the context of these outs and hits and so on have been changed, often dramatically so. A run-scoring single in the bottom of the third that might be forgotten by the end of the game, now becomes a walk-off hit. A meaningless late-season game now decides the pennant. And so on.
I artificially added pressure to situations and games that didn't normally have any. Now, I'm not a big believer in clutch performance. Oh, I suppose some athletes have more problems than others concentrating when nothing's on the line, but I feel that if you aren't an athlete who responds well to pressure situations, you probably never rise too far in the pro ranks, regardless of your physical gifts. But almost all of the action reported above occurred during the periods of a game before people start paying close attention. Why, in Los Angeles, most of the games described above would be over before the bulk of the fans even arrived.
So in a way, this is a history of the part of the game before things get deadly serious, before someone like Tony LaRussa decides it's time to stop paying attention to the players on the field and start focusing on just how smart he is. Or before Tim McCarver tells us that the next pitch will be the most important one of the afternoon. It's the part of the game when the players simply play baseball, nine against nine, where even the pitchers try to hit in crucial situations.
And of course, as the game gets shorter, luck becomes more of a factor. One thing I noticed was how much better some (but not all) of the really awful teams did. The 1962 Mets didn't even lose a hundred games. Of course, if you were a fan of one of these teams, I think you had the feeling that if the game went on long enough, your players would find a way to lose. So a shorter game helped limit those opportunities for failure.
But in the end, I pursued this not because of any great insight it gave me into the game, into the Yankee dynasty of the Fifties and Sixties, or the Red Sox Impossible Dream or Miracle Mets, or any of those things. I pursued this because I thought it was interesting without being terribly important, and in this way, perhaps it's much like the early innings of a baseball game.
And, no, I don't really think the game is too long. Quite the contrary: once I'm at a ball game, I'm never in a hurry to return home.
Earlier in the article, I threatened to show some information for the entire 1951-2011 period. In addition to that, I've also included the pennant winners from 1916-1950, some stuff on the 1927 Yankees, as well as a brief tour of some other worlds.
It's time for some game, season and career records.
First of all, in the sixty-one years covered here, only one player hit for the cycle. It was Freddie Patek, who did it on July 9, 1971. Go, Freddie.
Let's start with the batting and running records:
Batting ------- Career ------ ---------- Season ---------- --------------- Game -------------- Cat Cat # Player # Player Year # Player Date G 3438 Pete Rose 163 Leo Cardenas 1964 1 Everyone G 163 Todd Zeile 1996 AB 6301 Pete Rose 337 Sandy Alomar 1971 10 Willy Taveras 4-17-2008 *1 AB 337 Ichiro Suzuki 2010 R 1081 Rickey Henderson 74 Lenny Dykstra 1993 4 Rafael Palmeiro 7-15-1993 R 4 Mark DeRosa 4-28-2009 H 1859 Pete Rose 112 Matty Alou 1969 6 Kirby Puckett 5-23-1991 H 2B 326 Pete Rose 29 Pete Rose 1978 3 Aramis Ramirez 4-10-2011 *2 2B 29 Grady Sizemore 2006 29 Brian Roberts 2008 3B 69 Roberto Clemente 11 George Brett 1979 2 Alex Avila 6- 9-2011 *3 3B 11 Willie Wilson 1985 HR 323 Barry Bonds 30 Barry Bonds 2001 3 Dick Stuart 6-30-1960(2) HR 3 Orlando Cepeda 7-26-1970(1) 3 Mike Cameron 5- 2-2002 3 Miguel Cabrera 5-28-2010 RBI 907 Hank Aaron 82 Carlos Delgado 2003 9 Ivan Rodriguez 4-13-1999 RBI BB 1007 Barry Bonds 101 Barry Bonds 2004 5 Reggie Smith 9-13-1974 BB 5 Andre Dawson 4-28-2009 IBB 233 Barry Bonds 50 Barry Bonds 2004 5 Andre Dawson 4-28-2009 IBB SO 994 Reggie Jackson 89 Bobby Bonds 1970 6 Billy Cowan 7- 9-1971 SO SB 682 Rickey Henderson 70 Rickey Henderson 1982 5 Willy Taveras 6-14-2008 SB CS 174 Rickey Henderson 28 Rickey Henderson 1982 2 Brandon Phillips 7- 7-2011 *4 CS HBP 122 Don Baylor 28 Ron Hunt 1971 3 Craig Kusick 8-27-1975 HBP AVG .327 Rod Carew .441 Larry Walker 1999 AVG OBP .453 Barry Bonds .651 Barry Bonds 2004 OBP SLG .634 Barry Bonds .937 Barry Bonds 2001 SLG *1 - happened 5 times, this is the last *2 - happened 26 times, this is the last *3 - happened 79 times, this is the last *4 - happened 174 times, this is the last
And now, the pitchers:
Pitching ------- Career ------ ---------- Season ---------- --------------- Game -------------- Cat # Player # Player Year # Player Date Cat W 420 Roger Clemens 31 Sandy Koufax 1963 1 W 31 Mickey Lolich 1971 31 Catfish Hunter 1975 L 360 Nolan Ryan 27 Wilbur Wood 1973 1 L G 776 Nolan Ryan 49 Wilbur Wood 1972 1 G GS 773 Nolan Ryan 49 Wilbur Wood 1972 1 GS CG 715 Nolan Ryan 48 Wilbur Wood 1972 1 CG SHO 267 Roger Clemens 26 Sandy Koufax 1963 1 SHO GF 54 Lindy McDaniel 12 Bobby Bolin 1965 1 GF SV 12 Doug Jones 4 Jack Sanford 1966 1 SV 4 Oscar Villarreal 2006 IP 2616 Nolan Ryan 195 Wilbur Wood 1972 16 Jack Harshman 8-13-1954 IP 16 Jerry Walker 9-11-1959(2) 16 Juan Marichal 7- 2-1963 16 Gaylord Perry 9- 1-1967 H 2398 Greg Maddux 163 Wilbur Wood 1973 15 Bill Wight 8-20-1952 H 15 Dick Ellsworth 6- 9-1964(1) R 1075 Nolan Ryan 85 Darryl Kile 1998 13 Mike Oquist 8- 3-1998 R 85 Bobby Witt 1999 85 Jose Lima 2000 BB 1426 Nolan Ryan 106 Nolan Ryan 1974 16 Tommy Byrne 8-22-1951 BB SO 2844 Nolan Ryan 196 Sandy Koufax 1965 19 Luis Tiant 7- 3-1968 SO 196 Randy Johnson 2000 19 Nolan Ryan 8-20-1974 HBP 97 Roger Clemens 14 Tom Murphy 1969 4 Orlando Hernandez 6- 3-2005 *1 HBP WP 152 Nolan Ryan 18 Bobby Witt 1986 5 Ken Howell 4- 5-1989 WP BK 57 Steve Carlton 11 John Dopson 1989 4 Bob Shaw 5- 4-1963 BK ERA 2.50 Johan Santana 0.59 Bob Gibson 1968 ERA *1 - happened 5 times, this is the last
First, the pre-wild card:
NL East NL West AL East AL West Year Team(s) W L GA Team(s) W L GA Team W L GA Team W L GA 1970 CHN 94 68 7.0 CIN-HOU-SFN 83 79 - BAL 107 55 14.0 MIN 86 76 1.0 1971 PIT 97 65 12.0 SFN 85 77 2.0 DET 92 70 2.0 OAK 87 74 2.0 1972 CHN 96 59 9.0 CIN 101 53 19.5 CLE 89 67 6.5 OAK 88 67 7.5 1973 STL 89 73 2.5 LAN 93 69 6.0 BAL 89 73 2.0 OAK 94 68 2.0 1974 PIT 87 75 3.5 LAN 103 59 14.0 NYA 90 72 5.5 OAK 90 72 8.0 1975 CHN-PHI 85 77 - LAN 93 69 6.5 BOS 91 69 2.0 KCA 87 75 3.0 1976 NYN 89 73 1.0 LAN 91 71 2.0 BOS 94 68 1.5 OAK 87 74 1.5 1977 PHI-STL 91 71 - LAN 100 62 4.0 NYA 99 63 2.5 TEX 99 63 9.0 1978 PIT 95 66 3.5 LAN 88 74 1.0 BOS 101 61 9.0 TEX 99 63 14.0 1979 PIT 89 73 2.0 CIN 89 72 7.0 MIL 94 67 0.5 CHA 85 75 1.0 1980 PIT 93 69 5.0 HOU 92 70 1.0 BAL 104 58 12.0 KCA 88 74 5.5 1981 STL 62 40 3.0 CIN 64 44 4.0 NYA 68 39 10.0 OAK 62 47 3.0 *1 1982 STL 89 73 2.0 LAN 99 63 9.0 MIL 96 66 12.0 CAL 93 69 3.0 1983 MON 85 77 1.0 LAN 97 65 2.0 NYA 94 68 3.0 CHA 87 75 4.0 1984 CHN 97 64 12.5 SDN 88 74 4.0 DET 92 70 6.0 CAL 86 76 3.0 1985 NYN 94 68 3.0 HOU-SDN 86 76 - DET 93 68 4.0 KCA 93 69 10.0 1986 NYN 94 68 2.5 HOU 92 70 6.0 BOS 91 70 1.5 TEX 93 69 6.0 1987 NYN 93 69 7.0 SFN 93 69 10.5 DET 102 60 11.0 MIN 87 75 1.0 1988 NYN 94 66 8.0 LAN 96 65 10.0 BOS 91 71 9.0 OAK 89 73 6.0 1989 CHN 99 63 14.0 SFN 89 73 2.0 BAL 89 73 3.0 OAK 95 67 8.0 1990 PIT 91 71 9.0 LAN 88 74 2.0 TOR 89 73 4.0 CHA 93 69 5.0 1991 PIT 90 72 3.5 ATL 91 71 5.0 TOR 92 70 1.0 MIN 87 75 3.0 1992 PIT 91 71 1.0 ATL 96 66 10.0 MIL 93 69 8.0 CHA 94 68 6.0 1993 PHI 93 69 8.0 ATL 100 62 3.0 BOS 92 70 2.0 KCA 92 70 5.0 *1 - the playoff teams were MON-STL, LAN-HOU (yep, Reds fans, screwed again), NYA-MIL and OAK-SEA.
Once the wild card arrives, it probably make sense to have a chart per league:
NL East NL Cent NL West Wildcard Year Team(s) W L GA Team(s) W L GA Team W L GA Team(s) W L 1994 MON 68 46 3.0 CIN 61 53 0.5 LAN 62 52 10.5 - 1995 ATL 84 60 6.5 CHN 80 64 4.0 COL 77 67 5.0 FLO 77 66 1996 ATL 95 67 9.0 STL 93 69 10.0 LAN 88 74 1.0 SDN 87 75 1997 ATL 103 59 17.0 HOU 96 66 12.0 SFN 88 74 5.0 FLO 86 76 1998 ATL 108 54 23.0 STL 92 70 9.0 SDN 95 67 5.0 LAN 90 72 1999 ATL 93 69 13.0 CIN 87 75 0.5 ARI 107 55 17.0 SFN 90 72 2000 ATL 91 71 3.0 STL 96 66 14.0 SFN 97 65 3.0 ARI 94 68 2001 FLO 89 73 1.0 HOU 89 73 1.0 ARI 96 66 11.0 ATL-CHN 88 74 2002 ATL 96 65 11.5 STL 89 73 2.0 SFN 93 69 2.0 ARI 91 71 2003 ATL 85 77 1.0 HOU 89 73 1.0 SFN 102 59 25.5 STL 88 94 2004 ATL 88 74 5.0 HOU-STL 93 69 - SFN 93 69 4.0 HOU-STL 93 69 2005 ATL 98 64 10.0 STL 96 66 11.0 ARI 83 79 7.0 PHI 88 74 2006 NYN-FLO 89 73 - STL 86 75 7.5 SFN 87 74 1.5 NYN-FLO 89 73 2007 NYN 92 70 6.0 CHN 88 74 2.0 ARI 87 75 4.0 PHI-MIL 86 76 2008 NYN 108 54 24.0 CHN 93 68 2.5 LAN 83 79 6.0 SLN 91 71 2009 ATL 98 64 8.0 SLN 92 70 10.5 SFN 91 71 4.0 PHI 90 72 2010 PHI-FLO 91 71 - MIL 84 78 1.0 COL 91 71 5.0 PHI-FLO 91 71 2011 PHI 92 70 5.0 MIL 93 69 1.0 LAN 91 70 11.5 STL 92 70
AL East AL Cent AL West Wildcard Year Team(s) W L GA Team(s) W L GA Team W L GA Team(s) W L 1994 NYA 65 48 2.5 CHA 70 43 1.0 TEX 51 63 1.5 - 1995 BOS 88 56 9.0 CLE 89 55 17.0 CAL 78 66 7.0 BAL-NYA 79 65 1996 BOS-NYA 85 77 - KCA 91 70 1.0 TEX 90 72 4.5 CLE 90 71 1997 NYA 95 67 10.0 CLE 83 78 2.0 SEA 95 67 15.0 BAL 85 77 1998 NYA 99 63 11.0 CHA-CLE 83 79 - SEA 94 67 14.5 TOR 88 74 1999 BOS 93 69 4.0 CLE 87 75 6.5 OAK 94 68 8.0 NYA 89 73 2000 NYA 86 75 2.5 CHA 95 67 6.0 SEA 95 67 10.5 CLE 89 73 2001 TOR 89 73 2.5 CHA 89 73 4.0 OAK 99 63 1.0 SEA 98 64 2002 BOS 92 70 0.5 MIN 84 77 3.5 OAK 99 63 6.0 ANA 93 69 2003 NYA 110 52 15.0 CLE 85 77 2.0 OAK 89 73 5.0 BOS 95 67 2004 BOS 91 71 7.0 DET 90 72 2.0 TEX 90 72 4.0 MIN 88 74 2005 BOS 89 73 3.0 CHA 96 66 9.0 ANA 92 70 8.0 NYA 86 76 2006 NYA 87 75 2.0 CLE 94 68 3.0 TEX 88 74 2.0 DET 91 71 2007 BOS 92 70 2.0 DET 94 68 12.0 ANA 100 62 24.0 NYA 90 72 2008 BOS 93 69 5.0 CHA 91 71 6.0 TEX 90 72 5.0 TOR-TBA 88 74 2009 BOS 92 70 1.0 DET 87 75 2.0 SEA 90 72 2.0 NYA 91 71 2010 BOS 91 71 3.0 MIN 92 70 9.0 OAK 88 74 3.0 NYA 88 74 2011 BOS 92 70 2.0 CHA 90 72 4.0 TEX 101 61 18.0 NYA 90 72
Actually, as long as we have line scores for seasons, we can determine standings for each league, just not the accompanying pile of statistics. So I figure I might as well, show the three-inning pennant winners from 1916 to 1950.
Pennant Winner Pennant Winner Year Team W L GA 2nd Team W L GA 2nd 1916 PHI N 95 58 6.5 BRO N* BOS A* 92 62 1.0 CHI A 1917 NY N* 93 61 10.0 PHI N CHI A* 92 62 2.5 BOS A 1918 CHI N* 76 53 1.5 NY N BOS A* 80 46 16.5 CLE A 1919 CIN N* 90 50 12.0 NY N CLE A 83 56 3.5 CHI A* 1920 BRO N* 92 62 3.5 CIN N NY A 92 62 2.0 CLE A* 1921 STL N 88 66 1.5 NY N* NY A* 89 64 5.5 STL A 1922 PIT N 88 66 1.0 STL N NY A* 88 66 2.0 STL A 1923 CHI N 85 69 1.5 NY N* NY A* 95 57 9.5 CLE A 1924 NY N* 97 56 12.0 CHI N DET A 90 64 - WAS A* 1925 STL N 88 65 3.0 PIT N* CHI A 93 61 5.0 WAS A* 1926 STL N* 95 59 4.5 PIT N CHI A 89 64 3.5 CLE A 1927 PIT N* 92 62 2.5 CHI N NY A* 100 54 14.0 PHI A 1928 STL N* 93 61 5.0 NY N NY A* 95 59 2.5 PHI A 1929 NY N 88 63 - PIT N PHI A* 98 53 16.5 NY A 1930 NY N 87 67 2.0 CHI N NY A 94 60 2.0 WAS A 1931 STL N* 96 58 13.0 NY N PHI A* 96 56 9.0 WAS A 1932 CHI N* 81 73 - PIT-NY NY A* 106 48 20.0 PHI A 1933 NY N* 87 65 1.0 CHI N NY A 97 54 7.5 WAS A* 1934 NY N 89 64 1.0 CHI N NY A 93 61 7.0 DET A* 1935 CHI N* 96 58 13.0 STL N NY A 90 59 1.0 DET A* 1936 NY N* 92 62 4.0 CHI N NY A* 95 58 4.5 DET A 1937 CHI N 88 66 4.0 STL N NY A* 96 58 10.0 DET A 1938 CHI N* 86 66 2.0 CIN N NY A* 90 63 3.5 CLE A 1939 CIN N* 88 66 - BRO N NY A* 100 52 12.0 DET A 1940 CIN N* 94 59 10.0 STL N NY A 93 61 4.0 DET A* 1941 STL N 95 59 2.0 BRO N* CLE A 88 66 3.0 NY A* 1942 BRO N 102 52 6.0 STL N* NY A* 103 51 17.0 BOS A 1943 STL N* 94 60 12.0 CIN N NY A* 92 62 11.5 CLE A 1944 STL N* 98 56 17.0 CIN N STL A* 86 68 3.0 DET A 1945 CHI N* 99 55 13.0 STL N DET A* 91 62 7.5 WAS A 1946 STL N* 97 57 13.0 BRO N BOS A* 97 57 4.0 DET A 1947 BOS N 86 68 - STL N NY A* 96 58 9.0 BOS A 1948 BOS N* 91 62 7.5 NY N CLE A* 99 55 7.0 BOS A 1949 BRO N* 91 63 2.0 STL N NY A* 90 64 1.0 CLE A 1950 PHI N* 88 66 1.0 BRO N BOS A 98 56 4.0 NY A* * - won the real pennant
The good news for White Sox fans is that Cleveland would have gone to the 1919 World Series instead of their team. Of course, that probably would have simply meant a different team and a different eight (or six or ten) men out a few years down the road.
And while the three-inning game took a lot of the starch out of the Yankees dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s, it gave them an even more impressive run during the 1930s and early 1940s.
Here are the actual pennant winners not shown above:
Year Team W L GB PL Team W L GB PL 1922 NY N 85 69 3.0 3rd 1926 NY A 85 69 4.5 3rd 1929 CHI N 84 69 5.0 3rd 1930 STL N 82 72 5.0 4th PHI A 83 71 11.0 4th 1934 STL N 88 65 1.0 3rd 1937 NY N 82 70 5.0 3rd 1947 BRO N 85 69 1.0 3rd
I picked three innings arbitrarily. Two seemed too short. Four wasn't divisible by three. And so on. But of course I could have picked any number from one to eight for this exercise. Each one of those have the potential for telling us something different about the game. For example, here are the leaders in saves from 1969 to 1975 (the first six year of the stats existence) for the nine- (otherwise known as the "real"), eight- and seven-inning worlds:
National League Nine Innings Eight Innings Seven Innings Year Player # Player # Player # 1969 Fred Gladding 29 Wayne Granger 20 Wayne Granger 12 Cecil Upshaw 20 Cecil Upshaw 12 1970 Wayne Granger 35 Dick Selma 22 Clay Carroll 11 1971 Dave Giusti 30 Dave Giusti 22 Dave Giusti 9 Mike Marshall 9 Cecil Upshaw 9 1972 Clay Carroll 37 Tug McGraw 18 Pedro Borbon 11 1973 Mike Marshall 32 Mike Marshall 25 Mike Marshall 19 1974 Mike Marshall 42 Mike Marshall 37 Mike Marshall 17 American League Nine Innings Eight Innings Seven Innings Year Player # Player # Player # 1969 Ron Perranoski 31 Ron Perranoski 20 Sparky Lyle 11 1970 Ron Perranoski 34 Ron Perranoski 23 Ron Perranoski 16 1971 Ken Sanders 33 Ken Sanders 24 Ken Sanders 11 1972 Sparky Lyle 35 Sparky Lyle 27 Sparky Lyle 14 1973 John Hiller 40 John Hiller 25 John Hiller 15 1974 Rollie Fingers 31 Rollie Fingers 24 Terry Forster 17
Okay, I lied. These really aren't the saves leader. To make things easier, I used the first and simplest of the various saves rules for all of these years. So if a pitcher finished a game, his team won and he didn't get the win, he got a save. Simple, yet elegant. Most of the times this doesn't matter much, but in 1974, Mike Marshall was credited with only 21 saves under the most stringest of our save rules. He gets 42 under my more generous method. Are some of these "cheap" saves? Sure. But the baseball world abounds in cheap singles, cheap doubles, cheap wins and cheap unearned runs; why should saves be any different? Anyway, the number next to each name isn't all that important. The pattern is.
Here is the same list for the last six years:
National League Nine Innings Eight Innings Seven Innings Year Player # Player # Player # 2006 Billy Wagner 50 Scott Linebrink 38 Chad Qualls 20 2007 Francisco Cordero 51 Brandon Lyon 41 Tony Pena 27 Jose Valverde 51 2008 Jose Valverde 53 Carlos Marmol 43 Chad Qualls 24 2009 Jonathan Broxton 48 Ryan Madson 37 Peter Moylan 19 2010 Francisco Cordero 54 Mike Adams 36 Luke Gregerson 28 Carlos Marmol 54 2011 John Axford 56 Jonny Venters 42 Tyler Clippard 24
American League Nine Innings Eight Innings Seven Innings Year Player # Player # Player # 2006 F. Rodriguez 51 Scot Shields 37 Scott Proctor 28 2007 Joe Nathan 52 Scot Shields 40 Justin Speier 21 2008 F. Rodriguez 63 Scot Shields 39 Rafael Perez 19 2009 Joe Nathan 56 Matt Guerrier 32 Michael Wuertz 20 Fernando Rodney 56 2010 Neftali Feliz 52 Daniel Bard 36 Darren Oliver 17 2011 Jose Valverde 63 Joaquin Benoit 37 Jim Johnson 17
Admit it: you're glad I used the lenient saves rule above. How else would you have known that the Tigers used Fernando Rodney nineteen times in 2009 to close out wins in non-save situations. Or that Carlos Marmos did this sixteen times for the Cubs in 2010. Fernando Rodriguez, on the other hand, would have gotten only one cheap save all year in 2008.
I was surprised at how much using the old save rules altered the leaderboard over the last six years. For some reason, I thought that managers were letting the rule dictate how they used their closers, and it's nice to know there have been exceptions to this practice.
Anyway, from 1969 to 1975, nine pitchers showed up at the top of both the nine and eight-inning save lists. And another nine were on both the eight and seven inning ones. While in the last six years, not one pitcher appeared on more than one list in a season.
A few other random notes while visiting these other worlds.
In eight-inning baseball, Barry Bonds still holds the single-season home run record, but his gap has widened considerably over both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Bonds loses only two of the seventy-three homers he hit in 2001 once you lop off the ninth-inning (and sometimes the bottom of the eighth), while both McGwire and Sosa drop down in 1998 to only sixty each.
This is what losing those plate-appearances cost the sluggers with sixty or more home runs in a season:
Year Player AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF AVG OBP SLG 1927 Babe Ruth 50 17 20 1 1 9 21 16 0 11 0 0 2 .400 .529 1.000 1961 Roger Maris 52 10 8 2 0 2 6 12 0 7 0 0 0 .154 .313 .308 1998 Mark McGwire 54 14 13 1 0 10 20 21 9 18 0 0 1 .241 .447 .815 1998 Sammy Sosa 71 15 19 0 0 6 15 8 4 23 0 0 0 .268 .342 .521 1999 Mark McGwire 57 11 17 3 1 6 15 15 4 11 0 0 0 .298 .444 .702 1999 Sammy Sosa 62 14 19 2 0 8 18 7 2 11 0 0 0 .306 .377 .726 2001 Barry Bonds 38 4 9 1 0 2 4 19 7 7 2 0 0 .237 .508 .421 2001 Sammy Sosa 58 13 14 2 0 4 13 10 5 25 1 0 1 .241 .357 .483
When you take this approach to the most extreme and make a regulation game a single inning, you smooth out more of the game's rough edges. In the real world, there were 57 teams with 100 or more win seasons from 1951 to 2011 and 77 with 100 or more losses. In this shortened game, only twelve teams hit the century mark in wins (led by the 1998 Atlanta Braves who had a 106-56 record in both worlds) and fourteen teams did the same in losses (trailed by the 54-106 1978 Seattle Mariners).
Almost all wins in our one-inning game were shutouts (including 29 of Sandy Koufax's 30 wins in 1963 and all 25 of Jim Kaat's victories in 1965) and extra-inning games were the norm. Wilbur Wood pitched 152 2/3 innings in his 49 starts in 1972 and several other pitchers also averaged more than three innings per outing.
Another weird thing: forty-seven times since 1951, a pitcher threw a complete game no-hitter without retiring a batter. And five of those (the last was Jaime Cocanower on August 23, 1985) did so without allowing a legitimate base runner (in Cocanower's case, which is typical of these games, the winning run in the bottom of the first scored on an error, a stolen base and another error). Two pitchers had two of these brief no-hitters to their credit (if that's the word for it): Nolan Ryan in 1981 and 1986, and Livan Hernandez in 1998 and 1999.
The single-season save record? It was three, jointly held by Jack Sanford (in 1966) and Dennis Eckersley (in 1996). All six of these saves occurred in the ninth inning or later when their team was on the road and broke a scoreless tie in the top half of the last inning. For Eckersley, they were his only appearances from August 8, 1994 to the end of his career.
There was probably a slim chance you were wondering about the longest team winning and losing streaks in each of the nine varieties of regulation games. Well, if so, you're in luck. On the list below, the number in parenthesis following the length of each streak is the games actually lost (for the winning streaks) or won (for losing streaks) over the same stretch in the nine-inning version of our national pastime.
Winning Losing INN # Year Team Start End # Year Team Start End 1 19(4) 1975 NY A 5-29 6-17(2) 19(10) 1989 SF N 6-23 7-15 2 18(2) 1977 NY A 8- 7 8-25 18(3) 1982 CHI N 5-23(1) 6-11 18(3) 1985 NY A 8- 8(2) 8-26 18(7) 1987 NY N 8- 1 8-19 3 18(2) 1977 NY A 8- 7 8-25 17(0) 1977 ATL N 4-23 5-11 17(3) 1964 KC A 9-15 10- 4 4 17(4) 2006 CHI A 4- 7 4-25 19(5) 1963 CLE A 7-14(1) 7-30 19(3) 1965 HOU N 9- 3 9-25 5 19(7) 2002 STL N 6-26 7-18 18(3) 1964 KC A 9-14 10- 4 6 20(1) 1991 MIN A 6- 1 6-22 18(3) 1964 KC A 9-14 10- 4 7 24(2) 1955 BRO N 4-13 5-10* 19(0) 1961 PHI N 7-29 8-16 8 20(0) 2002 OAK A 8-13 9- 4 23(0) 1961 PHI N 7-29 8-20(1) 9 20(0) 2002 OAK A 8-13 9- 4 23(0) 1961 PHI N 7-29 8-20(1) * from the beginning of the season. 28 straight if you count last four games of 1954.
San Francisco suffered through a nineteen game losing streak in 1989's one-inning season while posting a winning record (10-9) over the same stretch in the real world. Both versions of the team won the division title, however, although the one-inning version won seven fewer games (85-77 as opposed to 92-70).
And the best and worst season records:
Best INN Year Team W L PCT Year Team W L PCT 1 1981 STL N 67 35 .657 1978 SEA A 54 106 .338 2 1998 ATL N 107 55 .660 1953 PIT N 52 102 .338 3 2003 NY A 110 52 .679 1953 PIT N 45 109 .292 4 1970 BAL A 114 48 .704 1953 PIT N 49 105 .318 5 1970 BAL A 112 50 .691 1989 DET A 52 110 .321 1998 ATL N 112 50 .691 2002 MIL N 52 110 .321 6 1998 ATL N 112 50 .691 2003 DET A 48 114 .296 1998 NY A 112 50 .691 7 2001 SEA A 114 48 .704 1962 NY N 45 115 .281 8 2001 SEA A 117 45 .722 1962 NY N 42 118 .262 9 1954 CLE A 111 43 .721 1962 NY N 40 120 .250
1Why start with 1951? Well, Retrosheet has complete play-by-play data from 1951 to 2011, and you can't do what I wanted to do without this data.
2One technical point about this approach: I tossed out any tie game that wouldn't have also been a tie game in its shortened version. The reason for this should be obvious: otherwise some teams will have more than their allotted number of decisions. An alternate approach would have been to eliminate the makeup game instead, but a) that would have been a lot more work, and b) I didn't feel like doing a lot more work.
A late breaking change to this technical note: I did NOT throw out any of those games if the ties were not later replayed. In other words, if both teams ended the season short a game between them and there was a tie in the real world that would have reached a decision in ours, I included it. What could be clearer?
3Please note that the links are to what the teams (and players and so on) actually did, not to what happened during this little mind-exercise. So when I say that the Phillies had the decade's best team with a 100-54 mark, be assured that the link will show otherwise (since the 1953 Phillies actually only went 83-71). Confusing? You bet!
4I used a minimum of 1.1 plate appearances and .4 innings pitched per game, or a little more than a third of the current requirement, which seemed reasonable since the games were a little more than a third as long.
5There are some readers, no doubt, wondering why I am not calculating ERAs in the three-inning world based upon earned runs per three rather than nine innings. I wonder why myself.
6Actually, Mossi was used quite frequently during the previous month as a late-inning reliever, but (as you might have guessed) all of those games ended before he could make an appearance in this alternate universe.
7Actually, Eddie Mathews was only the co-holder of the single-season home run record. Here are the single-season leaders prior to 1951:
25 - Ralph Kiner 1947 PIT N 24 - Lou Gehrig 1927 NY A 23 - Babe Ruth 1927 NY A 23 - Hack Wilson 1930 CHI N 23 - Johnny Mize 1948 NY N 22 - Babe Ruth 1920 NY A 22 - Ralph Kiner 1949 PIT N 20 - Babe Ruth 1921 NY A 20 - Babe Ruth 1921 NY A 20 - Chuck Klein 1929 PHI N 20 - Lou Gehrig 1934 NY A 20 - Lou Gehrig 1936 NY A
Despite the lack of play-by-play data for these years, we know how many home runs each player would have hit in a three-inning game because, thanks to SABR's Home Run Log, we know what inning each home run was hit in during these years. I did need to research some of those hit in the bottom of the final inning of our shortened games to see whether or not they had come after the game would have ended due to an earlier score, but once I did that, I had a list of these leaders.
And while the period covered by the list above starts in 1916, I think it's a safe bet that no one prior to that year would have hit twenty or more home runs in a three-inning world. Yes, not even the members of the 1884 Chicago White Stockings, who played half of their games in the homer-happy Lake Front Park. Well, Lake Front Park was homer-happy in 1884. Due to their changing ground rules, the park was double-happy in 1883.
By the way, we do have complete play-by-play for the 1927 New York Yankees, and I thought it might be interesting to see how their hitters would have done in these abbreviated games (well, we already know from the list above how many home runs Gehrig and Ruth would have hit). Here's how the regulars batted in 1927:
POS Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SH GDP SB CS AVG OBP SLG C Pat Collins 76 82 15 21 4 0 2 10 13 7 1 0 7 0 0 .256 .357 .378 1B Lou Gehrig 154 218 61 87 20 8 24 80 43 26 3 1 1 5 4 .399 .489 .894 2B Tony Lazzeri 151 183 19 57 8 1 2 28 29 31 0 3 2 7 7 .311 .396 .399 3B Joe Dugan 108 132 18 36 8 0 0 13 12 13 1 1 6 1 4 .273 .333 .333 SS Mark Koenig 121 224 37 66 10 5 1 21 11 3 0 2 9 1 0 .295 .325 .397 LF Bob Meusel 129 187 23 52 17 2 2 34 18 30 0 0 2 13 6 .278 .333 .422 CF Earle Combs 150 285 63 107 12 14 4 20 28 15 1 0 4 7 3 .375 .433 .558 RF Babe Ruth 150 224 63 85 11 4 23 66 58 32 0 2 6 2 3 .379 .498 .772
8If a regulation game had been only three innings long, Bob Gibson would have been in the clubhouse with his shutout completed on July 15th instead out on the mound in the top of the fourth inning getting his leg broken. And George Stone actually made his major league debut on September 15th, but his appearance in that game occurred after the three-inning version of the game had ended.